Crowded Midway: Or Why It's a Zoo
Dec15

Crowded Midway: Or Why It's a Zoo

Fellow C&EN blogger Jerry Schnoor described the lines to get accreditation to Bella Center, where the Copenhagen climate meeting. I found out what the underlying problem is from Axel Wuestenhagen, media coordinator for the conference. “We had not expected this avalanche” as people sought entry to the Bella Center when the second week of the conference began, Wuestenhagen said. The staff processing the paperwork for all of the folks who have arrived in Copenhagen are overwhelmed. High-ranking politicians, journalists, and students are stuck in line. There’s another problem too. The Bella Center has a capacity of 15,000. But the U.N. registered 45,215 people to get in — although only about 22,000 badges were distributed as of yesterday. “Who’s to blame? Me,” Yvo de Boer, the U.N.’s top climate official, told reporters today. “I suppose we could have stopped the registration when we reached the 15,000 mark. But our thinking was people come in, people come out, people go out, people come for the first week, people come for the second week, so let’s make sure that we register as many as possible. “We can’t guarantee that everyone will be able to get into the building when they want to get in the building because that would be unsafe,” de Boer said. He said people are spending too much time in line outside the Bella Center. “I think that is very bad and I am responsible for that.” It may be cold comfort to those shivering outside, but de Boer said he is working with the Danish police, who control access into the Bella Center, and U.N. security forces, who are responsible for what happens inside, to get people into complex as quickly as possible. He adds that his priority is getting government representatives inside since they are the ones who have to make the official decisions at this U.N. meeting. Of the 45,000 registrants, almost half — 22,774 — are observers, according to Wuestenhagen. They are primarily from nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that run the gamut from industry groups to indigenous people to environmental activists to farmers to those who provide disaster relief and help to the poor of the world. Only 1,000 NGO representatives will be allowed in the building when heads of state arrive on Thursday and Friday. The next largest chunk of those registered are from governments — 11,500. Then there are the 7,400 technical staff who are working in the background, seeing that the rest rooms are stocked with toilet paper, making copies of U.N. documents, handling the enormous coat check operation. Journalists make up the last chunk, a little less than 3,500. Check out the...

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The Mermaid, Deniers, And New Art
Dec13

The Mermaid, Deniers, And New Art

The official U.N. climate change negotiations in Copenhagen took a scheduled one-day hiatus on Sunday. This provided a chance for participants to get out of the giant convention center which lies south of the city and see the sights of Copenhagen. Top on my list of sites to visit was the statue of the Little Mermaid. She was crafted after the 1836 fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, who lived in Copenhagen for many years. But enjoying this tourist attraction didn’t mean I could absence myself from things related to climate. Notice that across the water from the mermaid (she’s at the bottom right) are both wind turbines and a conventional generating plant (probably fired by oil or natural gas): And working the crowd around the mermaid were sign-wearing people sharing their belief that science does not support the idea of human-induced climate change and that curbing greenhouse gases will do more harm than good. By the way, COP15 is the abbreviation for the U.N. meeting (it’s the 15th conference of the parties to the 1992 climate change treaty). The “British lies” comment on their signs refers to the controversial emails stolen last month from East Anglia University: And a stone’s throw from the mermaid statue was a new, temporary art installation: I’ve read that this statute is to convey the idea that the industrialized world (denoted by the big, old, fat woman) is oppressing developing countries (shown by the emaciated man carrying her) by its historic emissions of greenhouse...

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Livening Up The Debate In Copenhagen
Dec11

Livening Up The Debate In Copenhagen

Among well-dressed diplomats and thousands of journalists at the U.N. climate change meeting in Copenhagen are plenty of young activists who liven up the rather dimly lit hallways. These not-so-little green men are pushing for Japan to pledge a specific amount to help developing countries address climate change. There’s IndyAct, a group of young people from the Middle East. They want the world to know that Saudi efforts to protect and maintain the petroleum industry aren’t representative of the entire Arab world. Their campaign is Can’t Drink Oil. These red-suited folks are among many who believe the industrialized world owes a debt to developing countries for pumping greenhouse gases into the global atmosphere for so many decades. But U.S. Special Envoy Todd Stern rejects the notion that rich countries owe climate reparations to poor ones. Attracting a crowd every day at 6 p.m. is the Fossil of the Day award to recognize to the countries that environmentalists deem as the worst performers in the previous day’s negotiations. Handing out these booby prizes is the Climate Action Network, a coalition of about 500 non-profit groups from around the world. Click on this link to see the shows. And of course, the animal icon of global warming is here...

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Not Just Environmental Activists
Dec09

Not Just Environmental Activists

Scores of environmental groups from around the world are here at the climate negotiations in Copenhagen urging governments to curb global greenhouse gas emissions. They may be the most numerous, but environmentalists are not the only type of activists here. For instance, this group of church women also want action on climate change: Meanwhile, participants entering the climate change meeting in Copenhagen must pass a dedicated group of activists who have stood outside in the cold for the last three days promoting a singular solution: These vegetarians, associated with spiritual leader Supreme Master Ching Hai, are passing out a bag filled with their literature. They are promoting a change in diet as a way to cut emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from livestock operations. Many people inside the conference center are sporting those bags. They perhaps are a brief fashion trend here in Copenhagen: The vegetarians may have a tough time selling their idea in Denmark, a major producer of pork. Inside the convention center where the negotiations are taking place, there’s little evidence that the message on the bags is having an effect. Cafes scattered through this enormous complex are doing a booming business selling open-face roast beef sandwiches and roast pork entrees to hungry...

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Hottest Ticket In The World
Dec08

Hottest Ticket In The World

Paris, Los Angeles, New York, step aside. The place to be these days, at least through next week, is Copenhagen. The Danish capital is hosting a two-week U.N. conference on climate change. It is a huge world event. The hottest ticket in town is a laminated piece of paper that is essential for entrance into the Bella Center, the venue for the meeting. Yesterday, shortly after the sun went down after 4 p.m., hundreds of people were lined up outside the doors of the Bella Center in hopes of getting their IDs for the meeting. The temperature hovered around freezing. Line-standers, including me, huddled in their heavy coats as the line moved forward slowly in small spurts. Mixed together in the queue were diplomats, camera operators, and folks representing non-governmental organizations. NGOs, as the U.N. calls them, are a broad category encompassing environmental and community activists, businesses, and think tanks. It took me about 40 minutes reach the door to the center. Once inside – warmth at last! – there were more lines. The one for security was about the same as passing through screening in an airport (we got to keep our shoes on) and took about 20 minutes. The next line was for receiving a paper saying you’d be cleared for credentials. (Anyone who hadn’t applied and been approved weeks before the meeting was pretty much out of luck.) I was lucky – the line for the news media took 20 minutes. The queue for NGOs was longer. The third and final line involved almost no waiting. I sat down in front of a digital camera and a woman snapped my picture. In seconds, she handed over my freshly minted ID card anchored on a maroon-colored lanyard. Each ID has a bar code. Security guards scan it as participants enter and leave the Bella Center. Thousands and thousands of people are sporting those badges. They range from diplomats in expensive suits who are negotiating a new climate accord to indigenous folks in tribal dress who see human-induced climate change as a threat to their traditional existences. I write this from an enormous news media center, filled with thousands of journalists from around the world covering this event on TV, radio, online, and in print. Like me, each of them is wearing a maroon lanyard with their ticket to the action hanging in Copenhagen from...

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