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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.

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“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. Continue reading →

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):

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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. Continue reading →

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.

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These not-so-little green men are pushing for Japan to pledge a specific amount to help developing countries address climate change.

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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.

Continue reading →

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:

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Continue reading →

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.

Continue reading →

Green Chemistry Co-Founder Boxed In By Formaldehyde Politics

Paul Anastas

Paul Anastas

Paul Anastas, co-founder of Green Chemistry, has hit a plywood wall.

Not literally. But Anastas, President Barack Obama’s nominee to head EPA’s Office of Research & Development, is stuck in a political sticky wicket. And it’s not of his own making. Continue reading →

Google Mashes Up Earth & Climate

Google is entering the global political debate on climate change.

The internet search engine today unveiled a mashup of Google Earth and data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Called Google Earth Climate, this interactive Web tool lets users explore the IPCC projections of what would happen to average temperatures and precipitation in various regions of the world between now and 2100. The application has two different possibilities — a “high emissions scenario” (the world burns coal and fossil fuels at an expanding rate) or a “low emissions scenario” (countries switch to forms of energy that release little or no carbon dioxide).

Google Earth Climate

The two emissions scenarios are a bit hard to follow onscreen, especially when they run uninterrupted. But the various buttons provided in the tool allow a viewer to slow down the action, navigate around the world, and even turn the virtual globe.

It’s pretty clear where Google stands on the issue of climate change. Continue reading →

Plan B for Climate Change

If the governments of the world can’t get their act together and cut greenhouse gas emissions soon, the world will need plan B.

That backup plan, according to a report this week from the Royal Society, is for science to help save the day through geoengineering. This includes technologies that suck carbon dioxide out of the air. Or perhaps shading the Earth’s surface from the sun’s rays by spewing aerosols into the stratosphere.

Slashing emissions is the number one way to address climate change, the Society reaffirms. But if political talks on reducing emissions get stuck – and they very well might – geoengineering will be the only game left in town to fend off serious global warming.

Every geoengineering technique carries risks for people and the planet, the report warns. But some are better than others.
Continue reading →