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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Climate Change & Climategate
Dec10

Climate Change & Climategate

More than 30,000 people are gathered in Copenhagen to discuss, negotiate, and act on global warming. A treaty to control the emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide is not likely to come out of this UN meeting, but progress toward such a treaty is. The amount of money developed nations should contribute to developing nations to help them adapt to the global warming that is already inevitable is another major topic being discussed. C&ENtral Science is carrying blog postings from Senior Correspondent Cheryl Hogue, ES&T Editor-in-chief Jerald Schnoor, and others attending the Copenhagen meeting. Meanwhile, climate change skeptics and deniers are all atwitter about thousands of purloined e-mails and other documents from a computer at the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit (CRU). They have culled through the e-mails, some of them nearly two decades old, and found what they have proclaimed to be paydirt: clear examples in their collective mind of climate change researchers cooking data, suppressing contrary research, and sullying the peer-review process. They’re calling it “climategate,” of course. (The e-mails are posted at a number of sites. One of the most convenient to use is http://www.eastangliaemails.com.) The vast majority of the e-mails are innocuous and/or banal. They are shop talk among climate scientists around the world. Like most shop talk, it is unguarded and sometimes less than sophisticated. A few e-mails mention data manipulation that is being interpreted by the skeptics as nefarious but which appears to be no more than trying to correlate disparate data sets collected by a number of different methods. A couple of e-mails discuss whether editors of two journals are using the peer review process appropriately. Some of the e-mails are disappointing, to say the least. In at least one of the e-mails, Phil Jones, director of CRU, asks Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University, to delete e-mails, apparently to prevent them from being discovered by a freedom of information request. Jones clearly acted improperly in this instance; he has temporarily stepped down from his position at CRU while an investigation is being conducted. In another one of the e-mails that skeptics have seized on, Jones writes to Mann, “The other paper by MM is just garbage—as you knew. De Freitas again. Pielke is also losing all credibility as well by replying to the mad Finn as well—frequently as I see it. “I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow—even if we have to redefine what the peer review literature is!” What to make of this? You can see that the tone...

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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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Pre-trip Thoughts by Pedro J. Alvarez
Dec08

Pre-trip Thoughts by Pedro J. Alvarez

This is my first blog ever. I am excited about heading to Copenhagen in two days, on Thursday. I will be wearing three hats: 1) Associate Editor for ES&T and virgin blogger; 2) Professor (taking with me 6 Rice University undergraduate and a graduate student who is pregnant, hope she feels well); and 3) Delegate, representing Nicaragua, the country where I was born. I feel lucky that I will have an opportunity to witness a potentially historical event, and maybe contribute my grain of sand. I feel most lucky that my oldest daughter will accompany me, as an NGO observer and student of a class I am teaching on International Perspectives in Climate Change: The Copenhagen Experience. Nicaragua's position at COP15 will be that "the reduction of carbon and other contaminants is a direct responsibility of rich industrialized countries in the North and their model of production and consumption. Nicaragua rejects the notion that poor Countries in the South should trade their natural resources in order to maintain the current unsustainable model of production and consumption." I agree that we all have shared as well as differential responsibilities. The devil is in the details. My expectations are high. Time is short. More...

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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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