Saturday, December 4, 2010

Cancun is not Copenhagen - COP16 The Underdog

It was my first day at the COP venue yesterday and I couldn’t help but continue my comparisons to Copenhagen.
  • buses idling in the street to take us to the venue instead of rail public transit
  • food onsite is much more expensive
  • same police presence, just that these ones ride in open jeeps with semi-automatic weapons on display
  • there is sunshine in the morning
  • very little self promotion of the event around town
  • the site is secluded and exclusive with the ‘side events’ a full 10 minute bus ride away from the negotiating venue
  • no front page Globe and Mail coverage, in fact no coverage at all

Those mostly sound like negative differences for Cancun and they are. But the intangibles are different too and they all tilt into Cancun’s favour. The tone is quiet and friendly. Copenhagen was the big show, with the superstar atmosphere and it disappointed. Cancun is the picking ourselves up and persevering underdog. And everybody loves an underdog, right?

So I’m over the whole Copenhagen thing now. Cancun is its own conference and it’s been an incredible collection of events and people in its own right.

For instance, I walked into the wrong room by mistake into the US Pavilion and got caught up in a presentation about using satellite data to make decisions on adaptation strategies. Sounds boring, eh. Not so. This was a huge rock star show, with multi-media presentation graphics, Google Earth on steroids, and the most impressive visuals I have ever seen regarding climate change. The impact of seeing hurricane data, extreme weather impacts, and the ‘before and after’ of some major disasters was both gutwrenching and enlightening at the same time.

As our presenter explained, there are ‘hazards’ and there are ‘disasters’. A 'hazard' is a hurricane in the middle of the ocean that never affects anyone. A 'disaster' occurs when a 'hazard' meets population. With population increases and with the increase in 'hazards' due to climate change, the exponential increase in ‘disasters’ is inevitable. Scary. But the new methods of tracking and understanding the hazards with the amazing GIS and satellite tools out there mean that we have a fighting chance of planning and averting some of the damage, but the disasters will come and they will increase in frequency and intensity. It is inevitable.

Let’s hope that we can wrestle down the *number* of hazards and associated disasters by stopping this climate change beast in its tracks. That’s why Cancun keeps fighting. It’s what underdogs do.

1 comment:

  1. eye opening, I hope that visual is made public on the learning channel. I found your comparison to Copenhagen very interesting even though I know very little of either it helped me grasp a rough idea.
    as just a regular citizen of earth I am hoping to hear of more ways to slow this global warming.
    In my simple and lack of knowledge mind I see restoring the rain forest and many other forests and stop with the bomb testing under water and x number of KM underground. I see factories cutting back on packaging and using more biodegradable containers. Glad i could get that off my chest instead of ranting around my kitchen with a crazy number of garbage containers :o)