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Let's Go to the Climate Change Movie

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BY Kendra Tillberry
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

Prior to the COP I attempted to explain this UN Conference on Climate Change to a 12-year-old.  I told her to imagine a typical Friday night for her and her friends.  She loves going to the movies and so I had her imagine trying to plan all of the details involved in going to the theater.  She said it was difficult to come up with a decision regarding whose parents will drive, how much people can spend, and what movie to attend.   Then I told her to imagine that the whole world needs to go to the movie as soon as possible but everyone has different amounts of money, the theater cannot support all of the people, and everyone represents multiple interests of movie choices.

I was able to tell this story to the chair of the African group, a delegate from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and he explained the urgency that the world faces in collectively acting and changing the current policies.  The movie analogy is an oversimplification of the situation. Attending the COP allows for a truly unique experience. One important aspect of the UNFCCC is the fact that the UN is principally based on democracy.

Based on the first day at COP 16, the buzz words in negotiations are legally binding agreement, equitability, comprehensiveness, ambition, stringent standards of emissions, inclusiveness, and most importantly, transparency.  Democracy ensures that the majority will triumph.  However, in this conference a total consensus is necessary.  It is evident by being an American at the COP that the U.S. has more political clout, and if the U.S. is unable to agree on any resolutions that are passed, it will lack credibility and effectiveness. Many countries are looking for the U.S. to lead the world in climate change policy because it has been a global leader for arguably the last 40 years, but the U.S. was unable domestically to produce a federal policy, which limits their abilities to compromise and negotiate with other countries.   So going to the movies is complicated, but of the utmost importance for the future of life as we know it.

The C Series

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cop16_1.jpgOf all the reinventions over the past few years - Coke coming out with Coke Zero, Cher devising new ways of defying aging, and so on - Gatorade probably came up with a reinvention that makes the most sense: the G Series . Sell the same product, rename it, and add two new sidekicks.  It's genius!  It's a reinvention that re-popularized the product.  

Sitting here in Cancun at the COP 16 Global Climate Change negotiations, I thought to myself, "What better reinvention could there be than transforming climate change?"  There was already a small reinvention from "global warming" to "global climate change," but unfortunately this change did not stop the strong division of beliefs about the topic.  There are still a tragic number of reports and reporters who are unwilling to believe the stunning number of scientists who agree on the topic.  

So here is my proposal: global climate change should become the C Series.  It rebrands the issue, as well as segments it into three stages: the before, during, and after.
This concept is perfect for the COP 16 conference.  The world is disillusioned with the ability of nations to come together to form a comprehensive agreement combating global climate change.  By reinventing the name, it allows the world to latch on to a "new" problem that can be solved.  Old stigmas can be dropped and negotiations can begin anew. 

Three stages fit perfectly for negotiations.  The first stage is the past; the industrial and agricultural revolutions.  These emissions happened already.  They can either be addressed as this separate stage or forgiven retrospectively.  The second stage is the present.  We are still polluting and emitting.  We have the opportunity to address it now on a variety of bases from per capita to egalitarian to historical.  This leads then to the third stage: the future.  What do we want to do about the future?  How will we leave the planet for the next generation? 
Conveniently, the C Series also fits nicely as a representation of what the University of Minnesota delegation is doing here in Cancun.  We have looked at the past reports and know the changes in emissions that occurred because of the agricultural and industrial revolution.  We learned about the Kyoto Protocol and what that meant for global negotiations.  Now we are here, seeing what global leaders have to say about how the changing climate has effected food, national, and economic security, as well as how to address the problem moving forward. 

Finally, we have the future.  What we learn at the conference will influence both our education and our actions moving forward.  As students who are inheriting the world and will, hopefully, be around for several decades to come, it will be our responsibility to continue to look after this planet.  What are we going to do about greenhouse gas emissions and a changing climate?  How are we going to respond?  How do we get people on board with the idea that it is their responsibility, too? 
Renaming global climate change "the C Series" certainly will not solve the problem on its own, but by reframing the issue in segments and developing a new term unfettered by past work may help focus debates and guide legislation. 

We need a new, different approach to this problem.  New ideas have to come from somewhere.  Responsibility has to come from somewhere.  Solutions have to come from somewhere.  Maybe the C-Series is on to something. 

By Peter Schmitt
German/Environmental Science, Policy, and Management
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities '11

P.S. For a great introduction to the COP 16 Global Climate Change conference and an overview of global climate change, see the piece written by another member of our delegation, Genevieve Caldwell.

What do climate scientists and 80's metal band Twisted Sister have in common?

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As news broke this week that climate scientists with the American Geophysical Union (AGU) were planning a campaign against skeptics, I was reminded of a song by 80's metal band Twisted Sister:

"We're not gonna take it, no, we ain't gonna take it"

A quote by University of St. Thomas professor John Abraham in the Chicago Tribune was especially telling:

"We are taking the fight to them because we are ... tired of taking the hits. The notion that truth will prevail is not working. The truth has been out there for the past two decades, and nothing has changed."

As someone who works in environmental communications, I find this change in direction rather stunning.

I'm curious what others think about the AGU announcement? Is this type of response appropriate? Should climate scientists - many of whom are university faculty - preemptively wade into the policy debate surrounding this issue? What are the risks for academics?

  The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author(s) and not necessarily
  of the Institute on the Environment/University of Minnesota.


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