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.