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October 12, 2009 | by  | in Opinion |
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Climate Cop

Ever had an invite like this on Facebook?:

Event: COP15
Host: UN
Date: December 7–18
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
Description: We is gonna decide whether 2 save da wrld, or 2 save our $$. BYO planet (just in case). BYO booze (just a case).

Didn’t think so. Well myself, Raven Gooding (also from this fair university) and ten others got that very invite. We are heading to Copenhagen this December as the New Zealand Youth Delegation (NZYD) to try to influence those with influence—those influential influencers who will influence our future with their decisions on the fate of the planet.
If you are not up with the play on Copenhagen, it’s probably time you took notice.

The UN conference on climate change in Copenhagen is the place where the world is meant to finalise a global agreement on climate change post-Kyoto Protocol, which ends in 2012. It is the next major step as part of the UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change). The UNFCCC was a UN agreement way back in 1992 in which global powers agreed to limit greenhouse gas emissions. COP15 stands for the 15th annual Conference Of the Parties. The hope is that an agreement in Copenhagen will be reached based on what the science says we need to do to avert dangerous climate change.

So what is the science saying? Well, it’s saying that if we want to UN-FCCC-up the planet we need to start reducing emissions, and fast. Three hundred and fifty parts per million (ppm) is now widely acknowledged as the safe concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and we’re already at 385.92ppm. This is rising by about 2ppm per year. To help achieve 350ppm, the call is for 40% cuts in emissions from rich countries by 2020, with a peak and eventual reversal of emission rises from developing countries. Can we do it, or will the world follow New Zealand’s lead, and only be 10–20% pure?

What’s in store for us if we don’t act to cut greenhouse gas emissions swiftly is frighting to ponder. Warming above two degrees is widely regarded as the point at which Earth’s climate will reach “tipping point”. This point is where natural feedbacks in the Earth’s systems take over, and warming will continue no matter what we do.

Melting ice will cause rising sea levels. This rise will make short work of Pacific Islands like Kiribati, which has a highest point of just 2m. Their land, culture and way of life will have to go somewhere—and New Zealand will face the prospect of many climate refugees.

Weather events will become more supercharged—extreme droughts, hurricanes and flooding like we are already seeing have the potential to become much worse, creating many more human tragedies. This climate instability puts agriculture at risk. We could see tropical diseases reach our shores. Inevitably poorer people will most vulnerable. Predictions vary with uncertainty around what our actual emissions will be, but with inaction, these realities could easily happen within our lifetimes. For example, we could see an ice-free North Pole as soon as 2012, putting Santa Claus and many polar bears among the environmental refugees.

To put things bluntly: the more greenhouse gasses we emit, the more people will die.

The NZYD will be in Copenhagen to represent your voice. We will join Youth Delegations from around the world who will be there like NGOs and businesses—representing a group, but not tied to any governments. Our group is you, so we need to know what you think. Although I’m sure we will see you at the climate march on Friday (12pm from Kelburn Park), we also have a special Facebook invite just for you. It is:

Event: POP (Party Of the Parties)
Host: NZYD, heaps of clubs on campus
Date: 11am–3pm, Thursday, 15 October
Location: The Quad
Description: Cool shit, yummy food, and info. A spinnaker from the NZYD to sign with your message for Copenhagen. Oh, and rumour has it a certain Warrior Princess (of the Lucy Lawless variety) will be there. BYO love.

So come along, we need your voice—even if you are a climate change skeptic. It’s good to talk about these things. If you have any to give, we also need your money to help us get to Copenhagen. Bring some koha for Thursday, or go to www.youthdelegation.org.nz to find out more, make a donation and to add your voice.

In summary, I got a Facebook invite that you didn’t—but I gave you one instead. We need a comprehensive global agreement in Copenhagen this December—the NZYD will do our best to make this happen. Santa Claus is pissed off—do as many climate-friendly things as you can before Christmas. It’s not too late.

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