Fiddling in Bonn while the world burns!

June 9th, 2010

Well, it has been far too low key in Bonn these last 10 days – I have to stay focused on the little that we NGO people can do to keep pushing for strong action; if I think about what the science is saying about how fast drastic change in our ecosystems is happening, and what the consequences will be around the world for vulnerable people, it almost paralyses me with depression. Yesterday, one of the IPCC lead scientists, Bill Hare, gave a presentation to NGOs on the feasibility of staying below 1.5 degrees temperature rise. This would involve not only massive emissions cuts very soon, but also use of unproven technologies such as carbon capture and storage, as well as large scale aforestation and changes in agriculture practices to sink carbon into the soil.

Yet, lest we think ‘this all sounds so difficult, so let’s just go for 2 degrees’ – here are some of the scary consequences: between 1.5 and 2 degrees rise, the oceans will become so acidic, that coral will begin to DISSOLVE – yes, not die, but dissolve. Not just corals will be affected of course – plankton, the food of most fish species, also has a skeleton of calcium carbonate. So the oceans would begin to die, and cease to be a source of food. Yesterday, at a side event on adaptation knowledge (where I was also a panellist) we heard of the drastic impacts on Andean people of melting glaciers and temperature changes already occurring.

We UK NGOs were surprised today to receive a request to meet Ambassador Lumumba – chief negotiator for Sudan, and now Chair of the Africa Strategy Group. He chose us, because of the UK’s special relationship with Africa, and because he has admiration for what UK NGOs including Oxfam, Amnesty, and Friends of the Earth, have achieved in terms of changing minds and influencing policy. Why, he wanted to know, were we not fighting harder to win the public over to the moral imperative of acting fast to stay below 1.5 degrees – a temperature rise globally that will mean up to 4 degrees for parts of Africa. We responded that we were doing what we can, that moral arguments do not sway the majority. Nevertheless, I think we all felt that Lumumba’s call to action should spur us on to fight harder – just as the slave trade abolitionists began a battle on moral grounds against great odds, and won it. You blog readers – please help us fight this battle!

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