Now We Know Where Things Stand at COP15

Copenhagen, Out of the Frying Pan, Pt. 7

On my way to the final day of the COP15 Conference I stopped off at an exhibit called the Climate Maze. If you ever wanted to get lost in a labyrinth of hedges this is pretty close, but the walls are covered with pieces of canvas, each piece having one person's signature--multitudes of missives were delivered from every region of the globe. The signers all urge this Conference to get it done and "Seal the Deal." Sean Fields, who was caretaking the labyrinth, told me it was produced by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Sean said these masses of people who signed the messages were largely from areas already adversely effected in a serious way by global warming. So, as the "way out" of our climate predicament is indeed a complex and confusing puzzle, hearing the voices of people already feeling the brunt can motivate us do what it takes to not get lost in the maze. Somehow I found my way out--lets see if humans as a whole can do the same.

Back at the Klimaforum09 I was hearing the news about this final day's attempt to in fact "seal the deal." John Tosh, a French/Lebanese activist was describing how President Obama was trying to cobble a compromise from three sides: the industrialized countries (the North), the developing countries (the South), and the United States Senate, which looms as a tough audience to please. Now that we see the agreement that did finally arise, which does not have a lot of the commitments that would be necessary to stem the prospective disasters, we can see that there probably wasn't a lot of common ground between those three parties. Josh also told me of his action inside the Bella Center. After the speech of the President of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, who is a leading progressive voice within the UN Climate Conference and who supports adopting the goals of for example, Josh and his cohorts handed out badges showing that the holder was a "Citizen of the Maldives."

Well, we are just going to have some faith that the human race will understand and accept the science of climate change before it's too late. In the meantime, we are already looking at climate refugees coming into Europe. I was told more about this by Pete Kleinberg a German who uses his community of "liberation theology"-minded Christians to go to bat for these refugees. Climate change has directly led to many refugees having to flee Mauritania, Libya, Darfur, and other places. Often they will take small boats to the Canary Islands or to Malta as a first step to Europe. This is where they are blocked by FRONTEX, the UN border security agency based in Warsaw. And this is where Peter and his group step in and says "we want these people." Specifically, there are many small communities of Christians in Germany that want to absorb these refugees. His flyer reads: "let's enter the harbours to let them come in!...give your land, churches, it's God's land, many generations donated it to the institution!..."

Alex CarlinSo, as the UN Conference toiled away through the night hammering out the final agreement, the Klimaforum was disassembling itself, and the attendees were morphing into party mode. But all were aware that after the weekend blowout the workload was going to have to ramp up severely if we were to avoid catastrophic climate change. My take is that this Conference achieved a very valuable thing: now we know what each nation is willing to do when some pressure is applied. Yes, the answer is "not nearly enough to avoid catastrophic climate change," because that would require replacing coal as a source for electricity by 2030. But now that we know much more clearly where we stand and what every player's position is, now that the cards are much more clearly seen on the table, we can chart our next course. In this context, where the current modes of thinking and actions seem doomed to result in "too little too late," my vote is for What's your vote? Please let me know: send me an e-mail at

It was a great pleasure to write this blog from this charming city of Copenhagen--I hope you found it worth reading. That's all I've got for now, so see you next time!

Your Man in the Pan, Alex Carlin

Alex Carlin is guest blogging from Copenhagen for the Center for Media and Democracy. He serves as a Director of The Leo J. and Celia Carlin Fund. A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, he lives in Krakow, Poland. He is the organizer of 100 Miles of Mirrors and his writings include 100 Miles of Mirrors: A Simple, Feasible Plan for Averting Global Climatic Disaster, In These Times (December 1, 2009).

100 miles of solar thermal mirrors