Second week of climate change negotiations starts with a mix of drama and overreaction

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK — Monday marked the start of the second week of climate negotiations at COP15, and true to form, the day saw a mix of drama and overreaction. For me, the drama started about 12:45 p.m., shortly before the daily progress briefing on climate change talks in the main pressroom.

As members of the press corps took their seats, my Twitter feed exploded: “G77 walk out of negotiation,” “African delegation pulls plug on climate talks” “#COP15 in chaos”


I looked around. The room was calm.

Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the U.N. framework convention on climate change, was pouring some water and taking his seat. Nothing in the room implied confusion, much less chaos.

Even so, I got that sick feeling only reporters (and cartoon commentators) really know. It’s the feeling that comes when you’re convinced you’re in the wrong place and missing the story.

My first instinct was to run into the hall and find the “chaos,” but luckily my time at this conference has taught me a few things, including this reality: The African delegation and, to a lesser extent, the G77 are negotiating blocs that represent the countries with the most to lose if the talks fail, and the likelihood that they’ll sabotage the conference is small.

A few minutes later, the tweets grew more suspicious: “Yvo de Boer downplays walkouts” Really? I was listening to Mr. de Boer, and he was talking about logistics.

I should have listened to my own advice from a few days ago.

It turns out, like most things here, that the story was largely truthful, but the interpretation was far too severe. The truth: Countries associated with the African delegation and supported by the G77 staged a walkout, temporarily suspending the conference, but the calamity of this action, at least in tweet form, was overblown.

The talk in the cafeterias toward the end of the day was more balanced. The walkout was designed to slow the debate and make a statement about the progress of certain aspects of the negotiations.

In short, it was an attempt to gain leverage, not end the conference … and with more than 130 heads of state about to arrive, I would be very surprised if any group kept things from moving forward.

If anybody’s going to derail this conference, it will be the men and women at the very top.

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by david granneman on 12/15/2009 - 10:43 am.

    hello all
    it is becoming clear that the Copenhagen conference delegates are more concerned about sharing America’s wealth that saving the planet.
    al gore has been caught again streching the truth regarding the artic ice changes.

    From The Times December 15, 2009

    Inconvenient truth for Al Gore as his North Pole sums don’t add up

  2. Submitted by Lu Lippold on 12/15/2009 - 12:25 pm.

    Gillette’s COP15 coverage is the best I’ve seen! Keep up the good work.

  3. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 12/15/2009 - 01:00 pm.

    Hello, David G. It is becoming clear that the U.S. is reluctant to accept the fact that it MUST NOT compromise with right-wing members of Congress who want the government to, in essence, return to the energy policies created in secret by Dick Cheney and his industry buddies in early 2001. Their wishes were enacted into law in the Energy Act of 2005.

    To let the Congress agree to these compromises is to let global warming proceed with little interference from us, the greatest pollution nation, and therefore both many deaths and great and irreversible destruction.

    We must instead shift our sights to a green future and support renewable energy technologies instead of oil, coal and nuclear. This would give us both great reductions in harmful emissions and tens of thousands of new jobs.

  4. Submitted by Wanda Ballentine on 12/15/2009 - 06:10 pm.

    Any chance of getting this to the protesters who might like to sing it?

    Climate Change is Coming to Town­bicycle version MP3
    Courtesy of Toronto Raging Grannies
    (To the tune of Santa Claus is Coming to Town)

    You better watch out, you better not drive.
    You better ride bikes I’m telling you why.
    Climate change is coming to town.

    We’re making it hot, we’re raising the seas.
    Gonna feel life at a hundred degrees.
    Climate change is coming to town.

    If people keep on driving.
    The poles will soon be lakes.
    The air will stink like petrol fumes.
    Ride your bike for goodness sake.

    We’re making a list, we’re checking it twice.
    We’re gonna find out who drives and who bikes!
    Climate change is coming to town.

    Climate Change is Coming to Town­tipping point version MP3
    Courtesy of Toronto Raging Grannies
    (To the tune of Santa Claus is Coming to Town)

    Oh, you better reduce your greenhouse gases.
    You better educate the public masses.
    Climate change is coming to town!

    It knows that you’ve been stalling.
    While land turns into lakes.
    Our inaction is appalling.
    So commit for the earth’s sake.

    Oh, you better invest in wind and solar.
    Cause Santa needs this to save the polar.
    Climate change is coming to town!

    Oh, you better create low emission transport.
    Santa does this with reindeer escorts.
    Climate change is coming to town!

    Santa knows that you’re not naughty.
    He sees that you do care.
    So tell our politicians.
    We don’t need more hot air.

    Oh if we want to keep our ice and our snow.
    We have to keep commitments to Kyoto.
    Climate change is coming to town!

    Oh it’ll take work, it won’t be a breeze.
    But we have to act now to drop those degrees.
    Climate change is coming . . .
    Climate change is coming . . .
    Climate change is coming . . .
    to town!

    ……_\ \>,

  5. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 12/15/2009 - 10:32 pm.

    The problem is that refuting these simple correlations probably takes up a lot more time and effort than making these correlations in the first place. This makes having a rational debate about the data difficult. It’s too easy to muddy the waters for it to be clear to a general reader which data to pay attention to and which data to ignore. Since most politicians probably fall better into the general reader category than they do the specialist it’s no wonder that some specialists are getting frustrated at their difficulties in getting people to pay attention to good data while so many grab onto poorly researched but basically intuitive correlations. I’m not sure there’s a solution to this but having blogger’s rather than scientists spending their time shredding spurious claims probably isn’t an inefficient allocation of resources, whatever blog readers think.

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