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November 26 – December 7, 2012, Doha, Qatar is the venue for the 18th annual United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as the 18th Conference of the Parties — or COP 18.
Predictably and sadly, the same issues complained about at previous annual meetings for the past decade continue to recycle themselves:
- Lack of quality (if any) media coverage
- West stalling on doing anything
- Lack of funding
- Disagreement on how to address it
As the past two decades have shown trying to get global agreement on tackling climate change seems to be futile. By comparison, more focused and limited interest of elites, however, are easier to push through, such as wars based on geopolitical threats (real and imaginary), or economic crises (where banks and other elites most responsible for the crises are bailed out by ordinary citizens).
Furthermore, as the West has generally shown in the past decade or more (even when their economies were doing good) paying now for something that seems to be a problem in the future is hard to accept. It is easier, therefore, to stall and keep blaming China, India and other emerging nations despite the historical inequality of those emissions. But ignoring that makes it easier to hope these emerging nations will pick up the burden of addressing emissions rises.
A summary from the Malaysian-based development organization, Third World Network, notes that once again there are disagreements on how to proceed with basic aspects of these climate discussions such as how to agree on the next round of emission reductions:
Developing countries want the Doha talks to produce increased ambition in emission reductions for the second commitment period (CP2) while developed countries seem set to maintain their currently weak targets, with uncertainty over the future review of those targets.
Developing countries are also insisting that the [new reduction targets] be established in a ratifiable legally binding amendment of [the Kyoto Protocol], that contains the quantified emission limitation or reduction objectives (QELROs) of each developed country Party.
Many developing countries also want a legal provision for provisional application of the QELROs from 1 January 2013 that developed countries do not support.
According to several developing country delegates, without provisional application on a legal basis, the reduction commitments would be rendered voluntary.
— Chee Yoke Ling, Kyoto Protocol second commitment period still mired in differences , Third World Network, November 28, 2012
Generally speaking, media coverage of climate change issues and these conferences has been a mixed bag over the past decade. More recent years has seen increased interest and coverage (though many important issues are glossed over in mainstream media sound-byte style reporting).
When I wrote a similar page about a year ago regarding the previous conference, COP 17, I noted that (as with many previous conferences), I described mainstream media coverage as “pathetic” and almost non-existent until the very last few moments.
I added that in reality money speaks and so short term and elite/establishment views tend to prevail, which is why governments can so quickly get the “99%” to bail out the banks and the top 1% with many trillions of dollars, while finding billions for fighting even more devastating climate change has taken almost 2 decades so far without any convincing results.
It seems like that will be the case again this year. As of writing, it is half way through the conference and scanning mainstream media headlines in the UK, I see no coverage of the conference (at least not as major news headlines). It is very possible I have missed it, but one would hope that a conference of such importance would not require much detailed look at mainstream media news headlines to find coverage of it.
Indeed, this comes at a time when the British press is facing threats of regulation following scandals about journalist practices by some tabloid papers. Ironically, the British press now fears regulation will hinder their free speech (a legitimate worry). But what free speech are they fighting for? For more narrow coverage and tabloid headlines?
It is worth quoting again an article from Media Lens about a year ago on the poor media quality coverage in recent years.
Media interest in the subject has crashed. Dr. Robert J. Brulle of Drexel University describes a “collapse of any significant coverage of climate change in the [US] media. We know that 2010 was a record low year, and 2011 will probably look much the same. If the media doesn’t draw attention to the issue, public opinion will decline.”
Equally disturbing is the variation in media performance across the globe. A wide-ranging Reuters study on the prevalence of climate skepticism in the world’s media — Poles Apart — The international reporting of climate skepticism - focused on newspapers in Brazil, China, France, India, the UK and the USA. The periods studied were February to April 2007 and mid-November 2009 to mid-February 2010 (a period that included the UN climate change summit in Copenhagen and “Climategate”). Remarkably, the study concluded that climate skepticism is “predominantly an Anglo-Saxon phenomenon”, found most frequently in US and British newspapers.
And so we find that Britain and the US — the two countries responding most aggressively to alleged “threats” to human security in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya — are also the two countries least interested in responding to the very real threat of climate change.
— Climate Crisis – The Collapse In Corporate Media Coverage , Media Lens, December 1, 2011
It would be worth reading the media section of the previous conference to see more about media coverage.
President Obama was recently re-elected as President of the United States. It is not clear how much impact the devastating impact of Hurricane Sandy had on climate change policies (and it may also be too early to tell), but many certainly felt that in the days leading up to the election it may have been a factor. Perhaps, importantly, for the first time, climate denial may become a political liability in the US, and it remains to be seen how much the Republicans will hamper Obama’s climate policies.
The more extreme news organization in the US, Fox News, was found to to have 93% of their climate reporting as misleading. And this channel is a prime channel for Republican leaning viewers. This is also despite promises by Murdoch many years ago to improve climate change reporting. But it is not just Fox News, although not media outlets themselves many other influential corporations have been actively supporting misrepresentation of the science around climate change, undermining the US public’s understanding of scientific consensus around climate change.
Numerous recent reports are finding that climate scientists, far from being alarmist and scaremongering, have somewhat underestimated the speed at which climate change impacts such as extreme weather and rising sea levels will happen and that many conditions match their upper estimates rather than any median or better-scenario estimates.
For example, the conference comes at the end of a year that saw record Arctic sea ice melting, multiple global weather and climate extremes, and high temperatures.
For years countries have worried that funding for adaptation and mitigation is not affordable (rich and poor nations alike) and yet, as time goes on, adaptation and mitigation costs will be even higher.
Even the World Bank has chimed in noting that
Coal, oil and gas companies and their backers in the financial and investment industry must stop putting billions of dollars into finding and extracting new sources of fossil fuels. If they don't shift their investments, temperatures will soar four to 10 degrees C higher, devastating many parts of the world, the World Bank said Monday.
— Stephen Leahy, Planet on Path to Four C Warming, World Bank Warns, Inter Press Service, November 19, 2012
Despite years of this, things do not seem to change much. Perhaps it is because there isn’t an emotional attachment to the issue; it is distant, vague, complex. However, as David Robert notes,
Climate change is not only the economic and ecological crisis of our time, it’s also a moral crisis. What we are doing to our descendants is a moral crime. Finding ways to help people get that, feel it in their guts the way they would if someone threatened their own families, is a precondition for serious, sustained action.
— David Roberts, Why climate change doesn’t spark moral outrage, and how it could, Grist, July 27, 2012
As the conference is still underway as this page is written, more information will be added here after the event is over.
For more about the issues from other organizations, here are some starting points:
- Climate Change coverage from Inter Press Service (IPS). (This web site carries an IPS feed.)
- Official COP 18 website
- Updates from the Third World Network
- Coverage from Democracy Now! including useful news videos
News stories from IPS
Below is a list of stories from Inter Press Service related to the Durban climate conference and its aftermath.
Friday, May 20, 2016
SAN JOSE, May 20 (IPS) - As the Global South works to overcome a history of weak institutions, armed conflict and poverty-driven forced exodus, key causes of its humanitarian crises, developing countries now have to also fight to keep global warming from compounding their problems.
Monday, May 09, 2016
UNITED NATIONS, May 09 (IPS) - Helping at-risk communities adapt to climate change impacts is an important part of the Paris Climate Change agreement, but adaptation will not be complete without considering disaster risk.
Friday, May 06, 2016
LIVINGSTONE, Zambia, May 06 (IPS) - Merian Kalala, a farmer in Solwezi, capital of the North-Western Province of Zambia, knows firsthand that climate change is posing massive problems for agricultural productivity.
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 26 (IPS) - The 134 members of the Group of 77 and China (G-77) made their mark on the Paris Climate Change Agreement and should now adopt a program of action to implement it, Ambassador Ahmed Djoghlaf told IPS in a recent interview.
Saturday, April 23, 2016
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 23 (IPS) - As countries came together at the United Nations this week to sign the Paris Climate Change Agreement, partnerships were forged between countries of the global South to support the implementation of the global treaty.
Friday, April 22, 2016
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 22 (IPS) - An unprecedented 175 countries are expected to sign the Paris Climate Change Agreement here Friday, with 15 developing countries taking the lead by also ratifying the treaty.
Monday, April 18, 2016
CAIRO, Apr 18 (IPS) - This is not about any alarming header—it is the dramatic conclusion of several scientific studies about the on-going climate change impact on the Middle East region, particularly in the Gulf area. The examples are stark.
Tuesday, February 02, 2016
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 02 (IPS) - The world is still celebrating the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the main outcome of the 21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Its ambitions are unprecedented: not only has the world committed to limit the increase of temperature to "well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels," it has also agreed to pursue efforts to "limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C."
Wednesday, January 20, 2016
SANTO DOMINGO, Jan 20 (IPS) - The nearly 7,000 islands and the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea are home to thousands of endemic species and are on the migration route of many kinds of birds. Preserving this abundant fauna requires multilateral actions in today's era of global warming.
Wednesday, January 06, 2016
SANTO DOMINGO, Jan 06 (IPS) - Environmentally committed journalists in the Caribbean point to a major challenge for media workers: communicating and raising awareness about the crucial climate change agreement that emerged from the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris.
Saturday, December 12, 2015
PARIS, Dec 12 (IPS) - The link between women in climate change is a cross-cutting issue that deserves greater recognition at climate negotiations. It is pervasive, touching everything; from health and agriculture to sanitation and education.
Thursday, December 03, 2015
LILONGWE, MALAWI, Dec 03 (IPS) - The government of Malawi has been struggling to end poverty since independence in 1964, banking its strategies on the proceeds from its agro based economy. Sadly, climate change entered the scene and dramatically disrupted the farming sector.
Wednesday, December 02, 2015
GENEVA, Dec 02 (IPS) - Arctic temperatures have increased twice as much as the global average in the past 100 years. Recent photos show that thousands of walruses normally resting on sea ice between dives to find food have been forced to crowd ashore because of extreme sea ice melt in Alaska. Such photos have once again reminded us that it is high time we take serious action on climate change if we want to save the Arctic.
Wednesday, December 02, 2015
ANSE-LA-RAYE, St. Lucia, Dec 02 (IPS) - In the Caribbean, some women find themselves on the frontline with the battle to mitigate climate change. Meet Dr. Krystal Cox. She is one of three girls who all studied medicine and got medical degrees.
Wednesday, December 02, 2015
PARIS, Dec 02 (IPS) - Recognizing that agriculture plays a significant role in global warming, farmer associations say they want to offer solutions, and they're urging governments to include them in negotiations during the United Nations Climate Change Conference taking place Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 in Paris.
Thursday, November 26, 2015
KAMPALA, Uganda, Nov 26 (IPS) - Climate Change needs to be at the top of the country's agenda, according to a project examining Uganda's policies. It says the country hasn't paid enough attention to climate change in national development and agriculture plans and this needs to be turned around before it's too late.
Thursday, November 19, 2015
NEW DELHI, INDIA, Nov 19 (IPS) - Few countries in the world are as vulnerable to the effects of climate change as India is with its vast population (of over 1.2 billion) that is dependent on the growth of its agrarian economy, its expansive coastal areas and the Himalayan region and islands.
Thursday, November 05, 2015
MENDOZA, Argentina, Nov 05 (IPS) - Purple garlic that is losing its color? More translucent wine? Climate change will also affect the flavours of our food in the absence of measures to mitigate the impacts of global warming, which are already being felt in crops that are basic to local economies, such as in the Argentine province of Mendoza.
Tuesday, November 03, 2015
BULAWAYO, ZIMBABWE, Nov 03 (IPS) - Zimbabwe's planned Batoka Gorge power project on the Zambezi River is expected to generate 2,400 megawatts (MW) of electricity, upward from an initial 1,600 MW, but the worsening power cuts that are being blamed on low water levels have renewed concerns about the effects of climate change on mega dams.
Monday, October 05, 2015
SAN JOSE, Oct 05 (IPS) - Seen for years as passive actors in the fight against global warming, more than 100 countries of the Global South have submitted their national contributions to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and decarbonising their economies.
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 23 (IPS) - Brazil and Germany, the two largest national economies within their respective continents, are taking the lead in tackling climate change through outstanding policies and bilateral relations, according to experts.
Saturday, August 22, 2015
KAMPALA, Aug 22 (IPS) - Climate change is reducing the size of several species of fish on lakes in Uganda and its neighbouring East African countries, with a negative impact on the livelihoods of millions people who depend on fishing for food and income.
Friday, August 07, 2015
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 07 (IPS) - This week, U.S. President Barack Obama formally unveiled the details of his Clean Power Plan (CPP), a comprehensive carbon-cutting strategy he described as "the biggest and most important step…ever taken to combat climate change" in a prior video address posted on Facebook.
Sunday, August 02, 2015
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Aug 02 (IPS) - With the U.N. Climate Change conference later this year in Paris fast approaching, Zimbabwe's climate change commitments face the slow progress on an issue that continues to stalk other developing countries – climate finance.
Tuesday, July 28, 2015
NEW YORK, Jul 28 (IPS) - Although four in 10 adults have never heard the phrase "climate change," many are aware that something is amiss with local weather patterns, a new survey covering 119 countries has found.
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
HARARE, Jul 22 (IPS) - With unusually hot and dry weather beating down on this Southern African nation, climate change and the accompanying drought have cost farmers much of their cattle herds. In response, many ranchers are turning to goats to preserve their livestock assets.
Friday, July 17, 2015
SAN JOSE, Jul 17 (IPS) - For decades, executives and decision makers at major U.S. and European fossil fuel companies were aware that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions caused global warming, but still provided millions in funding to boost disinformation campaigns and sponsor scientists who denied climate change.
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 14 (IPS) - The world at large is apparently divided over what constitutes the biggest single threat to human kind: the devastation caused by climate change or the unbridled terror unleashed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)? According to a new Pew Research Center survey designed to measure perceptions of international threats, climate change is viewed as the "top concern" by people around the world.
Tuesday, July 07, 2015
PARIS, Jul 07 (IPS) - The cost of inaction is high when it comes to climate change and, so far, countries' commitments to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are not enough, says Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).
Friday, July 03, 2015
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 03 (IPS) - The most devastating impact of climate change – including rising sea levels, floods, cyclones and both droughts and heavy monsoons – will be felt mostly by the world's poorest nations.
- Climate Change and Global Warming Introduction
- UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
- Reactions to Climate Change Negotiations and Action
- Action on climate change is cheaper than inaction
- Global Warming, Spin and Media
- Climate Justice and Equity
- Climate Change Flexibility Mechanisms
- Carbon Sinks, Forests and Climate Change
- Climate Change Affects Biodiversity
- Global Warming and Population