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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.
Wednesday, April 09, 2014
SAN JOSÃ‰, Apr 09 (IPS) - There are few experiences more frustrating than a delay in travel plans caused by bad weather. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), this may be something we will have to get used to in the future.
Wednesday, April 02, 2014
PITAL, Costa Rica, Apr 02 (IPS) - Olga Vargas, a breast cancer survivor, is back in the countryside, working in a forestry programme in the north of Costa Rica aimed at empowering women while at the same time mitigating the effects of climate change.
Thursday, February 27, 2014
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Feb 27 (IPS) - Industrial engineer Ancel Bhagwandeen thinks that growing your food indoors is a great way to protect crops from the stresses of climate change. So he developed a hydroponic system that "leverages the nanoclimates in houses so that the house effectively protects the produce the same way it protects us," he says.
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
NAIROBI, Dic 31 (IPS) - Kenyais facing its greatest challenge as weather patterns are starting to significantly affect food production. And experts are blaming the low adaptive capacity of the farming sector on an excess of policy and institutional frameworks that are silent on both climate change and agriculture.
Thursday, December 12, 2013
BRUSSELS, Dic 12 (IPS) - As president of the Council of Ministers of the African, Caribbean and Pacific states, Samoa's Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi had the perfect forum to voice his concerns about the effects climate change has had on his island nation.
Thursday, December 05, 2013
HAVANA, Dic 05 (IPS) - Nature reserves act as a safe deposit box for biodiversity and contribute to adaptation to climate change. But in a country like Cuba, plagued by a chronic economic crisis, efforts to increase the number of protected areas go largely unnoticed.
Saturday, September 28, 2013
RIO DE JANEIRO, Sep 28 (IPS) - Amidst rumours that global warming has slowed over the past 15 years, the new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that each of the last three decades has been warmer than any preceding decade since 1850.
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
RIO DE JANEIRO, Sep 17 (IPS) - Crop yields in Brazil, an agricultural powerhouse, are set to decline as a result of climate change, according to the most complete diagnosis yet of climate trends in this country.
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
WASHINGTON, Aug 20 (IPS) - The United States government is recommending new preparations aimed at protecting vulnerable communities from climate change-related disasters, a year after a major hurricane devastated swaths of the country's East Coast.
Monday, July 29, 2013
PORT LOUIS, Jul 29 (IPS) - Tourism, agriculture, fishing, the water supply – climate change threatens the very foundations of society and the economy in Mauritius. As the Indian Ocean island nation develops its adaptation strategies, it is working to ground the next generation of citizens firmly in principles of sustainable development.
Friday, July 12, 2013
PROGRESO, Mexico, Jul 12 (IPS) - Towns on Mexico's Caribbean coast are behind schedule on the design and implementation of plans to face the challenges of climate change, in spite of the urgency of measures to reduce vulnerability.
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
WASHINGTON, Jun 25 (IPS) - Stymied by the U.S. Congress, President Barack Obama on Tuesday unveiled his vision to reset the United States' incoherent national plan to combat climate change, offering dozens of regulatory tweaks and targets that his administration could now implement without Congressional approval.
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
WASHINGTON, Jun 25 (IPS) - Climate change and international financial instability top a list of seven concerns that publics around the world consider "major threats" to their countries, according to the latest polling of global attitudes by the Pew Research Centre here.
Saturday, June 15, 2013
CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Jun 15 (IPS) - The Caribbean has the unenviable reputation as one of the most disaster-prone regions in the world, a situation exacerbated by climate change and vulnerability that experts warn could have significant economic consequences if unaddressed.
Sunday, May 19, 2013
CHARLESTOWN, Nevis, May 19 (IPS) - The Caribbean does not have the luxury of time for decisive action on climate change and global warming. In fact, it is on the brink of calamity, according to a prominent scientist.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
NEW YORK, May 16 (IPS) - Seven in 10 U.S. citizens believe climate change is real and happening now. Yet most have never even contacted a government official about the issue, let alone volunteered with an environmental organisation or taken other action.
Tuesday, May 07, 2013
DHAKA, May 07 (IPS) - Adaptation and mitigation. Identified by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and by scientists as the two major responses to address the problem, these were also the twin preoccupations of a climate change conference held recently in Dhaka.
Tuesday, May 07, 2013
HONIARA, Solomon Islands, May 07 (IPS) - Life is difficult enough for communities on the remote southern Weather Coast of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. Sustaining a livelihood from the land is a daily struggle on the steep coastal mountain slopes that plunge to the sea, made worse by the absence of adequate roads, transport and government services. And now, climate change is taking its toll on the already precarious food situation here.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
PORT-LOUIS, Apr 16 (IPS) - Mauritius may be one of the best-prepared countries in the world when it comes to cyclones, but recent heavy rains and flooding due to climate change have brought the country's readiness for coping with increased rainfall into question.
Thursday, April 11, 2013
HAVANA, Apr 11 (IPS) - Botanist Ramona Oviedo has spent decades combing the countryside in Cuba to study and curb the spread of invasive plant species, a serious problem that has been aggravated by climate change.
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
WASHINGTON, Apr 10 (IPS) - After another winter of erratic and disappointing snowfall, 75 of the U.S.'s top professional winter athletes are calling on President Barack Obama to take stronger measures to curb climate change.
Friday, March 22, 2013
WASHINGTON, Mar 22 (IPS) - Defence establishments around the world increasingly see climate change as posing potentially serious threats to national and international security, according to a review of high-level statements by the world's governments released here Thursday.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
WASHINGTON, Feb 27 (IPS) - More than three dozen national security officials, members of Congress and military leaders are warning of the threat climate change poses to U.S. national security, the latest in an indicator that U.S. intelligence and national security circles are increasingly worried about a warming planet.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
HAVANA, Feb 27 (IPS) - Each of Cuba's 168 municipalities faces the challenge of designing its own strategic development which, as well as economic and social progress, minimises the impact of extreme weather and other problems caused by global warming.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
UXBRIDGE, Canada, Feb 27 (IPS) - Killer heat waves, floods and storms are increasingly caused by climate change, new research reveals.
Friday, February 15, 2013
WASHINGTON, Feb 15 (IPS) - For the first time, a U.S. government auditor has added climate change to a list of issues that pose the greatest financial risk to the government and country. It is also warning that Washington is markedly unprepared to deal with the scope of the problem.
Thursday, February 14, 2013
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Feb 14 (IPS) - Scientists and researchers are working together in a new initiative to collect data that will help determine the effects of climate change on coral in the Caribbean Sea.
Friday, January 25, 2013
CARTAGENA DE INDIAS, Colombia, Jan 25 (IPS) - An ambitious programme of infrastructure works to overcome the risks of climate change in Cartagena de Indias, a city on the Caribbean coast in northern Colombia, has generated controversy, with authorities predicting benefits while parts of the affected population voice criticisms.
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
UXBRIDGE, Canada, Jan 16 (IPS) - A majority of major economies have made significant progress in addressing climate change, with countries like South Korea and China taking aggressive action so they can benefit from energy- and resource-efficient economies, a new report released Monday found.
Friday, December 28, 2012
HAVANA, Dic 28 (IPS) - "Adaptation to climate change is urgent and must be part of development," said Bárbara Pesce-Monteiro, the United Nations resident coordinator in Cuba, assessing the damage done by hurricane Sandy in the eastern region of the country.
- Climate Change and Global Warming Introduction
- Global Dimming
- UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
- Reactions to Climate Change Negotiations and Action
- 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