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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.
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.
Monday, June 29, 2015
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 29 (IPS) - When the 193-member General Assembly hosted a high level meeting on climate change Monday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that any proposed agreement at an upcoming international conference in Paris in December must uphold the principle of equity.
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
MANILA, Jun 17 (IPS) - My country, the Philippines, is one of the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Even though we are among those countries that hardly contributed emissions and benefited least from burning fossil fuels, we find ourselves at the frontline of the climate crisis.
Tuesday, June 09, 2015
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 09 (IPS) - A new survey finds that China leads the world in public support for government action on climate change.
Thursday, May 21, 2015
PARIS, May 21 (IPS) - When it comes to climate change, business as usual is simply "not an option".
Thursday, April 09, 2015
BELIZE CITY, Apr 09 (IPS) - A five-year project launched here in Belize City in March seeks to cement a shift in view of climate change and its impact on Belize's national development.
Monday, March 02, 2015
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 02 (IPS) - Was the four-year-old military conflict in Syria, which has claimed the lives of over 200,000 people, mostly civilians, triggered at least in part by climate change?
Thursday, February 19, 2015
NEW DELHI, Feb 19 (IPS) - So much information about climate change now abounds that it is hard to differentiate fact from fiction. Scientific reports appear alongside conspiracy theories, data is interspersed with drastic predictions about the future, and everywhere one turns, the bad news just seems to be getting worse.
Friday, December 12, 2014
UNITED NATIONS, Dic 12 (IPS) - Among all the impacts of climate change, from rising sea levels to landslides and flooding, there is one that does not get the attention it deserves: an exacerbation of inequalities, particularly for women.
Friday, December 12, 2014
LIMA, Dic 12 (IPS) - The magnitude of the climate changes brought about by global warming and the alterations in rainfall patterns are modifying the geography of food production in the tropics, warned participants at the climate summit in the Peruvian capital.
Monday, December 08, 2014
UNITED NATIONS, Dic 08 (IPS) - As leaders from around the world gather in Lima, Peru this week to discuss global cooperation in addressing climate change, a woman in Guatemala will struggle to feed her family from a farm plot that produces less each season.
Monday, December 08, 2014
BRISBANE, Dic 08 (IPS) - Norwegians know something of life in a climate change world. Migratory birds arrive earlier in spring, trees come into leaf before previously expected, and palsa mires (wetlands) are being lost as permafrost thaws.
Wednesday, December 03, 2014
LIMA, Dic 03 (IPS) - African countries fought hard for the Kyoto Protocol not to die on African soil at the 2011 Climate Change Conference in South Africa, but they say it is now languishing in limbo because developed countries are taking what they called "baby steps" towards ratification of the Doha Amendment that gave it a new lease of life.
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
WASHINGTON, Nov 19 (IPS) - - In recent days, two major developments have injected new life into international action on climate change.
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
LONDON, Nov 11 (IPS) - Just a week after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) gave its starkest warning yet that the vast majority of existing oil, gas and coal reserves need to be kept in the ground, a new report reveals that governments are flagrantly ignoring these warnings and continuing to subsidise exploration for fossil fuels.
Monday, November 10, 2014
LONDON, Nov 10 (IPS) - Climate change is projected by many scientists to bring with it a range of calamities – from widespread floods, to prolonged heatwaves and slowly but relentlessly rising seas – taking the heaviest toll on those already most vulnerable.
Friday, November 07, 2014
GUNTHORPES, Antigua, Nov 07 (IPS) - As concern mounts over food security, two community groups are on a drive to mobilise average people across Antigua and Barbuda to mitigate and adapt in the wake of global climate change, which is affecting local weather patterns and by extension, agricultural production.
Saturday, October 25, 2014
TUVALU, Oct 25 (IPS) - The fate of my country rests in your hands: that was the message which Ian Fry, representing Tuvalu gave at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen five years ago. This is also the message that the Pacific Climate Warriors have come to Australia to bring.
Thursday, October 23, 2014
MARRAKECH, Oct 23 (IPS) - Policy and development practitioners say Africa is at a development cross roads and argue that the continent — increasingly an attractive destination for economic and agriculture investment — should use the window of opportunity presented by a low carbon economy to implement new knowledge and information to transform the challenges posed by climate change into opportunities for social development.
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
ADDIS ABABA, Oct 21 (IPS) - Ethiopia is widely regarded as an African success story when it comes to economic growth. According to the International Monetary Fund, the country's economy is growing by seven percent annually. But there are concerns that climate change could jeopardise this growth.
Saturday, October 18, 2014
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 18 (IPS) - Climate Change Warriors from 12 Pacific Island nations paddled canoes into the world's largest coal port in Newcastle, Australia, Friday to bring attention to their grave fears about the consequences of climate change on their home countries.
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
PYEONGCHANG, Republic of Korea, Oct 14 (IPS) - The remarkable biodiversity of the countries of the Caribbean, already under stress from human impacts like land use, pollution, invasive species, and over-harvesting of commercially valuable species, now faces an additional threat from climate change.
Monday, September 22, 2014
KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Sep 22 (IPS) - When it comes to climate change, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves doesn't mince words: he will tell you that it is a matter of life and death for Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
PARIS, Sep 17 (IPS) - If former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg had used the Vélib' - Paris' public bicycle sharing system - to arrive at the headquarters of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development here Wednesday, he might have sent a stronger message about the need for cities to be "empowered to take the lead in combating climate change".
- 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