11 July 2010

If This Is What the Head Honchos Believe, We're Screwed

So, this week the executive director of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Yvo de Boer of the Netherlands, passed on the reins to the new ED, Costa Rican Christiana Figueres. Many development agencies cheered when Figueres was appointed (and celebrated when she took office Thursday), as they felt that a woman in this position would put gender-specific climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies on the table.

In early June, before leaving his position, de Boer had this to say (as reported by Agence France Presse):

"I don't see the [negotiation] process delivering adequate mitigation targets in the next decade. Over the longer term, I think we will get this issue under control. Having said that, I do believe that it's a longer journey."

So much for Cancun!

But Mr. de Boer is tired. He's worked hard and must be broken-hearted at the lack of progress. But Ms Figueres is brand new. She'll be brimming with optimism, right? Wrong.

As reported by Agence France Presse on 9 June 2010, at the Bonn climate change talks Figueres cautioned that "it could take until 2050 to build the machinery that will ultimately tame greenhouse gases." She insisted that she is approaching her new job "with optimism tempered by hard-edged realism."

Ah, realism. I think the world has probably had enough of that lately.

"I continue to be confident that governments will meet this challenge, for the simple reason that humanity must meet the challenge. We just don't have another option," she said.

And then, she had this warning for people like me:

"I don't believe that we will ever have a final agreement on climate ... in my lifetime. Maybe in yours." Political progress on climate change would lag behind scientific warnings for many years to come — and those who expect a quick fix will be disappointed, she intimated.

So why would we have someone running the climate change negotiations who doesn't understand that not reaching an agreement in her lifetime (she's my age, for heaven's sake, and I plan on living another several decades!) will mean curtains for life on Earth?

Well, here's another quote from Figueres, one that shows she perhaps doesn't understand the science — or the human costs of climate catastrophe — all that well. In response to the question "How critical is the need for adaptation measures and how should those be focused to protect the most vulnerable populations?", Figueres first applauds the Copenhagen Accord's aspiration of a maximum temperature increase of 2ºC.

Whoa! Doesn't she get that carbon feedbacks are already kicking in, meaning we should be aiming for no more heating at all?

Then, luckily, she backpedals a bit: "While a good first step, this temperature increase does not guarantee the survival of the most vulnerable populations within their own boundaries and represents dangerous threats to their livelihood. Therefore, adaptation is critical to cover the impacts of that warming."

No. Wait. She thinks that adaptation will help those vulnerable populations who will not survive 2ºC to survive 2ºC? Am I missing something? Let's carry on:

"We know that farmers who depend on predictable weather patterns and water availability [name one who doesn't, I would ask] are going to be the most affected. Obviously, countries with the least resources or where agriculture represents a disproportionate share of their people's occupation will be the most at risk of climate change and the most in need of adaptation measures. Small island states, a large part of Africa and countries like Bangladesh should be obvious recipients of large investments in adaptation."

Got that? The hint is in the words "livelihoods" and "occupation." Ms Figueres is thinking in terms of money, not ecology. If farmers' livelihoods are impacted by climate change, folks, then FOOD is impacted by climate change. And WE ALL NEED FOOD TO SURVIVE (well, except for those breatharians). If agriculture goes, we go. We have evolved into a species dependent on agriculture — practically all of us.

Why are agriculture and food security so soundly ignored by head honchos of the climate change negotiations? Seriously, can't some of them think in terms of getting a climate agreement sooner rather than later, so that we can safeguard the future of our children? What are they going to eat? What are we going to eat?

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