Preview of next week's UN Climate Summit in Cancun (part 1)

11/23/10 Kelly Benjamin
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The 2010 United Nations Climate Change Conference begins next week in Cancun, Mexico. WMNF's Kelly Benjamin, who reported for the Evening News from last year's climate summit in Copenhagen, received a fellowship from Earth Journalism News to cover this year's conference. Beginning next week, he will be bringing us daily reports from Mexico on the progress towards an agreement at this year's summit. Today, we bring you a special report from Kelly Benjamin on climate change and what we can expect from the United Nations process.

Naomi Klein has said, “Climate Change has been revealed as a class war that is being waged by the rich against the poor.”

And Richard Heinberg concludes, ”The impact of climate change on civilization are likely to be catastrophic.”

It has been called the defining issue of our time: climate change, The heating up of the the earth's atmosphere and oceans by greenhouse gasses and it's projected continuation. How this will effect our society and the natural world has been the subject of vigorous debate among scientists and politicians for the past two decades.

Over the last 15 years, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has been meeting annually in Conferences of the Parties (COP) in order to assess progress in dealing with climate change. This year's UN Climate Conference, COP16, begins next week in Cancun, Mexico.

Richard Heinberg is senior fellow at the Post Carbon Institute and former advisor to the National Petroleum Council.

"Well, I wish I could be optimistic here but frankly I see very very little chance of binding agreements internationally to curb climate change. And the reason for that is, our problem is burning fossil fuels and fossil fuels are creating this enormous problem but at the same time fossil fuels create enormous economic benefits for countries that use them. Fossil fuels are the most concentrated, cheapest form of energy we've ever had as human beings. As a result, countries that use lots of fossil fuels are able to generate a lot of economic growth and economic growth trumps everything else in modern politics. We're willing to do almost anything to stop climate change except curb economic growth and unfortunately that's exactly what we would have to do in order to have any real impact on this process."

Despite Heinberg's pessimism, some of those who are engaged in the UN process such as Thomas Hamlin, the UN's Technical Adviser on Energy and Transport says that progress is being made but there are valid criticisms to the process.

"There are various arguments against these kinds of systems. One of them is that polluting countries should not be able to meet their targets by buying credits elsewhere in the world, that they should really tackle their own systems. So that's one criticism that's out there. On the other side of that argument is that we should encourage investment wherever the least cost carbon reducitions can be obtained. And, you know, it is a global problem so wherever we cut the carbon emissions we are doing good for the climate."

Others such as social critic, activist, and environmental author Derrick Jensen have a much different opinion on the nature of climate change and how to it stop it.

"Is it going to be effective in slowing climate change? No, of course not. Will it be effective in pretending to do some action while allowing capitalism to continue to kill the planet? Yeah. Because the problems are functional and systemic and you can't stop climate change while continuing to burn oil. Any child would know that. I think the process as a whole is a sham and I think it's primary function is to pretend to do something while they continue business as usual. One of the primary tenets of how they've moved discussions around climate change have been, the central core of all solutions, so called solutions presented have been that industrial capitalism can not be questioned and what must be questioned is that in these solutions the independent variable is industrial capitalism and the independent variable is the natural world. The natural world must conform to industrial capitalism and not the other way around. And that's literally insane."

Part 2 of this special report will air Wednesday on 88.5 FM on what to expect from the United Nations Climate Change Conference

Kelly Benjamin will be bringing us daily coverage from the United Nations Climate Change summit in Mexico beginning Monday.

WMNF coverage from Copenhagen climate summit

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Addressing climate change in a meaningful manner is vitally important to this and future generations. Partisan politics will only impede progress regarding this issue. This programming has been informative.