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A Little Less Conversation

Posted by Natalie in Environment - 7 April 2011

It seems that these days there is always something going on. Of course, there always has been, it’s just that now information exchange happens so efficiently we all know about it instantly. Even given this daily data deluge, we are currently seeing a global glut of particularly significant events. From Japan to Libya, the Ivory Coast to austerity cuts, you could say it’s kicking off.

Maybe this is why other important affairs are slipping under the radar.  Today is the penultimate day of the UN climate change conference in Bangkok where 1,500 participants from 173 countries are trying to improve an agreement made at Cancun last year and working towards a post-Kyoto protocol.

Perhaps predictably, negotiations are painfully slow. By yesterday, delegates had hardly penetrated the nitty-gritty and were still trying to agree on the agenda itself. When so many parties – representing even more interests – are involved, deciding what to talk about is potentially as difficult as tackling the issues themselves. For all voices to be heard, all interests considered and all agendas addressed, much time is required; it’s a painstaking process.

Time, of course, is one resource we don’t have when it comes to climate change mitigation. Another big revelation that has gone largely unreported is the result of a recent scientific study, which concludes that it is already too late to limit the temperature increase to two degrees. To achieve anything like this, the study claims, we would have to have an immediate drop in emissions to practically zero.  The chances of successfully combating a dangerous rise in global temperatures diminishes with every day of fruitless negotiations.

There is no easy solution to the difficulties of such weighty diplomacy and this is understandable, given the task at hand. We shouldn’t feel hopeless, however, despite the temptation to react with exasperation to our querulous leaders. As individuals we are far from powerless; in fact, we are far more powerful in many ways, because when we make a decision to change something we don’t need to consult the rest of the world about it. The cumulative effect of individual action should not be underestimated.

Addressing the big issues of industrial and national carbon emissions is, of course, imperative; but large things move slowly.  Using this lack of governmental progress as an excuse for individual inaction is counter-intuitive. Instead, we should be leading by example and making the most of our strengths. Any personal lifestyle adjustment that contributes to lowering emissions is important and worthwhile, because no matter how small, it has great significance in its immediacy.

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