Why we are cautiously optimistic!

A previous blog pointed out the obstacles to a successful outcome at COP 21, but ended on a note of cautious optimism.  Here is the explanation of our optimism.

Times have changed since the Copenhagen Conference, which some commentators now consider to be a failure. Here are the main factors that will push the Parties at COP 21 to agree on appropriate limits to carbon emissions.

  1. Scepticism about climate change is much reduced.

The UN Fourth Assessment Report was the scientific basis for the Copenhagen deliberations.

Sceptics claimed that the authors of the Report did not properly state the evidence of global warming.  Some sceptics went further, alleging that evidence in the Report had been slanted. They attributed this “slanting”, which they referred to as Climategate, to certain authors who wished to maintain financial support from the UN and participating governments.

Now this unwarranted criticism has been totally rejected.  The Fifth Assessment Report has re-confirmed the findings of the Fourth Assesment Report.  The authors of the Fifth Report have re-emphasized the reality of global warming, describing it as a “virtual certainty”. There have been no credible scientific criticisms of the Fifth Report.

Sceptics also pointed out that there had been no warming in the eleven year period prior to Copenhagen, which proved to them that the warming was the result of a natural weather cycle.  The sceptics rejected the explanation given by many scientists that there had been a pause in the warming trend.

Now the last three years have seen new temperature records – the warming is continuing.

The world has experienced more frequent and extreme weather disasters, which scientists attribute to global warming. Unfortunately, some people will dispute global warming until they are personally impacted, such as happened in New York with Hurricane Sandy.

  1. Faith Leaders have demanded that the wealthy countries act on their moral obligation to assist less developed countries in adapting to climate change.

In June, 4RG sponsored a Climate Change Forum “Faith and Climate Change – Bridging Generations”.  The speakers emphasized the importance of “Laudato Sii”, the Papal Encyclical on climate change. In this Encyclical, Pope Francis I clearly pointed out that climate change would impact the world’s poorer countries much harder than the affluent, developed countries.

The Muslim faith has recognized that pace of climate change is a different order of magnitude from the changes that have occurred in the past.  The Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change states:

“Our species, though selected to be a caretaker or steward (khalifah) on the earth, has been the cause of such corruption and devastation on it that we are in danger of ending life as we know it on our planet.“

You can find the same firm statements of principle from Jewish Rabbis, Buddhist Monks and Teachers, Hindu Spiritual Leaders and believers of other faiths.

  1. Millions of people around the world have now recognized their role in persuading governments to limit climate change.

There must be extraordinary pressure for action by citizens of all countries: the manifestation of a public will for immediate change as evidenced by demonstrations; oral and written submissions to elected Government representatives, coalitions of like-minded environmental groups etc.

  1. The Environmental movement has successfully opposed business strategies of the Fossil Fuel industry.

The efforts of US Green Organizations stopped the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.  And Green Peace confronted Shell’s efforts to drill in the Arctic.  Symbolic perhaps, but these efforts will be more than symbolic – they will be essential to preserving our future.

These four factors lead us to be are cautiously optimistic that we will see progress at Paris COP 21.  And – which is also  important – the momentum generated will lead to further progress.


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