Monday, November 16, 2009

Copenhagen Comes to Rochester!

Except for our local institutions of higher learning, most Rochesterians seem to think that what’s going to happen (or not happen) in Copenhagen [UN Climate Change Conference, DEC 7-18] is about as important as last year’s bird nest. But, Copenhagen is coming to Rochester. It’s coming to Buffalo, Albany, NYC, Mexico City, Ireland, and Timbuktu.

So, what does that mean? It means that whether you like it or not the decisions that are made at Copenhagen are going to affect you. Not because everywhere you turn you’re going to see it on the news (which could happen.) Not because those annoying greenies will just shut up when they realize once and for all that most people and most countries don’t really care. Copenhagen will come to Rochester because we cannot avoid the repercussion of the conference’s outcome. We will either deal with the political ramifications of global warming or we won’t. But either way, the chickens [laws of physics] are coming home to roost.

Already we are living with the consequences of the past climate talks: kick the can further down the road. At some point the can hits a wall. At 387 part per million (ppm), carbon dioxide concentration matters--350 ppm is the recommended dose. In the Rochester area we could expect: temperatures rising, a migration of plants and animals north as our climate adopts a Southern visage (though, many -- especially plants -- won’t move quickly enough), change in precipitation (droughts), lowering of Great Lakes water levels, coastal flooding, sea-level rise, shore-line change, extreme heat in our cities, more diseases (Lyme disease, West Nile Virus, and maybe malaria), and more potent cases of poison ivy, air quality loss, agriculture changes, changes in the fisheries, changes in the dairy industry, changes in spruce/fir forest of the Adirondacks, alterations in winter recreation (did you know the NYS has more ski areas than any other state in the nation?), and an increase in ozone pollution.

To think that we can afford another round of unproductive climate change talks is like thinking after a couple of bottles of beer that you can fly.

Of course our personal efforts at confronting climate change—recycling, energy conservation, and all those things environmentalist preach--are important. Those efforts demonstrate that we care, that we take responsibility for our planet, and that we can lead by example. But to reverse the accumulated effects of man-made climate change, it’s going to take the efforts of nations. Here’s what the scientists say: “This is the consequence of failure at Copenhagen: A marked shift in scientific effort from solving global warming to adapting to its consequences, a hodge-podge of uncoordinated local efforts to trim emissions - none of which deliver the necessary cuts - and an altered climate.” (November 10, 2009 Scientific American)

Copenhagen matters to us here in Rochester, even if the media doesn’t get in our face with it. This is not the time for “a number of other key players will most likely hide their cards.” It’s time for all of us to consider what non-action on climate change will mean.

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