Saturday, December 19, 2009

What if we fail at Copenhagen? The world in 2100

by Carmelo Amalfi
“MADAME chair, you have the floor”
Thank you [UN president Michelle Gore].
Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, citizens of Earth.
We open this conference, COP16, on the eve of a new century. Nearly 100 years ago this month, leaders of our world came together in Copenhagen to find a way to curb the greatest threat our planet faced, and still faces – climate change.
They failed. They failed the planet and they failed us despite so much hope, time and effort, the promise of a new world for more than six billion people faced with rising temperatures and expanding oceans.
My grandfather received the Nobel Prize for peace before he arrived in Copenhagen, his memoirs revealing his deep sorrow and regret at the lack of action and commitment by developed and developing nations.
Today, there are more than 21 billion people on the planet - a very different place to when our parents were children.
It is nearly five degrees Celcius warmer than 2010. The Arctic sea ice is gone. The Himalayan and Tibetan glaciers, which once fed the major water systems of some of the world’s poorest regions, have retreated. Antarctica, the last frontier where rich countries now exploit its deep reserves of fossil fuels, has lost a third of its ice cover.
Mauritius, the Maldives, once tourism treasures, and hundreds of once-populated islands in the Indonesian archipelago are gone while rising ocean levels have pushed most coastal communities inland.
Climate refugees flood detention centres around the world.
Indoor air pollution accounts for nearly half of all fatal acute respiratory infections in children under five years of age. The poor in India, which stood with those countries resisting global efforts to fight climate change, now loses an estimated four to five billion days of work each year because of sickness and ill health caused by malnutrition the spread of disease.
What pains me is the dramatic loss of so many of the world’s species, particularly fish, birds and mammals. The polar bears and penguins are extinct, their clones grown in “arks” established at zoos and special science parks.
Millions of people have died or been displaced by the impacts of global warming.
Millions more will follow. The African continent is a furnace and bushfires in Australia have become more frequent and devastating, causing major losses of human and animal life.
The Amazon forests have long been cleared and most of the world’s reefs, including the Great Barrier Reef, which once supported tourism, fishing and science have calcified - shells of their former beauty.
We come together today to take up where the last generation left off.
Faced with global recession and political unrest, our generation still wages war over water supplies and the air we breathe, the very things we as custodians of the planet were charged with protecting and preserving through adaptation and mitigation.
Flooding, fires and severe storms are commonplace and far more destructive than when I was a young girl.
The world has changed.
But it will not disappear, not unless we unite again to finish what our parents and grandparents began at the start of this century.
Consider this as you deliberate over the future of a planet too precious to abandon to dirty air, pollution and disease. Consider this as you discuss what those before us failed to achieve and what those after us will inherit. Please let us avoid a repeat of the past.
I declare COP16 open.

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