Hello from Copenhagen!

My name’s Philippe and I have the fortune of being part of the 50+ Stanford delegation at the COP 15 in Copenhagen. I am primarily here to conduct an independent research project regarding the impact of climate change on international security, but I’m also eager to share some the exciting things that Stanford students, alums, and professors are doing here between December 7th and 18th.

The hope of this conference is to put together a comprehensive climate change treaty to follow up the Kyoto Protocol of 1997. Despite the pessimism that pervades the international media regarding a successful outcome, the conference has already been a success in its ability to bring together people from across the globe. While waiting for an unfortunate two and a half hours to register this morning in the cold, I encountered such diverse languages as Portuguese, Italian, Russian, Swahili, and many more I could not identify. The conference is supposedly going to be attended by 35,000 (approx 15,000 delegates and 20,000 observers/press), and this in itself illustrates the genuine excitement surrounding this groundbreaking event.

Copenhagen is certainly not a dull city. Over a third of its citizens bike to work or school everyday, and the city is filled with colorful lighting and exhibits. You can definitely see that the government put an enormous amount of effort into making the place appear sumptuous. Advertisements boasting the “greenness” of Denmark permeate the city, which is perplexing as Denmark is not on track meet its carbon reduction targets set in the Kyoto Protocol…

The Bella Center-where the conference is held just outside the city center-is literally a fortress. The city is witnessing unprecedented mobilization of police forces, and security was such that there were still at least 250 people waiting to get in by the time I left at 5 PM. Once inside, the diversity of the attendants shone. Delegates hobbled around joyfully in sneakers; hippies lay blissfully on the floor in protest of who knows what. I certainly did not expect such as crowd upon arriving in this seemingly formal setting.

Stanford alums have been very active in Copenhagen already. Janet L. Larsen, a former Earth Systems major who is now the Director of Research of the Earth Policy Institute led by climate change guru Lester Brown, gave a presentation for over 40 people at the Bellona Foundation desk, hence drawing significant attention to a work just published by EPI, “Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization“, which idealistically calls for an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020. (Brown was not present because he refuses to travel by plane to mitigate his carbon footprint.) Despite the lack of realism evident in this proposal, setting high goals to pressure policymakers certainly cannot  hurt, and it is very exciting to see the kind of role our very own Stanfordians are playing in this highly significant event.

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