Day 2-- Copenhagen Blog: On the Streets of Copenhagen- A Heat Wave

I love cold weather. I feel good in cold weather. But not too cold. So as I prepared to go to Copenhagen in December I was warned.  It will be cold. Freezing. Chilling. I found out today that this prediction was unwarranted as I walked the streets of Copenhagen to view the plethora of climate change displays and information posted in the city’s central district.  I realized after a very short time that it wasn’t that cold. It was actually quite comfortable.  The display of a polar bear sculpted out of ice seemed to be showing the signs of a “heat wave” as well . . . his outer layer was melting away to reveal the bear’s skeleton. A haunting and symbolic image indeed.

Then coincidently I heard that today the UK Met Office released figures that that the 1990s was the warmest decade recorded in 160 years.   In a separate announcement the World Meteorological Organization said that 2009 will be one of the 10 warmest individual years recorded. It was noted that only four of the developed countries were in the top twenty countries most prone to weather disaster. The rest are poor developing countries.

Will this news affect the negotiations? According to Yvo de Boer, UNFCCC Executive Secretary, there are many countries that have committed to a maximum temperature increase of 2 degrees Celsius, but small island nations are saying that anything more than 1.5 Celsius is suicide.   De Boer noted that part of the negotiations over the next two weeks will be how countries can reach that difficult compromise.

In the case of temperature rise the small island countries are the most vulnerable and have the most at stake.  We in the United States are exposed to harsh weather and natural disaster, but can we even begin to fathom that climate change will result in the landmass of entire countries swallowed into the sea? 

Nothing is more potent than hearing first hand from whom the possibility of losing it all is most real. At the opening ceremonies of the COP 15 conference an activist from Fiji, Leah Wickham, spoke on behalf of over millions of activists that are part of the TckTckTck activist campaign.

"The Pacific region and all small islands across the globe are at the front line of climate change. We’re fighting for our identity, we’re fighting for our culture and for our very right to exist," the woman said as her voice cracked with emotion.  According to media reports she was eventually forced to break from her speech as she was overwhelmed by tears.  She ended her speech with a plea that time for talking is over and now it’s time for action.

Leah Wickham's plea puts a face to the crisis.  Like the polar bear her home is literally disappearing and may no longer be.  As some of us relish in a slightly warmer winter day we must be remindedthat this shift in temperature over time – even by a small degree -- represents the difference between success and failure in the fight against climate change. So with Ms. Wickham's plea for help in the forefront of my mind I am in fact hoping that tomorrow I will be exposed to that unbearably biting cold day in Copenhagen I was warned about.