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COP18—Doha Climate Conference — Global Issues


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  • by Anup Shah
  • This page Created

On this page:

  1. Introduction
  2. Media coverage
  3. More information
    1. News stories from IPS

Introduction

November 26 – December 7, 2012, Doha, Qatar is the venue for the 18th annual United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as the 18th Conference of the Parties — or COP 18.

Predictably and sadly, the same issues complained about at previous annual meetings for the past decade continue to recycle themselves:

  • Lack of quality (if any) media coverage
  • West stalling on doing anything
  • Lack of funding
  • Disagreement on how to address it
  • etc.

As the past two decades have shown trying to get global agreement on tackling climate change seems to be futile. By comparison, more focused and limited interest of elites, however, are easier to push through, such as wars based on geopolitical threats (real and imaginary), or economic crises (where banks and other elites most responsible for the crises are bailed out by ordinary citizens).

Furthermore, as the West has generally shown in the past decade or more (even when their economies were doing good) paying now for something that seems to be a problem in the future is hard to accept. It is easier, therefore, to stall and keep blaming China, India and other emerging nations despite the historical inequality of those emissions. But ignoring that makes it easier to hope these emerging nations will pick up the burden of addressing emissions rises.

A summary from the Malaysian-based development organization, Third World Network, notes that once again there are disagreements on how to proceed with basic aspects of these climate discussions such as how to agree on the next round of emission reductions:

Developing countries want the Doha talks to produce increased ambition in emission reductions for the second commitment period (CP2) while developed countries seem set to maintain their currently weak targets, with uncertainty over the future review of those targets.

Developing countries are also insisting that the [new reduction targets] be established in a ratifiable legally binding amendment of [the Kyoto Protocol], that contains the quantified emission limitation or reduction objectives (QELROs) of each developed country Party.

Many developing countries also want a legal provision for provisional application of the QELROs from 1 January 2013 that developed countries do not support.

According to several developing country delegates, without provisional application on a legal basis, the reduction commitments would be rendered voluntary.

Chee Yoke Ling, Kyoto Protocol second commitment period still mired in differences , Third World Network, November 28, 2012

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Generally speaking, media coverage of climate change issues and these conferences has been a mixed bag over the past decade. More recent years has seen increased interest and coverage (though many important issues are glossed over in mainstream media sound-byte style reporting).

When I wrote a similar page about a year ago regarding the previous conference, COP 17, I noted that (as with many previous conferences), I described mainstream media coverage as pathetic and almost non-existent until the very last few moments.

I added that in reality money speaks and so short term and elite/establishment views tend to prevail, which is why governments can so quickly get the 99% to bail out the banks and the top 1% with many trillions of dollars, while finding billions for fighting even more devastating climate change has taken almost 2 decades so far without any convincing results.

It seems like that will be the case again this year. As of writing, it is half way through the conference and scanning mainstream media headlines in the UK, I see no coverage of the conference (at least not as major news headlines). It is very possible I have missed it, but one would hope that a conference of such importance would not require much detailed look at mainstream media news headlines to find coverage of it.

Indeed, this comes at a time when the British press is facing threats of regulation following scandals about journalist practices by some tabloid papers. Ironically, the British press now fears regulation will hinder their free speech (a legitimate worry). But what free speech are they fighting for? For more narrow coverage and tabloid headlines?

It is worth quoting again an article from Media Lens about a year ago on the poor media quality coverage in recent years.

Media interest in the subject has crashed. Dr. Robert J. Brulle of Drexel University describes a collapse of any significant coverage of climate change in the [US] media. We know that 2010 was a record low year, and 2011 will probably look much the same. If the media doesn’t draw attention to the issue, public opinion will decline.

Equally disturbing is the variation in media performance across the globe. A wide-ranging Reuters study on the prevalence of climate skepticism in the world’s media — Poles Apart — The international reporting of climate skepticism – focused on newspapers in Brazil, China, France, India, the UK and the USA. The periods studied were February to April 2007 and mid-November 2009 to mid-February 2010 (a period that included the UN climate change summit in Copenhagen and Climategate). Remarkably, the study concluded that climate skepticism is predominantly an Anglo-Saxon phenomenon, found most frequently in US and British newspapers.

And so we find that Britain and the US — the two countries responding most aggressively to alleged threats to human security in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya — are also the two countries least interested in responding to the very real threat of climate change.


Climate Crisis – The Collapse In Corporate Media Coverage
, Media Lens, December 1, 2011

It would be worth reading the media section of the previous conference to see more about media coverage.

President Obama was recently re-elected as President of the United States. It is not clear how much impact the devastating impact of Hurricane Sandy had on climate change policies (and it may also be too early to tell), but many certainly felt that in the days leading up to the election it may have been a factor. Perhaps, importantly, for the first time, climate denial may become a political liability in the US, and it remains to be seen how much the Republicans will hamper Obama’s climate policies.

The more extreme news organization in the US, Fox News, was found to to have 93% of their climate reporting as misleading. And this channel is a prime channel for Republican leaning viewers. This is also despite promises by Murdoch many years ago to improve climate change reporting. But it is not just Fox News, although not media outlets themselves many other influential corporations have been actively supporting misrepresentation of the science around climate change, undermining the US public’s understanding of scientific consensus around climate change.

Numerous recent reports are finding that climate scientists, far from being alarmist and scaremongering, have somewhat underestimated the speed at which climate change impacts such as extreme weather and rising sea levels will happen and that many conditions match their upper estimates rather than any median or better-scenario estimates.

For example, the conference comes at the end of a year that saw record Arctic sea ice melting, multiple global weather and climate extremes, and high temperatures.

For years countries have worried that funding for adaptation and mitigation is not affordable (rich and poor nations alike) and yet, as time goes on, adaptation and mitigation costs will be even higher.

Even the World Bank has chimed in noting that

Coal, oil and gas companies and their backers in the financial and investment industry must stop putting billions of dollars into finding and extracting new sources of fossil fuels. If they don’t shift their investments, temperatures will soar four to 10 degrees C higher, devastating many parts of the world, the World Bank said Monday.

Stephen Leahy, Planet on Path to Four C Warming, World Bank Warns, Inter Press Service, November 19, 2012

Despite years of this, things do not seem to change much. Perhaps it is because there isn’t an emotional attachment to the issue; it is distant, vague, complex. However, as David Robert notes,

Climate change is not only the economic and ecological crisis of our time, it’s also a moral crisis. What we are doing to our descendants is a moral crime. Finding ways to help people get that, feel it in their guts the way they would if someone threatened their own families, is a precondition for serious, sustained action.

David Roberts, Why climate change doesn’t spark moral outrage, and how it could, Grist, July 27, 2012

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More information

As the conference is still underway as this page is written, more information will be added here after the event is over.

For more about the issues from other organizations, here are some starting points:

News stories from IPS

Below is a list of stories from Inter Press Service related to the Durban climate conference and its aftermath.

  1. Climate Change in South East Asia: Where are we and What are we Bound for?