I’m on my way to Cancun. Cancun, COP 16, the shy, retiring younger sister of the anticlimactic Copenhagen, COP 15 meeting last year. This is my first COP. I’m excited, yes, but also increasingly nervous about how the outcome may affect my work as coordinator of REDD-net Asia Pacific. But mostly, I’m just confused. Maybe I’m missing a trick, but there is something fundamental here that just doesn’t make sense to me. Somehow, the well-founded science pointing to earth-shaking climate change impacts, from rising sea levels to massive waves of migration, just isn’t generating much reaction.
One of the more obvious impacts of climate change are rising sea levels. This will likely hover at around a- 1 meter increase by end of century. The submerging of major cities, not to mention of small island states, is something that will impact all continents, rich and poor countries alike. The question is that if even a fraction of the publicity and political will that were generated in the aftermath of an environmental disaster such as Hurricane Katrina, were directed preventively towards the looming catastrophes of climate change, how much closer to international commitments to reduce emissions would we be today?
My adopted home, Bangkok, is one of the primary cities to fall prey to rising sea levels. In fact, as soon as 2015, the city is forecast to be submerged. The Bangkok Metropolitan Authority (BMA) has developed detailed municipal adaptation plans to deal with this impending reality. And yet, even amongst the educated professional Bangkokians I know, this information comes as a total revelation. The contrast between the solid forecasts of impacts and the oblivious (or apathetic?) public is striking. As recently as last month during the Thai festival of Loy Kratong, in which decorated wreaths traditionally made of bamboo and leaves are released with good wishes along the country’s rivers, the city mayor advised the populace to use Styrofoam versions instead to allow for easy removal. Clearly, the message is not getting through!
Posted by Regan Suzuki