Our guest blogger is Andrew Light, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, who is now attending the United Nations climate change talks in Poznań, Poland. This is the fifth of several on-the-scene dispatches.
In front of a capacity crowd in the largest hall available at this year’s UN climate change conference, Al Gore gave a dramatic address on the possibilities and the hurdles before the climate change community. The biggest, longest applause line by far (complete with hoots and whoops) went to his indirect endorsement of Bill McKibben’s 350 campaign inaugurated on the instigation of an argument first floated by NASA’s James Hansen in a paper released shortly after last year’s UN climate change meeting in Bali. According to Hansen, “We need to reduce from today’s atmospheric CO2, about 385 parts per million, to 350ppm. We are already too high to maintain the climate to which humanity, wildlife, and the rest of the biosphere are adapted. (. . .) This target must be pursued on a timescale of decades.”
Though Gore did not mention the campaign by name the concept was clear:
The truth is that the goals we are reaching toward are incredibly difficult. Even [a stabilization of atmospheric CO2 at] 450 ppm is inadequate. We need to make that goal 350ppm. (. . .) This task can seem daunting. For those of us who understand the goal should be tougher let us understand that the early steps in the process to go from 450 to 350 are very familiar. Once processes of change begin, once decisions are arrived at, then the task becomes easier in the doing. We will see that as we start changing we will improve our economies and increase our standard of living.
The atmosphere in Poznań for Gore’s speech was less dramatic than that surrounding his address at last year’s UN climate change meeting in Bali, though in some ways his task this time around was more difficult. Rather than confronting Bush’s intransigence against a unified world community, Gore had to contend with a depressing malaise that has pervaded the halls of the conference and haunted delegates and observers as they trudged through the cold, cloudy and wet weather on their way to the venue. There was also plenty of blame to go around this time, with accusations hurdled between developed and developing countries of who was responsible for the lack of progress. Read more