Delegates from 194 countries gathered in Durban, South Africa for the 12-day UN Climate Change Conference. Based on the modest progress made last year in Cancun I am cautiously optimistic that progress can again be made.
I am encouraged by former South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s plea for the global community to unite around the goal of conquering climate change. At a pre-conference rally, Tutu described climate change as a “huge, huge enemy” that threatened the common home of humanity and imperilled rich and poor alike.
Information presented in Durban indicates that 95 per cent of the 80 countries that submitted relevant climate data showed 2001-2010 to be the warmest decade on record. Forty per cent of these countries also broke national heat records from 2001-2010 compared to 15 per cent of countries in the decade from 1991-2000 and 10 per cent from 1981-1990.
Arctic sea ice also declined significantly in recent years and reached record levels of thinness. At the same time, East Africa has experienced severe drought, while in East Asia monsoon rains were above average with flooding.
The irony, or perhaps shame, of climate change is the fact that poor countries are the least to blame for, but the ones that are being, hardest hit. In fact, the impacts are already in evidence, and they include not only worsening drought, floods, storms and rising sea levels, but also increases in poverty.
As Tutu said prior to the Durban conference: “We have only one home. This is the only home we have. And whether you are rich or poor, this is your only home … you are members of one family, the human race.”