Our man in South America: Part I

One of our more adventurous account men is currently trekking around South America (we’re not sure where).  Much as this may sound like a bit of fun, he’s nevertheless keeping us posted with some thoughts from the ground on all the things Baby holds dear. So here is part 1, and there will no doubt be more to follow…

If nothing else, the lack of progress at the COP15 talks in Copenhagen show thus far that ultimately we here in the Western world still talk about climate change in terms of a catastrophe waiting to happen, and certainly one that´s happening on someone else´s doorstep. But as the Oxfam tube poster campaign this summer astutely pointed out, in the developing world climate change is already a reality. If it weren´t for the tsunami in 2006 or the New Orleans disaster I actually wonder if our politicians would readily accept the Stern Report as fact not fiction.
At present I am on the South American continent, experiencing only one convincing attitude to climate change: that it IS happening. And herein lies the problem. Until the politicians of the Western nations truly see some consequences of irreversible climate change on their own doorstep, then tangible actions that yield acceptable results to save the planet will be far off. This is why at the weekend talks stalled because the Western nations failed to put their money where their mouth is, and commit actual budget figures to stemming rainforest deforestation by 50% in time for the turn of 2020.
Speaking to residents of Argentina and Uruguay in the last three weeks I have anecdotal evidence that their climates have changed considerably in the last five years. Weather is now unpredictable. In Punte del Este (Uruguay) Patricia Chiappini told me how even the winter now experiences a “mini summer”. And in Buenos Aires, even in my brief time there, it became quickly evident that the balance of the semi-tropical climate has been upset, with the city experiencing heavy rains recently, unusual for the time of year.
Today I trekked across the Perito Moreno glacier in Patagonia. The Moreno glacier is now one of the only glaciers in the world that is considered “stable” (advancing at more than 2m per year). Most glaciers are now receding, some at a rate of 200m per year. This is scarily representative of how global climate change is now a harsh reality. Even my next destination, Bariloche in Argentina, is renowned for a monumentally huge hole in the ozone layer above the city. If for no other reason than this, they really need to cut the number of domestic jet flights offered in this part of the world.
Corinne Payot, a French lady I met recently, is leading an environmental project in Brazil. She made quite an impression on me, and I think her words ring true for application to the possible future COP15 agreement. Money and commitment needs to be made to specific causes around the globe, with most emphasis on the economies of the developing nations most affected by climate change already and the nations that would be hardest hit by any agreement at Copenhagen. If this is done then we might just stand a chance of getting everyone on-board.
Our ambassadors need to recognise that changes have already begun, but that in order to broker a good deal the developing nations´economies have to be respected. This is precisely why African avoided commiting at the Copenhagen talks, because they know they will be railroaded into signing an agreement that harms their burgeoning but fragile economies.
It is very concerning that the power lies largely in the hands of nations thus far not affected. It is our responsibility to make a deal for the planet, not for Western conscience.


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