How do we achieve a global response to the challenges of climate change? How do we protect the planet from the risks of global change?
Arguments built on evidence-based science of course are essential, but they are also clearly insufficient. More evidence isn’t going to sway the deniers or the oil and energy corporations.
Better leadership is always worth pursuing, and some good leaders do exist, but the process of changing poor leaders for good ones is painfully slow, unpredictable, and anything but inevitable – no matter whether we look at the US, Canada, Russia or China.
The UN would seem to be a likely forum, with its annual UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) Conference of the Parties (COP) meetings – but these are highly politicized and very frustrating meetings of government representatives, and exclude the representatives of the many NGOs and civil organizations that are forced to meet around the edges and have very little influence.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon is calling together what he hopes will be a more inclusive Climate Summit in NYC in 2014, and perhaps it will do better, but too many of the government players remain the same.
We clearly need something more – more global, more representative of civil views as well as those of scientists and NGOs.
A proposal has emerged from several directions: we need an annual conference along the lines of the International AIDS Conference, with the intent of provoking global cooperation to protect the climate.
Like the IAC it would include scientists, NGOs, and representatives of civil society, but not the UN and not individual governments. Like the IAC, it would be a forum for sharing information, for developing policy, for advocacy, a place where we can encourage action and where we can also call out nations and corporations that are behaving badly, like Canada.
This is not an impossible dream. The IAC started small and has grown huge. It has effected important changes. Obviously there are many differences, not the least being the sense of immediate and personal medical urgency that has driven the IAC.
Still, the urgency we face with the risks of climate change gets greater every year. To deal with them, we need global cooperation. So far the UN conferences and other government gatherings have achieved little of substance. We need another route to building a global voice.
Why don’t we start up a Global Conference on the Risks of Climate Change? It needs to come from us, a grass roots initiative that ignores governments and corporations.
It can start as small as it has to, but why not start?