Climate change bedfellows: Colombia vs US1 comment
I came to Durban, South Africa, as a journalist to cover the UN Climate Change talks, the main point of which is to figure out (without much success so far) how to reduce our carbon print in the atmosphere. Carbon Dioxide and other gases are the byproducts of our modern lifestyle and the principal cause of surging temperatures in the planet.
I was born and raised in Colombia, a tropical country in South America. We are rich in forests, biodiversity and water sources. That makes us a key pillar in stopping global warming: we both host large tenures of carbon-capturing trees and our emissions are pretty low (0.31 per cent of the global total). We are part of the Kyoto protocol and here in Durban we support a second term of commitments
In Durban I share a room with Jeff Lowenstein, a U.S colleague from Chicago. He comes from the opposite corner of the world when it comes to emissions. The US is the second largest emitter, after China and the main polluter of CO2 per capita (17,7 tones per person each year while the rest of the world, excluding China, South Africa and the EU, emit less than 3.4 tons per year). The U.S. never signed up to the Kyoto Protocol and it appears to be pushing for it to die quietly in Durban.
Jeff and I sharing the same room tells its own story. We are a pretty accurate reflection of our countries, at least when it comes to consumption patterns. A quick luggage archeology reveals a little of our respective countries’ stances.
Here is a list of some of the stuff we both brought:
2 Laptop computers (Dell and Mac Book Pro 15’’)
3 extension leads
20 AA Duracell batteries
2 plug converters (+ 2 energy transformers)
500 personal business cards, approx.
50 vitamin pills (he takes 4 each day)
0 refillable water container
3 hardcover books (Earth by Bill Mc Kibben, Science As A Contact Sport by Stephen Shneider, Storms Of My Grandchildren by James Hansen)
Total checked-in luggage weight: 21 kilos
1 Toshiba laptop 10´´
1 extension lead
4 Energizer rechargeable batteries
1 energy plug converter
2 reporter’s notepads
0 personal business cards
6 anti-flu pills (just in case)
1 refillable plastic water bottle
1 paperback book (Heat by Georges Monbiot)
Total checked-in luggage weight: 14 kilos
This list might amount to little more than a funny anecdote. But for me it was revealing: human-sized evidence that any action to tackle climate change has to tackle individual attitudes and behavior. But I certainly can’t stand in judgement. In fact with just one flight, I might have contributed more to global warming than Jeff, despite his superior consumption . When I printed out (yes, I printed it out despite all those trees chopped down) my Delta ticket from Bogota, at the bottom of the itinerary read: ‘The estimated CO2 amount for this flight is 2020 kg. Jeff’s flight from Chicago, while also contributing to CO2 emissions, was probably closer to around 1650 kg.
2020 – the kg my flight to the COP17 emitted – is also the year when developed countries are willing to postpone any decision or binding commitment on emissions reduction. Some fear that might be too late, and that includes my good friend Jeff.