Climate change bedfellows: US vs Colombia1 comment
As with many things in my life, I should have listened to my wife.
This particular lesson came as I was packing to attending the United Nations Framework on Climate Change Conference.
“You look like you’re planning to move there,” she said.
I had to admit that she had a point. The metal seams on my black carry-on suitcase looked strained beyond their capacity and about to burst at any second, and I had yet to put in my blazer, shoes, black and white socks or pyjamas.
This said nothing of the work and personal laptops, 20 batteries for my flip camera, or three hardcover books about climate change that I was planning to stuff into my backpack.
I realized her wisdom after I arrived in Durban, got to my room at the hotel and met Lorenzo, my roommate from Colombia. Where I brought two laptops, he brought one. Where I brought enough clean clothes for two weeks, he brought a compact supply that required him to do some minor washing. His toiletries fit neatly into a black leather bag, while mine resembled a burgeoning pharmacy.
Lorenzo explained that Colombia is a country with exceedingly low emissions, while I hail from the United States, the world’s second-largest emitter…..could it be that the differences in what we brought pointed to some differences in consumption?
“It says something,” he said after asking my permission to write about the quantity of goods I had brought.
Yet Lorenzo’s total footprint for his conference attendance may well ultimately exceed mine. That’s because of an area of climate change that thus far has bedeviled even the most creative and innovative of environmentalists: airplane’s enormous consumption of fossil fuels.
Lorenzo told me that his flight took him from his native Colombia to Atlanta before flying to Johannesburg and then Durban.
I write this to raise one of the many questions that underpins these talks.
Even if the world’s nations come to an accord that pledges to reduce the world’s emissions are you or I willing to change our consumption?
When it comes to air travel, the answer is not optimistic.
Despite calls by the British activist and author George Monbiot’s for long-distance air travel to be drastically curtailed, if not completely eliminated, the massive consumption of fossil fuels for flights continues largely unabated.
In his book, Science is A Contact Sport, the late Stephen Schneider, recipient of the 2007 Collective Nobel Peace Prize and one of the key figures for decades in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, wrote that his students maintained that the contributions he made to the issue outweighed the negative value of his footprint through air travel.
Although I would apply the same reasoning to Lorenzo’s participation here, I’m not completely sure.
But one thing I do know.
The next time I travel anywhere, when it comes time to pack, I’m listening to my wife.