Uncle Sam's chimney [By Jiao Haiyang/China.org.cn]
The Durban 2011 Climate Change Conference is supposed to offer the world another chance to come to grips with the global reality of what's at stake for present and future generations.
Where I come from, we see and feel Climate Change every day. My little 606 square-kilometer island nation is losing its beaches rapidly as a result of rising sea levels. With only two weather patterns – sun and rain – it's also witnessing the accelerating effects of changing weather patterns: the sunny season brings droughts like never before and the rainy season brings more hurricanes with higher winds than ever.
But we're not alone. In Durban, policy makers have before them an 800-page report, three years in the making for the 194-nation UN Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which paints a bleak future, both immediate and in the medium and long terms. It says Western and Southern Europe will witness increasingly fierce heat waves that could make the record-breaking temperatures that killed over 70,000 people in 2003 become a sort of regular annual summer average. Africa will see more draught and small island states will face ruinous storm surges from rising seas. The area between the eastern and southern USA and the Caribbean will see even more hurricanes, with increasing wind speeds, with what Hurricane Katrina did to New Orleans to be looked back on as just a preview. China can see a drop in its grain harvest that could lead to grim food shortages in the next five decades. And average global temperatures, which have risen by nearly 1C since pre-industrial times are forecast to heat up by an additional 1C to 5C by 2100.
Millions of years of Nature's work has been (and is still being) destroyed in mere decades, while the earth is boiling out of control. But in the lead-up to the Durban conference, the focus of world press coverage was more on the financial crises facing the eurozone and the U.S., which have been treated as more important than the present over-heating or the very future survival of the planet.
The report gives policymakers a grim picture of the future, with more and fiercer cyclones, heat waves, hurricanes, typhoons, monsoon rains, drought and tornados, visiting more frequently and accelerating the destruction of entire habitats.
Small and smaller islands like mine, their size and populations so small, only make headlines when they almost get wiped off the face of the earth. Earthquakes and tsunamis, typhoons and hurricanes wreak havoc as they tear through small island states and atolls in seas and oceans the world over, whether in the Caribbean or the Maldives, Mauritius or the Seychelles.
The developed nations are ducking their responsibilities. They promised at the last conference in Cancun to donate US $30 billion to quick-start a Green Climate Fund that would be increased to $100 billion per year between 2013 and 2020, but the U.S. has already rejected the funding proposal in Durban and the developed countries continue to balk on their commitments to help cool down the planet faster. Some areas on the earth can become uninhabitable as a result of the quickening pace of climate change, leading to permanent migration, or even loss of entire small island nations.