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November 13, 2013

Earth's Future Suspended in a Complex Web of Science and Politics: A Report from COP 19

Pic 1
Photo Credit: Jamie Henn, 350.org

We all started arriving here in Warsaw, Poland, just after Tphoon Haiyan hit in the Philippines. The destruction and loss of life from this gigantic storm made it the obvious story on the "why" we are here.

At least it's why the non-governmental folks (we're the "yellow badges") are all here -- to prevent extreme weather events like this one from becoming a regular occurrences in the future by kick-starting a clean energy economy with international action. This superstorm paints a picture of what scientists say will most likely continue to happen with greater frequency as the Earth warms. There are trackable hot spots in the Pacific Ocean that mean storms that develop over those areas will have even more energy, making them even stronger and larger. In fact, the typhoon's winds were so strong, there has been talk of actually extending the rating system for typhoons and hurricanes, adding a sixth category.

Far removed from the destruction on the ground in Philippines, world leaders from government and nongovernmental organizations are meeting in Warsaw from November 11 to 22. Between the complexity of both science and politics (just try to wrap your head around the alphabet soup of acronyms from an event called UNFCCC COP 19/CMP 9to the exceedingly confusing layout of the venue, our lead delegate likes to quote Tom Peters: "If you're not confused, you're not paying attention."

 

When the COP opened, the lead of the Philippine delegation, Yeb Sano, made an impassioned plea on the floor of the plenary for concrete action. He has pledged to fast until action is taken, trying to finally move recalcitrant nations to agree to a plan of action. His vision is that these nations will change from the fossil fuel status quo in order to keep these kinds of storms from becoming even worse and more frequent.

 

The Sierra Club has come out in solidarity with Mr. Sano. Climate Action Network-International (the umbrella group of NGOs acting on climate issues around the world, of which the Sierra Club is a member) is also showing solidarity with Mr. Sano's fast by joining him. You can stand with Mr. Sano, too, by signing this petition.

Pic 2
Photo Credit: Claire Horn

Several of the Sierra Student Coalition delegates here in Warsaw are fasting along with him. SSC delegate Ashok Chandwaney remarked, "Yeb Saño inspires us to act; we fast in solidarity with him, because that's what we can do. We ask those who make decisions about climate -- here at COP 19, back at the EPA, and around the world -- to listen to him, summon their courage, and dial up their ambition for the work we must do."

The youth are speaking out and calling for action to save the world they will inherit. Our friends at SustainUS.org brought attention to U.S. climate policy with an action, urging the Environmental Protection Agency to move forward with the first-ever standards to limit carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants. President Obama needs our support for these commonsense carbon standards. You can help by asking the Environmental Protection Agency to step up and protect our communities from carbon pollution.

--Claire Horn, Sierra Club Georgia Chapter volunteer

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