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Martin Wagner's blog

Emissions from aircraft are a substantial contributor to global warming. Taking into account greenhouse gas emissions, the warming effect of contrails and aviation-induced cirrus clouds, and anticipated growth in air traffic, scientists estimate that aircraft could be responsible for as much as 10 percent of human-caused global warming by 2050. So, of course the airlines are working hard to reduce these emissions, right?

(Editor's note: Earthjustice attorneys Martin Wagner and Erika Rosenthal are back from two weeks of long hours and hard work deep inside the world climate conference at Copenhagen. In their final report, Martin goes behind the headlines to describe and explain how the conference really worked and why it shouldn't be dismissed as a failure. Amid the disappointments, there was progress, he says, and opportunities that must be seized.)

(Editor's Note: Earthjustice attorneys Martin Wagner and Erika Rosenthal are blogging live from the Copenhagen climate change conference.)

I took a moment out of the negotiation madness this morning to sit in on an event sponsored by Oxfam International in which Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu participated. I had been in the same room as Archbishop Tutu once before, and wanted another opportunity to experience his incredible energy.

(Editor's Note: Earthjustice attorneys Martin Wagner and Erika Rosenthal are blogging live from the Copenhagen climate change conference. This is today's post by Martin)

There is no shortage of irony in Copenhagen this month.

(Editor's Note: Earthjustice attorneys Martin Wagner and Erika Rosenthal are blogging live from the Copenhagen climate change conference. This is today's post by Martin)

What makes these negotiations so important, of course, is that human activities are changing our planet's systems of self-regulation. Global warming pollution from human activities is altering those systems faster than many ecosystems and species—including humans—can keep up with.

In recognition of this, a number of countries, led by Bolivia, are advocating for the final Copenhagen agreement to "take into account not only the right of human beings, but also the right of Mother Earth and its natural beings."

When countries object to proposals in the formal negotiations, they do so by insisting that the problematic proposal be surrounded by brackets in the formal negotiating documents. The brackets indicate that the proposal is not a consensus position, and thus remains subject to further discussion. In negotiations late last night, the United States and a number of other developed countries insisted that any reference to the rights of the earth be bracketed.

Given what is at stake here, it is frightening to think that Mother Earth might remain in brackets.

 

I was in a plenary session of the Copenhagen climate meeting this morning, when Ian Fry, the representative of the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu made an impassioned statement to the assembled government representatives.

He noted that nearly everyone in Tuvalu lives less than 7 feet above sea level, which puts them at risk of rising sea levels and increased storm intensity. He called for governments to adopt a legally binding agreement to cut carbon emissions, and expressed his frustration that "[i]t appears we are waiting for some senators in the US Congress to conclude before we can determine what will happen to the rest of the world."

On the verge of tears, he concluded by saying, "I woke up this morning and I was crying, which is not easy for a grown man to admit. Madame President,…the fate of my country is in your hands."

(Editor's Note: Earthjustice attorney Martin Wagner is blogging from the Copenhagen climate change conference. Here is his report for Dec. 10).

Happy Human Rights Day.

Sixty-one years ago, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was born. The Declaration and subsequent human rights agreements represent humanity's best expression of the minimum conditions for a life of dignity, and of the need to hold governments accountable for guaranteeing them.

Climate change threatens those rights.

(Editor's Note: Earthjustice attorney Martin Wagner is blogging live from the Copenhagen climate change conference, Dec. 7-18. This is his first post)

The Copenhagen climate negotiations kicked off today. This gathering of the world's governments is a crucial step in efforts to seal a deal to limit greenhouse gas emissions and fight global warming. Unfortunately, opponents of a serious agreement have dusted off long-debunked arguments about the scientific basis for global warming in a desperate effort to derail the negotiations.

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About the Earthjustice Blog

unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders. Learn more about Earthjustice.