On Tuesday the main COP 18 events were mostly closed sessions for government delegates, so I had an opportunity to experience some of the wonderful side events that are offered during the conference.
In addition to delegations from UN member nations, COP attracts NGOs such as Greenpeace, The Rainforest Initiative, and The Sierra Club. I spent a few hours exploring a giant exhibition hall that was filled with booths staffed by enthusiastic representatives of these organizations who were eager to discuss their latest efforts in promoting sustainability and combatting climate change. Next, I dropped in on several interesting side events.
The first side event I attended, presented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), explored how climate-smart approaches to agriculture can help build resilience in food security for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. Global warming is expected to increase the frequency of extreme weather events and change rainfall patterns – disproportionately impacting the food security and livelihoods of the 870 million people in the world who are already hungry and vulnerable. The FAO believes that agriculture growth is essential to meet future demand and that agriculture will continue to be the main source of income for people who are food insecure. The presentation ended with a call for governments and NGOs to increase future food security by incorporating climate-change adaptation strategies into agricultural development programs.
Next, I attended a presentation by the US Center called “Taking the Pulse of the Climate”. Two researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) discussed the 2011 State of the Climate Report, which is published annually by 300+ scientists. 2011 was marked by higher average surface temperatures, increased melting of sea ice – the second smallest Arctic ice extent of the satellite era – and more tropical cyclones than average. The panelists from NOAA predicted that 2012 will be the warmest year on record in the United States. While NOAA cannot determine with absolute certainty whether global warming is the cause of some recent extreme weather events, their findings further convinced me that events such as Hurricane Sandy will be increasingly common in the future.
The full NOAA State of the Climate in 2011 Report can be found here.