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Rick Edmund
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Rick Edmund

Rick Edmund is a United Methodist church pastor in Maryland. He resides on Smith Island, which has been impacted by rising sea-level and in 2007 testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Environment about climate change and the Chesapeake Bay. ALL POSTS

United? Nations

Q: Almost every key question at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen comes down to how should rich and poor countries shoulder responsibility for climate change. What would be a way of reconciling these differences?

The nations of the world are certainly not united at the talks in Copenhagen. Rich and poor countries seem worlds apart when it comes to agreeing as to what needs to be done to stem the increase in global temperatures. I'm intrigued by some of the signs demonstrators are displaying. Maybe they can give us some insight into how the poorer countries are thinking so that an agreement might be reached.

Signs I have seen:

"No border": Countries like Nepal and Bolivia who have seen their glaciers shrink to where water sources are threatened did not create the emissions which likely are contributing to the melting. The atmosphere, whatever it contains, knows no borders.

"Stop Eco-colonialism": Poorer regions of the world see the wealthier ones wanting them to hinder their progress in order to reduce the amount of emissions which would otherwise be produced. Unfortunately it seems carbon production goes along with goods production.

"There is no planet B": We have to get this right the first time! That will be terribly difficult considering all the uncertainly out there, such as the amount of sea level rise to come.

"Rich countries pay your climate debt": Do the wealthy countries, who mostly have caused the CO2 increases have an obligation to "pay back" to the countries, mostly poorer, who are most likely to be unable on their own to solve the difficulties arising from changes in the climate?

"Seal the Deal": Like the poorer countries are experiencing now, in the future our descendants will not have contributed to the world they will inherit, but will have to deal with the consequences. How much better for them, and for our legacy, if we do as much as we can to make the world as "normal" (only nature controlled) as possible for them. A "deal" implies concessions on all sides.

U.S. Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, introduced the "Renewables and Efficiency Deployment" initiative, which would transfer clean energy technology to developing countries. Examples like this seem like a winner all around to help developing countries manage their own pollution.

Now will the poorer nations also get assistance in coping with the consequences that seem inevitable? Countries like Bangladesh need community based adaptation as their water level rises. Islands, such as the Maldives, Cook Islands, Kiribati, and my own home, Smith Island in the Chesapeake Bay of Maryland, need to have plans to respond to change. Other areas such as Kenya and Tanzania are being hit hard by drought. What is to become of the population living there?

Until we get the idea that we're all passengers together on this 3rd rock from the sun, we'll be slow in responding to what most believe we have created - a global change in the earth's climate.

By Rick Edmund  |  December 16, 2009; 12:49 PM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg     Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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I like your comments on the signs you noticed at Copenhagen. Food for thought. And interesting to hear that some U.S. islanders are beginning to look at the potential impacts.

Posted by: post-it2 | December 18, 2009 2:44 AM
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