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From 'Cope' to 'Hope': Twitter to the Rescue

By Bill Becker

Sep 28, 2009

Can Twitter save civilization?

We’re about to find out.

As the clock winds down on the big climate negotiation in Copenhagen this December (formally known as the 15th Conference of the Parties, or COP-15), the future of the planet and its inhabitants may be in the hands of tweeters, especially teens and twenty-somethings.

That’s because our diplomats and political leaders appear to be defaulting on their responsibility to act against global climate change. Rather than busting barriers and forcing breakthroughs on the most complicated and critical challenge of all time, key government leaders are retreating into the rhetoric of low expectations.

Majority Leader hints the Senate is too busy to take up a climate bill this year – a delay that of Duke Energy predicts could mean that no climate bill will clear Congress until 2011, after next year’s congressional election. The rest of the world, which has been waiting for U.S. leadership, is witnessing an impotent democracy.

In New York last week, where world leaders gathered at the United Nations for another round of speeches on climate change, expectations ran high that President Obama and China’s President Hu Jintao might offer commitments that would break the international impasse on a global deal.

. President Obama called for action by all nations, but offered nothing that will inspire the Senate to expedite a climate bill. President Jintao broke modest new ground by pledging that China would reduce its carbon intensity by 2020, but he gave no concrete targets for emission reductions by the world’s biggest carbon polluter. If he had, he might have ended the impasse in which politicians in the U.S. are reluctant to sign a deal that does not include hard carbon-cutting targets from the big emerging economies.

Meantime, , the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), delivered the disappointing news that it’s already too late to craft an international climate treaty by December. De Boer now hopes COP-15 will achieve a “basic political understanding” on essential issues. Since the framework convention was created 17 years ago, it would seem nations have already had ample time to reach “basic political understandings” on the issue.

From the NGO community, Elliott Diringer, the resident climate expert at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, agrees that a treaty is unlikely in Copenhagen.

“With the days quickly ticking away,” last week, “it is becoming clearer to all that the time is too short, and the odds of a final, ratifiable deal by the time the clock hits zero appear virtually nil.”

The best we can hope for now, he wrote, is that delegates will agree on a provisional framework for an international treaty – not a final deal or even the specifics of a final deal, but an agreement on the broad terms of a final deal.

So COP-15 is shaping up as a cop-out that will produce little more than procrastination we cannot afford. As , the executive director of the UN’s Environment Programme, told the Washington Post:

"With every day that passes, the underlying trends that science has provided (are) of such a dramatic nature that shying away from a major agreement in Copenhagen will probably be unforgivable if you look back in history at this moment."

Some of us, however, are not ready to concede defeat.

That brings us back to Twitter, FaceBook, MySpace, You Tube, Flickr, text messaging and the potential power of the PDA Nation. Several groups are attempting to mobilize a worldwide mandate for action in Copenhagen, calling for boots to hit streets and thumbs to hit keyboards.


Twitter is going to be a great way to find out what people in the world think about many situations. This is of course dependent upon pl using it wisely.

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