By David Simpson and Jane Lapiner
There are two anniversaries being noted in the halls of COP 23.
One is the 4th anniversary of COP 19 that took place in the national soccer stadium that doubles as a convention hall in Warsaw. It had been a stirring meeting that saw the largest walkout in COP history (800 civil society representatives). The whole event had been made more dramatic because it had been preceded by Typhoon Toyan, also known as Super Storm Yolanda, one of the most destructive storms ever to strike the low-lying shores of the southern Philippines. Sustained wind speeds reaching almost 200 mph drove storm surges up and over coastal communities killing more than 8,000 defenseless people. Four years later, only 14% of the homes that were scheduled to be rebuilt have been. This established a brutal image of the homelessness that is likely to stalk far-flung coasts and communities in the climate-skewed future.
The other anniversary was ominous in a different way: on the third day of COP 22, just one year ago, word came that arch climate denier, Donald Trump, had been elected President of the United States. The COP campus the next morning was subdued, many people, especially the Americans, were shaken. For some it came like a blow to the gut. Others have compared it to the news of 9/11 or the assassination of John Kennedy. The job of subduing climate disaster had just become much harder and ever more complicated.
Both these events were unprecedented, manifesting a kind of deep-seated change that should have come as no surprise but nonetheless did. The feelings were the same whether departing from the soccer stadium that cold late autumn Warsaw night after the closing of COP 19 or three years later pulling away from the hard-packed.800 year-old red clay walls of Marrakech’s Northern Gate. Whether subjected to the untender mercies of Donald Trump or those of a climate unmediated by a United Nations that has proven itself spineless we, all of us, are more than ever extremely vulnerable.
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