Climapalooza

Is this what tree huggers look like?

Poster in Copenhagen. Photos: Rob Schmitz

One look at the poster to the left that was pasted on a utility box along my normally trim and tidy Copenhagen street shows there may be more to the protests this weekend than your average environmentalist demonstration.

The hope that marked the first couple of days at this conference is starting to show some cracks: Countries in the G77, the bloc representing developing countries, have split between the poorest of the poor–island and small African nations concerned about how climate change will make life miserable for them–and the large developing countries like China and India. At issue, of course, is what kind of greenhouse gas reduction commitments should be made. The poorest countries would like to see the strictest commitments, the less-poor countries would like to stick to what they’ve already committed and call it a day.

I’m also starting to see/hear more protests in and around the Bella Center, urging the delegates to commit to deeper cuts in greenhouse gases than are currently on the table. One rather interesting protest was staged this morning by the group 350, at the metro station outside the conference hall. They chanted “We’re in the cold to stop the heat” over and over. Why? They were in their undies. And did they look cold. It was 35 degrees and raining outside.

No, it's not that hot here.

No, it's not that hot here.

All of these protests will most likely culminate this weekend, when a large-scale protest is scheduled in downtown Copenhagen. From there, marchers plan to proceed to the Bella Center. Danish Police have already confiscated bolt cutters and platforms used to break down/go over police barricades, and this discovery brings me back to that first photo.

There are other groups that no-doubt grasp the magnitude of the opportunity. With more than 3500 journalists in town, their message–whatever it is–has a better chance of getting out there. With more than 110 world leaders and heads of state arriving next week, all the better. But the imminent parade of important leaders is definitely giving this conference a Lollapalooza atmosphere. It feels like a huge circus devoted to climate change.

Last item: Check out the last photo in this post.

And to think that California spews out 470 million of these a year.

And to think that California spews out 470 million of these a year.

It’s the last thing you see from the elevated metro line before you get to the Bella Center. Everyone here has seen it and everyone’s talking about it–and it answers something I’ve always wondered about as a reporter. This is apparently the size of one ton of carbon dioxide emissions. That’s me standing at the base of it. No “circus” would be complete without balloons.

Ed. Note: The spelling of “tonne” denotes metric tons, the usual unit of measure for greenhouse gas emissions.