Popular Pressure for Climate Change Action Puts Heat on COP20 in Peru

Popular Pressure for Climate Change Action Puts Heat on COP20 in Peru
A performer during the opening ceremony the U.N. Climate Change Conference, Lima, Peru (U.N. photo by Mark Garten).

LIMA, Peru—The thousands of national delegates and observers who have gathered here for the two-week United Nations Climate Change Conference known as COP20 have endured exceptionally hot weather. Air-conditioning units are barely able to cool the tent pavilions erected on the grounds of Peru’s Defense Ministry for the event, and delegates frequently remove their suit jackets when walking between pavilions or dining in the venue’s open-air restaurants. The heat wave roasting Lima several weeks before the start of the Southern Hemisphere’s summer serves as a reminder of the need for international cooperation to halt global warming, which has been an elusive goal despite two decades of U.N. climate conferences and increasingly dire warnings from scientists.

As conference participants listened to speeches and discussed details of a draft global climate agreement, evidence continued to mount that the Earth is in serious trouble. On Dec. 3, the World Meteorological Organization reported that 2014 is on track to being the hottest year on record. A study by scientists at NASA and the University of California at Irvine published last week shows that the West Antarctic ice sheet is melting at an accelerating rate, which could result in a much greater rise in sea levels than scientists have been predicting. Another study by scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the University of Minnesota found that the past three years of drought in California were the most severe the state has experienced in at least 1,200 years.

National delegates are working in Lima on mechanisms to mitigate such threats through cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and to help developing countries adapt to the impacts of climate change. They are expected to produce a draft of an international climate agreement that world leaders will sign at COP21, which will be held in Paris in December of 2015.

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