2015 UN Conference on Climate Change : Are They ‘Writing to Make a Difference’?

I wish I could go to the UN Climate Summit in Paris, but I have to watch from the sidelines here in the San Francisco Bay Area.

A full 196 signatories (195 states and the European Union) are set to negotiate a treaty to limit global warming and deal with climate change’s effects worldwide (as of 2020). This meeting is supposed to be the big one: the one that will turn the tide toward a real global agreement. Emissions targets, climate change adaptations, financial pledges, etc. will all figure into the document.

Throngs of activists from all around the world are also chiming in.

Will it all be effective?  It had better be. But that remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, some great press coverage is coming out of The Guardian (UK) and Democracy Now!, to name a few sources. I am also part of the Paris Rapid Response team at 350.org (an easy way to plug into the action).

And since our focus is on writing and the power of language, I have to share this article from The Guardian on the competing metaphors used by heads of state in their speeches to open the conference. The phrases included:

“The eyes of the world are upon us” — Laurent Fabius, French foreign minister and president of the Summit

“The hope of all humanity rests on your shoulders.” – French president Francois Hollande

“Never before has a responsibility so great been in the hands of so few.” – Christiana Figures, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

“If the planet were a patient, we would have treated her long ago. You, ladies and gentlemen, have the power to put her on life support, and you must surely start the emergency procedures without further procrastination!” – Prince Charles

Speaking of metaphors, my friends at the Metaphor Project have some advice for us on using metaphors to explain climate change. One of my favorite suggestions is to talk about the “green leapfrog” strategy. The idea is that developing countries (and others) can jump right over old fossil fuel technology (and the jobs they bring) and arrive at alternative green energy solutions.

Another great resource is the Frameworks Institute’s Fall 2015 report, “How to Talk about Climate Change and the Ocean.” They have a number of suggestions for breaking down the serious issues into more manageable phrases that can actually sprout legs and take off running  (to use another metaphor).

Let’s keep watching to see if the “writing on the wall” in Paris actually makes the difference we so desperately need.


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