Building Asia Network Official Side Event

Posted by Menas Kafatos and Susan Yang

I (MK) was a panel participant at the official side event “Building Asia Network for Responding to Climate Change”, organized by the Korea Green Foundation, sponsored by the Department of Climate Environment, Korea University and Chapman. This took place at 9:00 on December 14.

Getting to the event (or more accurately getting through the gates of COP15) was quite an adventure. We lined up at 6:45 in the morning at temperatures of 1 C (and windy). We were about 40 people from the entrance and by the time they allowed us to go in at 8:05 am, pandemonium broke out and we ended up being about 150 people from the front.

Nevertheless we were lucky: We found out that others who arrived later, had to wait up to 9 hours to get in! The organizers did not seem to worry much about how long people have to wait in the cold. And there is more: As of today, Tuesday, in order for NGO delegates (like ourselves) to get in, not only you need the picture (badge for which you have to stand hours and hours in line), you also need a secondary card which they hand out only to official NGO reps. Our main NGO sponsor, RTCC from Europe, initially got us 2 tickets (and there are 7 of us registered under RTCC). Our second NGO sponsor, the Korea Green Foundation, got us 3 tickets, so altogether we have 5 tickets for the 8 of us (Jeff Tollaksen is not arriving until Dec. 16). Today, RTCC kindly got us an additional 2 tickets so we for now are fine (Paul Chan is leaving on Thursday so we have enough tickets to get in). Why all this information for the tickets? Because, again, it shows the slight chaos prevailing in COP15 for ordinary delegates. I know, I know, they now have about 35,000 delegates for a center that can only hold 15,000. And, supposedly, they have to worry about the many thousands of protesters who are around and might try something. So they are trying to limit the entrance. Having said that, throughout COP15 events that I saw inside the Bella Center, I really did not witness much of a threat for anything, just some occasional loud and often colorful expressions. Towards the last days of COP15, frustration though built up.

On Thursday, only 1000 delegates will be allowed in (out of thousands NGO delegates). I suspect many of us will not make it. And on Friday, only 90(!) will be allowed in. That’s when the heads of Government will be “wrapping up” whatever agreements (or non-agreements) they will have achieved by then and President Obama will be attending as well. Well, NO one of us will be able to get in on Friday.

Anyway, back to the side event. I (MK) had lined up to get my badge and by this time it was 8:30. It became clear that there was no way that I would get in on time for the 9:00 side event. So the I (Susan) spoke to an official, explained that I was an invited speaker and they let me in in the front of the political delegations line. I got my badge and got to the side event by 9:05. Professors W.K. Lee and Y. Son of Korea University were very happy to see me. Another panelist from Bangladesh never made it.

Opening remarks were given by Prof. Yowhan Son, moderator, from Korea University and welcoming remarks by Mr. Kun Goh, former Prime Minister of Korea. Two talks were given, “climate crisis clock” by Dr. Jai-Ho Oh, of Pukyong National University, Pusan, Korea and Dr. Byung-Ok Ahn, Director of Institute of Climate Change Action. The 3 panelists were Dr. Chul-hwan Koh of Seoul National University, Mr. Adarsha Pokhrel of Kathamandu University, Nepal and Menas. Dr. Oh presented several measures that would indicate when a country reaches the point of flipping into major crisis. These measures are for, among others, food, water, energy, etc. he showed a series of snapshots of the world starting from several decades and into the future. When the clock strikes midnight, a country has entered into a major crisis. What was striking is that whereas in the past and at present only few countries have the clock handle close to midnight, within 20 – 50 years, large segments of the world enter the point of no return. In the panel discussion, Dr. Pokhrel gave a lot of information on the  melting glaciers in the Himalayas.

Panel Discussion

My remarks were focused on the issue of hazards affecting all nations in the world. It has been widely reported of the divisions between developed nations and developing nations. The problem is that too much attention is being paid on mitigation (that is focused on carbon cap and trade) and relatively little attention on what I call the “clear and present danger” of global change, the hazards. These hazards are the ‘equalizers’ they affect as much the United States (e.g. fires in California, hurricanes in the Gulf States) as developing countries like Indonesia (fires) and Bangladesh (typhoons). I and in fact all the speakers/panelists kept presenting the havoc of the hazards (including the melting of the glaciers) and we as well as the audience expressed the view that we need to pay a lot more attention to adaptation to hazards.

My brief comments concentrated on what to do about adaptation. I offered technological tools such as the decision support tools we are developing at Chapman for hazards such as fires; the regional forecast modeling system which now runs in the computational science lab, and can be used for downscaling to regional forecasting; and remote sensing tools (including our future MODIS direct broadcast X antenna).

I finished my remarks by stating that the proposed network should share tools and technology (that can be provided by advanced teams at Korea University and Chapman) and web-based federated information systems.

Good discussion and comments followed. I was grateful to our hosts for the opportunity to participate in this important event (and I was the only non-Asian member of the panel/speaker group).


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