It’s a bit like McDonalds hosting a conference on the obesity epidemic. You can’t help wondering who decided that the best location for what may be the world’s last-chance climate convention would be the fabulously wealthy Persian Gulf emirate of Qatar.
This small country, roughly 25 miles wide and jutting about 100 miles out of Saudi Arabia into the Persian Gulf, has the world’s highest gross domestic product per capita. And it all comes from fossil fuels.
As the November temperature climbed to 88 degrees on Day One of the conference, the delegates sat in a sumptuous convention center bathed in blue light and silent air conditioning as the host country pledged to try to lead the conference to significant greenhouse gas emissions – including its own 50 tons of CO2 for each of its 2 million citizens.
A better location might have been Bangladesh, whose population is reeling from continuing floods; or the island nation of Kiribati, whose people are negotiating to buy land in Fiji as their land slowly disappears under the rising ocean; or maybe even the Jersey shore.
Or perhaps they could have decided to hold the talks underwater. That’s how the government of the Maldives held a cabinet meeting three years ago to draw attention to the fact that their Indian Ocean island nation is also disappearing.
Ironically, as the nation’s deputy prime minister pointed out, Qatar is predicted to be one of the 10 “developing” countries most likely to be affected by sea level rises. Some say that Qatar has a business interest in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It certainly stands to be dragged back to its former subsistence-level, 19th-Century pearl-hunting economy if it can’t develop new forms of green energy.
But the global will to commit to real change is almost totally lacking. And by the time that changes, it will almost certainly be too late.
According to UN climate chief Christiana Figueres: “Climate change and increase in temperatures is making Qatar even more vulnerable to the lack of water and food insecurity. Every single drop of water that is used in Qatar needs to be desalinated. Every single gram of food that is eaten needs to be either imported or grown with desalinated water.”
And that includes all the lawns and gardens and golf courses you see in this video report from Al Jazeera.