This week’s horrifying news of the flooding that has inundated the Quezon City area of Manila brings to the fore the increasingly relevant discussion of how best to prepare urban areas for changing climates. By the year 2050, 70% of the Earth’s inhabitants will live in cities, up from 50% today. Much of this growth will occur in Asian cities that already struggle with overpopulation, poor sanitation and access to clean water. If the unique hazards of climate change are to be successfully mitigated, a frank conversation is needed about how to make urban areas adaptable and resilient.
Biodiversity hotspots, according to Conservation International, are, “the richest and most threatened reservoirs of plant and animal life on earth.” These islands of natural abundance cover less than 3% of the Earth’s surface yet host a stunning array of plant and animal life. Imperiled by the twin threats of habitat loss and climate change, hotspots may be ground zero for the jump in extinctions that is widely believed to be looming. Amid the busy schedule of upcoming summits such as COP-15, the best hope for prioritizing the preservation of biodiversity may hinge upon adoption of a more pragmatic approach to negotiation. Stressing the favorable impact of forested land on reducing temperatures and providing food and economic security to the broader community, may prove a more persuasive argument than preservation for the sake of exotic plant and animal life.
As the COP-15 meetings draw closer, some observers note that at the end of the day, measureable progress will hinge on the cooperation of two nations – China and the United States. The two largest emitters of greenhouse gases, these powerhouses will ultimately decide the extent of the forward progress made in Copenhagen. Regardless of how desirable it is for two countries to monopolize the debate to such an extent, it is clear that the situation is very much a double-edged sword for climate negotiators.