by Lindsay Beyerstein
The tiny nation of Tuvalu has taken center stage in Copenhagen.
"I woke up this morning crying, and that's not easy for a grown man to admit," Tuvalu's chief climate negotiator, Ian Fry, told hundreds of delegates in the Bella Center in Copenhagen on Saturday. "The fate of my country rests in your hands," he said, his voice breaking. Global warming is an existential issue for Tuvalu and other small island nations. If global warming goes unchecked, these countries will literally be wiped off the map. For countries like Tuvalu, COP15 is effectively referendum on their continued existence. Will the rest of the world step up, or will it write them off?
Tuvalu and its supporters want a treaty to protect island states. They also seek legally binding emissions targets for all countries geared to stop global warming at 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial temperatures. Last week, Tuvalu managed to get the negotiations suspended while delegates informally considered its proposal.
Obviously, it's not just in Tuvalu's interest to get serious about climate change. According to a report released last week, even if we check warming at 2 degrees, the rise could still acidify the oceans enough off most cold water coral, the bedrock food chains that help feed millions. The prospect of entire countries and low-lying regions being inundated raises the specter of mass migrations.
During the aftermath of the Iranian election, supporters sported green twitter icons to show their support for the protesters. In that spirit, I decided to change my twitter icon to an "I heart Tuvalu" button. The picture is from Tuvalu's official Cafe Press store. Join me!