Being my first ever COP, I didn’t know what to expect, so being a United Nations event, I expected quite a bit, I expected that “things” (e.g. the rulebook) would get settled in the conferences faster and more efficiently. I expected to be able to see what was happening on site, but then I realized, I had quite a huge expectation. With our observer badges, which was already an awesome opportunity, we could only roam around, visiting side events, events in each country’s pavilion that you can only find out when COP starts, exhibitions, and some open meetings. We were not allowed in the high key events, unless we get tickets, which Research and Independent Non-Governmental Organization (RINGO) had some to give out at their 9 am meetings, if you are lucky you can manage to get one, with the commitment to help them take notes. Thus, the place really felt like an important conference, so many ministers, delegates, important people in general, walking everywhere.
I personally felt like it is a lot to take in, and really there are so many things going on at a time, it is very easy to just keep going to events after events, and then end up being exhausted. For first timers, I guess it is very important to note that if you are going as an observer, just take a chill pill, and pick the events, and put breaks in between them as well. Additionally, do not expect that every event you go, will be amazing, because end of the day, some can really be general knowledge that everybody kind of know, is just being reiterated. For example, in the country pavilions, some of them are politicians, some are industry owners, they will give very standard political answers.
Below will be 2 things that I took out of this COP from my week’s exploration:
Nuclear – Yes or No?
People around the world are still scared of the word nuclear when it comes to energy. After Chernobyl, after Fukushima, they are scared of the word nuclear like it is super dangerous. Something I learned was that the amount of “nuclear” (aka uranium) in nuclear power plants are not enough to cause an explosion like a nuclear bomb. They are like 100 times lesser the amount in a nuclear bomb used in WW2. The second thing that people are afraid of is that nuclear power plants have radioactive waste, they scared it will be a health issue. Majority of the water used in nuclear power plants can be treated, with a minimal amount of radioactive waste that can be stored deep underground, or deep under the ocean floor where the pressure keeps it there. The amount of trash and waste that comes from producing coal and oil, is affecting us more than what nuclear is affecting us.
Nuclear has a lot of capabilities, and experts are not saying to go 100% nuclear, they are actually recommending a mixture, or other renewables as well if possible; solar, wind, geothermal, etc. Nuclear can be a key solution for climate change adaptation also, when droughts have dried up all our water sources, nuclear, being a sustainable energy source, can use for desalination to solve water scarcity issues. Yes in my personal opinion, I am quite pro-nuclear, I am no expert in nuclear sciences. However, I do know that if we want to mitigate climate change in the next decade or so, we need the help of nuclear because of its close to zero carbon emission.
Climate change mitigation → Trying to stop climate change
Climate change adaptation → climate change occurred and our measures to adapt to it.
Future of technology in the fight against climate change
There are definitely some insights into the future of how technology will advance and help in climate change. With Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, we can move forward to make every process efficient, so that we will waste less. Solar farms, wind farms, will know how much energy is needed to supply the grid, and how much to store. Even smaller things like having a motion sensor on car wipers will allow having information that can be sent to the cloud. These information can improve efficiency. For example, knowing where it is raining, buildings need less AC because is cooler. Everything will be more “smart” and the experts call this the smart-grid technology of the future cities. Will the transition to smart cities be too slow? Probably. Will we be able to mitigate climate change in time? I have low hopes but the world still has to move forward. Hopefully, in the future, there will be a technology that can reverse the effect of climate change, even after 2030.
This Learning Across Boundaries has been an experience. Seeing the irony of Poland’s pavilion booth being filled with real coal, observing the different countries booth and their representatives being political, a few protestors protesting against nuclear at the pro-nuclear side events, Fossil of the day, and many more. I really would like to thank the people that made all this possible.