Climate Week: Who Controls the Earth?

Kuda Huraa island in The Maldives, which is threatened by sea-level rise due to climate change.

Climate Week is here — a series of meetings at the United Nations headquarters in New York among world leaders to discuss at the highest levels of government how to make progress toward a global climate change solution.

But what does Climate Week — and all the negotiations through Copenhagen and beyond — really mean?

I was sitting outside one clear evening last week with my 4-year-old daughter, one of our first attempts at stargazing. We got into talking about how the Earth turns around, every day, and how it circles the sun every year. Then she asked innocently: “But…who controls the earth, Mommy?”

Is this kid serious? I thought. (Lovingly of course.) Does she know that intense international negotiations are underway that could affect the future of the planet? That right now meetings are happening that may show who controls our planet, or is at least willing to lead it to a successful solution for climate change?

All this got me thinking about “Climate Week.” Progress during Climate Week is hoped by many to bring some breakthroughs in the negotiations for a global climate agreement in Copenhagen this December. Perhaps I could find an answer there.

On Monday, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) had its own summit on climate change. These island countries, which make up 20 percent of the United Nations, are some of the most impacted by climate change, already facing rising seas, salt water contaminating their freshwater supplies, more intense storms erasing their homes from their islands and, potentially, their islands from the map. And yet these islands have contributed little to the problem with per-capita greenhouse gas emissions as little as 1/10th or even 1/100th that of the United States.

Yesterday, the UN Summit on Climate Change convened ministers and heads of state from all countries, including speeches by President Obama, President Hu Jintao of China, and heads of several other major countries. In anticipation of this Summit, UN Secretary general Ban Ki-Moon has been urging those in attendance “to speak and to act as global leaders; just go beyond their national boundaries.”

Later in the week, some of these government leaders, plus industry leaders, philanthropists and organizations like The Nature Conservancy will meet at the Clinton Global Initiative to shape new ideas and solutions for this global challenge. Then, a select group of leaders of the world’s top twenty economies (G20) will meet to continue efforts on the global economic crisis and begin discussions on financing climate change action.

If any of these folks control the earth, let’s hope they demonstrate their shared responsibility for caring for this planet we call home. Let’s hope they produce bold commitments that show their leadership.

Then I’ll have a nice easy answer for my daughter. But just in case, I’m going to hedge my bets. I’m going to tell her that it’s all of us who control the earth.

It’s anyone who has already seen climate change cause a shift in the seasons, or different weather patterns, or changes in when birds or flowers appear. Anyone who worries about reduced water supplies or more intense forest fires. Anyone who cares about the places and people in this world that might not be able to handle climate change on their own.

We are the ones who can tell the world we care.

The Nature Conservancy has launched a web campaign called “Planet Change” this week to give people a platform for doing just that. If you care about our planet, and the people, plants and animals that call it home, then spread the word through Planet Change.

You can see my daughter’s entry there…

(Image: K. Huraa/Maldives. Credit: nattu/Flickr through a Creative Commons license.)

If you believe in the work we’re doing, please lend a hand.


  1. Thanks for this great article. I agree– it’s up to all of us. I think we often forget how much power (and responsibility) we share.

  2. Thanks for your notes, at Global Observatory we are also following NYC Climate Week, posting content, photos, videos and interviews.

    It’s nice to find other blogs also dealing with climate change issues on a daily basis.

Add a Comment