I’m a student.  I’m used to deadlines.  They seem to have grown more malleable throughout my academic career.  Yesterday morning I handed in an essay two minutes late for a deadline that I’d already re-negotiated to be extended for two days.  Douglas Adams famously said “I love deadlines. I especially like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”

Today, though, I heard about a deadline that cannot be pushed around, nor joked about.  A group of us from the UK Poznan youth team were given a presentation by a guy called David Wasdell, a scientist who’s been a reviewer for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), whose reports inform the policy-makers at Poznan.

Here’s the gist of what he told us:

  • In the past three years or so, our understanding of climate change has shifted up a gear.  We now know that the Earth’s climate system involves positive feedback mechanisms that accelerate the speed at which global temperatures are changing.
  • This new knowledge is not contained in the IPCC’s latest report (2007), due to the slow filtering process between scientists and policy-makers
  • This means the negotiations that will take place in Poznan this December will be based on out-of-date science – the situation is worse than the policy-makers are officially aware of
  • Jim Hansen, a NASA scientist, reckons the opportunity we’ve got to control climate change is 5 to 15 years
  • Poznan 2008 and Copenhagen 2009 are therefore crucial, given the snailpace at which international diplomacy moves – it’s like supertanker politics

I’m glad we’re doing something about this.  We have this window of opportunity still open to us.

It’s not fun missing deadlines – but it’s very satisfying when you type and type all day and then email it to yourself and then rush to the computer room and print it out and then jump on your bike and pedal as fast as you can, taking short-cuts the wrong way down one-way streets to the Geog department and then, panting and flush-faced, triumphantly stick it in the appropriate pidgeon hole with an entire four minutes to spare.

That’s pretty much what the UNFCCC have to do between now and the summit in Copenhagen in December 2009.  I hope everyone’s got their tyres pumped up.