President Obama and other world leaders will gather in Copenhagen next week to discuss climate change. Though this is a global issue, it’s also a profoundly local one. For this reason, the Op-Ed editors asked writers from four different continents to report on the climate changes they’ve experienced close to home. Here are their dispatches.
Here are snippets of the four stories that ran in the NYT this weekend, along with their illustrations:
In Cape Town, a rise in unpredictable and more ferocious fires are destroying the ecosystem.
...“When we were young,” the old man in Greenmarket Square observed, “seasons came and went in a predictable rhythm. Now seasons have gone amok.”
...In the years that followed, dozens and then hundreds of gray-and-white Magellanic penguins appeared on our coasts, coming all the way from Patagonia and the Straits of Magellan.
In Tokyo, it no longer snows in winter.
...In place of the snow that used to fall in winter, the dry, cold blasts of wind come back, followed almost immediately by the unbearable heat of summer...
Because of climate change, the weather always betrays our expectations, making us wonder if the earth isn’t in its last days.
Since the climate conference is in Copenhagen, here's the entire essay on Denmark:
In Copenhagen, the once moderate-to-fresh winds are now more often storms
MY husband wants a wind turbine for Christmas. Just a small one, to be erected alongside our summer cabin at the coast. “We could have it out back!” he said. Good idea, I admit. In Denmark, we get our share of moderate-to-fresh winds, as the weather guys say. More often, it seems, we have storms. In the city we don’t notice them that much, but at the cabin we listen uneasily to the howling of the wind in the vents. We sit on edge at the windows and watch the wind tearing at the fir trees. We’ve cut down the tallest and most imposing tree in our garden so it won’t topple over in a storm and smash the roof to smithereens.
Our cabin is by the ocean. Not in the first row, but drawn back some, and on a hill. When I go for a walk in the dunes, I imagine myself inside the cabins in the first row, sitting there in the late light of a Scandinavian summer evening, smoking (even though I’m a nonsmoker), drinking sundowners (gin and tonic) and thinking poetic thoughts with a hint of blue. My husband, who built our cabin on the hill long before I knew him, is slightly jealous about my flirting with the first row. So now we’ve been on Google Earth and discovered that in 50 years all my dream cabins will be claimed by the rising sea! In fact, most of the point where our cabin lies will have disappeared. The hill and our house will remain, an island reachable only by boat, but still. “At least you’ll be able to see the ocean,” my husband says smugly, forgetting that we’ll both be dust by then.
“You’re the ones who will have to live with the effects of climate change,” we caution our youngest as he consumes yet another burger. As a 12-year-old, he has yet to comprehend that at some point he may have to choose between beef and rain forests, plane journeys or glaciers, rationing or perishing. He has no idea that insurance premiums are already rising fast (too fast!), due to the kind of climate-induced flooding that has been filling many a Danish basement. On the other hand, he knows Denmark will have vineyards, and by then he’ll be able to swim with dolphins! Pretty cool, yeah?
I haven’t the heart to mention the plagues of malaria mosquitoes, the risks of contracting West Nile virus and cholera. Neither have I troubled him with forecasts of the cod disappearing from Danish waters, or with the gloomy prospects for growing Christmas trees here. I did, though, (mis)appropriate the climate angle in the course of a discussion about pets. “A medium-sized dog pollutes as much as a 4.6-liter Toyota Land Cruiser clocking more than 6,000 miles a year!” I tell him, reading out of the newspaper. “Yeah, sure,” he says, and rolls his eyes. As if.
He’ll shake his head the same way this Christmas, when he finds out his father’s got a wind turbine. Daddy gets what Daddy wants. Maybe not a whole turbine, maybe just part of one. In Denmark, there are more than 100 wind turbine cooperatives, and special exchanges where you can buy shares in them. Our Christmas will be a peaceful one: we’ll talk about the wind and the weather, but in the nice way, so we’ll forget that this year once again Christmas wasn’t white. The snow is going, too.
The times they are a-changin'.
I hope to gather more such stories in Copenhagen. Your story is also welcome!
This piece originally appeared on Climate Progress.