Dire Reports from Copenhagen…About Conference Access

By Chris Mooney | December 15, 2009 11:13 am
Photo: Australian Science Media Center

Photo: Australian Science Media Center

Man. The stories out of here about how hard it is to get into the Bella Center–home to the COP15 meetings–are enough to convince anybody not to try it. That includes me–even though media credentials are waiting for me inside the building.

But listen to Catherine Brahic of New Scientist describe her experience of the lines outside:

Five hours, zero degrees centigrade, no food, no water. Snow flurries. Dozens of large (very large) Danish police manhandling the crowds, arms linked to form human walls and cordon off the hundreds of waiting people, who teetered between hilarity and fury.

The scene was repeated at the various gates to the Copenhagen climate conference, from 7 am this morning to when the doors closed at 6 pm. I waited five hours in the blistering cold to get in, and I was among the lucky ones. My colleague, Fred Pearce, waited nine before the gates were shut before his nose. Above him a digital sign fastidiously counted the growing number of climate refugees around the world. He’ll have to do it all again tomorrow.

Brahic continues, hilariously:

What was behind the monumental screw-up? A staggering inability to do maths.

The conference centre has a maximum capacity of 15,000, yet NGOs alone were allowed to register 20,000 delegates. That’s not counting the 5000 members of the media, nor the 7000 staffers who are running the place, totalling 32,000 before you even get to the people who are meant to be doing the real work here: the negotiators. There were ministers hopelessly waving their diplomatic passes in the queues outside. They weren’t let in any faster than anyone else.

Amanda Little of Grist adds to the depictions of utter misery:

On my first day in Copenhagen, after a sleepless red eye, I and thousands of others—including delegates, business leaders, and other accredited journalists—were prevented from entering the conference center because the event has been way overbooked. Word is that more than 45,000 people have registered to attend, but only 15,000 can actually fit into the event location. You do the math. Many of us had paid thousands of dollars and traveled thousands of miles to get here. Despite the miserable weather, lack of food and toilets, and obvious mismanagement of the proceedings, U.N. officials seemed unable or unwilling to deal with the problem.

My co-sufferers had some choice words to describe the situation: “Profoundly miserable.” “The day of the living dead.” “The slowest torture imaginable.” I arrived at 1:30 p.m. and left at 5:30; there were plenty of people who had come at 8:00 a.m. and were still there at 5:00 p.m., blue lips angrily curled.

So, here I am in a cozy coffeehouse, a short walk from Tivoli Gardens, about to go out to dinner in Christiana, and I’m wondering: Is this insanity really worth it? Just so I can add to the genre of griping-waiting-in-line articles? Just to penetrate the inner sanctum?

I don’t think so. My reporting from Copenhagen will simply have to take a different angle–as did my geoengineering piece yesterday for Mother Jones. Because with just a few days in this beautiful town, I am not at all sure I want to spend one of them freezing in a nightmarish line…..

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Energy, Environment, Global Warming

Comments (9)

  1. Hi Chris,
    If you have the time, try bicycle. Doing bicycle in Copenhagen, or anywhere in Denmark, is like discovering that bicycle is still an extra-terrestrial entity in North American cities and rural areas.

  2. Neuro-conservative

    Excellent! Let’s give these people control over trillions of dollars of the global economy! What could possibly go wrong?

  3. I think I’ll be waiting until after the meeting (and possibly until spring) to make the trek to Copenhagen. Cold enough here in Brussels. I look forward to your reports.

    Keep warm.

  4. bilbo

    Excellent! Let’s give these people control over trillions of dollars of the global economy! What could possibly go wrong?

    We’re giving the events management staff at the Bella Center control over the global economy? No wonder you’re so upset!!

  5. Neuro-conservative

    Spoken like a true bureaucrat, bilbo. The buck stops somewhere over there.

  6. why-conservatives-fail

    Neuro how is someone correcting you for diarrhea of the mouth make them a bureaucrat? Conservatives need to stop hating on public education and start using it.

  7. bilbo

    Apparently you failed to catch the sarcasm. Boo.

  8. Can the problem be more obvious? Can the solution be more evident?

    The countries that are responsible for producing the current threats to Earth’s environs pay now; the countries that exacerbate these threats to environmental health and human wellbeing pay later.

  9. The facts on the ground:

    Trillions in dodgy financial instruments, fraudulent ponzi schemes and ill-gotten gains for self-proclaimed Masters of the Universe. Billions in bonuses and ‘rescue’ dollars for dishonorable fat cats and their minions on Wall Street. Millions in job losses, foreclosure notices and unemployment benefits for human beings with feet of clay on Main Street. A pittance for saving the Earth from greed-mongering wealth concentrators, the irresponsible economic powerbrokers and their bought-and-paid-for politicians who are the perpetrators of the colossal ecological mess that will be left for the children to clean up after the conspicuous overconsumers and obscene hoarders of my generation have pleasured ourselves to death.

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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.

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