Harrisburg professor shares personal thoughts on UN climate change conference
Public Relations - Published: February 5, 2008

dernbachbalitalk2Amid all the debate, analysis, and lecturing that went on at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali, Indonesia last month, one thing worried Widener Law Professor John C. Dernbach the most: the gap between the depth of knowledge on climate change displayed by “side event” presenters, with academic and science backgrounds, and that displayed by many front-and-center politicians.

Dernbach presented the paper “Energy Efficiency and Conservation as Ethical Responsibilities,” at a side event to the Bali conference on Dec. 14. The conference was held to negotiate an agreement on what countries should do to address climate change after 2012, when obligations under the Kyoto Protocol expire. It attracted about 10,000 environmentalists, scientists, academics and government officials from around the world.

He spoke to members of the Widener Law community about his experience on Thursday, Jan. 31. Showing slides of maps, the sights and pertinent environmental statistics and policies, Dernbach talked about America’s role in the discussions – and the lack of progress made on emissions under the Bush administration. It was impossible for the conference delegates to ignore.
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He recalled the comments from a Papua New Guinea conference delegate who said, “I would ask the U.S., we ask for your leadership. We seek your leadership. But, if for some reason you not willing to lead, leave it to the rest of us, please get out of the way.”

“It was a huge, dramatic moment,” Dernbach said.

He was encouraged by the conference working group’s ability to create an action plan for change that gives the United States an opportunity to play a more constructive and substantial role at a later date, after a new president takes office.

His college-age daughter Becky was also in Bali. Like her father, she spent a great deal of time talking with people about the environment and our future as one global community. Dernbach closed his talk with a blog entry his daughter made at the conclusion of the trip:

I remember hundreds of Indonesians in the streets of Denpasar demanding
that my government (and Canada's and Japan's) cut emissions so that they don't
have to suffer, asking for debt relief so they can afford to adjust to climate
change; the waiter in Jimbaran who asked my country to please protect him; the
fisherman at the temple in Ubud who can no longer fish because he can't
predict the weather. It's up to no one else but us. We are the ones we've
been waiting for.

-- Becky Dernbach