<a href="http://gmagazine.com.au/blogs/jumpycrawl#">Postcards from Copenhagen</a>

Postcards from Copenhagen

John Pickrell, on the ground at the Copenhagen Conference

COP15 heats up

polar bear

This ice sculptured polar bear was a symbol of global warming and melted over the first week of the Copenhagen conference to reveal a metal skeleton.

Credit: Australian Science Media Centre

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G arrived earlier this week at the UN's historic COP15 climate negotiations and has been settling in nicely. Things are manic here at Copenhagen's sprawling (and heavily guarded) Bella Centre site, where more than 15,000 people are expected to be in attendance when the confab kicks into higher gear for the more advanced stage of negotiations next week.

There's a mix of delegates from all over the world, as well as observers from UN organisations (such as the IUCN and UNEP), hundreds of staff from NGOs such as the WWF, Greenpeace and Conservation International, numerous academics and 3,000+ journalists. As well as several major streams of negotiations, there are many hundreds of side events and briefings, and halls filled with stands from NGOs.

Another 15,000 people have arrived in Copenhagen and are involved in other events around the city, such as the KlimaForum, the people's summit, described as the "the global civil society counterpart of the official UN conference." Late last week a huge ice sculpture of a polar bear was unveiled in a central city square and left to slowly melt away, in a symbolic gesture - all the more poignant as Copenhagen is experiencing a unusually warm winter with temperatures barely dipping below freezing.

The negotiations themselves are shaping up to be somewhat of a disappointment, in that it will be impossible for a post-2012 legal framework to replace the Kyoto Protocol to be signed in Copenhagen. What everyone is hoping for is a political agreement that has bashed out the major principles, and which could lead to a signed agreement in six month's or a year's time.

A recurring distraction here this week has been the so-called 'Climate Gate' scandal which saw hacked emails from the UK's University of East Anglia finding their way on to the Internet last month. The head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Rajendra Pachauri, has stood up for the science of global warming. He stressed that 450+ scientists were involved in generating the IPCC's last major scientific report, which was reviewed by 2,500 others.

Normally, another study confirming the warming trend might not have been very newsworthy - but this week, a report from the World Meteorological Organisation - which showed that 2009 is the fifth warmest year on record, and that the last ten years have been the warmest decade since records began in 1850 - has been held up as evidence to slap down the climate sceptics. They have claimed that warming has slowed or stopped in recent years.

Tim Flannery, former Australian of the year, Macquarie University environmental scientist and chair of the Copenhagen Climate Council said: "A central plank of the climate sceptics' creed has been that the Earth has been cooling since 1998. They have misled many, and damaged public policy as a result. Here is the definitive proof that they are wrong. Unfortunately the warming trend continues, and will continue as long as greenhouse gas concentrations continue to grow."