Global problem, global editorial

From Argentina to Zimbabwe, newspapers around the world spoke with one voice yesterday about an issue affecting every person on the globe: climate change.

Fifty-six newspapers, in 20 languages and on five continents concurrently published an identical editorial, in most cases on the front page, calling for world leaders to take comprehensive action to combat global climate change as a two-week summit attended by diplomats from 192 countries began yesterday. "We do so because humanity faces a profound emergency," the editorial read.

British daily the Guardian spearheaded the initiative and the editorial was written by journalists at the paper, but along the way they consulted their counterparts around the world. It was a process that required the exchange of ideas as well as compromise, much like any potential agreement at the Copenhagen summit.

Ian Katz, an editor at The Guardian, wrote about the difficulties of the process, describing how "our Polish colleagues wanted an acknowledgment that poorer new EU countries should not have to bear as much of the coming burden as ‘Old Europe’; our Indian partner suggested that the argument reflected a ‘lopsided’ developed world perspective and needed to say more about what the rich world must do; a Chinese editor wanted to flag the importance of addressing ‘exported’ emissions – those created by the rich world increasingly consuming goods manufactured in developing countries."

In the end, though, a consensus was reached and the final product is a strong call for world leaders to take substantive action at the Copenhagen summit and ensure that the global temperature does not rise more than 2°C. Falling short of such a goal will have dire consequences, says the editorial. "Half of all species could become extinct, untold millions of people would be displaced, whole nations drowned by the sea."

Much of the editorial focuses on the importance of reaching an agreement between rich and poor countries, which is precisely what analysts believe will be the most crucial issue during the Copenhagen summit. The solution, the editorial says, is for rich nations to help poorer ones to develop in ways that are both economically and environmentally sustainable. At the same time, people in the developed world will have to consume less and more responsibly.

None of this will be easy, but those signing on to the editorial retain a sense of hope: "Overcoming climate change will take a triumph of optimism over pessimism, of vision over short-sightedness, of what Abraham Lincoln called ‘the better angels of our nature.’"

In Egypt, the independent daily Al-Shorouq published the editorial. The only other Arabic edition of the editorial appeared in Lebanon’s An Nahar. The English-language Gulf Times in Qatar and Gulf News in Dubai also joined the initiative, while the Israeli daily Maariv published the editorial in Hebrew.

Notably absent were any of the United States’ major papers. The only US newspaper to run the editorial was the Miami Herald. US obstinacy at the Copenhagen summit is considered to be one of the biggest obstacles to reaching a comprehensive solution. Both China and India are also viewed as potential spoilers to a deal, however newspapers in both countries carried the editorial.

As the Copenhagen summit enters its second day today, it remains to be seen whether the worldwide editorial will have an impact on the diplomats trying to work out a comprehensive plan for saving the planet. But 56 newspapers around the world remain optimistic. "If we, with such different national and political perspectives, can agree on what must be done then surely our leaders can too."

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