Wonderful opening reception – but what are we celebrating?

Kudos to the South African conference organizers for putting together a wonderful venue and performance at last night’s opening reception, which was held in Durban’s City Hall. It was a great opportunity to network, but also to enjoy ourselves and get immersed in South African culture.

South Africa music and dance

South Africa music and dance

Personally, I greatly enjoyed talking to Dr. Pachauri, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. However, “Pachi” — as he is warmly referred to — was noticeably disappointed at the lack of science on the opening day. Opening-day meetings were all about politics, not science. Dr. Pachauri will be addressing conference attendees on Wednesday Dec 30th. I also asked him about Climategate 2.0 — an attempt to deny climate science prior to the Durban talks — but he dismissed it as a failed effort.

Ryan, Doug and myself with Dr. Pachauri at the opening reception. We were in fact his students this Fall at F&ES.

Ryan Sarsfield, Doug Dagan and myself with Dr. Pachauri at the opening reception. We were in fact his students this Fall at F&ES.

I also got a chance to say hi to Cristiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC. Cristiana visited Yale F&ES a couple of months ago and it was nice to chat with her again. She is a great leader and it was great to see her take the stage at the end of the performance and demonstrate that her Latin dance moves fit in just fine in South Africa!

Ryan, Vrinda and myself with Cristiana Figueres

Ryan Sarsfield, Vrinda Manglik and myself with Cristiana Figueres

Despite the networking opportunities and wonderful stage performances, I felt a bit conflicted about the evening. I couldn’t help but wonder: what are these joyful performances and congregation of people celebrating? Is the lack of urgent global progress on addressing the greatest threat to mankind a reason to celebrate?