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The really big (bleak) food picture



The Global Conference on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change just wrapped up two weeks ago in The Hague. The event was organized by various national governments, including the Netherlands as host nation, along with the World Bank and the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

With its mandate to come up with ways of producing adequate world food supplies while reducing carbon emissions in the long-term, while also contending with more and more people at the same time (there will be 40 percent more mouths to feed in the next 30 or 40 years) the conference was a kind of preemptive policy mash-up before the UN Climate Change Conference coming up in Cancun at the end of November.

The Cancun conference will be the 16th Conference of the Parties (COP 16) and sixth meeting of the parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 6). It pretty much constitutes the next chapter after COP 15/CMP 5 meeting held in Copenhagen last winter where so many headlines were made as policy makers tried to hammer out a world agreement on reducing carbon levels after the Kyoto Accord expires in 2012, and everyone from activists to scientists advocated for policies that would limit the increase in global temperatures to two degrees Celsius - the threshold identified scientifically as beyond which the planet gets into real trouble.

Not to bog down here in extraneous details, but I have a little story to inspire you to plough on:

First, note that when it comes to such UN meetings, media seems to think that the names and terminology are too complex or confusing for readers so they get insultingly reductive. Last year, "Copenhagen Summit" or simply "Copenhagen" became the unofficial name for the climate conference rather than the simpler but less familiar acronym COP 15. Of real embarrassment, "COP" was sometimes confused as shorthand for Copenhagen, rather than for "Conference of the Parties".

My little story is that when I was in London last year at the World Conference for Science Journalists, I was amazed at the number of regular Londoners I met outside of conference walls who were totally unfazed by these supposedly complex names and acronyms. Not only did they know the terms and use them conversationally, they also knew what the meetings were about, who was attending, what the issues were, what progress had or hadn't been made, and why.

They'll rattle off "Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change" as quick as Bob's Yer Uncle and can tell you what it's been up to, to boot. Many Aussies can do the same - and I'm not talking about nerds or policy wonks, just regular people.

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