International Diplomacy or Soap Opera? Depends Who’s Watching

To an outsider, watching the diplomatic proceedings of COP 21 is far from exciting. In their most respectful, politically correct tones, delegates from around the world take turns reiterating what sound like the same points time and time again. Countries take the floor, lauding the COP presidency and their fellow negotiators for hard work and perseverance while continually pushing for more progress. Acronyms are thrown around like nothing: LDC, LMDC, INDC, CBDR, EIG- the list goes on and on.

It’s not hard to see that the average onlooker would be thoroughly confused and in fact quite bored of what’s going on.

But to a group of self-proclaimed climate geeks (ie the Duke Practicum students), the COP is like a two week long soap opera marathon with all our favorite characters. Being thoroughly fascinated by the UNFCCC process and knowing more than the average onlooker, us Dukies hang on every word, phrase, and tone of voice at the COP venue. We eagerly hang on every word spoken and written in the text. We’re more concerned with watching press conferences held by “climate celebrities” like Todd Stern and Christiana Figueres than “real” celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Alec Baldwin. Those in Paris stay up late and those in Durham wake up early to stay up to date.

Despite the class being split between Durham and Paris with a six hour time difference, we are all still actively talking to each other about the latest happenings via the magic of web-based instant messaging. There are a lot of “didn’t see that coming” and other “oh snap” sorts of exclamations along with fluctuating expressions of optimism and pessimism in our group chat. The real-time commentary group chat really does resemble a group of people huddled around a television watching a juicy soap opera or cult classic movie unfold. It’s amazing to wake up to 60 messages from friends at home and in Paris dissecting what happened while I slept. If only the average onlooker had the enthusiasm for climate negotiations that we do!

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