The War of the Worlds

Will the world's elite stop seeing two planets?

The White House on Flickr

When the “summit to save the world” wraps up this week in Copenhagen, 41,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent will have been emitted into the atmosphere – roughly the same output as a moderately sized city. The pollutants are streaming from the tailpipes of limousines (hundreds of which had to be driven into the country from Germany and Sweden to meet the demand), and from the engines of the private jets ferrying in VIPs. So many jets are coming into Copenhagen that the city’s airport is unable to accommodate them, forcing pilots to drop off passengers in Denmark and then fly to Sweden to “park.” Every luxury hotel in the city is booked and offering its high profile guests such sustainable fare as scallops, foie gras and the finest caviar. It’s hardly an example in curbing excess …

Copenhagen is functioning as a perfect microcosm: For every dogged activist, subsisting on tofu and living off the grid, there are untold numbers who somehow consider themselves outside or above the problem; people who are unable to see the irony in jetting across the world to discuss the issue of carbon emissions. Until the world’s elite stop seeing two planets – the one that needs saving and the one on which they live – 41,000 tons of pollution is the only thing this kind of summit will produce.