Racine will have a representative in Copenhagen, Denmark next month when global leaders gather to discuss an international climate change treaty.
Jamie Racine, who lives in Racine, will attend the COP15 United Nations Climate Change Conference as the Midwestern Youth Delegate to the meetings, which may result in a new treaty to control carbon emissions on the planet.
Racine is one of 10 delegates from the Midwest and two from Wisconsin to attend COP15. The international youth delegation - about 1,000 members from around the world - is a recognized body by the United Nations. The designation gives Racine and her peers access to the negotiations on the new climate change treaty. They'll have space on agendas, offer position papers and, hopefully, get the attention of heads of states from around the world.
Racine's job is to represent the Midwest, which plays a significant role in any climate change discussions.
If the Midwest was its own country, it would be the fourth highest polluting nation in the world, Racine said. The reason? It's cold here.
Heating homes and businesses takes massive amounts of energy. While Wisconsin is working to build alternative energy sources, like wind and solar, it still has to burn coal to meet people's power needs.
Despite that reality, Racine said the Midwest's moral and just culture make it an important voice in advocating for needed lifestyle changes to protect the planet. Communities throughout the region are organizing around the need to cut emissions that contribute to global warming.
"There is a need to come together," Racine said.
Racine is attending COP15 as part of the Will Steger Foundation's "Expedition Copenhagen," which gives young adults ages 18 to 26 a place at the United Nation's negotiations. She'll be in Copenhagen from Dec. 3-21 reporting on the proceedings through blogs and video interviews. (See Racine's interview on the Will Steger Foundation website.)
It's an exciting opportunity for Racine, who is passionate about environmental issues. She's best known locally for her work at the REC Center along the Root River - she teaches classes to elementary students - and for organizing the Racine 350 rally on Monument Square on Oct. 24.
Racine said she didn't give much thought to detractors who attack climate change as a myth. The problem is so big, she said, many people choose to ignore or deride it rather than face the reality that the planet may be in peril.
"It's outside of their capacity to visualize these changes," Racine said of critics.
"Some people feel attacked," she added, saying she understood why people lashed out over climate change. "I see it as a coping mechanism."
COP15 is the 15th United Nations meeting to update the Kyoto Protocol, which was approved in 1997. The United States acounted for 36 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in 1990, but is the only country in the world to announce it had no intention of signing the agreement to stabilize global emissions.
Despite the U.S.'s reluctance, it remain a major player in the COP15 negotiations. The House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act in June that would create a cap-and-trade system designed to control greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. The House vote energized negotiations for a new international climate change protocol and increased the likelihood of a new agreement.
However, there appears to be little hope for a finished treaty to emerge from COP15. Instead, leaders are now calling for global leaders to set a deadline for a treaty at next month's conference.
Racine said she would do her part to advocate with the youth delegation for a new agreement on climate change.
"The goal is a bold, just and binding treaty," she said.