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Hello from Dubai, Where the Fleece Quotient Is High

You know you’re at a climate event when ...

Heatmap Illustration/Patagonia

One tool I have developed in my years of climate reporting might be described as the fleece quotient. This is the idea that you can generally predict if something is a climate event — a category I consider in its broadest terms, including but not limited to a scientific conference, a protest, or an international meeting — if more people attending it are wearing fleece than not. (It is distinct but related to the Patagonia ratio.)

This methodology is not perfect: In some cities, one can accidentally trip the fleece quotient on an ordinary Back to School night or even during a Sunday afternoon shop at Costco. And a true accounting of the fleece quotient (F.Q.) requires being attuned to microdemographic vagaries: If a fleece item is adorned with a third-party corporate logo, for instance, it is disqualified; but if it has an academic institution’s logo, then it counts twice. (If it’s embroidered with a major foundation’s logo? That’s five points, easy.)

But I have found it to be generally robust. In San Francisco (a fleece-friendly place to begin with), it is possible to tell when 25,000 Earth scientists arrive for their large annual conference because the city’s fleece quotient slightly but perceptibly rises.

This is all to say: Last night, I boarded a long-haul flight from Newark that had a fleece quotient to rival that of the Seattle REI. It was, of course, filled with people headed to the United Nations’ annual climate conference in Dubai — that is, the 28th annual meeting of the Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP28.

For the next week or so, I’ll be attending the conference and writing notes about what I see. (COP itself runs to December 12.) I’ll also be trying to decode and filter the daily flood of climate news that tends to characterize this week. COP is the one moment every year when the world focuses on climate change — and as I think we’ll see this week, that can be both for good and for ill.

I’m excited to write these notes over the coming days. If you’d like to receive them in your inbox, you can subscribe to Heatmap Daily, our daily climate newsletter, below:

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    Robinson Meyer

    Robinson is the founding executive editor of Heatmap. He was previously a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he covered climate change, energy, and technology.


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