11/06/2009 - 6:09pm
Posted by Komal Hiranandani
As the scientific community has united in its call for drastic action to reduce global warming, which is already claiming hundreds of thousands of lives, the U.S. and the international community seems to have reached a stalemate. This week, the Kerry-Boxer climate bill markup was boycotted by republicans, and in deciding to continue with the markup anyway, Senator Boxer may have antagonized republicans beyond repair. Talks about a new compromise bill in the Senate have already begun. While some in the US fear that pursuing 4-7% emissions reductions below 1990 levels by 2020 (as the Kerry-Boxer bill does) will harm the economy too much through the measures laid out in the legislation, countries abroad are staging boycotts of their own because they want the US to commit to a 40% reduction below 1990 levels by 2020. The math is easy: the gap between what the US seems to find acceptable and what the international community seeks is immense.
These issues came to light as the climate talks in Barcelona drew to a close this week. Developing countries repeated their demand for assistance from developed countries in taking environmental action. They argue that developing countries used cheaper, quicker, and environmentally degrading methods to boost growth. If other nations are to be denied this opportunity, they want the first polluters to compensate them. But debates in the US Senate bring up the other side: that strong measures in one country alone will not solve the problem. Calls are being made in the US Senate for a bill that does not kick in unless other countries also commit to binding emissions reductions. On the other end, the G77, a coalition of developing countries, said: "Individual pledges (of the industrialized countries to reduce their GHG emissions) add up to only 11-18% below 1990 levels by 2020 if we include US. Such a low level is unacceptable. It takes us on a dangerous path. We need a real change of heart and mind by developed countries. It has to be demonstrated by (putting up) figures. It is not sufficient to have progressive and noble rhetoric which is empty." To focus attention on this, fifty African countries boycotted part of the Barcelona summit.
To pass a climate bill, the Senate needs 60 votes. To pass an international treaty, the Senate needs 67. Now, many fear that the US will not be able to go into the Copenhagen climate talks next month and make any firm commitments because it could not even pass domestic legislation. Senator Kerry, the bill’s co-author, admitted: "We have to be honest in the process and deal with the realities that we don't have time in these four weeks to put the language together and flesh out every crossed t and dotted i of a treaty."
Where does this leave us now? Of course, it would have been ideal to have a bipartisan piece of US legislation to boast when going into Copenhagen. But there is still common ground to be sought. Fighting climate change is in everyone’s interest: rich countries and poor countries, republicans and democrats. On their own, both developed and developing countries have taken significant steps to combat climate change- whether by boosting wind power in China or by committing to high emissions reductions in the EU. On their own, both republicans and democrats have introduced and championed climate change legislation. At this time of seemingly severe divides, perhaps we need to take a moment to start from scratch and rebuild the dialogue and rhetoric with a strong foundation: that of what we have done individually, and what will happen to us all if we don’t do more together.
11/05/2009 - 1:46pm
Posted by Courtney Smith
As the clock on the Kyoto Protocol is ticking down to expiration, the importance of the upcoming U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen is growing. A multilateral, enforceable treaty, setting limits on carbon emissions would be the ideal outcome. However, as the dates for the conference are getting closer, the actual goals are getting smaller. On October 28, 2008, U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon said that the conference could still be a success without its creation of a legally binding agreement. He encouraged ambitious political agreements, with details to be worked out later. Part of the reason for this is because of the current conflict between developing and developed nations.
It is no secret that developed nations have much larger emissions than developing countries. However, the effects of these emissions are hard-hitting on the developing nations, the ones that often do not have the resources to provide health care to their people, let alone fight the negative impacts of climate change. In the meantime, developed countries are trying to enforce “sustainable” development around the world so that the inevitable increase in carbon emissions from industrialization does not occur as development progresses. However, a major paradigm in the development field is that economic growth must be a priority, and the environment can be fixed later when development has been achieved. Also, the current developed countries certainly did not even consider sustainable development during their plight for economic growth. While I do not ascribe to this vision of development (and I do believe more and more people are starting to see the problems with this type of thinking), it is a standpoint that many nations have taken. In the meantime, the developed world is trying to stop unsustainable development so that the damage done by the developed world in achieving economic growth does not occur in this new push for development. While, I do believe it is crucial to regulate emissions in the developing world, what gives the developed world the moral authority to intervene and tell these struggling countries what to do? Development has been riddled by failed foreign intervention, and massive international aid projects that do not get resources to the right people. For years, the West has been telling developing nations what they need, instead of actually asking these nations what is important to them, is it really going to be any different this time around?
In saying this, I am not saying that developing countries do not care about the environment, because that is simply not true. I am saying that the developed world’s push to force sustainable development on poor countries may not be the best approach. There are probably local, sustainable development movements in the vast majority of countries, such as the Landless Workers Movement (MST) in Brazil, or Navdanya in India. Perhaps the best way to reduce carbon emissions globally is not to enforce strict measures on the developing world (that they may not be able to meet), but to support local movements that are fighting the causes of environmental degradation and climate change in their regions. These movements are usually not only environmental movements, but also fights for equality and human rights in regions were the poor are continuously marginalized. By supporting these movements, the developed world can not only take a stand against climate change, but also against persistent injustices in the developing world.
11/03/2009 - 2:07pm
Posted by Samantha Taylor
Today is a momentous day for global warming legislation, as the markup in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is scheduled to begin. Yet, the day is tainted by the fact that the Republican Party plans to boycott the markup all together. Not one of the seven Republicans on the panel plans to attend the meeting.
Under such circumstances, one cannot help but think back to just a few decades ago, when the Republicans were at the forefront of environmental legislation. In a speech last Thursday, Senator Barbara Boxer noted “The interesting thing is most of these environmental laws started with a Republican president named Richard Nixon. What happened to the days when environmental laws were supported on both sides? Those days appear to be gone.”
Senator Boxer makes a good point. The Clean Water Act of 1972 was a product of bipartisan effort and ultimately signed into law by President Nixon. The Clean Air Act of 1970 and Amendments of 1990 were again pursued by Republicans. A notice released by the EPA in 1990 about the Clean Air Act noted, “Through his leadership, the President (George H. W. Bush) broke the 13-year clean air stalemate by submitting an innovative, market-based bill which will achieve the nation’s environmental goals in the most effective manner.” Thus, it is evident that there was a time in which Republicans took the initiative to pursue environmental legislation. This created a bipartisan environment in which both parties could work together to pass legislation that could actually make a difference.
Now, just a few decades later, the story is completely different as the Republicans refuse to participate in the global warming legislation markup entirely. They have their reasons of course, including their claim that they were not given complete information from the EPA and the Congressional Budget Office. Yet, regardless, their refusal to participate seems a bit stubborn. Senator Boxer noted that it would be in “remarkably bad faith” for the Republicans to stay away from the markup.
All this conflict is enough to make one long for the good old days, when the parties just got along. At least when it came to climate change legislation.
11/03/2009 - 1:10pm
Posted by Anu Joshi
Here are some pictures that Tom Hastings took at the Climate Action Day, Oct 24, at Manhattan Beach. This world-wide event was organized by the 350 Organization (http://www.350.org). The purpose was to raise awareness of the goal to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million in order for the climate to be sustainable. CO2 is currently at 390 ppm and rising 2 ppm each year.
The CGS table manned by Becky Tan and Tom Hastings on Climate Action Day, Saturday, October 24, at Manhattan Beach. They got over twenty attendees to fill out postcards and address them to Senators Boxer and Feinstein and to President Obama:
There was a long line showing where high tide will be on Manhattan Beach if we don't bring CO2 down to 350 parts per million:
11/02/2009 - 6:02pm
Posted by Vinay Orekondy
“No to climate government takeover!!!”
This is why the whole free market versus government debate is truly missing the point. Both have absolutely critical roles to play in this process. The great champion of the free market, Ayn Rand, wrote that it is the unrestrained power of the individual which has always made society great. I agree. But I would respond by saying that it is the role of society to define what greatness is.
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