Tuesday, June 05, 2012

American Exceptionalism, Durban Climate Change Conference, and Rochester, NY


American Exceptionalism is the crazy notion that we American’s are better than anyone else on the planet.  Not everyone in the US shares this obnoxious view; of course, mostly it’s the brainchild of the neo-nuts (the extremists who have hijacked the GOP) who believe that because we are the richest and most powerful nation in the world we can act like bullies.  “What’s the point of being the greatest nation on Earth if you can’t act like it?” I heard someone say.   So it goes.

Besides bullying the rest of the world into a War with Iraq and throwing the world into economic turmoil with the US housing shenanigans, we now dismiss the Durban Climate Change Conference—the one way we can get a planetary plan on solving the most important issue of this century.  And the rest of the world is getting rather annoyed at this haughty US attitude:

Durban Climate Change Conference: US refusal to negotiate carbon emissions cuts risks derailing summit - Telegraph US refusal to negotiate legally-binding carbon emissions cuts risks derailing a UN summit convened to tackle climate change, environmental groups have warned in a letter to Hillary Clinton. The letter, signed by 16 different organisations and sent to the US Secretary of State, said that while President Barack Obama pledged in November 2008 to "engage vigorously in these negotiations, and help lead the world toward a new era of global co-operation on climate change," he had failed to deliver on that pledge. Instead, the letter claimed, America is fast becoming seen as a "major obstacle" to progress.  (November 30, 2011) Telegraph.co.uk - Telegraph online, Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph - Telegraph

If we don’t care about the rest of the world and how our pollution affects them, we should at least care about ourselves.  By dragging our feet during the on-going Climate Change Talks in Durban we may make the fossil fuel industries comfortable for awhile, but because of the nature of Climate Change we are all going to cook. 

Climate Change will affect every region, even Rochester, NY with Likely Changes, with some areas suffering more sooner and some suffering less later.  But all regions will suffer and any ‘positive’ short-term outcomes will be negated by the wholesale worsening of our climate that may lead to environmental collapse.  For example, much has been made that Climate Change will put more carbon dioxide into the ground and make things grow better.  But weeds seem to benefit better than food crops and food destroying insects also are able to survive in what were colder climates and goggle up our critical food crops. 

Considering that the United States uses about 25% of the world's oil energy and is accountable for 16% of the anthropogenic greenhouse gases (yes, China is at 17%) we ought to be a major player in solving the Climate Change crisis.  After all, most of the anthropogenic greenhouse gases already in our atmosphere from any one country come from US.  Mainstream media cannot even bring itself to ask the GOP candidates their views or even if they know about the Durban Climate Change Conference.  How dismissive to the world can the US get?

In Africa they know about Climate Change first hand because it is causing droughts; in Britain they talk the talk, but they don’t walk the walk (note: Britain's promotion of Canada's tar sands oil is idiotic | Environment | guardian.co.uk), in the US we don’t even talk the talk because our president thinks the GOP runs the planet, not physics, and the GOP thinks the Climate Change talks are a conspiracy against their ideology.  We are in serious trouble, like a smart but dysfunctional adolescent on drugs.

Of course, not everyone in the US is dragging their feet on the Climate Change crisis.  Over at 350.org ” We're building a global movement to solve the climate crisis.” Imagine that: A global movement to solve the Climate Change Crisis in our own country.  It is a sign of hope, but everyone in our country needs to get involved, not just a relatively dedicated few.

In any event, Climate Change in our country, our state, and our county is not going to abate simply because we want to kick the can down the road to 2020 before we do any significant cutbacks on the use of fossil fuels.  That’s because our atmosphere has a concentration of 390 parts per million, when it used to have only 280 parts per million around the time the Second Industrial Revolution—around the 1860’s.  Only, geologically speaking, a moment ago.  Our Rochester, NY region is and will continue to warm up.  This is only another report in a continual stream of observations that Climate Change will not dodge our area:

Climate Projections for the Finger Lakes | Happenings It’s November, Election Day, and as I begin to write this article, my meteorology undergraduates inform me that the high today will reach 70°. Although not unheard of, an occurrence that is rare in Ithaca; but one that is becoming increasingly more common. Since 1970, 70° November days have occurred on average every 2-3 years. Prior to this, in a record that extends back to 1893, the wait for a 70° November day was almost twice as long; as such temperatures were reported every 4-5 years. While a single November day in the 70s cannot be blamed on climate change, this is just one of many examples of what might become common in upstate NY in a warmer world. (December 1, 2011) Happenings | the monthly newsletter of the Finger Lakes Institute

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