Japan decided to slash its climate reduction target at the Warsaw Climate talks because the Fukushima nuclear disaster is “forcing the country to increase its burning of fossil fuels.” (November 14, 2013) BBC ) One has to wonder if others will follow suit, searching their ‘excuses boxes’ to see if they have a handy excuse not to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG’s) even though we know the 'Window of Opportunity' to Curb Climate Change Quickly Closing.
How about Rochester, NY? If our local media is any indication, Rochesterians don’t even know that the Warsaw climate talks are going on. But if the climate talks this year were on our radar, and we too were going to come up with an excuse not to keep our promise on our climate reduction target, this is what we’d throw overboard: “We strive to reduce energy consumption, waste generation, our dependence on fossil fuels and production of greenhouse gases.” (City of Rochester, NY Environmental Mission Statement) It’s not much, and it’s kind of fuzzy because it doesn’t have any red lines that won’t be crossed, but it’s something, I guess….
I know, you’re thinking what I’ve said so far is very unfair. Japan really got nailed and any reasonable person would expect them not to keep their promises on Climate Change because, heh, they just gotta have as much power as they had before the nuclear disaster no matter what. However, Japan’s excuse is probably hard to swallow by developing nations that don’t even get to have a good day because of increasingly horrific typhoons and sea rise caused by the developed nation’s lack of agreement year to year on climate talks.
The Warsaw talks are the 19th in a series (COP 19) in our “attempts” to address Climate Change, and almost zip (“modest”) is expected to be accomplished. That’s not a prognostication in this particular case, that’s an order by the developed nations. If they were to jump the gun and start reducing GHG’s before 2020, as planned, the developed nations would freak. So everything is being done to have a non-climate talk with no hard decisions, just some clarifying, launching a PowerPoint display, and delivering a “path”. Really, a path? in 2013?
We must clarify finance that enables the entire world to move towards low-carbon development. We must launch the construction of a mechanism that helps vulnerable populations to respond to the unanticipated effects of climate change. We must deliver an effective path to pre-2020 ambition, and develop further clarity for elements of the new agreement that will shape the post-2020 global climate, economic and development agendas. (Opening address by Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change)
Ok, so Rochester, NY didn’t even get invited to the Warsaw Climate Talk because it’s not a country—though it’s probably bigger than some of those sinking nations (caused by sea level rise due to Climate Change) who were invited. But the United States (which sabotaged the Kyoto Protocol by not ratifying it) did get invited. Our goal at the talks will be (as usual) to kick the can down the road:
“Our task now is to fashion a new agreement that will be ambitious, effective and durable,” Todd Stern, the U.S. State Department’s special envoy for climate change, said in a speech in London last month. “(Washington Post)
While our leaders dillydally about bringing down atmospheric GHGs’s let’s be clear about some Climate Change assumptions: For one, the Fukushima nuclear disaster did not force Japan to increase its burning of fossil fuels. When you drive a nail into a board with a hammer, the nail is forced into the board. More likely, the political will failed keeping to their promise and using everything in their tool box--including energy efficiency, renewable, and energy conservation—would have made Japan’s leaders unpopular. No one seems to be questioning the Holy Premise that we, the developed nations, must all have energy and more of it—even if it means crashing the planet’s environment.
Also, there is a growing movement around the world to create a carbon tax, new generation nuclear power plants, and numerous geoengineering schemes. And while they all have their merits, they all assume that we must address Climate Change with as little inconvenience to the developed nations as possible. This trajectory, that includes many assumptions about what the public will tolerate and actually do, will only address a few of the myriad problems that come with Climate Change. Along with Climate Change comes economic justice, the loss of biodiversity, floods, incredible typhoons, and a whole lot of warming that’s already locked in because we keep letting the only platform for planetary agreement on Climate Change turn into excuses for not doing what we must.
Excuses are what you tell your teacher when the dog eats your homework.