Saturday, December 06, 2014

Rich countries try to sabotage climate talks--again

 

CCLimaCOP20SOne of my favorite hangouts during the COP20 Lima Climate Change Conference is tcktcktck’s page “Live: The UN climate talks in Lima”. It’s the next best thing to being there if you don’t have an official role, or you’re not part of a non-governmental organization (NGO) or a demonstration group. From Live, you can get continual updates of the COP20 in a variety of ways, including all forms of social media where you can join the innumerable discussions, from innumerable sources around the world. You get news and information and ‘stuff’ your mainstream media wouldn’t give you even if it was so inclined to attend one of the most historic meetings in human history.

First, tcktcktck, or “GCCA, the Global Call for Climate Action”,

“… represents an unprecedented network of more than 450 nonprofit organizations. Our shared goal is to harness the respective strengths of faith, development, science, environment, youth, labor, and other civil society organizations to achieve a world safe from runaway climate change. The GCCA works to connect and facilitate the efforts of organizations from across the globe; to communicate the urgency of climate change; and to mobilize the public in support of strong, equitable government action at the national and international levels. “About TCK

Second, if you haven’t already heard (and if you’re only listening to local Rochester NY media, your ignorance would be plausible), the COP20 is a critical pit stop along the continuum of climate talks to Paris 2015 (COP21) “to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world.”

The People’s Climate March in September started this latest climate action effort with massive demonstrations around the world, including many folks from your home town. Two days later, the UN Climate Summit in NYC changed the tone from business and governmental indifference to a euphoric inclination to make non-binding promises. In October, the Bonn Climate Change Conference tidied up some paper work for Lima. In November, China and the USA agreed make some non-binding promises about lowering GHGs, which made a lot of nations optimistic about Lima. Now, COP20 Lima. Then Paris. Paris 2015 is the Holy Grail: It will answer at least one profound question about humanity: Will the rich countries act on Climate Change to help the poor countries—and ultimately themselves?

Will the developed countries, who put most of the greenhouse gases that are warming up the planet and became rich by unfair, extreme fossil fuel extractions, help mitigate the effects of that and support undeveloped countries efforts to adapt? Note: It was unfair because the extraction of these fossil fuels that light up our world involved not only consuming our trees, drilling through our land and our waters, and mining our mines. It included ravishing the undeveloped countries’ trees, their oil and gas reserves, and their mines. We used up their share of the commons—their air and water—and now are thwarting their ability to develop without making Climate Change much, much worse.

Climate Change, manmade disruption of our worldwide climate due to the burning of fossil fuels, will ultimately affect everyone, even the rich, as this disaster is occurring on a planet with finite resources. The consequences of Climate Change will probably hit the poor first but not exclusively because weather extremes can be very disruptive to all infrastructures. If the rich counties do not come to the table at Lima with sufficient measures to mitigate and help developing nations adapt to Climate Change, the rich countries will be shooting themselves in the foot. We cannot insulate ourselves, our economy, our health, and our life support system from those of everyone else on the planet. Failure to think and act globally at Lima means disaster for everyone.

We are one-week into the COP20; how’s that going? There are demonstrations by NGO’s to get our leaders to focus on Climate Justice, which drives the rich nations crazy. Developing countries demand zero emissions and help with adapting. Political posturing (of course) made comical with Australia’s absurd position that coal is good. (“Coal is the moral choice.” Good grief.) And another extreme weather event is barreling down on the Philippines—just as it did last year and the year before that. But most significantly, even though the USA and China made some great promises to reduce GHGs (mitigation), injecting a lot of hope into the talks, the USA is holding that all agreements should be non-binding. Yet, without legally binding commitments to reduce emissions, actually addressing Climate Change is not going to happen. Sticking to the irrational stance that legally binding rules could ruin hopes for success is like saying no one will join your army if you make them ‘sign up’ and make a commitment. It’s saying that if you want a successful army, you have to make it so when things get tough the recruits can just leave—no questions asked. Moreover, a non-binding agreement at Paris 2015 is not better than nothing any more than half an airplane is a viable transportation option.

Giving Climate Pact Legal Teeth Could Make It Toothless As negotiators gather in Peru for a critical round of climate talks, U.S. delegates are straining to explain what they calla “counterintuitive” reality: For next year’s global climate agreement to be effective, commitments made under it must not be legally binding. Such an outcome would disappoint many, including the European Union’s negotiating team, which says it will be pushing for binding commitments during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change talks in Lima this week and next. America’s negotiators are pushing for voluntary commitments. The success of the next climate agreement, which is due to be finalized during talks in Paris one year from now, may hinge on American negotiators winning in this latest spat in a long-simmering quarrel with their European counterparts. (December 3, 2014) Climate Central

The USA is seeking this half-assed policy because our Congress is mostly likely going to squelch any binding agreement made in Lima (or any agreements on Climate Change for that matter), so this is the best we can do. So goes the present political zeitgeist. However, non-binding agreements, bottom up mitigation efforts from individuals, business and local governments, won’t work on a time and scale that will keep global temperature from soaring to 4C above preindustrial levels. A 4C world may be more than even the rich can handle. Not to mention, Climate Change, no matter how many times it is called a liberal hoax, is a physical process that does not give a tinker’s damn about our political world.

This is an alleged political reality: “There is no chance, there is zero possibility that the U.S. congress will ratify a binding commitment,” Yale University professor Daniel Esty, who has appointments in the university’s environment and law schools, said.”(ibid) This, however, is an actual fact: When you trap the sun’s energy with greenhouse gases, your planet’s atmosphere warms up. There’s a difference.

President Obama and the American public need to stand up to Congress; not while away their time trying to get around this dysfunctional institution. Unlike slavery, we do not have one-and-a-half centuries to address this issue. We must demand a binding treaty at Paris 2015. Let Congress say “No!” to Climate Change, adaptation and mitigation, and Climate Justice. If they say “No!”, then we’ll shame them and keep saying “Yes!”

83% of US citizens have accepted Climate Change into their brains, but only 60% think it’s due to manmade causes. If we want our government to act responsibly at Lima, we need to make some serious dot connections. When you remove the ‘manmade’ part of Climate Change, you remove not only the unsavory guilt that you may be responsible for the planet’s atmosphere warming up, you also make it impossible to address the cause of this crisis.

The road to getting the world to understand and act on Climate Change has been a long journey, fraught with pitfalls along the way. One of those pitfalls, one of the quagmires, is that the public will start to understand the overwhelming evidence of Climate Change but get stuck on doing nothing because it is to them just a phenomenon that happens. Humanity, mostly those in the rich countries, has caused Climate Change: “There is simply no other mechanism that can explain the significantly altered climate path and the changes in the radiative forcing other than human causes.” (From Open Source Systems, Science, Solutions.)

We, who have reaped the bounties of a fossil-fuel-driven world, must support those who are suffering our injustices and stop playing dumb on this worldwide crisis. It’s in our best interest to act properly. Another week of COP20 to go. Will we do our part, or drag our feet again?

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