Climate Change: Standing Athwart History
Climate Change: Standing Athwart History
As the threat of global climate crisis grows, the global mechanisms for averting disaster are being gutted.
|MAY 29, 2007||by Faiz Shakir, Nico Pitney, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, and Matt Corley
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| CLIMATE CHANGE
Standing Athwart History
As the threat of global climate crisis grows, the global mechanisms for averting disaster are being gutted. A new report published by the National Academy of Sciences found that from 2000 to 2004, global industry emitted roughly 7.9 billion tons of carbon dioxide, millions more than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had projected “under its most extreme scenario.” Meanwhile, the world’s only international pact mandating cuts in carbon emissions, the Kyoto Protocol, is set to expire in 2012. With this backdrop, Bush administration negotiators met this week in Germany in advance of next month’s G8 summit of the world’s richest nations. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has “been pushing hard to get the Group of 8 to take significant action on climate change,” setting bold new standards to take the place of Kyoto. Virtually alone in resisting her is President Bush. “In unusually harsh language,” Bush administration negotiators rejected Germany’s proposal, complaining that it “crosses multiple red lines in terms of what we simply cannot agree to.” (For more, read the Center for American Progress Action Fund’s global warming blog, Climate Progress.)
BUSH BLOCKING PROGRESS ON EVERY FRONT: Bush’s drive to hobble the G8 climate change declaration was first uncovered two weeks ago, when reports showed that the United States was seeking to eliminate a section in the G8 draft that included “a pledge to limit the global temperature rise this century to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, as well as an agreement to reduce worldwide greenhouse gas emissions to 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.” (Scientists warn that an increase of more than 3.6 degrees this century “could trigger disastrous consequences such as mass extinction of species and accelerated melting of polar ice sheets, which would raise sea levels.”) Bush administration officials also tried to eliminate draft language that said, “We acknowledge that the U.N. climate process is the appropriate forum for negotiating future global action on climate change.” In response, 15 House committee chairmen wrote Bush urging him not to gut the G8 declaration: “The G8 Summit should be an opportunity to galvanize international support for addressing this looming threat, not an opportunity to prevent and undermine international action.” Bush ignored their message. Likewise, the Bush administration is blocking local progress on climate change, refusing to approve efforts by 12 states “to institute tougher standards for tailpipe emissions than US regulations require.” In an op-ed last week, Govs. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) and Jodi Rell (R-CT) charged that Bush’s resistance â€œborders on malfeasance.“
CLIMATE CHANGE EXASPERATING POVERTY CHALLENGE: Noting the focus on anti-poverty measures at recent G8 summits, the international development group Oxfam has issued a new report highlighting the “deep injustice in the impacts of climate change“: the poor nations least responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing global warming will bear the brunt of its devastating impacts. For Africa that means dramatic reductions in agricultural productivity, hundreds of millions newly exposed to water shortages, 5-10 percent loss in GDP in coastal countries, and an expanded range of malaria to exhaust already the deficient heath services. Global warming is already exacerbating poverty, yet methods and levels of development assistance around the world and in the United States have yet to take global warming into account. The World Bank estimates that 40 percent — approximately $40 billion annually — of development assistance and concessional financing is directed at activities that will be affected by climate change. Oxfam estimates that it will cost developing countries $50 billion a year to adapt to climate change.
A SYMBOL OF THE CLIMATE CRISIS: This weekend, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) led a bipartisan delegation to Greenland, where lawmakers saw “firsthand evidence that climate change is a reality.” (See photos from the trip.) Greenland is losing ice at an alarming rate of 100 billion tons ever year, twice as fast as it was five years ago. The melting is fundamentally altering the salinity of the world’s oceans (“What happens when a saltwater environment becomes more fresh lake?“), and fueling a potentially catastrophic rise in sea levels. Should all of Greenland’s ice sheet thaw, sea levels could rise by 21 feet and swamp the world’s coastal cities. (CNN’s Anderson Cooper reported live from Greenland last week; watch the video of his excellent report.) Pelosi then traveled to meet European leaders for climate talks, praising Germany for “its leadership on the issue” and saying “she hoped the Bush administration would consider a new path.”
NO SOLUTION IN COAL: Meanwhile, even as congressional leaders draft legislation to reduce greenhouse gases, “a powerful roster of Democrats and Republicans is pushing to subsidize coal as the king of alternative fuels.” Prodded by “intense lobbying from the coal industry,” lawmakers from coal states are proposing that taxpayers spend billions of dollars to subsidize the coal industry’s production of liquid diesel fuel. This is a dangerously backwards idea. Coal-to-liquid fuels “produce almost twice the volume of greenhouse gases as ordinary diesel,” and the production process of such fuels “creates almost a ton of carbon dioxide for every barrel of liquid fuel.” Congressional supporters of coal-to-liquids argue that “coal-based fuels are more American than gasoline.” But the only responsible way to achieve American energy independence is to create policies that also reduce global warming. That can be done with low-carbon, alternative transportation fuels, including American-grown biofuels.
The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York City is honoring the designs of inventors who are dedicated to developing inventions for “the billions of people living on less than $2 a day.”
CALIFORNIA: Almost 90 percent of parents statewide support comprehensive sexual education for their children.
ILLINOIS: “Low-income Chicago neighborhoods are showing a seven-fold increase in staph infections that occasionally turn deadly.”
ENVIRONMENT: School districts across the country are joining the “green school” movement.
THINK PROGRESS: Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol: President Bush “was furious” over the New York Times’s report of a 2008 withdrawal from Iraq.
DAILY DISH: Vice President Cheney attacked both the Geneva Conventions and the Constitution in his West Point commencement speech.
WASHINGTON NOTE: Iraq War architect Doug Feith rejected a Pentagon job applicant because the applicant spoke Arabic well.
RAW STORY: On Memorial Day, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace underestimated the number of U.S. soldiers who have died in Iraq.
“I’m pleased that finally the board did accept that I acted in good faith and acted ethically.”
“World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz broke bank rules in arranging a hefty compensation package for his girlfriend, a situation that has caused a ‘crisis in the leadership’ at the institution, according to a report released…by a special bank panel.”
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