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March 17, 2007

Addressing The Climate Crisis: US Not Leading Or Even Following

[litbrit worries]

The richest and most developed nations in the world are forging ahead with plans to cut carbon emissions significantly by the year 2020.  But the United States--arguably the richest and most developed of all, and inarguably the world's largest per-capita consumer of natural resources and contributor to carbon emissions--is still not on board.  Worse, developing nations are citing America's poor example of stubborn isolationism as the reason for their own hesitation or outright refusal to participate and enact proactive climate-protection policies (bolds mine):

Environment ministers of the Group of Eight leading  industrialized nations, and officials from leading developing  countries, were meeting to prepare for a June G8 summit at  which climate change will be a major topic.

"On two issues, the United States were the only ones who  spoke against consensus,'' German Environment Minister Sigmar  Gabriel told reporters at the end of the two-day meeting, which  he chaired on behalf of Germany's G8 presidency.

Gabriel said the U.S. remained opposed to a global carbon  emissions trading scheme like the one used in the European  Union and rejected the idea that industrialized nations should  help achieve a "balance of interests'' between developing  countries' need for economic growth and environmental  protection.


The Bush administration, which for years questioned the  reliability of scientific findings showing man-made pollution  was responsible for the planet's warming, has shifted its  stance.

Washington now backs the conclusions in a U.N. report last  month which said mankind was to blame for global warming and  predicted an increase in droughts and heatwaves and a slow rise  in sea levels.

"There is a strong consensus on the science,'' de Boer said.  ''We can now put behind us the period when science was called  into question.''

Several environmental groups criticized the United States,  which in 2001 pulled out of the U.N. Kyoto Protocol on reducing  greenhouse gases, for refusing to support carbon dioxideemissions reduction targets at the Potsdam meeting.

Developing countries cite the U.S. position as a reason for  their refusal to commit to reduction targets.

I realize that different cultures--indeed, different individuals within each culture--are going to have widely divergent ideas about how much change is realistic or even tolerable when the benefits of living green and adopting carbon-neutral lifestyles are, in many respects, not immediate, visible, and tangible.  And Big Business in all its incarnations has done a bang-up job of scaring everyone into believing that reducing America's carbon footprint will lead to all manner of economic woes, not to mention intrusions on one's very freedoms, like the right to drive a massive, gas-guzzling SUV to, say, a football stadium, the building of which required the clearcutting and dredging-and-filling of once-sensitive land.  Or the right to eat beef and pork for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day.  Or the right to consume our way through time and space, demonstrating to the world once and for all that he who dies with the most toys wins.

But when all is said and done, I have to hope that even the stubbornest among us would want his children to enjoy a habitable world, as opposed to one in which draconian emergency restrictions had to be enacted and enforced lest everyone starve when arable, above-water land was in critically short supply and drowning in a hurricane-caused flood was a very real threat.  Or, equally disturbing, a world in which ecosystems are so violently and precipitously thrown off-balance, deadly viruses that were once contained deep within rainforests emerge and begin to sicken the planet's already-stressed animals, including humans.

It should also be noted that some of us have already begun to view the climate challenge as an enormous economic opportunity.

Beyond the strawman arguments posited in such irresponsible statements as "Scientists disagree about how bad things will get and when we'll really notice any ill effect" or "Last year's hurricane season was tame, so I'm not buying this whole global warming thing", there really is nothing to debate at this point.  We must take action, we must commit to a solid and comprehensive plan to reduce greenhouse gases, and we must do it now.

It's time to put our pride in our collective pocket and take our place at the table alongside Europe's leaders.  They know we're well-armed--aren't we always?--but this time, at this international sit-down,  the weapons will be American ingenuity and innovativeness, two resources we actually do have in limitless supply.

March 17, 2007 in Europe, Foreign Policy, International, Science | Permalink


it seems so incongruous. yesterday, i saw beautiful flyby photographs of martian icecaps and craters...
photographs we only could have imagined years ago...
...if we were a great society once again, with our priorities being in education, open science, diplomacy and concern for global issues and humanitarian efforts, instead of hedge funds, lobbyists, corporations and special interests creating our agenda..we could be working with cooperative spirit toward peace and global cooperation, instead of now defining the war on terror, as the new intergenerational struggle that our children's children will inherit from us, against a backdrop of other serious depletions.
....what we dream for ourselves is what we will create for perpetuity.

Posted by: jacqueline | Mar 17, 2007 2:23:02 PM

leapin' leprechauns!
an excellent post for saint patrick's day....
a time to think green.
honor the forest spirits with conservation.
wishing everyone who reads this
a shower o' lucky shamrocks today!

Posted by: jacqueline | Mar 17, 2007 2:40:27 PM

a time to think green.
honor the forest spirits with conservation.

Beautifully said, jacqueline! I keep hoping and hoping, writing and writing. Eventually, people will come around, I believe. Just as there are no atheists in foxholes (they say), there will be no global-warming deniers in canoes.

Posted by: litbrit | Mar 17, 2007 2:46:13 PM

I think there is a growing part of the Democratic base for whom this will be the #1 issue. Taking a really brave stand on this could do wonders for someone who was trying to run a progressive campaign but having trouble getting media attention and breaking into top contender status. Hm...

Posted by: Sam L. | Mar 17, 2007 3:27:36 PM

Developing nations cite the US's refusal to commit to reduction targets as their excuse for not doing so. If the US made such a commitment all that would happen is the excuse would change. It's unlikely that many, if any, of the developing nations will ever sign on to such targets and less likely still that they would do so with any sincere intention of keeping to them.

Posted by: the invisible pimp hand | Mar 17, 2007 4:36:14 PM

So, Mr. Hand, what you're saying is that since you are convinced all developing nations would come up with some excuse to weasel out of any commitment to carbon reduction targets, we should just say f*ck it and continue on our merry way, using the lion's share of the world's resources and contributing the lion's share of carbon to its atmosphere?

Developing nations are not the biggest culprits here, not by a long shot. The US, however, most certainly is.

(I also am of the mind that a sea-change in American environmental policy coupled with trade and aid incentives for developing nations would go a long way toward pan-global compliance.)

Posted by: litbrit | Mar 17, 2007 4:53:34 PM

Those new energy technologies are gonna be the source of tomorrow's jobs. It'd be kinda cool if Americans could cut in on some of that action, instead of leaving it all for the Dutch and the Japanese. Isn't possible Dems could win part of the Perotist nativist bloc with this kind of argument?

Posted by: sglover | Mar 17, 2007 8:25:59 PM

sglover, I believe so.

It's possible that a whole wall of blocs could be so moved.

People will view it--the coming climate crisis--however they wish--through clear eyes or rose-colored denialvision. I like to think that a rational, fact-based acceptance of the inevitable can provide impetus not only for survival, but growth and profit.

Hasn't it always been that way?

Posted by: litbrit | Mar 17, 2007 9:45:24 PM

In the laste nineteenth century the British had developed something no one else had, an artificial dye. However, due to a number of things, mostly relating to the British culture at the time, the Brits did nothing with it and very shortly thereafter, the Germans took the technology and made bank with it. In a very real sense, this was as large a contributor for the first world war as anything else.

Of course, all that's a gross simplification but it's absolutely true. With that said, one of the biggest problem with how we, as Americans, face issues like energy demonstrate our weakness. We're more than happy to continue down a finite road that only becomes more dangerous and expensive rather than do everything we can to change paths. Why? Who the fuck knows. Because a large group of people in this country don't believe in finite resources and don't mind blowing money (especially as long as they get a cut of it). Why rock the boat?

Posted by: ice weasel | Mar 17, 2007 10:46:05 PM

...there will be no global-warming deniers in canoes.

I have never denied the possibility of global warming. What is not considered is that these natural cycles have been coming and going for thousands of years.

There is not one shred of tangible proof, not one shred, nada, that man is the major cause of any perceived global warming.

If the earth is, indeed, warming, we should be figuring out how to compensate for it instead of wasting energy on something as stupid and useless as Kyoto.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Mar 17, 2007 10:59:20 PM

Fred, you really aren't big on science, are you. Noticed a similar attitude in regard to the "harms" of homosexuality.

While I think there's little reason to doubt the causes of global warming, I do still wonder what we should do about it. It has recently been said by a supporter of Kyoto that 30 Kyotos are needed to solve the problem. That's pretty much impossible with current technology, and it suggests the rather small amount that Kyoto could accomplish. Given the considerable expense involved in meeting the Kyoto targets by current means, it seems a little foolish to be investing so much in current technology, to meet the current targets, rather than focusing on finding better technology to fight it more effectively. Fight pollution that's bad for health now, because that's killing people now, and that will have some marginal effect on greenhouse gasses too. And invest in finding better ways to stop global warming before sinking too much in the very expensive means we have presently to fight what isn't yet killing people in anything like the same numbers as other problems.

That, at least, is a line of thought now being put forward by some conservatives that makes sense to me. Maybe someone here can show how it's wrong.

Posted by: Sanpete | Mar 17, 2007 11:20:25 PM

There is not one shred of tangible proof, not one shred, nada, that man is the major cause of any perceived global warming.

Fred Jones or the IPCC? Fred Jones or the IPCC?


Posted by: Phoenician in a time of Romans | Mar 18, 2007 3:40:23 AM

...it is widely acknoledged that the Kyoto Protocol would make little difference to the carbon concentrations in the atmosphere. Climate chage Policy - Oxford Press http://fds.oup.com/www.oup.co.uk/pdf/catalogues/econ06/eee.pdf (page two on the left hand side.)
"Kyoto And A Carbon Tax Will Make No Noticable Difference In CO2 Levels"
Even if man-made global warming is happening, the IPCC climate models predict that adherence Kyoto will not make a noticeable difference

Say it ain't so. Tell me they're all wrong....and why.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Mar 18, 2007 8:25:19 AM

And perhaps Phoenician in the time of morons would like to offer up some of that proof about how man's activites are the major source of any perceived global warming.....maybe not.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Mar 18, 2007 8:27:26 AM

Fred, I am going to print this for the benefit of other readers, because you've clearly made up your mind (or whatever it is that resides between your ears) that Bush et. al. can do no wrong, that humans don't cause an increase in greenhouse gases like CO2, that the sky is green and the sea is red, and so on.

In 2002--that's five years ago--the Unites States own EPA presented a report to Bush:

In a 268-page report submitted to the United Nations, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) endorsed what many scientists have long argued - that human activities such as oil refining, power generation and car emissions are significant causes of global warming.

The White House had previously said there was not enough scientific evidence to blame industrial emissions for global warming.

The submission of the EPA report came on the same day that all 15 European Union nations ratified the Kyoto pact.

"Greenhouse gases are accumulating in the Earth's atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing global mean surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise," the report concluded.

I can provide dozens and dozens of articles to refute any of your claims to the contrary, but that would be pointless. There are plenty of wingnuts out there who still cling to the idea that America has the right to usurp the majority of the world's resources and contribute the majority of the pollution and CO2 to its atmosphere, environment be damned. And they've all got blogs and newsletters etc. on which they spew endlessly, ever more convinced that they are right. It's an incestuous, not-so-little cheering squad. So what? They're still wrong. Not because I say so or because Al Gore says so, but because the bloody science says so.

Posted by: litbrit | Mar 18, 2007 10:50:58 AM

The reality-denial of the Right on the issues of global warming and Iraq (the so-called democracy with the anti-occupation media voices closed down by US military censorship) requires that a public interested in long term survival must continue to curb their power. I suppose the same people who claim that a 20% increase in atmospheric CO2 in the last hundred years isn't man-made or is insignificant compared to natural cycles won't try to convince us that eating 20% more calories a day won't make us gain weight.
Of course the earth has been warmer because of natural reasons several times in the past. The point is that the atmospheric scientists not retained by oil and coal companies have found evidence for people exacerbating the warming.
I suspect the Rightist denial is motivated not by a reaction against 'scientism' since they love science as long as it tells them what they want to hear, but as a unacknowledged defense of the oil economy as a source of international power.
When the climate has returned to a state favoring reptiles and insects instead of mammals all that power will taste like dust.

Posted by: James Pratt | Mar 18, 2007 11:38:42 AM

We must take action, we must commit to a solid and comprehensive plan to reduce greenhouse gases, and we must do it now.

But what plan? Is the plan the Europeans are pushing for really a good one?

Posted by: Sanpete | Mar 18, 2007 11:58:24 AM


LitBrit: In 2002--that's five years ago--the Unites States own EPA presented a report to Bush:

Gee, Fred, guess that makes you the moron, don't it?

Posted by: Phoenician in a time of Romans | Mar 18, 2007 2:00:01 PM

Fred: And perhaps Phoenician in the time of morons would like to offer up some of that proof about how man's activites are the major source of any perceived global warming.....maybe not.

LitBrit: In 2002--that's five years ago--the Unites States own EPA presented a report to Bush:

Gee, Fred, guess that makes you the moron, don't it?

Posted by: Phoenician in a time of Romans | Mar 18, 2007 2:00:42 PM


I'm looking for real studes that come up with real evidence, not a poll of scientists. Below is what a poll of scientists endorsed in the last century and why I reserve judgement for evidence and not hysteria:

Imagine that there is a new scientific theory that warns of an impending crisis, and points to a way out.

This theory quickly draws support from leading scientists, politicians and celebrities around the world. Research is funded by distinguished philanthropies, and carried out at prestigious universities. The crisis is reported frequently in the media. The science is taught in college and high school classrooms.

I don't mean global warming. I'm talking about another theory, which rose to prominence a century ago.

Its supporters included Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Winston Churchill. It was approved by Supreme Court justices Oliver Wendell Holmes and Louis Brandeis, who ruled in its favor. The famous names who supported it included Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone; activist Margaret Sanger; botanist Luther Burbank; Leland Stanford, founder of Stanford University; the novelist H. G. Wells; the playwright George Bernard Shaw; and hundreds of others. Nobel Prize winners gave support. Research was backed by the Carnegie and Rockefeller Foundations. The Cold Springs Harbor Institute was built to carry out this research, but important work was also done at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford and Johns Hopkins. Legislation to address the crisis was passed in states from New York to California.

These efforts had the support of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Medical Association, and the National Research Council. It was said that if Jesus were alive, he would have supported this effort.

All in all, the research, legislation and molding of public opinion surrounding the theory went on for almost half a century. Those who opposed the theory were shouted down and called reactionary, blind to reality, or just plain ignorant. But in hindsight, what is surprising is that so few people objected.

So, I wish to see something concrete. That's all I ask. It's what reasonable people ask for.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Mar 18, 2007 7:05:04 PM

Oh, and you never addresse the polite question posed to you earlier:

Are you working toward US citizenship? How much time do you estimate before you are a citizen?

Posted by: Fred Jones | Mar 18, 2007 7:06:18 PM

Fred, I don't suppose it occurred to you that science has advanced a bit in the last 100 years. That isn't to say the scientists couldn't be wrong. They could be, and so could the doctor who treats your illnesses. I assume you still trust your doctor more than Rush Limbaugh to treat you, though. Why is that?

Litbrit already answered your question. You just weren't paying attention.

Posted by: Sanpete | Mar 18, 2007 9:59:21 PM

No, litbrit sluffed off the question with an attempt at humor essentially saying that she was a legal resident.

litbrit has not indicated anywhere if she is moving toward citizenship or not...and *that* was the question. You just weren't paying attention.

She is a foreiger that is living in the US. It's a fair question that she is either embarrassed about or simply cannot answer.

When will she become a citizen?

Posted by: Fred Jones | Mar 19, 2007 9:15:03 AM

"Fight pollution that's bad for health now, because that's killing people now, and that will have some marginal effect on greenhouse gasses too."

Er... what pollution is that? SO2/Acid Rain? That reduces warming (reflects sun light before it enters the atmosphere). Ozone depletion? Doesn't that reduce warming too? (ozone is a greenhouse gas, right?).

Posted by: RW | Mar 19, 2007 10:47:41 AM

Fred, I am neither embarrassed (about what?!) nor unable to answer you. That I chose not to answer you should tell you something, though.

In a comment section herein, a few months back, I made clear my plans and hopes, and you took it upon yourself to spout off about how happy you were that I couldn't (yet) vote. Clearly you've forgotten about that. I haven't.

As for your "polite" tone, well that was certainly on display recently when you not only demanded repeatedly to know my INS status (which, for anyone who cares, is permanent legal resident at the moment), but went on to berate another commenter, calling him a "faggot" repeatedly and invoking violent language involving guns.

You clearly need help. In that you are a fellow human being, it is my profound hope that you can get it soon.

Posted by: litbrit | Mar 19, 2007 11:31:42 AM

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