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Democracy Now Interviews Naomi Klein Re: EPA’s (Obama’s) Power Plan CO2 Emissions Regulations

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Democracy Now:

As scientists warn 2015 is on pace to become the Earth’s hottest year on record, President Obama has unveiled his long-awaited plan to slash carbon emissions from U.S. power plants. Under new Environmental Protection Agency regulations, U.S. power plants will be required to cut emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. In addition, new power plants will be required to be far cleaner, which could effectively prevent any new coal plants from opening. But does the plan go far enough? We speak to Naomi Klein, author of the best-selling book, “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate,” which is out in paperback today.

TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: As scientists warn 2015 is on pace to become the Earth’s hottest year on record, President Obama has unveiled his long-awaited plan to slash carbon emissions from U.S. power plants. During a speech at the White House, Obama said no challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than a changing climate.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Climate change is no longer just about the future that we’re predicting for our children or our grandchildren; it’s about the reality that we’re living with every day, right now. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. While we can’t say any single weather event is entirely caused by climate change, we’ve seen stronger storms, deeper droughts, longer wildfire seasons. Charleston and Miami now flood at high tide. Shrinking ice caps forced National Geographic to make the biggest change in its atlas since the Soviet Union broke apart. Over the past three decades, nationwide asthma rates have more than doubled, and climate change puts those Americans at greater risk of landing in the hospital. As one of America’s governors has said, we’re the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it. And that’s why I committed the United States to leading the world on this challenge, because I believe there is such a thing as being too late.

AMY GOODMAN: Under new Environmental Protection Agency regulations, U.S. power plants will be required to cut emissions by 32 percent from the 2005 levels by 2030. In addition, new power plants will be required to be far cleaner, which could effectively prevent any new coal plants from opening. President Obama defended the regulations, which are expected to be challenged in court.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Right now our power plants are the source of about a third of America’s carbon pollution. That’s more pollution than our cars, our airplanes and our homes generate combined. That pollution contributes to climate change, which degrades the air our kids breathe. But there have never been federal limits on the amount of carbon that power plants can dump into the air. Think about that. We limit the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury and sulfur and arsenic in our air or our water, and we’re better off for it. But existing power plants can still dump unlimited amounts of harmful carbon pollution into the air. For the sake of our kids and the health and safety of all Americans, that has to change. For the sake of the planet, that has to change.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: As President Obama spoke, the impacts of extreme weather could be seen across the globe. In California, more than 9,000 firefighters are battling more than 21 active wildfires. In Japan, temperatures topped 95 degrees on Monday for a record fourth day in a row. Heat records are also being broken across the Middle East. In one Iranian city, the heat index reached 164 degrees last week. Temperatures have been regularly topping 120 degrees in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities.

Meanwhile, a group of scientists, including former NASA scientist James Hansen, have warned that sea levels could rise as much as 10 feet before the end of the century unless greenhouse gas emissions are drastically reduced. The rise would make cities such as London, New York and Shanghai uninhabitable.

AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about climate change and President Obama’s plan to cut emissions, we’re joined by Naomi Klein, author of the best-selling book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, which is out in paperback today. She recently spoke at a Vatican climate change summit organized by Pope Francis. Naomi Klein joins us from Washington, D.C.

Naomi, welcome. Your assessment first of President Obama’s plan that he unveiled yesterday at the White House?

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, good morning, Amy. It’s great to be with you, and Nermeen.

So I think that what we’re seeing from Obama is a really good example of what a climate leader sounds like. You know, everything he’s saying is absolutely true about the level of threat, about the fact that this is not a threat for future generations, it is a threat unfolding right now around the world, including in the United States. It’s a threat that is about people’s daily health, with asthma levels, and also about the safety of entire cities, huge coastal cities. So he’s doing a very good job of showing us what a climate leader sounds like. But I’m afraid we’ve got a long way to go before we see what a climate leader acts like, because there is a huge gap between what Obama is saying about this threat, about it being the greatest threat of our time, and indeed this being our last window in which we can take action to prevent truly catastrophic climate change, but the measures that have been unveiled are simply inadequate.

I mean, if we look at what kind of emission reductions this is going to deliver, we’re—you know, when you talk about emission reductions, we don’t look at just one sector, just at electricity generation; you have to look at the economy as a whole. And what climate scientists are telling us is that relatively wealthy countries, like the United States, if we are going to stay within our carbon budget and give ourselves a chance of keeping warming below two degrees Celsius, which is already very dangerous but is what the United States negotiated, under Obama—when they went to Copenhagen in 2009, they agreed to keep temperatures below two degrees warming, and, in fact, we’re still on track for more like four degrees warming—if we were to stay below two degrees, we would need to be cutting emissions by around 8 to 10 percent a year. Those are numbers from the Tyndall Centre on Climate Research in Manchester. And this plan would lower emissions in the United States by around 6 percent overall—I’m not just talking about the power sector, but overall emissions by 6 percent by 2030. So compare what we should be doing—8 to 10 percent a year—with 6 percent by 2030. That’s the carbon gap, and it’s huge.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And so, Naomi Klein, in your view, why did President Obama choose to focus so much on the power sector and not on other equally important sectors?

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, look, it is an incredibly important sector, as he says. It’s just that we have to do it all. And I think that this should be seen as a victory for the grassroots social movements that have been fighting dirty coal plants in their backyards, and the clean coal—the campaign that the Sierra Club has led over years now to shut down hundreds of coal plants. So this should be claimed, I think, as a grassroots victory. This phase of the plan is better than the last draft, in some ways, in that it’s less of a gift to the natural gas sector and has more supports for renewables. It also has more supports for low-income communities for energy efficiency. It’s inadequate, but it’s still better than the last draft. There are parts of the plan that are worse than the last draft, because of pressure from industry and from states that are very reliant on coal.

But that’s at—you know, the problem is not that this plan itself is bad. If this was announced in Obama’s first year in office, I would be the first to celebrate this and say, “OK, great. So now let’s bring on a carbon tax. Let’s prevent leasing of new oil and gas and coal on public lands. You know, let’s do the rest of the package. Let’s have huge investments in public transit, and we’ll really be on our way.” But at the end of his two terms in office, or coming near the end, you know, frankly, this does not buy a climate legacy. It’s not enough, because it isn’t in line with science, and it also isn’t in line with technology. I mean, the team at Stanford University under Mark Jacobson is telling us that we could get to 100 percent renewables, powering our entire economy with renewables, in two decades. So, if the scientists are telling us we need to do it, and the engineers are telling us we can do it, then all that’s missing are the politicians willing to introduce the bold policies that will make it happen. And that’s what we’re missing still.

AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein, during his speech Monday, President Obama also talked about his visit to the Arctic at the end of the month.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I’ll also be the first American president to visit the Alaskan Arctic, where our fellow Americans have already seen their communities devastated by melting ice and rising oceans, the impact on marine life. We’re going to talk about what the world needs to do together to prevent the worst impacts of climate change before it’s too late.
AMY GOODMAN: So that’s President Obama. Can you talk about what’s happening in the Arctic and the activism that’s going on, from Portland, Oregon, to Seattle, Washington, to prevent what President Obama has allowed—drilling in the Arctic?

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, it’s extraordinary, actually, that he would be announcing this now, because what the world needs to do to save the Arctic, for starters, is to declare a moratorium on Arctic drilling. And the U.S. could be leading that effort, bringing together all Arctic nations to agree that this is untouchable, this is a no-go zone. And because that leadership is not there, and because indeed Obama has—is opening up the Arctic to drilling for the first time—we know that Shell has drilling rigs there right now, that they began the very preliminary stages of drilling on Thursday—and because his administration has failed to provide leadership on such a basic issue, I mean, Amy, it is the definition of insanity, it would seem to me, to be drilling in the Arctic for oil that is only available because Arctic ice is melting and it’s now passable and ships are able to go there and do this.

The CEO of Shell, a few days ago, talked about how they are expecting to find oil underneath that melting ice that is an even bigger deposit than there is off the Gulf of Mexico. He described it as a huge play, but more significantly, he described it as a long-term play. It’s unfortunate that the oil and gas industry describes all of this, you know, in the language of games, because obviously it’s not a game, but they call it a play. And he says that they don’t expect this to be in production until 2030. I mean, that is really striking, because by 2030 we should be really winding down our reliance on existing oil and gas infrastructure, not ramping up and opening up whole new fossil fuel frontiers.

And so this is what I mean about how Obama does not deserve to be called a climate leader simply because he has introduced what is a pretty good plan for cutting emissions from coal-fired power plants. I’m not saying that’s not important. It’s a step in the right direction. But simultaneously, he’s taking some significant steps in the wrong direction with Arctic drilling, with—you know, he’s overseen an explosion of fracking for gas. He’s still waffling on the Keystone XL pipeline. You know, he’s opened up new offshore oil and gas leases. So, you know, when you take one step in the right direction and five steps in the wrong direction, you’re going in the wrong direction. You’re not going in the right direction. And we have to be honest about this, despite the fact that he’s under huge fire from the coal lobby right now.

AMY GOODMAN: This issue of the activists who have been trying to stop the drilling—

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —that the Obama administration has provided license for—I mean, what was it? Forty people—

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah, in Portland.

AMY GOODMAN: Forty people were—40 people were hanging from the bridge. You had all these kayaktivists outside. Can you talk about how it is he can announce—as they are all being taken away, as activists are charged for doing the activism they do, he’s announcing he’s going to the Arctic.

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, you know, frankly, if we want to look for climate leaders, climate leaders are the people who rappelled down from that bridge in Portland. Climate leaders are the people who have been taking to their kayaks in Portland, in Seattle, you know, 21-year-olds who have been trying to stop Arctic drilling with their bodies, they feel so passionately about this. People stayed on that bridge, hanging from that bridge, in order to block Shell’s icebreaker, for 40 hours, and they did so despite the fact that Shell had gone to the courts and got an injunction and they were being threatened with huge fines. That is real leadership. That is real, moral action, standing up in the face of huge amounts of money and power and might-makes-right logic.

And we’ve seen this all over the Pacific Northwest. It’s one of the ironies of the extreme energy era that we’ve been living in this past decade or so, where North America has been in the midst of this extreme energy frenzy, with fracking, mountaintop removal and tar sands oil. In order to get this stuff out, it’s required that the oil and gas and coal companies build all kinds of new infrastructure in the Pacific Northwest, which is the part of the United States that is probably most environmentally aware, even militant. It’s where a lot of the tree sits began. You know, you think about Portland and the history of anti-logging activism, tree sits. In that part of the world, there are a lot of people with deep history in this kind of activism. And Shell, I think, you know, just in order—just logistically, in order to get to the Arctic, they needed to use various ports in the Pacific Northwest as a parking lot for their machinery and also to get repairs done. And, you know, the Pacific Northwest has given them a very, very, very hostile welcome and made it clear that they don’t want to be a gateway to this, frankly, suicidal action of drilling in the Arctic.

AMY GOODMAN: Just to be clear, to clarify this point, explaining what the activists were doing, the Greenpeace activists spending 40 hours suspending from a bridge in order to block the icebreaking ship commissioned by Shell from leaving for the Arctic, hundreds of activists gathering on the bridge in kayaks in efforts to stop Shell’s plans to drill in the remote Chukchi Sea. They did temporarily stop the ship—

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —but then, ultimately, the ship made its way and is now making its way to the Arctic.

NAOMI KLEIN: They stopped the ship for 40 hours. And, you know, I think sometimes this can be seen as a sort of a stunt or a token action, but it really isn’t. You know, I was speaking with Annie Leonard, the executive director of Greenpeace, yesterday, and the really significant part of this is that there is a very small window when it is possible to do this drilling for Shell, because the period where the Arctic is sufficiently ice-free is just a few months. They have until late September to do this. So every day that they’re delayed is one less day when they’re able to look for this deposit that they claim is going to be a game-changing play. So this is more than token activism. Anything that slows them down is really significant. And these really are heroes.

AMY GOODMAN: And Hillary Clinton and President Obama’s position on Keystone XL?

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, Hillary, first of all, she was asked about drilling in the Arctic, and she said she was skeptical of it, which some people claimed as, you know, it was Hillary coming out against Arctic drilling. I think it’s Hillary understanding that this is a very unpopular position. But just saying that you’re skeptical or have doubts, which is another phrase she used, is not anything that she can be held accountable to. That’s language that is slippery enough to get a glacier through, Amy. It’s not a straight-up “no.” She’s also refused to comment, as you mentioned, on the Keystone XL pipeline.

And let me say, you know, Hillary Clinton’s plan, green energy plan, that she unveiled a few days ago—we’re going to get more details soon—is surprisingly bold. There’s parts of this that the plan really gets right, in terms of the speed with which she’s promising to roll out renewable energy. She’s getting the yes part of this equation pretty close to right, in the sense that we need supports for renewable energy. But it’s not enough, because if you look at a country like Germany, they have introduced a bold plan to support renewable energy, and in fact Germany now has what Hillary Clinton is promising she would do in the U.S., which is it has 30 percent of its electricity coming from renewables, but Germany’s emissions are not going down fast enough, and in some years they’ve even gone up. And that’s because in Germany that yes to renewable energy hasn’t been accompanied by a no to fossil fuels. They’ve allowed a continued mining at very high rates of dirty coal, of lignite coal, the dirtiest coal on the market, and they just export it, if they don’t have a market for it in the U.S.

And, you know, this is the problem with Hillary. She is willing to say yes to green technology, green jobs, but she is showing no signs of being willing to say no to the oil and gas lobby, which we know is funding her campaign significantly. So, as secretary of state, we know that there was quite a revolving door between the oil and gas lobby and her people at State and on her previous campaign staff. And I think there’s real reason for concern about whether or not she would be willing to stand up to the oil and gas lobby on Keystone, on Arctic drilling, on any of these other issues.

Democracy Now

Why Have Our Commercial and Public Media (TV, Radio, Newspapers, Magazines, Online Sources) and Officials in Federal and State Government in the United States Not Sounded the ALARM Yet on Continued Global Warming and Climate Change?

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Gorby
The following is a summary of a 2008 international conference entitled: “ENVIRONMENT: FROM GLOBAL WARNINGS TO MEDIA ALERT” that was held October 10 and 11, 2008, in Venice, Italy. The purpose of the conference was to challenge the international media to improve public understanding of the impact of climate change. Journalists and news executives from 29 countries representing six continents attended the conference which was held by the international World Political Forum (WPF).

Unfortunately, now almost five years after this conference was held, commercial and corporation funded TV and radio media in these United States continue to purposefully ignore said challenge by not sounding the alarm on the global warming world catastrophe in the making, as do many U.S. publicly elected government officials in federal and state government, leaving the at large public in the U.S. as confused as ever over whether human activities such as fossil fuel burning: in power plants that produce electricity; in home and business heating (natural gas; oil; propane; electric baseboard); in motor vehicle travel and product shipping, via trucks, ships, pipelines (fueling lift stations), in airplanes and in trains; and in cement making and paving the landscape (fuel burning in earth moving equipment).  Another significant contributor to the growing global warming crisis is continued deforestation, worldwide, and especially the deforestation of the tropics, where previously large reductions in of carbon dioxide (CO2) were being taken out of the air by the vegetation there – through the process of photosynthesis. Less green vegetation on Earth means increasing buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere and oceans, adding to warmer global temperatures.  Methane gas (unburned natural gas) that is released from oil wells, livestock, and rotting biological matter (permafrost thawing) compound the problem that is resulting in what the scientific community has called “a potentially very dangerous situation for all humanity and life on Earth and lasting far into the future. Reason is that many positive (lead to more warming) feedbacks . One such warming feedback is the loss of Earth’s albedo, where a reduction in the area of snow-covered land, ice caps, glaciers or sea ice has a compounding effect on the initial warming.  As the loss of “white” snow and ice cover (the albedo) continues, the amount of solar energy absorbed by the ocean increases, leading to more warming, which reduces the albedo on the planet even more, which causes more warming, and so on. A small amount of snow melt exposes darker ground which absorbs more radiation, leading to more snowmelt.

The effect is most vividly demonstrated by the decline in Arctic sea ice in recent decades.

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As humans are continuing to do things that add more heat-trapping greenhouse gases (GHGs) to the Earth’s atmosphere, the result is that climates all around Earth have been measurably and significantly changing, mostly to the detriment of humans and animal life. 

The global warming that has already taken place has caused Earth’s ocean levels to rise – due to thermal expansion from increasing water temperatures and from melting glaciers on Greenland, Antarctica, and Earth’s numerous mountain ranges.

Ocean water acidification has already taken place (a 33% increase) which has already lead to significant environmental, economic, and social cost. These effects of  expected to continue unabated which is expected to worsen in time, with projected increases in monetary losses, damage, and loss of human and animal life due to worse and worse “natural” disasters.

As examples of recent catastrophes suspected to have been made worse as a likely direct consequence of rising average global temperatures (global warming): in 2015 heat waves in India and Pakistan killed 1,400 and 2,500 people; in 2013, the thirtieth named storm of the 2013 Pacific typhoon season, Typhoon Haiyan — known as Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines – with an estimated one-minute sustained winds of 315 km/h (196 mph; 170 kn), making the typhoon the strongest tropical cyclone ever observed based on one-minute sustained wind speed and the deadliest typhoon hitting the Philippines in recorded modern history, killing 6,300 people in that country alone (dozens of fatalities from the storm were also reported in Taiwan, China and Vietnam) and according to United Nation’s officials, about 11 million people were adversely impacted by the storm with many left homeless and an economic cost in the billions of dollars; in 2012, Hurricane Sandy, which remains the largest Atlantic hurricane on record (as measured by diameter, with winds spanning 1,100 miles (1,800 km)) is estimated to have caused monetary damages of over $68 billion and killed at least 233 people along its path on the eastern U S. seaboard including New Jersey and New York; and in 2005, Hurricane Katrina, the fifth hurricane of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, was not only the costliest “natural” disaster in the history of the United States. Total property damage from Hurricane Katrina was estimated at $108 billion; the hurricane and subsequent flooding took 1,833 human lives and an undetermined number of domesticated and wild animal lives.

Yet today, incredibly – almost six years later – there remain deniers of human-caused global warming and climate change, including our State of Wisconsin’s own U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, as well as announced U.S. presidential candidate and our current governor, Scott Walker, who continue to spread the false message that Earth’s climates have not been shown to have changed as a result of human activities, to the delight of corporations that are financially benefiting from continued and more fossil fuel burning, which releases carbon dioxide gas, the most abundant of the greenhouse gases, which compounds from year to year in the atmosphere and Earth’s oceans, leading to monumental negative consequences for humanity and other life forms on Earth.

WPF’s President Mikhail Gorbachev, the eighth and last leader of the Soviet Union and General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991 when the party was dissolved, chaired the conference at which participants reached a consensus that the problem of climate change is “URGENT”.

“Time is running out,” Mr. Gorbachev said in his closing remarks. “The most efficient way to tackle the urgent environmental problems facing our planet is transparency, in which the media have a vital role to play. This means global glasnost.”

Climate experts and media delegates approved a declaration calling for higher standards of reporting on strategic options to avert irreversible damage to the Earth’s eco-systems.

Stressing the importance of well-informed public opinion, the declaration set out the following main recommendations:

– The media have the central role in ensuring that politicians, corporations, non-governmental organisations and scientists keep the general public informed about the latest facts and policy options regarding climate change. Civil society formation and action are essential components in deliberation on this issue.

– Journalists have a responsibility to improve their knowledge and skills in order to be able effectively to question government policy-makers, to distinguish facts from opinion or advocacy, and to evaluate scientific arguments from an independent viewpoint.

– Journalists and civil society should redouble their efforts to combat restrictive measures by governments on journalists reporting on their deficiencies in fighting environmental degradation or in informing the public about the dangers of climate change.

– Journalists should avail themselves of existing international databanks of validated statistics and scientific research on climate change.

– Scientists need to acquire improved communications skills to explain their findings in accessible terms and to build relationships of trust with the media.

– Media proprietors should be prepared to invest more resources in investigative reporting to allow specialist journalists to carry out serious and objective coverage of complex issues, based on a thorough understanding of good science.

– Editors should provide more space for in-depth treatment of environmental issues, not just on-line but in print and on air, and encourage innovative approaches that will grab the attention of the audience in a responsible, independent and non-sensational manner.

– Journalism training organisations should develop ever more sophisticated exercises to improve reporters’ skills in explaining complex scientific arguments. An international network should be created to share information about the availability of training courses and the development of new training models.

The Conference concluded on a positive note, declaring: “There is, however, cause for optimism if we act now. Numerous positive solutions to the global environmental change proposed by science and made possible by innovations in technology, the potential inherent in global civil society organization and by citizens’ groups everywhere in the world; and contributions from socially responsible business leaders can make it possible for us to provide for a decent and full life for all, and for generations to come, within the limits of our planet’s resources.”

SOURCE

MEDIA COVERAGE OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN AFRICA

Mikail Gorbachev Letter to Participants in the 23d World Congress of Political Science, Montreal, 19 – 24 July, 2014

Congressional Action or Inaction on Impacts of Climate Change on Undeveloped Countries?

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If carbon dioxide (CO2) was as visible as the colors of Old Glory, the color of the sky would be predominantly red, white and blue. That’s because over the last 100+ years, the United States has contributed more CO2 to the atmosphere (now considered a pollutant since additional CO2 adds to the atmosphere’s “greenhouse effect”) than any other of the world’s countries, including China.

None of the CO2 and other greenhouse gases emitted to the atmosphere from fuel burning the world over escapes the atmosphere to become outerspace; rather, it becomes part of the mix of gases already present tin the atmosphere for hundreds of years, making for an ever stronger greenhouse effect over time. And because the heat is latent in its expression, the warming effect of the combined total of all additional greenhouse gases emitted to the atmosphere during the first 15 years of the current century has not been fully realized. The warming effects of the first 15 years of this century are mostly the result of increased fuel burning in motor vehicles and jet air travel the period 1970 – 2000, along with burning coal and natural gas in electricity providing power plants.

Although China has recently surpassed the U.S. in estimated annual CO2 emissions, the U.S. is still considered the world’s largest historical emitter of CO2. The CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is important since any additional CO2 released to the atmosphere by fossil fuel burning adds to the strength of atmosphere’s greenhouse effect over time, adding to what would otherwise be a background concentration level of roughly 250 parts per million (ppm) in the atmosphere, the CO2 level present in the atmosphere prior to the initiation of wide spread fossil fuel burning which started during the Industrial Revolution. The presently now new globally averaged level of 400 ppm in the atmosphere is higher than at any other time in Earth’s history when humans were documented as being present. This is why the undeveloped countries of the world believe the United States has a special obligation to help their people cope with the impacts of the changing climate on them.

Next week, the Senate Appropriations Committee will consider the U.S. commitment to the Green Climate Fund for vulnerable people impacted by climate change. Are one of your senators on the congressional Appropriations Committee?

Pope Francis pointed out in his encyclical on ecology that it is the world’s poor who are bearing the brunt of climate impacts. As Americans, and as people of faith, we are obliged to advocate for those whose lives and livelihoods are threatened, and who cannot advocate for themselves.

The Green Climate Fund was conceived to help poor and vulnerable countries adapt to the unavoidable impacts of climate change like changing weather patterns, sea level rise, and extreme weather events while building more resilient societies. More than 30 countries have pledged $10.2 billion to get the fund up and running. President Obama has pledged $3 billion from the U.S., and requested the first installment of $500 million in this year’s budget. The U.S. Senate needs to deliver on that promise!

Old-Glory

Old Glory saluted by first man on the moon.

Pope Calls for Swift Actions to Save the Planet from Environmental Ruin

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“The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophe”.
Pope Francis, June 18, 2015

In his long-awaited encyclical on the environment and climate change publicly released last week, Pope Francis called for swift action to save the planet from environmental ruin, urging world leaders to hear “the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor.” He called for a change of lifestyle in rich countries steeped in a “throwaway” consumer culture, and an end to “obstructionist attitudes” that sometimes put profit before the common good. Pope Francis said protecting the planet is a moral and ethical “imperative” for believers and nonbelievers alike that should supersede political and economic interests.

A major theme of the encyclical is the disparity between rich and poor. “We fail to see that some are mired in desperate and degrading poverty, with no way out, while others have not the faintest idea of what to do with their possessions, vainly showing off their supposed superiority and leaving behind them so much waste which, if it were the case everywhere, would destroy the planet,” he said.

“Our house is going to ruin, and that harms everyone, especially the poorest. Mine is therefore an appeal for responsibility, based on the task that God has given to man in creation: “till and keep the garden” in which he was placed. I invite everyone to accept with open hearts this document, which follows the church’s social doctrine”, the pope said.

In a transcript of the pope’s encyclical on the DemocracyNow.org website, Pope Francis said protecting the planet is a moral and ethical imperative, for believers and nonbelievers alike, that should supersede political and economic interests. He also dismissed those who argue that technology will solve all environmental problems and that global hunger and poverty will be resolved simply by market growth.

A major theme of the encyclical is the disparity between rich and poor. “We fail to see that some are mired in desperate and degrading poverty, with no way out, while others have not the faintest idea of what to do with their possessions, vainly showing off their supposed superiority and leaving behind them so much waste which, if it were the case everywhere, we destroy the planet.”

Climate change is already happening, and its effects have already been disastrous on the poorest countries and the poorest people, who don’t have the means to defend themselves from it. They are also part of the human population who have the least responsibility for what is happening, being that they consume less fossil fuels.

Author Naomi Klein said on Democracy Now Thursday that “this encyclical, we can’t overstate the importance of it, the impact that it will have. It’s hard to respond to a document that runs close to 200 pages, when it was just released in non-draft form a few hours ago. We’re all still digesting it, Amy. But it is very clear that a door has just been opened, and a gust of wind is blowing through, where it is now possible to say some very powerful truths about the real implications of climate change, really the root causes.”

“And I think a lot of the discussion about the encyclical in the U.S. media cycle has focused and will continue to focus on the impact on Republicans and on climate deniers, many of whom are Catholic. And it is certainly a challenge to that demographic in the United States, because the pope is coming out so clearly on the side of climate science in saying this is real and this is happening. But I think that it’s too easy to say that this is just a challenge to Rick Santorum and Jeb Bush. Frankly, it is also a challenge to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and to large parts of the green movement, because it is a rebuke of slow action. It very specifically says that climate denial is not just about denying the science, it’s also about denying the urgency of the science. The document is very strong in condemning delays, half-measures, so-called market solutions. It very specifically criticizes carbon markets, the carbon offsetting, as an inadequate measure that will encourage speculation and rampant consumption.

“And I think probably the most significant part of it, the big picture, is the foregrounding of the culture of frenetic consumption in the wealthy world and among the wealthy. And this is really significant, because I think large parts of the climate change discussion tries to have it all ways and say, “No, we’ll just have green growth. We’ll just have—we’ll consume green products.” And, you know, this goes a lot deeper than that and says, no, we need to get at the underlying values that are feeding this culture of frenetic consumption that is entirely unsustainable.”

In the encyclical, the pope states that: “In a corrupt culture, we can’t believe that laws will be enough to change behaviors that affect the environment.” Naomi Kline responds: Well, I think, when he’s referring to corruption, I believe he’s referring to the influence of polluting companies, of multinational corporations, which he also goes after in the encyclical. And I think this is one of the most significant things about the document. One might expect of a religious document about climate change to erase difference, right? to say, “Well, we’re all in this together,” and certainly it talks about the Earth as our common home. But it also recognizes explicitly the power dynamics in capitalism, which is to say that there are forces within the system that are actively working against change. And that is probably what he’s referring to when he’s talking about how there may be laws, but the laws aren’t enforced. And, you know, indeed the laws are also inadequate, which is also addressed in the document, and it has some very specific calls for another level of environmental law, which is a part of the document that I haven’t been able to look at, you know, closely enough.

And another thing I have to say is, you know, I am—I have accepted this invitation to speak at a conference which is about digging more deeply into the document, because there’s an understanding that it does take time to digest a document of this length, this multilayered, and it requires that kind of deeper analysis. And I think that this intervention, five months ahead of U.N. climate conference in Paris, is tremendously significant. It’s going to push political leaders to go further. It’s going to be a tool for social movements.

A lot of the language of the climate justice movement has just been adopted by the pope—I mean, even of phrases like “ecological debt.” The pope is talking about the debt that the wealthy world owes to the poor. I mean, this is a framing that comes originally from Ecuador, from the movement against drilling in the Amazon. And, you know, this is a phrase that was never heard in mainstream circles until just now, actually. I mean, I’ve never seen such a mainstream use of that term.

So, it is very important in that way. But, I mean, I have to say, on a personal level, that as thrilled as I am that the Vatican is leading in this way and that this pope is leading in this way and bringing together the fight against poverty with the fight to act on climate change, that doesn’t mean that there’s a complete merger between the climate justice movement and the Vatican here. I mean, obviously there are huge differences that remain over issues like marriage equality, reproductive rights and freedom, to name just a few.”

Nathan Schneider, columnist with the Catholic weekly, America, who has been covering Catholic engagement with climate change, talks about what the encyclical means for the Catholic community and the number of languages it’s been released in and how large the document is: “Well, this is really the first Third World encyclical. You know, this is coming from a pope who was shaped in really significant ways by economic crises during the Cold War in Argentina and being in the middle of a battleground between the First and Second World powers. It was drafted by a cardinal from Ghana. So this is coming from the side of the world that we don’t normally hear from. And it’s very much in line with things that popes have been saying for decades, you know, going back to Paul VI, then John Paul II, Benedict XVI. So, a lot of the content is actually not so new for Catholics, but the emphasis and that—the language of climate debt, the language—the recognition that there is a divide here between the rich countries and the poor. And this is a cry from the developing world, from what has been labeled the Third World, for change.”

“The pope is calling here for us to change how we live, how we—what we do with our resources. You know, this is not just moving from one kind of consumerism to another. This is a kind of spiritual renewal and also a material renewal, that—in which we turn ourselves toward an economy that’s sustainable, that’s life-giving, both for humanity and the rest of the world.”

Source: Democracynow.org

The Children of Today and Tomorrow are in for a Rude Awakening

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The global warming genie has escaped his bottle! He has begun to show his wrath, which is only likely to worsen in the coming years, decades and centuries, and there is presently no end in sight!

He’s leaving plenty of evidence. The only way we can all help weaken him is by stopping our nonessential burning of fossil fuels, stopping deforestation especially of the tropics, and doing things which naturally result in more greenhouse gases being added into the earth’s atmosphere and oceans (such as overeating, wasting food, not recycling, not reusing things whenever possible, running our air conditioning and furnaces needlessly, using energy derived from tar sands industry, doing other things that frivolously burn fossil fuels such as going for joy rides, cruising, etc.. Because our atmosphere is where Global Warming lives and breathes (now that he’s escaped the bottle) and because he gets his tremendous strength to wreak havoc on the world by his breathing in greenhouse gases that have been accumulating to record high concentrations in the earth’s atmosphere (as a by-product of our burning carbon-based fuels in our cars, trucks, airplanes, power plants, ships, boats, trains, machinery, recreational products and the like) we need to all put him on a crash diet, NOW!

According to David Owen, author of Green Metropolis and The Conundrum: How Scientific Innovation, Increased Efficiency, and Good Intentions Can Make Our Energy and Climate Problems Worse, the proportional share of the fuel burned during a round trip from New York City to Melbourne, Australia, is greater than the total amount of energy that the average resident of the earth uses, for all purposes, in a year. Forestalling global calamity is a preemptively worthy, ethically justifiable and economically achievable goal for everyone on the planet, especially in this era of television, radio, computers, Skype, the iPhone and virtual reality. Climatologists, environmentalists, CEOs, religious leaders, students and tourists seeking entertainment or to broaden their horizons, and government officials ought use the least greenhouse gas emitting technologies available to them to accomplish their objectives; they should not  have to cross the oceans and great land masses of world (requiring vast burning fossil fuels) just to be present in person. Likewise, our government leaders and business people ought minimize the amount of products traded with distant countries, so as to minimize the amount of fuel burning required in the shipment of goods by air, sea and over miles and miles of terrain. Transportation of billions of tons of goods along with extensive long distance vacationing and business trips by millions of people every year is simply no longer sustainable. Such activities are becoming ethically wrong because they are unquestionably harming the planet and all the living things it is home to, both now and in the future.

We cannot and must not wait for technology to bail us out. Scientists the world over say it is now paramount that all humans begin acting in significant ways to reduce their annual greenhouse gas emissions.   Otherwise, we will never get Global Warming to go back into his bottle – where he belongs! Greenhouse gases accumulate atmospherically over time – they build up in the atmosphere and oceans from year to year. Their volume is accelerating in earth’s atmosphere and as well as in its oceans, and the total volume will likely keep accelerating for some time due to compounding factors (positive feedbacks) of the earth’s natural systems. That’s why it’s of the utmost importance – paramount – that everyone act in ways to reduce their annual carbon footprint, immediately, before Global Warming becomes all to powerful, uncontrollable and for generations, a tragedy for civilization. 

President Obama’s Executive Order Committing Federal Government to Cutting Its Greenhouse Gas Emissions

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President Barack Obama signed an executive order on Thursday committing the federal government to cutting its own emissions 40 percent by 2025 and pledging to increase the amount of renewable energy used by federal agencies to 30 percent.

    [This is a good addition but still not nearly enough. States and everyday Americans all have to greatly reduce the things they do that contribute to their daily and annual greenhouse gas emissions, as does the rest of the world. The U.S. still has the highest per capita GHG emissions. Forty percent of world travel by air (a large emitter of GHGs) is by American recreation and business travel pursuits. This has to change! Click on: “About this Blog” to read about how our government really could help make this happen – Power to the People]

The executive order builds on a previous administration directive to cut emissions from federal agencies 28 percent by 2020, compared with 2008 levels. “We are well on our way to meet that goal,” Brian Deese, senior adviser to the president, said in a call with reporters Thursday. “That’s what’s motivating us today to chart out a new and even more aggressive goal going forward.”

The administration is also setting a goal of cutting the per-mile emissions from the agencies’ vehicle fleet 30 percent, it said. It estimates the total commitment across the federal agencies will save taxpayers $18 billion — funds that won’t be spent on energy.

Christy Goldfuss, managing director of the Council on Environmental Quality, said that by the end of 2014, the federal government had cut emissions 17 percent since 2008, putting it well on the way to meeting Obama’s earlier goal. Much of that has come through energy efficiency improvements in federal buildings and with the installation of renewables.

As of the end of 2014, renewable energy accounted for 9 percent of the federal government’s energy use, and Thursday’s directive wants to increase that to 30 percent by 2025. The Department of Defense has set its own goal of deploying 3 gigawatts of solar energy on its installations around the world by 2025.

The federal government is the single largest energy user in the United States, Goldfuss said, with 360,000 buildings and 650,000 vehicles. “Not only is our footprint expansive, our impact is as well,” she said.

The administration also argued that the push to reduce emissions in the federal government has effects across the private sector as well. To that end, the administration also released a scorecard to track emissions from major federal contractors such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing and General Dynamics, which the administration is also calling on to make reductions.

The White House estimates that with reductions from the agency and those of private suppliers, the administration can cut greenhouse gas emissions by 26 million metric tons in the next 10 years.

“These goals will make sure the federal government is leading by example and pushing the envelope on cutting emissions,” said Deese, adding that it will “demonstrate that we are going to stay on offense in pushing our clean energy and climate change objectives.”

Wisconsin Must Join the All Out World Effort to Fight Global Climate Change Without Delay, BEFORE Time Runs Out

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Wisconsin has traditionally prided itself as being a state that “cares”. Wisconsin residents care about its wild and domestic animals, its fish, birds and butterflies; its plants, trees, and its forests; its tens of thousands of lakes, streams and rivers, and the quality of its wetlands, groundwater and air; its mighty bluffs and gorges, its remaining prairies, and the state’s overall majestic scenic beauty.

Wisconsin has traditionally had a strong manufacturing economy, a top notch agricultural industry, a public education system second to none, a world class university system, and an equally top notch private schools, colleges, and other educational institutions. Wisconsin also boasts an excellent highway, airport, and bicycle transportation system, and communities that are walking and wheelchair friendly. It has always held all visitors to the state in high regards and treated them with respect the production and sustainability of its farms, the well being of its human population, without regard for race, heritage or creed. Wisconsinites treat visitors to their state with respect and dignity,satisfaction of its visitors and transients alike, and, perhaps above all, in leaving its land, water and its economy better condition than they received it. In a nutshell, that’s a statement of Wisconsin’s traditions and value, as I have come to know them.

Wisconsin residents often boast, and rightly so, that Wisconsin was the home of such renown conservationists and humanists as John Muir, Aldo Leopold, Senator Gaylord Nelson, Midge Miller and Vel Phillips. In the 1970s, Wisconsin was emulated by other states as the state to look at for developing effective environmental protection regulations to safeguard its treasures. With Wisconsin Departmental Resource Secretary Anthony “Tony” Earl at the helm, who would later become Wisconsin’s governor, and George “Knute” Knudson as its chief naturalist, Wisconsin natural resources were in good hands.

It is no exaggeration to say that all this is at risk the longer our Wisconsin Legislature, our governor, other state legislatures and governors, and the people’s representatives in the United States Congress continue to kick the issue of excess fossil fuel burning and greenhouse gas production by Americans down the road. What we don’t need is more highway development and expansion and more airport capacity expansion that encourage even more fossil fuel burning by the public. What we don’t need is more trade with distant countries that requires more fuel for shipping and flying. What we don’t need are more coal and natural gas burning power plants and the thousands of miles of high voltage transmission lines that go with them, and not Wisconsin power companies who restructure their rates in favor of more fossil fuel burning, thus discouraging their customers from investing in solar energy panels for their homes and businesses, and having the governor’s appointed Wisconsin Public Service Commission (the PSC) “rubber stamps” the fossil-fuel-dependent utilities’ proposals.

We are wasting valuable time and money by not relying less and less on fossil fuel dependent energy, and more on either energy conservation or on conversion to solar and wind generated power, in our homes, businesses and institutions; and that we desperately need to reduce aggregate driving and flying, which rely almost exclusively on burning fossil fuels that, when subject to combustion, release large quantities of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide (CO2), to the atmosphere. Most of the greenhouse gases, such as CO2, remain in the atmosphere for centuries, accumulating to increasingly more ominous concentration levels, or they get absorbed in the oceans, making the earth’s ocean water more acidic, harming the biological species in the oceans.

But scientists the world over are in agreement that the rising concentrations of greenhouse gases from significantly increased fossil fuel burning by humans since the time of the Industrial Revolution (early 1800’s) have remained in earth’s atmosphere, trapping more and more of the Sun’s radiant energy and changing it into heat energy, causing the earth’s surface to warm, melting more of the polar ice caps and mountain glaciers, causing the vast permafrost region to thaw, releasing more and more methane gas, another greenhouse gas that’s known to have 37 times the heat-trapping power of CO2.

Scientists don’t know when global warming could begin accelerating, but it could be any day now. What they do know is that there are higher concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere now to push global surface temperatures much higher than what we have experienced thus far. Time is of the essence for the world’s populations who are relying on fossil fuel burning for energy to stop adding even higher concentration levels of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, risking setting off positive feedback mechanisms in the system that could worsen the situation and amplify the weather extremes global warming has already caused in earth’s climate.

Black Lives Matter in Madison and Wisconsin, If they Don’t Now, THEY WILL

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A new generation of human rights activists mounted a passion-filled, peaceful march in South Madison Friday, tapping the energy around race issues sweeping the country to funnel it to local issues.

“Young black men are being murdered. It is a national problem,” organizer Brandi Grayson told the crowd that gathered at the Metro bus hub at South Park Street and West Badger Road. “It is time to educate ourselves, it is time to educate our neighbors, it is time to educate our employers. It is time, my people.”

“Black Lives Matter,” was the banner slogan and rallying cry of the action led by the Young Gifted and Black Coalition, as up to 150 demonstrators marched in traffic lanes a half-mile up South Park Street to North Ave., then back to the South District Police Station on Hughes Place for short speeches, poems and chants.

The crowd’s final march took them down Park Street up to, but not onto, the ramp to the west-bound Beltline as they held a silent vigil for four-and-a-half minutes to honor Michael Brown, whose body lay for four-and-a-half hours on a street in Ferguson, Missouri, after he was fatally shot by a white police officer in August.

The local activist group emerged following a grand jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson in Brown’s killing, in response to which they organized a rally and march around the Capitol Square last week. Like other race rights actions cropping up in the latest round of public outrage over the killing of black men by white police officers, the Madison coalition turned the failure of another grand jury this week to return an indictment in the killing of Eric Garner in New York City into an opportunity to demonstrate the depth of concern over civil rights.

Demonstrations over the lack of an indictment in the Garner case continued Friday in cities across the country.

The Young Gifted and Black Coalition of Madison is clearly organizing for the long haul.

The coalition points often to the disparities in education, incarceration and other aspects of life, documented in the Race to Equity report, as proof that even absent fatal police violence against blacks, racial inequities are rife in Dane County. The group is demanding an end to plans to build a new Dane County jail, immediate release of people incarcerated for crimes of poverty and investment in community initiatives.

Leaders called on demonstrators to join a planned protest Tuesday at a Dane County Board committee hearing on a proposal to spend $8 million for a study on the need for a new jail that could cost $150 million, and to participate in a community building and planning session next Friday evening at the South Madison Public Library.

“The civil rights movement brought change, but it didn’t happen because people were sitting down,” Grayson told the crowd. “Change happened because people were committed to change and were willing to sacrifice themselves and their time.”

The crowd demonstrating Friday was mixed racially and ethnically, but overwhelmingly young. Grayson said that older civil rights advocates and those whose work is enmeshed with majority establishment organizations are stepping back to let a younger generation take the lead on protests. “They can’t say the things we can say. We can take the action in the street; hopefully they will help make the policy.”

Will Williams, a long-time activist with Vietnam Vets for Peace and other local movements, watched the march take shape from the sidelines. “Old folks need to turn the baton over,” Williams said.”We have young people with the fire who understand what going on with racism overall and with cops who are murdering black people and not being held accountable.”

A handful of other older advocates were present on the edges of the demonstration, as well such leaders on race equity matters as Floyd Rose, president of 100 Black Men of Madison, and Mayor Paul Soglin.

The demonstrators chanted as they marched: “No Justice, No Peace! No Racist Police!” When they paused at North Avenue, the gathering took on something of the feel of a revival meeting where participants were called on to raise their fists and pledge to take up the fight for human rights.

“It starts with you, it starts with you, it starts with you, it starts with you, it starts with you, it starts with you, it starts with you, it starts with you, it starts with us,” Grayson shouted, pointing to individuals in the rapt and silent crowd.

“We are here to show what solidarity looks like. You are absolutely beautiful, don’t let anyone tell you anything different,” she said. “We are conditioned to fear black men; we are conditioned to think every black person is innately violent.”

Madison Police Chief Mike Koval watched from across Park Street, noted that marching in the traffic right-of-way was an act of civil disobedience, and spoke to the protesters rights to do so. “This is the First Amendment in action. This is how it’s supposed to work,” Koval said. “And the police in a free society should be here to facilitate it. This is democracy in action.”

Outside of the police station, protesters chanted slogans punctuated by trombone blasts and heard speeches and poems, one of which named many of those killed by police and lamented: “There is not enough skin to tattoo the names…We are black lives and we matter.”

The group fell into formation for the final march down Park Street just as darkness fell. “I came out to support everyone,” said one 20-something protester. “Human rights matter.”

Countries in Lima, Peru Ought to Declare World War III Against Global Warming and Catestrophic Climate Change

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A day after December 7, 1941, the day U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said “will live in infamy” when Imperial Japan attacked the U.S.naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the United States entered World War II as the U.S.Congress declared against the Empire of Japan, which aimed to dominate Asia and the Pacific and was already at war with the Republic of China in 1937. World War II had already been initiated by the invasion of Poland by Germany and subsequent declarations of war on Germany by France and the United Kingdom. From late 1939 to early 1941, Germany conquered or controlled much of continental Europe, and formed the Axis alliance with Italy and Japan. In June 1941, the Axis alliance launched an invasion of the Soviet Union. Japan attacked the United States that December, European territories in the Pacific Ocean, and the Empire of Japan quickly conquered much of the Western Pacific.

But during 1944 and 1945 the Japanese suffered major reverses in mainland Asia in South Central China and Burma, while the Allies crippled the Japanese Navy and captured key Western Pacific islands and the war in Europe ended with an invasion of Germany by the Western Allies and the Soviet Union culminating in the capture of Berlin by Soviet and Polish troops and the subsequent German unconditional surrender on 8 May 1945. Following the Potsdam Declaration by the Allies on 26 July 1945, the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 August and 9 August, 1945, respectively.

The Axis advance halted in 1942 when Japan lost the critical Battle of Midway, near Hawaii, and Germany was defeated in North Africa and then, decisively, at Stalingrad in the Soviet Union. In 1943, with a series of German defeats on the Eastern Front, the Allied invasion of Italy which brought about Italian surrender, and Allied victories in the Pacific, the Axis lost the initiative and undertook strategic retreat on all fronts. In 1944, the Western Allies invaded France, while the Soviet Union regained all of its territorial losses and invaded Germany and its allies.

The war in Europe ended with an invasion of Germany by the Western Allies and the Soviet Union culminating in the capture of Berlin by Soviet and Polish troops and the subsequent German unconditional surrender on 8 May 1945. With an invasion of the Japanese imminent, the possibility of additional atomic bombings, and the Soviet Union’s declaration of war on Japan and invasion of Manchuria; Japan surrendered on 15 August 1945. Thus ended the war in Asia, and the final destruction of the Axis bloc. During 1944 and 1945 the Japanese suffered major reverses in mainland Asia in South Central China and Burma, while the Allies crippled the Japanese Navy and captured key Western Pacific islands.Following the Potsdam Declaration by the Allies on 26 July 1945, the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 August and 9 August respectively. With an invasion of the Japanese archipelago imminent, the possibility of additional atomic bombings, and the Soviet Union’s declaration of war on Japan and invasion of Manchuria, Japan surrendered on 15 August 1945. Thus ended the war in Asia, and the final destruction of the Axis bloc.

World War II altered the political alignment and social structure of the world. The United Nations (UN) was established to foster international co-operation and prevent future conflicts.

World War II altered the political alignment and social structure of the world. The United Nations (UN) was established to foster international co-operation and prevent future conflicts.

World War II was the most widespread war in history, it directly involved more than 100 million people from over 30 countries, and the major participants threw their entire economic, industrial and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, erasing the distinction between civilian and military resources. An estimated 50 to 85 million fatalities, including the Holocaust during which approximately 11 million civilian people, including more than 6 millions Jews, were killed. Up until, now, World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history.

Many thousands of people have already lost their lives and homes and businesses, those of their family, friends, and communities to extreme weather events brought about by the excessive collective burning of fossil fuels by humans over the last century which, coupled with excessive deforestation by humans, especially in the tropics, have resulted in unnaturally high concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, causing global warming, rising sea levels, a warmer and more acidic ocean and the loss of arctic sea ice and melting glaciers. The number of lives lost as a result of human-caused global warming will ultimately number in the billions, probably more. To be continued …

A Guide to the Lima Climate Change Talks

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Representatives from more than 190 nations are meeting for talks in Lima, Peru (Dec. 1 – Dec. 14) to hammer out the draft of the first truly global pact to avoid the worst effects of climate change. The ultimate goal: signing a treaty a year from now in Paris. If successful, it would be the world’s most complex and encompassing treaty ever devised. The last attempt was in 2009 at the Copenhagen climate talks.

We already face significant and widespread climate change risks from the carbon pollution that has been accumulating in our atmosphere and oceans since the Industrial Revolution. Thanks largely to emissions from burning fossil fuels, the Earth is on pace to have its hottest year ever recorded, and warming of at least 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels is already locked in, according to a new World Bank report. Countries agreed to limit warming to 2 degrees, a level assumed to be relatively safe. Without steep cuts in fossil fuel use, people around the world will likely face catastrophic and irreversible repercussions by 2030 or 2040. In human terms, that’s about when today’s babies finish college.

Key Dates:
Dec 1–12, 2014—Negotiations in Lima, Peru

March 31, 2015—The target date for countries to present their plans for curbing climate change.

Nov. 30 – Dec. 11, 2015—Negotiations in Paris, where countries hope to sign an historic climate treaty.

The United States, China and the European Union are responsible for about half of the world’s climate changing emissions, so their actions have a huge impact.

India, as a rapidly growing source of harmful emissions, has to make a quicker shift to low-emission energy for any climate treaty to work. The country has not announced what it’s willing to do as part of the climate accord.

The developing countries bloc (LMDC) represents half the world’s population and most of the world’s poor. It’s a powerful counter-force to the United States and other wealthy nations. The group, which includes China, India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and more than 20 others, has pushed the U.S. and Europe to make much larger emissions cuts and to provide substantial funding and technological assistance to its member nations.

The big-money crowd, which includes global corporations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other international financial institutions, will be influential because they hold sway over many economies and the global flow of cash. That makes them key players in financing the global energy transition and in funneling aid to poor countries that need help adapting to climate change.

The World Resources Institute, Friends of the Earth, Oxfam and many other major environmental and social justice groups are important non-institutionalized voices and some are deeply involved in trying to shape a balanced and workable treaty.

A growing contingent of investment groups, foundations and major corporations, all of them with substantial funds at their disposal, is pushing for unequivocal action on climate change and making the argument that climate action is an opportunity not economic punishment.

For years, a split between rich and poor nations dimmed hopes at UN climate talks. Broadly put: Poorer countries want wealthier ones to promise deeper cuts in carbon emissions, and they want sufficient cash to kick start climate action they can’t afford. At Lima, it’s the same story. Here are the big issues countries must solve:

What’s a fair way to divide the costs and investments needed to limit greenhouse gas emissions and help countries adapt to climate change? Emission reductions and climate aid contributions are meant to be based on relative responsibility for climate change—but views differ on how to translate a “fair share” approach into concrete pledges from individual countries. There’s also ongoing tension over whether the treaty should increase its focus on adaptation, possibly by including pledges of financial and technological aid to help nations adapt to climate change effects that can’t be avoided.

How should island and poorer nations be compensated for the devastation they are already experiencing from climate change caused by other nations? The Philippines and many others want such “loss and damage” funds to be provided for in the treaty, while the U.S. and others have objected to that.

Should the climate treaty commitments be binding or voluntary? The United States, for example, wants the pact to be non-binding, while the Europe Union and developing countries want an enforceable treaty.

Should the world put a price on carbon through an international carbon-trading system to create a stronger incentive to shift away from fossil fuels.

The talks gained momentum after the United States, China and the European Union—all major polluters —made encouraging emission-reduction pledges ahead of the Lima talks. Some saw the fact that the U.S. and China announced their actions together as a sign that the two countries would not end up in a face-off during negotiations.

Others also found hope in the almost $10 billion in initial pledges for the Green Climate Fund, considered a critical factor in convincing developing nations to offer ambitious emission limits.

India could render the treaty ineffective if it opts to make an uninspired pledge toward limiting carbon emissions, or if it continues its aggressive build-out of new coal-fired power plants.

Countries rich in fossil fuels—Australia, OPEC nations, Russia and Canada—could block any effort that would reduce demand for their oil, gas and coal.

Least-developed nations or the Like-Minded Developing Countries could lose faith in the treaty talks, especially if they believe their needs and views are being given short shrift by developed nations, or if they think wealthy nations are not making commitments commensurate with their role in causing climate change. If that happens, the Lima conference could end with major issues unresolved, putting a Paris accord in jeopardy.

Fast for the Climate—A global demonstration on the first day of every month where people refuse to eat as a show of solidarity for people affected by climate change. On Dec. 1, the first day of climate talks in Lima, it was declared the world’s largest fast for the climate. Pacific Islanders—who face widespread destruction from rising seas—were heavily represented, with most residents of tiny Tuvalu participating, organizers said. Dec. 1 also marked the beginning of a tag-team fast, where climate leaders around the world take turns fasting for a day until the Paris talks next December.

Fossil of the Day—This shaming award from Climate Action Network International, first presented at climate talks in 1999, is bestowed on countries deemed to have done their “best” to block progress during negotiations. In Lima so far, the award has thus far been given to Australia, Austria, Belgium and Ireland for not contributing to the Green Climate Fund to help poorer nations; to Japan, for using climate funds to build coal plants in developing countries; to Switzerland for opposing legally binding finance commitments and warning that the issue could derail the treaty; to Australia, for opposing separate compensation for climate-related loss and damage (from extra-fierce typhoons, for example).

People’s Summit on Climate Change—A parallel event from Dec. 1-12 to remind negotiators that a global climate accord must respect the rights and wishes of citizens and social organizations. It’s a forum focused on climate justice, deforestation, social movements, farming, climate finance and other topics.

Light for Lima prayer vigil—A global, multi-faith prayer vigil illuminated by solar lamps to remind negotiators that the people are watching and praying for action on climate change. Digital vigil began Dec. 1, worldwide.

People’s March—A Dec. 10 protest march organized by the activist group Avaaz through the streets of Lima for “International Climatic Justice and Defense of Life Day.” The day is also International Human Rights Day.
Source: Elizabeth Douglass, Inside Climate News, Dec 6, 2014