Year 3, Month 5, Day 28: We Don’t Deserve The White Hats

As usual, we’re the bad guys in this picture.

NEW DELHI: On the second day of the Bonn climate change negotiations, the US, the EU and other developed countries tried to stall discussions on whether the rich countries had met their obligations on reducing emissions and financing the poor countries. Many developed countries pushed for talks to take place only on a new single legal treaty that would wipe out all past and existing obligations.

The talks got stalled with developed countries opposing adoption of the agenda, which requires pending issues from the Bali Action Plan of 2009 to be addressed before negotiations on this parallel channel come to end this year. Under the Bali Action Plan, the developed countries, including the US, are required to increase their ambition levels to cut emissions.

It took me forever to find an article that catalyzed a letter today. Sent May 18:

There seems to be no impulse more powerful than the profit motive. Why else should the world’s richest nations continually hinder any move toward a sane international policy on global climate change? As multinational corporations take advantage of legal loopholes to exert ever more control over the political systems of the industrialized West, the notion that governments exist for the benefit of the governed seems increasingly naive.

As the climate crisis unfolds, we see a grotesque irony. Whether it’s actual obliteration in the form of rising ocean levels or the decimation of population from extreme weather disasters, there is no denying that the countries contributing the least to the rapidly accelerating greenhouse effect are the ones sacrificing the most. Meanwhile, the world’s biggest polluters continue blocking progress toward a robust international policy on climate change. Apparently “sustainability” is apparently only desirable when it applies to their astronomical profit margins.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 7, Day 2: We’re Number What?

The Bonn talks conclude today, June 17; Mexico and Papua New Guinea have a proposal on the table:

After years of incremental progress in U.N. climate talks, a proposal is on the table to change the rules.

The joint initiative from Mexico and Papua New Guinea is meant to break what some delegates call built-in deadlock, where a handful of nations — or even a single delegation — can stymie agreements.

The plan is to allow the 193 nations to adopt decisions by an “overwhelming” majority vote.

But the proposal faces Herculean obstacles from countries both large and small who jealously protect their power to influence, delay and ultimately block

I figured this was a good time to play the shame card, and I did it by exploiting the news that Bangladesh is amending its constitution to give its government the powers needed to address climate change. Unlike America, where we’re reluctant to admit that our government has any powers at all, unless it’s to bomb brown people or read our own citizens’ mail. Sheesh.

Sent June 17:

The appalling political stalemate on display at the Bonn Climate Conference is a demonstration of systemic failure on the part of our governing institutions; not just those of the United States, but of industrialized societies worldwide. The inability of the richest and most developed countries to take responsibility for the side-effects of their own successes is a grotesque object lesson for the rest of the world — especially those nations which have the most at stake in the battle against the effects of global heating. Nations like Bangladesh, which plans to amend its constitution to include a provision outlining the government’s responsibilities in addressing climate change. By seizing the initiative, the poorest and most vulnerable members of the international community have shamed the rest of the world. To be first of the nations where partisan gamesmanship has rendered meaningful policy essentially impossible is an especially tragic sort of American exceptionalism.

Warren Senders

Month 6, Day 3: Disaster Spells O-P-P-O-R-T-U-N-I-T-Y ?

This DK diary contains two fantastic essays by Bill McKibben and Adam Siegel. Go read it. And while you’re at it, read this. These two posts are what brought this letter bubbling up.

More personal than usual, but I’m starting to really take this stuff personally, y’know?

Dear President Obama —

I just read that in its opening addresses at the UN climate negotiations in Bonn, the United States never once mentioned a readiness to accept a binding agreement on carbon emission reductions.

Mr. President, I love my country.

Like you, I have lived abroad. When I first went to India to live, in the mid-1980’s, people asked me over and over again, “the Americans we meet are such wonderful people. Why is it that your government does such terrible things?”

That was during the Reagan years, and those of us with conscience were outraged by the behavior of our government. And all I could do was shake my head sadly, and say, “I know. It’s a terrible thing.”

When the U.S.negotiator states that the negotiation text which had been approved by every country in the world at Copenhagen ‘had no standing,’ I can only shake my head sadly and say, “I know. It’s a terrible thing.”

When my government’s negotiator promotes the Copenhagen Accord, a political agreement which takes seven degrees Farenheit of global warming as a given, I can only shake my head sadly and say, “I know. It’s a terrible thing.”

When I look at the consequences of that level of warming and realize that it will mean millions and millions of deaths due to food and water shortages, I can only shake my head sadly and say, “I know. It’s a terrible thing.”.

I know that it takes a long time to turn things around. I am not so naive as to think that wishing will make it so — but I still wish.

Bill McKibben said recently that the Deepwater Horizon disaster has offered you the perfect platform for a genuinely transformative approach. While the oil chokes the water and poisons all the life in the Gulf of Mexico, you must remind us all that fossil fuel is dirty. It’s dirty when you take it out of the ground, it’s dirty when you process it, it’s dirty when you burn it…and, of course, as it burns it releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Dirty. With the ruined ecosystems of the Louisiana coast as a backdrop, you need to ask the American people, “Is this what you really want?” And you need to offer some alternatives. McKibben notes that his organization,, is planning a “Global Work Party” for energy conservation and efficiency on the 10th of October of this year. He concludes with this wish: “Let’s hope the president is up on the roof of the White House, hammering in the solar panels that Ronald Reagan took down.”

Mr. President, that’s my wish for you, too.

I wish for an America that embraces the idea of energy independence, that acknowledges its global responsibilities, that recognizes that the global engine of predatory capitalism is causing irreversible damage to the planet we share. I wish for an America where I don’t have to keep shaking my head sadly and saying, “I know. It’s a terrible thing.”

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders