Year 2, Month 9, Day 23: He Sounds Way More Polite Than I Would Be In A Similar Situation

Marcus Stephen is the president of Nauru. Here is his op-ed in the Solomon Star News; you should read it.

NEW YORK (Reuters AlertNet) —- Standing before the United Nations Security Council on July 20, I described the existential threat posed by climate change to Nauru, my country, and other island nations in the Pacific, arguing that it endangers regional and international security.

After a vigorous open debate, the president of the Council issued a carefully parsed statement that acknowledged that climate change, in some circumstances, could exacerbate pre-existing tensions and undermine the resolution of armed conflicts.

Elsewhere in the UN complex that same day, officials were preparing to announce that a threshold for misery – separating a humanitarian crisis from a full-blown famine – had been crossed in the Horn of Africa.

Today we know tens of thousands of people have died and another 750,000 are at risk of starvation across the region because of the drought.

The timing of the announcements was coincidental, but their convergence reflects how environmental catastrophes made more frequent and intense by climate change are surpassing the ability of political institutions at all levels to respond effectively.

I wish the world’s richest weren’t being so stupid. Sent Sept. 19:

It is cruelly ironic that the nations most immediately affected by climate change are almost always the ones contributing least to the carbon footprint of our industrialized planetary culture. While Arctic ice dwindles and the temperature rises, many of the world’s largest developed countries are unable to address the crisis. By accidents of geography, many of these nations happen to be less vulnerable to rapid climatic transformations and extreme weather events; perhaps this makes it easier for them to abdicate their responsibilities as members of the international community.

Their indifference to this immediate existential threat is baffling. Island states, placed by nature on the front lines of climate change, have no such luxury. Marcus Stephens is correct in calling for a special representative on climate at the United Nations, something that should have happened decades ago. There may still be time to mitigate the worst of the coming storms; there is none to waste in petro-political posturing.

Warren Senders

Month 12, Day 28: Beginners’ Luck

The Contra Costa Times runs an article highlighting the work of a climate delegate from the Cook Islands. At the time I wrote this letter, there was but one comment on the article, a pitch-perfect version of the teabag denialist mentality.

It is true: Americans have been protected from the increasingly severe ravages of climate change by the luck of the geographical draw. It’s also true that Americans are insulated (but not protected) from the facts of global warming by a complacent and lazy media that prefers the ease of he-said/she-said stenography to actual reporting and factual analysis. At least the first part of this equation is going to change in the decades to come, as the consequences of the greenhouse effect are felt ever more on the North American continent. As to whether our news and communications systems are up to the task of informing Americans about the nature of the emergency we face, we have good reason to be skeptical. Looking at the contorted rationalizations of climate deniers in the public, in the media and in our politics, it is harder and harder to believe that our country’s citizens can recognize the crisis before it is too late. The citizens of the Cook Islands do not have the luxury of ignorance; for them, the rising waves have already arrived.

Warren Senders