Year 4, Month 6, Day 24: Who’s On First?

The San Bernadino Sun reports on the HFC-limitation treaty. Too little, too late…but better than sitting around doing nothing:

RANCHO MIRAGE — The United States and China agreed to mount a joint effort to combat climate change Saturday, committing to work to cut hydrofluorocarbons (HFC), or “super greenhouse” gases.

In a statement issued after a summit between Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping here, the two sides committed to phase down production and usage of the gases, which are highly potent contributors to climate change.

“Today, President Obama and President Xi agreed on an important new step to confront global climate change,” the White House said in a statement.

The deal will see Washington and Beijing work together for the first time, along with other countries to phase down the consumption and production of HFCs,” the statement said.

“A global phase down of HFCs could potentially reduce some 90 gigatons of CO2 equivalent by 2050, equal to roughly two years worth of current global greenhouse gas emissions,” the statement said.

The effort will use the institutions of the Montreal Protocol, which is sometimes referred to as the most successful global climate treaty, which was first set up to tackle depletions in the ozone layer.

Written in the Toronto airport on my way back home from a concert, June 9:

A US/China agreement on hydroflourocarbon emissions is a welcome piece of good news about global climate change.

Politics is often called “the art of the possible,” and in this context, such a commitment is a triumph of politics and statecraft.

But it’s not enough. As atmospheric CO2 soared past 400 parts per million last month, catastrophic levels of warming have become essentially inevitable. Avert our eyes though we will, the cold facts are that climatic disruptions are going to devastate agriculture everywhere; there are severe food shortages on the horizon for hundreds of millions of people.

These looming humanitarian crises require more of us. Humanity as a whole, and the industrialized nations of the world in particular, must stop being satisfied with the possible, and begin accomplishing the essential: reducing CO2 below 350 ppm, and putting a brake on the accelerating greenhouse effect. There is no time left for politics as usual.

Warren Senders

Month 11, Day 9: The Air, The Air is Everywhere

The New York Times offers an alternate route to the regulation of some types of greenhouse gases. The international agreement to phase out ozone-depleting gases in order to protect the ozone layer (so we wouldn’t all get skin cancer) may be applicable to hydroflourocarbons as well. That would be a nice piece of news.

It seems entirely reasonable that the Montreal Protocol should expand its scope to include hydrofluorocarbons. While the agreement was originally developed to limit the atmospheric release of ozone-depleting chemicals, signatory nations should focus on the larger objective: protecting the planetary ecosystem and the human civilization it supports. When the threat to our ozone layer was first discovered, of course, there were both political and industry voices raised in denial — but decades later scientific modeling has demonstrated conclusively that the Montreal Protocol was implemented just in time to allow our atmosphere to restore itself. Expanding the scope of the treaty may give us a precious few years’ worth of breathing room in which to develop meaningful actions on atmospheric CO2 emissions — and ways to convince the ideologically driven “climate zombies” who are entering the House of Representatives that climate change is a genuine threat to us all.

Warren Senders