Year 2, Month 12, Day 12: Oh, To Be Twenty-One Again

I have a new hero, Ms. Abigail Borah. The Washington Post:

Todd D. Stern, the Obama administration’s special envoy for climate change, was put on the defensive by a narrative developing here that the United States opposed any further action to address global climate disruption until after 2020, when the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, a primary United Nations climate agreement, and voluntary programs negotiated more recently will have run their course.

He firmly denied that the United States was dragging its feet and, somewhat ambiguously, endorsed a proposal from the European Union to quickly start negotiating a new international climate change treaty.

Mr. Stern’s statement to delegates from more than 190 nations at the annual climate conference was disrupted by a 21-year-old Middlebury College junior, Abigail Borah, who told the assembly that she would speak for the United States because Mr. Stern had forfeited the right to do so.

“I am speaking on behalf of the United States of America because my negotiators cannot,” said Ms. Borah, who is attending the conference as a representative of the International Youth Climate Movement. “The obstructionist Congress has shackled justice and delayed ambition for far too long. I am scared for my future. 2020 is too late to wait. We need an urgent path to a fair, ambitious and legally binding treaty.”

Scores of delegates and observers gave her a sustained ovation. Then the South African authorities threw her out of the conference. “That’s O.K.,” Ms. Borah, who is from Princeton, N.J., said later by telephone. “I think I got my point across.”

Let’s hope so. The “hindsight is always 2020” line came courtesy of Sven Eberlein. Sent December 8:

If Todd Stern’s assertions about an international agreement on greenhouse emissions are to be believed, our nation’s chief climate negotiator may have had his eyes opened a bit by the opposition he’s encountering at the Durban conference. By now, the scientific evidence cannot be ignored, and the picture isn’t a pretty one: while the epiphenomena of rapidly increasing climate change imperil us all, the United States has abdicated its responsibilities to the international community and abandoned all pretense of world leadership on what is arguably the most crucial issue of our time.

Let us hope Mr. Stern’s vision has been cleared by his encounter with far-sighted protesters like Ms. Abigail Borah. If we must wait another nine years for an agreement to restrict greenhouse emissions, it will be too late, and the old saw that “hindsight is always 2020” will have taken on a newer and far more tragic meaning.

Warren Senders

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