Month 3, Day 18: The United Nations Is On The Case?

It’s relatively difficult to take an AP report about internecine disagreements within the U.N. Climate team and turn it into a letter. In the event, I used the article as a hook for a relatively standard polemic, which went to the Boston Globe.

It’s reassuring that the member states of the United Nations continue to keep climate change on the table, despite the failure of the Copenhagen conference and the inability of the U.S. Government to do anything substantial towards reducing America’s grossly disproportionate contribution to the climate crisis. The 1997 Kyoto agreement would have been a good first step to addressing the problem — if it had been ratified in the 1970s. Climatologists agreed years ago that Kyoto’s proposed 5 percent reduction on carbon emissions is a pathetically tiny band-aid on a gaping wound. The nations of the world need to do more than “expand” Kyoto — we need to recognize that an extraordinary situation demands an extraordinary response.

Global climate change is a crisis of environment, because human activity is on the verge of making our relatively benign biosphere a lot less welcoming. It is also a crisis of perception, because for the first time human beings must abandon “local thinking” in both time and space, and take responsibility for one another everywhere on the planet, and across the centuries to come. Are we up to the challenge? Ban ki-Moon thinks so. I hope he is right.

Warren Senders

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