Year 4, Month 4, Day 5: DiHydrogen Monoxide

The Washington Post runs an AP article on World Water Day, featuring that irresponsible hippie, Ban ki-Moon:

UNITED NATIONS — Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is warning that by 2030 nearly half the world’s population could be facing a scarcity of water, with demand outstripping supply by 40 percent.

Ban said one in three people already live in a country with moderate to high water stress. He spoke Friday at a U.N. event marking the opening of the International Year of Water Cooperation 2013 and the 20th anniversary of the proclamation of World Water Day.

He said “competition is growing among farmers and herders; industry and agriculture; town and country; upstream and downstream; and across borders.”

With a growing global population and climate change, he said international cooperation is essential to protect water resources.

“Let us use it more intelligently and waste less so all get a fair share,” Ban said.

Shrill, I know. March 23:

As Ban Ki-moon emphasizes, regional populations everywhere are coming under unprecedented environmental pressures. Even as extreme weather events increase, dumping huge quantities of rain or snow on ill-prepared communities, others are discovering that drought, once an unwelcome visitor, is now a permanent resident.

Barring new infrastructural technology that will allow regions buffeted by unseasonal precipitation to save their water and transport it to areas where it’s urgently needed, we can anticipate a profound humanitarian crisis. By delaying and hindering adaptation strategies, the climate-change deniers in our media and politics have ensured a tragedy of unprecedented proportions.

Singing of a “hard rain” in the early 1960s, Bob Dylan referred to nuclear annihilation. Fifty years later, his song’s an eerie prophecy of the burgeoning climate crisis — harkening to the “sound of a thunder, it roared out a warning,” and the “roar of a wave that could drown the whole world.”

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 12, Day 10: There’ll Be A Lot Of Changes Made, Once We Get Organized

Bla, bla, bla. Same ol’ same ol’. USA Today:

DURBAN, South Africa – An all-encompassing climate deal “may be beyond our reach for now,” the U.N. chief said Tuesday as China and India delivered a setback to European plans to negotiate a new treaty that would bind all parties to their pledges on greenhouse gas emissions.

The European “road map” toward a new accord that would take effect after 2020 is a centerpiece of negotiations among 194 countries at a U.N. climate conference in the South African coastal city of Durban.

It has been presented as a condition for Europe to renew and expand its emissions reduction targets under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which expires next year.

“We must be realistic about expectations for a breakthrough in Durban,” said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as he opened the final ministerial stage of the two-week conference. “The ultimate goal for a comprehensive and binding climate change agreement may be beyond our reach for now.”

Some days I feel like a conscious brain cell in the head of Nicholas Cage’s character in “Leaving Las Vegas.” Sent December 6:

Ban Ki-moon’s grimly accurate assessment of the political environment complements his words on the planetary climate crisis. Our planetary addiction to fossil fuels is building the concentration of greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere to catastrophic levels — and like any other addict, the world’s biggest carbon burners are in various stages of denial about their role in the problem and their responsibilities in the remedy.

American politicians — almost without exception under the financial sway of enormously powerful corporations — are rendered impotent in the face of impending disaster. Even those who privately acknowledge the reality of the crisis are unable to discuss it in public for fear of electoral consequences. The inability of negotiators in Durban to reach meaningful agreement on greenhouse emissions is a symptom of our poisonous financial culture, just as rising levels of atmospheric CO2 are a symptom of our addiction to toxic sources of energy.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 11, Day 18: It’s Cheap, Considering The Alternative

USA Today runs an AP article on Ban Ki-Moon’s statement to the Climate Vulnerable Forum:

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) – U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged world leaders Monday to finalize the financing for a multibillion-dollar fund to fight the effects of climate change.

Delegates at a U.N.-sponsored climate change conference that starts Nov. 28 in Durban, South Africa, are to consider ways to raise $100 billion a year for the Green Climate Fund created last December to help countries cope with global warming.

Ban told the opening session of a climate meeting in Bangladesh’s capital that the world should make a concerted effort to finance the fund.

Read more about the CVF here. Naturally the only comments on the USA Today website at the time of writing were from wingnuts prating that we should defund the UN, or something. Sheesh.

Sent November 14:

The nations of the Climate Vulnerable Forum are among the world’s least significant contributors to the greenhouse effect — a sad irony, given the fact of their susceptibility to the rising ocean levels and extreme weather events brought in global warming’s wake. It is a further demonstration of the inherent inequity of a globalized consumer economy that the lands and lives of the planet’s poorest citizens are now at profound risk from the activity of the richest.

But while the CVF’s members may be cash-poor, they’re second to none in their moral authority. Countries like Kiribati, Bangladesh and the Maldives are working hard to reduce their own CO2 emissions despite the fact that it is the wealthiest members of the global community who’ve made such a mess of things.

America’s politicians and their corporate masters ignore the simple and obvious principle we all learned as children: clean up after yourself.

Warren Senders

12 Mar 2011, 12:01am

1 comment

  • Meta

  • SiteMeter

  • Brighter Planet

    Brighter Planet's 350 Challenge
  • Year 2, Month 3, Day 12: Arkansas Traveler Edition

    Sort of groping today. I stumbled across an article in the Solomon Times (Pacific Islands) about a regional conference to address climate change’s impact on the fish economy. Not really inspiring stuff, frankly — but I was too tickled by the thought of writing to an outlet in the Solomon Islands. Then I read this:

    4 March 2011 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today pledged United Nations support to help Pacific Island States mitigate the impact of climate change, noting that many of them are “on the front lines” of the battle.

    “As you know, the clock is ticking. We must do whatever we can, wherever we can, as quickly as we can, to protect the most vulnerable,” he said in a message to the Ministerial Regional Conference on Climate Change in the Pacific, which is being held in Port Vila, Vanuatu.

    “It is critically important for the Pacific Island countries to continue to raise their voices on climate change. Your communities are on the front lines of this global threat. Small island developing States are among those that are most vulnerable to climate impacts. You know first-hand the destructive potential of rising sea levels, more intensive storms and other hazards.”

    And that triggered the following letter, ostensibly sent WRT the Fish/Climate Change Conference, but actually addressing the UN committment.

    Sent March 4:

    Ban Ki-moon’s vow of United Nations support for Pacific Island States is welcome news. At this point, the juggernaut of climate change cannot be stopped; it may only be slowed — and island economies and cultures are among the very first to feel its consequences. It is grimly ironic that the nations which contribute least to the atmospheric greenhouse effect are the ones most affected by it. Unfortunately, in many industrialized countries the political climate has made reality-based discussions of global warming difficult, and actual policies impossible. For nations protected by geography from climate change’s initial impacts, devaluing scientific expertise in favor of short-term political exigencies is a luxury that the Pacific Island States can ill afford. The committed engagement of the United Nations is essential; the world’s industrialized nations must recognize the climate crisis as a universal threat and take immediate steps to transform their energy economies. But as long as the oil industry maintains its stranglehold on the world’s governments, such action is unlikely. Ban Ki-moon has his work cut out for him.

    Warren Senders

    …and as of March 11, you can find this letter online at the Solomon Times website.

    Year 2, Month 3, Day 6: Ban Ki Goes To Hollywood

    I just finished reading Will Bunch’s “Tear Down This Myth,” and I was already thinking about the disaster that Reagan’s Hollywood presidency was for the country. Then I read this article in the LA Times, about Ban Ki-moon’s heavy lobbying of Hollywood bigwigs on climate change, and was struck by a line midway through.

    This is a site-specific version of the generic media irresponsibility/false equivalence letter. Enjoy.

    Mailed February 26:

    The key sentence in your description of Ban Ki-Moon’s plea to Hollywood figures for support in combating climate change is director David Carson’s remark, “You don’t want to offend your sponsors.” That is to say, television is fed by big oil, and people who work in TV shy away from biting the hand that feeds them. Ban Ki-Moon’s initiative may yield tangible results; one can only hope that America’s entertainment media will contribute constructively to our species’ ongoing struggle with the greenhouse effect, since the nation’s news media have virtually without exception abdicated their responsibilities in this arena. Yes, we need movies and TV to get people thinking about global warming, just as we need good, accurate news on the subject. But as long as those who provide entertainment and/or facts cannot depict climate change as both scientific fact and imminent threat without offending their sponsors, it’s unlikely.

    Warren Senders

    Year 2, Month 2, Day 4: Actually, ALL Of Us Live On Islands

    The Philippines Inquirer runs an article predicting that 2011 is going to have more weather anomalies — a prognostication that falls in the “utterly obvious” category. It’s a much better piece than you’ll find in the American media.

    Of course, Filipinos and Filipinas are seeing climate change up close and personal:

    Here at home, in Baguio City, millions worth of fruits and vegetables were ruined by heavy frost of an unseasonably cold weather.

    More than a week of abnormally heavy rains left 33 dead last December. About 70,000 fled the flash floods and landslides in Davao del Norte, Compostela Valley and Albay.

    Our people in those areas remain in turmoil—hundreds of hectares of rice lands, private property and infrastructure destroyed; a total of P431 million in newly planted crops and fertilized soil washed away; and contagious diseases and rat hordes added to their immense misery.

    So the least I can do is add a voice in sympathy. As is all too often the case, finding the LTE link was an exercise in frustration.

    Ban Ki-moon’s plea to the developed nations of the world is heartfelt and sincere. The unpredictable weather countless nations have experienced over the past year is only the beginning; the orchestra of chaos is only tuning up, and in the decades to come we are going to witness extreme weather events that are certain to shatter record after record. Unfortunately, the political system in the USA has been captured by (to use Theodore Roosevelt’s trenchant phrase) “malefactors of great wealth.” Operatives of the world’s biggest corporations wield almost unchecked power in the halls of American governance, and the notion of a national climate policy based on scientific fact now seems hopelessly unrealistic. The U.N. Secretary General is apparently now refocusing his attention and energy on an economic rationale for changes in the world’s energy economy. Let us hope that “profit” is a more effective motivator than “planet.”

    Warren Senders

    Year 2, Month 2, Day 2: The Future Is Here Already

    The Khaleej Times is a news organization based in the UAE. They ran a version of the AP story on Ban Ki-moon’s changed approach; the same day their headline noted a “sudden storm” that “played havoc” in the northern part of the country. A nice connection that worked pretty well in this letter.

    It is a sad irony: on the day that U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is reported to be “shifting focus” in the fight against climate change, the lead story in the Khaleej Times is headed, “Sudden storm plays havoc in the Northern Emirates.” A post-global-warming atmosphere will feature quite a few such sudden and extreme weather events, which can confidently be expected to wreak havoc wherever they show up. “Once-in-a-century” floods will come every decade; weather patterns that have been consistent and dependable for countless generations are going to go steadily more awry. As weather predictions become ever more unreliable, the only things to remain certain will be agricultural disruption and infrastructural destruction. It is to be hoped that Ban Ki-moon’s focus on sustainable economic development will provide effective motivations for the world’s biggest greenhouse emitters to change their ways, since “saving the world” didn’t seem to do the trick.

    Warren Senders

    Year 2, Month 2, Day 1: Stupidity Rhymes With Cupidity

    Ban Ki-moon is going to change his focus to “green economics” in the wake of repeated failures to get the world’s biggest contributors to the greenhouse effect to behave responsibly toward their neighbors.

    The Guardian (UK):

    Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general who made global warming his personal mission, is ending his hands-on involvement with international climate change negotiations, the Guardian has learned.

    In a strategic shift, Ban will redirect his efforts from trying to encourage movement in the international climate change negotiations to a broader agenda of promoting clean energy and sustainable development, senior UN officials said.

    The officials said the change in focus reflected Ban’s realisation, after his deep involvement with the failed Copenhagen summit in 2009, that world leaders are not prepared to come together in a sweeping agreement on global warming – at least not for the next few years.

    My letter to the Guardian:

    One can only imagine Ban Ki-moon’s deep disappointment at the failure of the world’s nations to make any meaningful progress on combating climate change over the past several years. The climatological evidence for anthropogenic global warming has accumulated at dizzying rates; scientific consensus on the threat humanity confronts is essentially universal, if you subtract a few petroleum-funded naysayers from the mix. And yet some of the world’s largest countries seem politically paralyzed, unable to do anything in the face of this slow-motion disaster (although there is ample indication that its pace is quickening faster than most experts ever imagined possible).

    Perhaps the new focus on “green growth” will succeed where a plea for human survival has failed; perhaps an appeal to our economic motivations will motivate our leaders to do the right thing, albeit for the wrong reasons. And our descendants, if descendants there be, will remember that our generation knew — but chose to ignore.

    Warren Senders

    Month 8, Day 23: Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream

    I’ve never written to Ban ki-Moon before. His statements about climate change make it pretty clear that he gets it in a way that hardly any American politicians do.

    It was extremely difficult to find any useful contact address. The UN has a generic email submission page which I finally used…but I’m going to try and get something more substantial once they open for business tomorrow.


    Please forward to the Secretary General – RE: Geopolitical Implications of Climate Change

    Dear Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon,
    Your recent words about the disaster in Pakistan show that you are one of the few public figures who is willing to recognize climate change as one of the primary causal forces behind that country’s devastating floods. It is evident to any thinking observer that a steady increase in extreme weather events (as predicted for decades by climatologists) will lead to dramatic changes in the structuring foreign policy.

    Humanity can go in two directions. The nations of the world can join together to develop strategies for resource allotment and the deployment of infrastructure as needed to combat the devastating effects of short-term weather events (thereby preventing food and water wars, or other political manifestations of climatic emergency) — or they can continue on the path of what the economist Naomi Klein aptly terms “disaster capitalism,” in which any crisis is used as an opportunity for exploitation and the curtailment of human liberties.

    The first path will lead to our survival as a species, the second inevitably to our doom.

    We have often wondered: if humanity could find a common adversary, could old national rivalries be set aside? In that respect, the climate crisis offers us an opportunity to transform our ways of thinking about ourselves as a species and our role on the planet. What is happening to Pakistan today could happen to one of the world’s wealthiest nations next week; the transformed climate does not play favorites in the long run.

    This is the first time that humanity has faced a planet-sized enemy, an enemy that cannot be defeated by force of arms or by political maneuverings. We have created this threat ourselves, and to defeat it we must change ourselves at a deep level.

    We can no longer waste time and treasure on the destructive distractions of war; there is a greater enemy to overcome.

    Yours Sincerely,

    Warren Senders

    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