Year 3, Month 12, Day 14: Because The Sky Is Blue, It Makes Me Cry

Sigh. Another year, another botched opportunity:

DOHA, Qatar — The United Nations climate conference here has settled into its typical doldrums, with most major questions unresolved as a Friday evening deadline for concluding the talks approaches. One of the thorniest issues is money, which has often bedeviled these affairs.

Since the process for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change began about 20 years ago, countries have been split into two often-warring camps: the small number of wealthy nations that provide money to help deal with the effects of global warming, and the much larger group of poorer states that receive it.

At a climate summit meeting in Copenhagen three years ago, the industrialized countries promised to secure $10 billion a year in funds for adapting to climate change over the following three years and $100 billion a year beginning in 2020. The short-term money has more or less been raised and spent, although some nations have quarreled over whether it was new money or simply repurposed foreign aid. A Green Climate Fund has been established to handle the money after 2020.

Just shoot me. Sent December 8:

It’s not just that wealthy nations “provide money” to poorer nations facing the devastation of runaway climate change, as John Broder suggests in his second paragraph. Those wealthy countries are the ones which “provided” massive greenhouse emissions in the first place. The carbon footprints of Bangladesh and Kiribati are mere statistical noise compared with the output of the developed nations — an effluvium of climate forcers well on its way to overwhelming our planet’s natural equilibrium.

It should be incumbent on societies which have prospered from the uncontrolled consumption of fossil fuels to behave ethically toward those whose gains aren’t correlated with conspicuous consumption. Since wealthy countries have already redistributed their CO2 into the atmosphere, where it affects everyone on the planet equally, a failure to similarly redistribute economic power is both environmentally and morally irresponsible. It’s time for the developed world to take responsibility for the mess it’s made.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 12, Day 7: If You Are Not A Reality, Whose Myth Are You?

The Washington Post reports on one of the first-ever climate protests in Qatar:

DOHA, Qatar — A few hundred people marched in a peaceful demonstration Saturday for “climate justice” in Doha, where negotiators from nearly 200 countries are debating about how to slow global warming and help protect the most vulnerable countries from rising seas and other impacts of climate change.

Waving banners saying “Stop climate change” and “Arabs reduce emissions,” the well-behaved crowd marched along the Qatari capital’s Corniche, a waterfront walkway lined by gleaming skyscrapers.

Khalid al-Mohannadi, one of the organizers, noted that “it’s not a protest, it’s a march for peace.”

The march was billed as the first environmental rally ever in the wealthy emirate, which is hosting the two-week U.N. talks aimed at forging a global deal to curb emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases.

This is a quick and dirty revision of yesterday’s letter, but I think it came out damn well, considering. December 1:

Hard on the heels of the World Meteorological Organization’s declaration that 2012 has seen record-breaking weather extremes everywhere on Earth, Christiana Figueres, the United Nations’ climate chief, tells us she doesn’t perceive much public pressure “for governments to take on more ambitious and more courageous decisions.” Indeed, it really seems that just as our global environment is heading to catastrophic imbalance, our political systems are essentially paralyzed.

There’s certainly no shortage of pressure, as this week’s demonstrations by environmentalists at the Doha conference show. For decades, millions of people have clamored for responsible climate policies, signing petitions, making phone calls, writing letters and marching. But the sad fact is that the innumerable voices of individual citizens are still too easily drowned out by the grotesquely amplified “speech” of the fossil fuel industry and its lobbyists. The public pressure’s there, all right — but millions of dollars speak louder than millions of people.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 12, Day 6: Please Don’t Wake Me, No Don’t Shake Me, Leave Me Where I Am, I’m Only Sleeping

The Detroit Free Press reports on the bad weather we’ve been having recently:

DOHA, Qatar — An area of Arctic sea ice bigger than the U.S. melted this year, according the United Nations weather agency, which said the dramatic decline illustrates that climate change is happening “before our eyes.”

In a report released at UN climate talks in the Qatari capital of Doha, the World Meteorological Organization said the Arctic ice melt was one of a myriad of extreme and record-breaking weather events to hit the planet in 2012. Droughts devastated nearly two-thirds of the U.S. as well as western Russia and southern Europe. Floods swamped west Africa and heat waves left much of the Northern Hemisphere sweltering.

But it was the ice melt that seemed to dominate the annual climate report, with the United Nations concluding that ice cover had reached “a new record low” in the area around the North Pole, and that the loss from March to September was 4.57 million square miles — an area bigger than the U.S.

Meanwhile, in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

DOHA, Qatar – The United Nations climate chief is urging people not to look solely to their governments to make tough decisions to slow global warming, and instead to consider their own role in solving the problem.

Approaching the half-way point of two-week climate talks in Doha, Christiana Figueres, the head of the U.N.’s climate change secretariat, said Friday that she didn’t see “much public interest, support, for governments to take on more ambitious and more courageous decisions.”

These two were referenced in a letter to the DFP, sent November 30:

It’s a sad irony that at a point in history where our planetary environment is becoming completely unhinged, our governing institutions have almost entirely lost the capacity for meaningful action. The same week that the World Meteorological Organization confirms that 2012 has been a year of record-breaking weather extremes all over the world, UN climate chief Christiana Figueres comments that she doesn’t perceive much public pressure “for governments to take on more ambitious and more courageous decisions.”

The problem is as simple as it is intractable. There’s no shortage of public pressure on the world’s governments. In the past four years, millions of people have signed petitions, made phone calls, written letters and marched on behalf of responsible climate change policies. But these citizens have less influence on our public sector than a single signature — on a massive campaign contribution from a fossil fuel lobbyist.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 12, Day 4: Don’t Just Do Something — Stand There!

The LA Times, on the Doha Climate Conference:

More than 17,000 people have converged on the Qatari capital for the latest U.N. climate talks, but the most influential presence may be Sandy.

The superstorm that ravaged the U.S. Northeast a month ago seared into the American consciousness an apocalyptic vision of what climate change could look like. On the heels of devastating wildfires, droughts and floods this year, Sandy’s destructive power snapped Americans to the reality that rising temperatures are a risk to their own well-being, not just a concern for distant lowlands.

Sandy’s fresh reminder of the potential consequences of global warming has been a dominant theme in the first days of the two-week meeting in Doha of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, delegates report.

Still, politicians and environmentalists at the gathering, which began Monday, maintain low expectations for the massive confab to spur swift or dramatic action to combat rising global temperatures. They predict that, at best, the unwieldy forum drawing together 195 countries and nongovernmental parties will bring agreement to formalize plans to negotiate new climate objectives that follow the aims of the 15-year-old Kyoto Protocol, ostensibly to be achieved by 2020. The next pact doesn’t need to be completed until 2015, so the international body is operating without the pressure of a looming deadline, participants said.

No urgency to this. Not at all. Sent November 28:

Superstorm Sandy’s pre-election visit did more than just allow a Republican governor and a Democratic president to work together. It also brought catastrophic climate change back to the national agenda, just in time for the Doha climate conference. While we can be grateful that this grave existential threat is once again on our radar, the fact that it takes a devastating storm to do so is an indictment of our perpetually distracted media and our all-too-distractable politicians.

The conclusions of climatology are as unambiguous as the law of gravity: climate change is real, it’s dangerous — and human industrial civilization is a root cause. What is needed is a sustained global effort to simultaneously reduce our carbon emissions drastically, develop solutions for excess atmospheric CO2, and prepare for the changes we cannot prevent. Will the Doha conference help make this happen? Not while science-denying conservatives remain powerful in our politics.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 12, Day 3: Red, White and Bullshit…

The Knoxville News-Sentinel (TN) runs an AP article about America’s attempt to greenwash our record at Doha.

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Anticipating an onslaught of criticism from poor nations, the United States claimed “enormous” strides in reducing greenhouse emissions at the opening of U.N. climate talks Monday, despite failing to join other industrialized nations in committing to binding cuts.

The pre-emptive U.S. approach underscores one of the major showdowns expected at the two-week conference as China pushes developed countries to take an even greater role in tackling global warming.

Speaking for a coalition of developed nations known as the G77, China’s delegate, Su Wei, said rich nations should become party to an extended Kyoto Protocol — an emissions deal for some industrialized countries that the Americans long ago rejected — or at least make “comparable mitigation commitments.”

The United States rejected Kyoto because it didn’t impose any binding commitments on major developing countries such as India and China, which is now the world’s No. 1 carbon emitter.

American delegate Jonathan Pershing offered no new sweeteners to the poor countries, only reiterating what the United States has done to tackle global warming: investing heavily in clean energy, doubling fuel efficiency standards and reducing emissions from coal-fired power plants. Pershing also said the United States would not increase its earlier commitment of cutting emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. It is half way to that target.

Mendacity, mendacity, it makes the world go ’round. Sent November 27:

The United States’ attempt to defuse criticism of its profligate greenhouse emissions on the eve of the Doha climate conference is a fine demonstration of how truth and deception can be interwoven. It’s beyond dispute that America has made enormous strides in reducing future consumption of fossil fuels. Whether it’s stricter mileage standards for new cars, tougher EPA regulations, or increased investments in renewable energy, the Obama administration has done remarkably well — especially given the relentless opposition they’ve faced from Republican lawmakers who’ve done everything possible to derail environmentally responsible policy initiatives.

But these strides are only possible because our country’s approach to energy is astonishingly wasteful. Per capita, America’s CO2 emissions are far higher than those of India and China, whose carbon footprints are larger than ours only because of their far greater populations. For the USA to tout its record on climate change without taking these factors into account is grossly misleading — a poor stance for any nation, let alone one asserting a leadership role in the international community. When it comes to a robust and responsible approach to the planetary climate crisis, America (and Americans) will have to do far better than this.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 11, Day 30: I’d Love To Turn You On…

The San Francisco Chronicle runs an AP story on the upcoming Doha conference, titled, “Will US role at climate talks change after storm?”

STOCKHOLM (AP) — During a year with a monster storm and scorching heat waves, Americans have experienced the kind of freakish weather that many scientists say will occur more often on a warming planet.

And as a re-elected president talks about global warming again, climate activists are cautiously optimistic that the U.S. will be more than a disinterested bystander when the U.N. climate talks resume Monday with a two-week conference in Qatar.

“I think there will be expectations from countries to hear a new voice from the United States,” said Jennifer Morgan, director of the climate and energy program at the World Resources Institute in Washington.

The climate officials and environment ministers meeting in the Qatari capital of Doha will not come up with an answer to the global temperature rise that is already melting Arctic sea ice and permafrost, raising and acidifying the seas, and shifting rainfall patterns, which has an impact on floods and droughts.

They will focus on side issues, like extending the Kyoto protocol — an expiring emissions pact with a dwindling number of members — and ramping up climate financing for poor nations.

With us in the studio is Senator James Inhofe. Senator? Sent November 24:

One of the most important factors in President Obama’s decisive re-election was the simple truth that Mitt Romney and the rest of the Republican Party were determined to ignore the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change. From evolution-denying congressmen to Governor Romney’s mocking reference to rising sea levels, the GOP showed an ideologically-driven rejection of expertise that repelled voters. In 2012, America re-elected science and math.

For the Administration to dismiss this groundswell of popular support for common sense and environmental good-citizenship would be politically as well as globally irresponsible. At the upcoming Doha Climate Conference, America needs to prove to the rest of the world’s nations that our days of denial are over. Superstorm Sandy showed us what rapid climate change really looks like, and Governor Christie’s cooperation with the President demonstrated what a sensible Republican can do in a crisis. Will the rest of his party please pay attention?

Warren Senders