Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Let's Get Moving

Things aren't going so well on the environmental front. The Bush administration is still doing everything it can to keep a consensus from developing and moving the nations of the world forward. Granted India and China are being contrary as well, but progress has to start somewhere. Unfortunately, some of the big sticks we could use against those two countries have been wasted by the economic and political fallout from the Iraq disaster.

Thomas Fuller and Peter Gelling of The New York Times are reporting:

Over the weekend, officials from the United Nations, backed by the European Union and many developing countries, offered a draft plan for talks over the next two years, including a statement that dangerous warming can be avoided only if industrialized countries cut emissions by 2020 to levels 25 to 40 percent below those of 1990.

But on Tuesday the United States remained firmly opposed to such language. ...

The Bush administration opposes including hard targets at this stage in the talks. Other countries, including Japan and Canada, are beginning to side with the United States on the need for any new climate agreements to include meaningful steps by fast-growing countries like China and India. And calls for concrete limits have consistently been refused by those nations. ...

"The situation is so desperately serious that any delay could push us past the tipping point, beyond which the ecological, financial and human costs would increase dramatically," said Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general.

Countries have a choice between a comprehensive agreement or "oblivion," he said.

Remember James Lovelock?. He's the first guy who warned us about chlorofluorocarbons and their effect on the ozone layer. Here's what he told Rolling Stone two months ago:

By 2020, droughts and other extreme weather will be commonplace. By 2040, the Sahara will be moving into Europe, and Berlin will be as hot as Baghdad. Atlanta will end up a kudzu jungle. Phoenix will become uninhabitable, as will parts of Beijing (desert), Miami (rising seas) and London (floods). Food shortages will drive millions of people north, raising political tensions. "The Chinese have nowhere to go but up into Siberia," Lovelock says. "How will the Russians feel about that? I fear that war between Russia and China is probably inevitable." With hardship and mass migrations will come epidemics, which are likely to kill millions. By 2100, Lovelock believes, the Earth's population will be culled from today's 6.6 billion to as few as 500 million, with most of the survivors living in the far latitudes -- Canada, Iceland, Scandinavia, the Arctic Basin.

Unfortunately, Mr. Lovelock says that it's too late. There's nothing that can be done about it. We're already so far down the global warming path that the swing of the pendulum will take too long to correct the damage we have done. Even if Lovelock is wildly wrong and 5.5 billion aren't missing from the world population by 2100. Maybe only 2.5 billion are dead. Even this die off will be horrific. There is a bright side though. Reducing the human burden on the earth by a half or more may enable the earth to recover from some of the damage we have done.

You can take Mr. Lovelock's predictions at face value and give up or take them as a worse case scenario. I chose the latter. I think most people in the world know we can do something to mitigate the already terrible damage we have done to the ecosphere. Most people think that we can change and adapt into a more harmonious relationship with the planet. The big problem lies with world leaders who are refusing to address the issues head on. The biggest tragedy is that it is our leaders who are pretending this is just another trade issue or other unimportant treaty squabble that will sort itself out in due time. This is drop dead serious and if our leadership doesn't take the forefront on global warming now then generations of humans already born will find themselves living in a virtual hell of starvation, war and death. I may live to see the beginning of the end but if things don't begin to change radically soon I sure as hell don't want to the much of it.

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