Thursday, December 20, 2007


“If you are not willing to lead, then get out of the way.” This sentiment was shouted at the U.S. by a repetitive at the recent Bali Conference on climate change. This will be the refrain of the world unless we, as a nation, make a determined effort to get our proverbial international act together with respect to climate change specifically and foreign policy in general. The deal signed at the Bali Conference does not require specific climate reduction targets by anyone, thanks to the U.S. Oh, but it does create an agenda for future discussions and negotiations. Some say that at least this keeps the dialogue going and, yes, that is a positive step.

Despite the E.U.’s desire to develop mandatory reductions of greenhouse gases, the U.S., backed by Japan and several other nations prevented stringent actions from being taken. The U.S. argued that numbers should not be assigned until after further negotiations which will not be complete until 2009. So now we will have two more years of discussion and then, maybe, we will sign off on numbers which will still have to go through the treaty process in the U.S. Does everyone think that the GOP will just say, “Sure, let’s put restrictions on big business?” After all, the major reason that the U.S. and China have balked at signing off on limits is because they say it will hurt economic growth. Will it hurt economic growth any less in two years? When India and the E.U. tried to include language that would require monitoring of technology transfer to underdeveloped countries, the U.S. decided it wanted further talks on the issue. While this position was reversed due to massive pressure, the damage to the image of the U.S. had been done.

Thanks to President Bush, the U.S. has bought itself more time to try to figure out how to avoid more regulations that would hamstring multi-billion dollar corporations. A key question is what kind of time do we really have? Will Nature wait for the U.S. and China to get on board with most of the rest of the world? The recent auto emissions standards signed by President Bush are a joke. By 2020 autos are required to get 35mpg. We are not that far from that now and most imports have already reached that goal. The bill also requires more use of ethanol which is basically produced and under the control of oil companies. Who wins? Not the environment and not the consumer. With the tax increase knocked out of the bill to force large corporations to pay for changes, who do you think will be footing the costs to clean up the emissions? Keep in mind that the 35mpg is not required until 2020, what happens to the emissions in the meantime?

With all of these delays it is important to note the condition of the environment is not improving. According to scientists, Artic ice melt reached a new high in 2007 with an area the size of Alaska gone. Sea ice loss up to 2006 was something like an average of 68,000 square miles. The loss of sea ice from 2006 to 2007 was ten times that amount or around 663,000 square miles. It is speculated that the Artic Sea could be ice free in the summer of 2013. The sea temperature has risen an unprecedented 5 degrees Celsius. If this happened in a year’s time, what makes the U.S. think that we have years to decide on a course of action to cope with the issues of climate change?

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