Climate Feedback

Countdown to Copenhagen

Keith Kloor

Prospects for the U.S. congressional climate bill appear grim, writes Juliet Eilperin in the Washington Post:

“With Democrats deeply divided on the issue, unless some Republican lawmakers risk the backlash for signing on to the legislation, there is almost no hope for passage.”

David Roberts at Grist offers a similar prognosis for a bill he says that is already “far weaker than what’s needed.” Because of America’s institutional “political dysfunction,” Roberts predicts:

“There’s every chance it will a) get weaker still and b) fail to pass in the end.”

Amidst this backdrop, cap-and-trade, which is the basis for the congressional climate legislation, is getting raked over the coals again. Two attorneys for the U.S Environmental Protection Agency penned an op-ed for the Washington Post, in which they asserted:

“The House and Senate climate bills are not a first step in the right direction. They would give away valuable rights in cap-and-trade permits and create a trillion-dollar carbon-offsets market that will not lead to needed reductions. Together, the illusion of greenhouse-gas reductions and the creation of powerful lobbies seeking to protect newly created profits in permits and offsets would lock in climate degradation for a decade or more.”

Columbia University’s Jeffrey Sachs in the November/December issue of Scientific American takes a similarly dim view of “the cumbersome cap-and-trade system proposed by the House of Representatives. Too much is at stake, argues Sachs:

“We’ll need to spend trillions of dollars over time to save the planet from climate change. All the more reason not to let lobbyists make a financial game out of this deadly serious effort.”

Did American politicians thus bet on the wrong horse, muses Keith Johnson at the WSJ’s Environmental Capitol? He suggests it might be wise to set aside the conventional wisdom about carbon taxes being “a political dead-end.” Johnson lays out how environmentalists can find common ground with deficit hawks on a climate bill centered on a carbon tax.

Whatever policy instrument eventually gets put in place to reduce carbon emissions, it may still be too late to save the snows of Mount Kilimanjaro, according to a new study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. As The Times of London reports:

“The snows of Mount Kilimanjaro will be gone within two decades, according to scientists who say that the rapid melting of its glacier cap over the past century provides dramatic physical evidence of global climate change.”

However certain this soon-to-be casualty of climate change may be, human disaster and tragedy from global warming need not be a fait accompli. “So how can we best identify those most at risk?” asks Gaia Vince in Yale Environment 360. By applying “Darwinian principles,” she argues:

“We need to recognize what makes a community ‘climate-fit,’ and how to improve fitness in ‘climate-weak’ populations.”

For example, Vince writes:

“Countries such as Costa Rica, where the environment is preserved as an important part of the tourism economy, are more climate-fit than places like Indonesia, China or Madagascar, where the government allows or sponsors environmental degradation, such as widespread deforestation.”

Meanwhile, in the Guardian, Rajendra Pachauri, head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is frustrated that political negotiations in advance of the Copenhagen conference aren’t imbued with a greater sense of scientific urgency:

“Science has been moved aside and the space has been filled up with political myopia with every country now trying to protect its own narrow short-term interests. They are afraid to have negotiations go any further because they would have to compromise on those interests.”

Amidst all the political heel dragging ahead of Copenhagen, former US Vice President Al Gore offers up his vision of how we might actually solve the climate problem his new book ‘Our choice’, out this week in the US. Newsweek scored an exclusive interview with Gore for a feature story on, among other things, how the former Vice President has been re-crafting and expanding his message on climate change since his 2006 book, “An Inconvenient Truth,” which was also made into an Oscar winning movie.

Gore tells Newsweek that he’s been giving a new religiously oriented training program of his patented slide show to faith-based volunteer groups:

“I’ve done a Christian [-based] training program; I have a Muslim training program and a Jewish training program coming up, also a Hindu program coming up. I trained 200 Christian ministers and lay leaders here in Nashville in a version of the slide show that is filled with scriptural references. It’s probably my favorite version, but I don’t use it very often because it can come off as proselytizing.”


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