Friday, September 04, 2009

Playing For Time Is Playing With Fire

When it comes to international action to combat global warming, time is not on mankind's side. Unfortunately some of the key players simply don't get that, among them the United States. The Guardian reports that America's climate change legislation is hopelessly bogged down in the Senate:

Without concrete action in the Senate, there will not be an actual deal ready to sign in Copenhagen. With no Senate action, there's no guarantee that the US will commit to binding targets. And with no US targets, there will be no firm agreement from China, India or other emerging powers. Ratification of an international treaty requires the consent of 67 senators – and right now, just getting to 60 just to vote on the climate bill is looking difficult.

With a realistic time frame, this delay means they won't release a bill until the end of September. Boxer, who chairs the Senate's environment and public works committee, has said she plans to hold hearings on the draft text, followed by markup of the full legislation. Her committee is not the only one likely to play a major role in the bill.

So, what's the rush anyway? It's going to take years to implement climate change measures anyway, isn't it? Of course it is. The important distinction is that we have a lot more time to act on climate change than we do to achieve an effective consensus to act on climate change.

Climate change is already happening. In some countries its impact is setting in fast and hard while in others it's barely noticeable. The ironic part is that it's the "last and least"countries of the West (where the warming will arrive last and that will be least affected) that are probably going to be expected to make the greatest concessions. If the West balks on this, the other major carbon emitters - India and China - won't budge either. Before long, climate change will cause enormous social upheaval in South and East Asia and, when that happens, the window for consensus slams irrevocably shut. When that happens, climate change completes the transition from a scientific problem to a political problem to a military problem.

If we don't get everyone onside in Copenhagen in December it will be vastly more difficult, perhaps even impossible, to later achieve any meaningful consensus. I'm beginning to wonder whether Washington isn't counting on just that.


LMA said...

Obama seems to be pushing hard to get his climate change bill through the senate before Copenhagen. It's not much of a reduction in GHG emissions, 17% by 2020, but it's a start. What troubles me is the notion being floated by Obama and Ignatieff that somehow the Tar Sands can be "cleaned up". Ignatieff never gets into specifics other than CCS. It will take years to develop technologies to clean up the tailings ponds, if it can ever be done, and they just keep growing. The boreal forests will be gone for good. Seems like one step forward and two steps back.

The Mound of Sound said...

You're spot on about the Tar Sands. They're simply perpetuating the myth of CCS that's been spun for more than a decade with nothing tangible yet even in the works. To me, this speaks volumes about MI's integrity, his fitness to lead the LPC.

LMA said...

According to an article posted on the website, environmentalists led by the Sierra Club are suing the U.S. State Department over its' approval of the Alberta Clipper pipeline last month. Apparently, not all Americans want our dirty oil!