Wednesday, October 20, 2010
The following article appeared a few days ago in NatureNews. It should prove helpful in helping you understand the positions taken by the major two political parties in the US on the major issue of our time; Climate Change.
US midterm elections: A chilly season for climate crusaders
Open scepticism of global warming could rule next Congress.
Nineteen of the 21 serious Republican challengers for seats in the US Senate believe that climate science is either "inconclusive" or "incorrect", according to an analysis by Washington DC's non-partisan National Journal. A more comprehensive list compiled by the left-leaning Wonk Room website suggests that 31 out of 37 Republican Senate candidates — including nine out of ten sitting senators — have recently disputed the science. Five of the remaining six actively oppose existing climate bills.
It is not clear exactly how concerns about climate-change regulations will affect the US midterm elections next month. Battles about political ideology and the state of the US economy are more pressing. But one thing is certain: scepticism about climate science has become one of the many litmus tests for candidates backed by the surging right. Even Senator John McCain of Arizona, who once championed climate legislation, has said that the world needs to know whether the scientific community's conclusions about global warming "were flawed by outside influences". In trendsetting California, where the science of climate change is not at issue between the leading gubernatorial candidates, concern over the economy could still lead to a deferral of greenhouse-gas emission cuts (see 'State watch: California').
Click here for more on the midterm elections.
If Republicans take the House or Senate, US climate scientists could be targeted for investigations that challenge findings related to global warming. In the House, Darrell Issa of California, the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has promised to give climate science "a careful relook". In the Senate, long-time climate sceptic James Inhofe (Republican, Oklahoma) would relish the opportunity to subpoena climate scientists for hearings before the Committee on Environment and Public Works, which he is likely to chair if Republicans take control.
Democratic leaders pushed many members to vote for a comprehensive climate bill in the House in 2009, only to see the issue fizzle out in the Senate. Republican candidates are now using that vote to campaign against Democrats such as Zack Space, who has been accused by his Republican opponent in Ohio, state senator Bob Gibbs, of voting for a "cap-and-trade energy tax that will kill over 100,000 Ohio jobs".
The use of climate science as a weapon to skewer political opponents does not bode well for bipartisan progress on climate after the election. "If the message is that climate legislation is political poison, then that will make it harder to bring it up in the future," says David Goldston, director of government affairs at the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington DC.
Prospects for the kind of emissions-trading programme that allows polluters to buy and sell permits on a fluid carbon market have already faded, says Frank Maisano, an energy specialist with the lobby firm Bracewell & Giuliani in Washington DC. Maisano notes that most of the sitting lawmakers who are likely to lose in November — moderate Democrats and Republicans — did not support aggressive action on climate science in any case. "This is regional politics, not partisan politics."
A more divided Congress could take up smaller initiatives targeting energy efficiency, renewable energy and long-term investments in clean-energy. But the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is poised to act on a 2007 court ruling giving it authority to regulate carbon-dioxide emissions. Some observers suggest that the fear of direct EPA regulation could help to spur a legislative solution among moderates of both parties.
That kind of political compromise might yet be possible if the climate rhetoric tones down after the elections. "Climate-science denial is a by-product of extreme partisanship and a kind of reactionary mode among conservatives, and I expect that this will wane," says Paul Bledsoe, a senior adviser to the Bipartisan Policy Center, a centrist think tank based in Washington DC. He says that most Republicans in the current Congress accept the science even if they disagree over what to do about it. "But if large parts of the Republican Party begin to deny consensus science," he adds, "then the climate community will have to confront them about it."
Sunday, October 10, 2010
The Kyoto Protocol, the only international agreement to fight climate change, will come to an end in two years, 2012. The world, including the US who is not bound by Kyoto, has been trying frantically for over a year to come to agreement on what is to replace Kyoto. The Copenhagen conference, last year, turned out to be totally unproductive. Yet the major players have not given up hope for reaching an agreement that would be legally binding to all its signatories.
Unfortunately the progress has been very slow to nonexistent. The meeting at Tianjin, China ended up last week in total disarray. The meeting which was expected to resolve a few of the obstacles preventing an agreement was described by participants as being full of bickering. "At times it has been like watching children in a kindergarten," said Wendell Tio from Greenpeace International.
Although the talks are scheduled to move to Cancun, Mexico, next month not many are hopeful that the level of disagreement between the US and China will diminish. Kyoto divided the world into two groups, the developed and the developing, with the former subject to strict legal limits on its emissions of carbon dioxide while the latter is subject only to voluntary restraints. And that is the rub.
Officially China has become the largest emitter of carbon in the world, replacing the US but by all conventional metrics China is a developing country and so is refusing to abide by the US demands that China and other large developing countries should be subject to strict emissions quotas also. Obviously the Mr. Su, the Chinese representative at the talks, would have nothing of these demands. Mr. Su likened the U.S. criticism to Zhubajie, a pig in a classic Chinese novel, by saying "It has no measures or actions to show for itself, and instead it criticizes China, which is actively taking measures and actions."
It is this inability to view climate change as a global problem that demands a global solution that has wrecked Copenhagen, is threatening Cancun and will probably doom the final resolution to a meaningless gesture that will do nothing to control climate change. As long as various players are attempting to guard their own selfish interest then no meaningful solution is to be expected. This is a classic case of the tragedy of the commons whereby individual actors believe that they are doing what is good for themselves but wind up in hurting themselves and all other players as well.
What do you think: Should the less developed be exempted from strict limits on emissions so that the developed will shoulder the greater part of the burden of emission reductions? Does nature discriminate on the basis of the national origin of carbon emissions? What would be a fair allocation of the burden and how heavy shed it be?