Monday, November 08, 2010

Looking to Cancun

[A letter to Senators Bingaman and Udall of New Mexico. The questions below are questions I wish reporters were asking often. If you agree this is an emergency, dear reader, would you consider writing a letter or email to your own representatives? Calling their offices works, too.]

The United Nations is holding an international conference on climate change in Cancun, Mexico, from November 29 to December 10.

We are at a time when the international will to address our ecological emergency seems to be melting faster than an arctic glacier. No binding agreement on greenhouse emissions is expected to emerge from Cancun. Todd Stern, our negotiator on climate policy, has said as much in the press. Strikingly, even the U.N. climate chief, Christiana Figueres, has said there will be no agreement on climate policy in her lifetime. Many world leaders are expected to give this conference a pass altogether.

We are a major polluting nation. We have not participated in the Kyoto protocol which expires in 2012. We supported, instead, the Copenhagen Accord in 2009, which binds more powerful nations like ours only to voluntary pledges. President Obama has pledged to cut our emissions by 17% by 2012. The seriousness of our ecological emergency requires deeper and faster cuts in emissions. In order to approach the kind of reforms that are required to contain the effects of global warming, we need to fast-track energy policy to move us away from coal and toward an infrastructure for cleaner energy.

Here are my questions, Senator.

Will you embrace what climatologists such as James Hansen (of the NASA Goddard Institute) are telling us, and call for a global warming target of a 1.5% temperature rise or less? This would be bold, but that is where we are. Climate change really is an emergency.

Are you conscious of the Cancun conference, and if so, what are some outcomes you hope to see?

Will you stand and defend the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse emissions, a power affirmed by ruling of the United States Supreme Court?

Finally, a question going back to the 2009 Copenhagen Accord. I am concerned by reports that the United States and the European Union have threatened African nations with cuts in humanitarian aid because they were opposed to Copenhagen. Similarly, we suspended climate aid programs to Bolivia and Ecuador. Why are we punishing these countries?

Your response to these questions, and an affirmation that this is an emergency, is greatly appreciated.

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