With less than 48 hours to go before the Bali climate conference comes to a close, it is now universally expected that the 13th session of the Conference of Parties (COP 13) will produce a watered-down “Bali Roadmap.” Once again, countries will be bending over backwards to seduce the United States into joining a post-Kyoto multilateral process to bring down greenhouse gas emissions.
Even people of faith enjoy a good competition now and again. So when Texas Impact, a state-based ecumenical faith organization in Texas that works on environmental concerns, declared that it could sell more compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) than the Illinois-based Faith in Place, a faith organization dedicated to caring for the Earth, the makings of an interesting interstate contest began. By shopping online, congregants can purchase CFLs for their homes and houses of worship. Faith in Place has already declared that it will purchase 500 CFLs and donate them to food pantries across the state, and thus making a true connection between social and ecological justice.
On the opening panel of the Arctic Science Summit Week, Jeff Miotke announced, “Climate change policy must be based on sound silence.” It was a poignant and telling slip of the tongue. Miotke, the State Department’s deputy assistant secretary of Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental Scientific Affairs, joked that his error might have “just cost me my job.” Then he promptly corrected himself: “sound science not silence.” The audience at the March 2007 meeting, a veritable who’s who of leading polar scientists, burst into laughter.
Miotke’s Freudian slip was bittersweet given the failure of leadership on climate change from Washington in general and the White House in particular. The Bush administration’s legacy of denials has morphed into present-day foot-dragging. In November 2006 the shrill pronouncements of President Bush and his advisors prompted outgoing UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to note that climate skeptics “are out of step, out of arguments, and out of time.”
The headlines in the lead-up to the Group of Eight (G8) meeting here in Rostock have focused on the dispute over the proposed declaration on climate change. German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants the rich countries to commit to limiting global warming to two degrees centigrade. This will involve cutting greenhouse gas emissions to 50% of their 1990 levels by 2050 and increasing energy efficiency by 50% by 2020. Merkel’s proposal drew predictable opposition from George W. Bush. However, to contain further damage to his battered image, Bush called for a conference of the biggest greenhouse gas polluters to deal with global warming. This has alarmed Merkel, who wants to keep the process securely within the United Nations.
With over 1400 local events, the April 14 National Day of Climate Action offered a national wakeup call, with citizens in every state raising their voices. But even as we build on this powerful day to move forward, we need to talk about why it’s been so hard for Americans to recognize the climate issue’s urgency.
Wayne Gilchrest is a Republican Congressman from Maryland. He chairs the House Climate Change Caucus and has co-sponsored the Climate Stewardship Act designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 to 70% below 1990 levels. Because of his reluctance to deny human responsibility for climate change, Gilchrest was not chosen by Republican leader John Boehner to serve on the recently formed bipartisan Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. At the end of March, FPIF contributor Michael Shank interviewed Gilchrest in Washington, DC about Kyoto, the congressional tipping point for climate change legislation, and the challenges posed by India and China.
Elected officials far and near are doing it. The European Union is doing it. U.S. governors are doing it. Even U.S. mayors are doing it. France’s Jacques Chirac calls it “revolutionary,” and California’s Arnold Schwarzenegger says “the time to act is now.” Even Wal-Mart is getting off the dime.
On April 14, 2007, if the organizers of Step It Up accomplish their goal, they will hold not only the largest climate change action in the United States but also the most widespread.
Hopes for the Kyoto Protocol are fading, and carbon trading is a farce. To arrest climate change, industrialized states can either "bite the bullet" and adopt socially responsible policies to dramatically cut fossil fuel use and useless consumption. Or they can hope for a "silver bullet"—some new techno-fix that might let them continue to pollute and avoid human extinction. The silver bullet may be winning.