Immigration reform joins a long list of national issues Congress has chosen to turn into campaign red meat rather than legislation. Yet one piece of President George W. Bush’s immigration policy is proceeding briskly to implementation. His administration has just chosen defense and aerospace giant Boeing to lead the team that will start walling in our southern border.
Hoff Stauffer should not be so apologetic and tenuous in his proposal for performance standards. If and when the world decides to become serious and really do something about global warming (and the considerable lag times normally encountered between decision and action suggest we are fast running out of time), I doubt the Kyoto Protocol will have anything to do with what emerges. Kyoto and its flexible mechanisms may represent an idealized vision of how pollution might be controlled in a perfect world, but the real world is far from meeting those conditions. The question we should be asking is: why would the world want to experiment with untried theory for this critical and time-sensitive problem?
The debate in the United States on global climate change is shifting from whether to do something about the problem to what to do. The conventional wisdom focuses on “cap and trade,” also known as tradable emissions permits. The Kyoto protocol, for instance, has instituted a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gases (GHGs).
The debate in the United States on global climate change is shifting from whether to do something about the problem to what to do.1 Prudent people do not want to risk unacceptable adverse economic impacts, even if they are extremely concerned about global climate change. On the other side, equally prudent people do not want to risk accomplishing too little. The debate is stymied, even though several bills on global warming have been introduced into Congress. ÂThere will be no climate change legislation coming out of my committee this year,Â Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) recently announced. ÂFrankly, I don’t know how to write it, and I don’t think anybody does.Â2
In his State of the Union address, President George W. Bush admitted to the American people that America has a problem: Oil addiction. The first step in overcoming an addiction is acknowledging the problem. The logical second step should be addressing the root causes of that addiction and correcting the imbalances that enable it. But the Bush proposal does little to meet this challenge.
Last week in Montreal, climate negotiators met to determine how the majority of the world’s countries will move forward when the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. While melting ice caps and alarming shifts in ocean currents flashed across the headlines, little progress was made. The sad truth is that the world’s atmosphere will continue to warm. It may warm past the “tipping point,” the point of no return at which feedback loops build upon one another, and exponential increases in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases such as methane bring catastrophically altered weather patterns with devastating consequences, especially for the poorest. Despite the terrifying notion of a looming point of no return, the U.S. government was not a party to these negotiations, having withdrawn from the Kyoto Protocol early in George W. Bush’s first term. It was a bit puzzling why Bush wasn’t a party. He would have felt right at home in the Palais de Congress, where the 11th Conference of the Parties (COP-11) to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change met: It felt more like a business convention than an environmental one. Everywhere one turned, people were striding purposefully toward another side event or delegates’ meeting focused on the topic of buying and selling the latest hot commodity: carbon. Almost everyone, from the environmentalists to government representatives to the overwhelming majority of business groups, was talking in the new, mysterious lexicon of “carbon trading.” Tom Goldtooth, a Diné and Mdewakanton Dakota and director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, said: “When I try to explain carbon trading to our elders, they tell me, ‘Tom, if you can’t make sense of it in our Native language, then there is something wrong with it.’ “This isn’t just the case with Native languages. Like most people steeped in climate change issues, I have trouble explaining how carbon trading works, or doesn’t, in simple English. Even if there were some kind of decoder ring that could help the public and media decipher the discussions at meetings such as this, it might not make much difference. There’s an even bigger problem: Reducing fossil fuel consumption, the best and simplest solution for climate change, isn’t on the agenda. Instead, self-professed experts on the “flexible mechanisms” of carbon trading — or “mechs-perts” — who talk with confidence about this entirely experimental market are running the show. Many environmentalists doubt that carbon trading is the best way to slow or reverse global warming. But they fear that opposing this keystone of the Kyoto climate change treaty would be tantamount to endorsing the Bush administration position and so stay mum. Instead, all are urged to unite behind a bizarre, incomprehensible and totally corruptible system of carbon trading if we are to save the planet from an ecosystemic meltdown. Around the world, ancient cultures such as the Diné, the Inuit and the Tibetans have evolved a way of constructing homes, communities and businesses with a respect for nature’s fine line between scarcity and abundance. This is how they have survived in harmony with icy and tropical environments for thousands of years. This brilliance and understanding is being out-shouted at international climate negotiations by carbon traders who are tinkering over a time span of a few years with a system that, if it fails, threatens to undo millennia of social and biological evolution, much of it irreplaceable. And yet environmentalists — wittingly or, more likely, unwittingly, out of sheer intimidation or confusion — are offering their complicity with this dangerous plan. Carbon trading Carbon emissions trading involves the trading of permits to emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, calculated in tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. It is one of the ways countries can meet their obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. A country (or group of countries) caps its carbon emissions at a certain level — say, 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2010 — and then issues permits to industries that grant the firm the right to emit a stated amount of carbon dioxide over a time period. This is known as “cap and trade.” If carbon emissions targets are exceeded, then a country can buy the “right to pollute” beyond its quota from another country.
As the Earth’s temperature rises faster than at any time in the last 10,000 years, the inaction by the Clinton Administration and the resistance by the U.S. Congress to deal with global climate change is isolating the U.S. diplomatically and courting severe warming-driven political, economic, and ecological disruptions.
With our burning of coal and oil, we humans are heating the deep oceans, fracturing Antarctic ice shelves, and fueling more intense El Niños. Glaciers all over the planet are retreating at accelerating rates. Islands are going under from rising sea levels. Plants, fish, birds, and insects are migrating northward. Among the consequences are malaria on Long Island, encephalitis in New York City, and a dramatic increase of tick-borne Lyme disease in New England. Because of the buildup of atmospheric carbon dioxide, we have changed the timing of the seasons; spring now arrives more than a week earlier in the northern hemisphere than it d