United States of Climate Change, Sightline
Antarctica’s massive coastal glaciers are quickly melting into the sea as the oceans around the continent grow warmer - and the pace of ice loss is speeding up. An international satellite network measuring the thickness of the glaciers as they shrink year by year has found that the glaciers have melted so rapidly during the past 10 years that the continent is losing almost as much ice as Greenland, according to researchers gathering the satellite data. San Francisco Chronicle, 1-26-08
Climate Crisis Update: From Coal-Sponsored Presidential Debates to Increased Deforestation of the Amazon, Hypocrisy Abounds in Both the North & the South
By Richard Power
Al Gore should be finishing out his second term in office now, or at least, barnstorming to an early and overwhelming victory in the 2008 nomination process after a seven year absence from electoral politics.
If he was finishing out his second term, the USA and its true allies in the world would be in much better geopolitical, economical, military and environmental circumstances. Indeed, even if Gore was just roaring back from political oblivion just about now, the USA and its true allies in the world would have a better than even shot at recovering from the disaster that has befallen us all since 2001.
But instead, and probably for the best, Al Gore chose the high road.
And instead of delivering stump speeches in Super Tuesday primary states, Gore is in Davos, articulating the challenges that are already upon us:
"In addition to changing the light bulbs, it is far more important to change the laws and to change the treaty obligations that nations have," Gore told delegates, in apparent reference to what he sees as the Bush administration's reluctance to initiate legislation on environmental control.
"Whoever is elected is going to have a different position and a better position. But let's be clear: whoever the leaders are, this issue is going to be dealt with responsibly and effectively only when there is a sufficient degree of urgency on the part of the people themselves." Al Gore in Davos, Reuters, 1-24-08
Meanwhile, those who vie to run in Gore's shadow recently participated in an acrimonious debate in South Carolina; much of what was said in that debate was disheartening, but none of it so disheartening as what was not said:
In Democratic presidential debate last night, CNN once again failed to ask any questions about global warming. Perhaps not surprisingly, last night’s debate was sponsored by the coal front group Americans for Balanced Energy Choices (ABEC). Watch an ad for the debate:
ABEC also co-sponsored November’s CNN/YouTube debates in Nevada and Florida, at which no questions about global warming were asked. Think Progress, 1-22-08
Of course, a televised presidential debate sponsored by the coal industry, in which no questions are asked about climate change (i.e., the number one national security threat), should not be surprising:
The environmental damage caused to developing nations by the world's richest countries amounts to more than the entire third world debt of $1.8 trillion, according to the first systematic global analysis of the ecological damage imposed by rich countries.
The study found that there are huge disparities in the ecological footprint inflicted by rich and poor countries on the rest of the world because of differences in consumption. The authors say that the west's high living standards are maintained in part through the huge unrecognised ecological debts it has built up with developing countries. Guardian, 1-21-08
But hypocrisy in regard to the climate crisis is not exclusive to the richest and most highly developed nations:
The destruction of the Brazil's Amazon rain forest increased drastically in recent months after a two-year "breather," the government reported Wednesday evening. The monthly destruction rate surged from 234 square kilometres in August to 948 sq kilometres in December.
"We have never before detected such a high deforestation rate at this time of year," Gilberto Camara, the head of the National Institute for Space Research, which provides satellite imaging of the area, told a news conference in the capital Brasilia.
The five-month spike in destruction of the forest - known as "the lungs of the world" for its ability to consume greenhouse gases and produce oxygen - is four times as much as in the same period of 2004. DPA, 1-24-08
Indeed, as Walden Bello of the University of the Philippines explains, the real divide is not between the nations of the North and the South but between the elites of both the North and the South and their own populaces.
Here are some excerpts from Bello's analysis, with a link to the full text:
... the environmental costs of rapid industrialization are of major concern to significant sectors of the population of developing countries. ... It is the national elites that spout the ultra-Third Worldist line that the South has yet to fulfill its quota of polluting the world while the North has exceeded its quota. They insist on an exemption for the big rapidly industrializing countries from mandatory limits on the emission of greenhouse gases under a new Kyoto Protocol. When the Bush administration refuses to ratify the Kyoto Protocol because it does not bind China and India, and the Chinese and Indian governments say they will not tolerate curbs on their greenhouse gas emissions because the United States has not ratified Kyoto, they are in fact playing out an unholy alliance to allow their economic elites to continue to evade their environmental responsibilities and free-ride on the rest of the world.
This alliance has now become formalized in the so-called “Asia Pacific Partnership” created last year by China, India, Japan, Korea, and the United States as a rival to the UN-negotiated Kyoto Protocol. Having recently recruited Canada, which is now led by Bush clone Stephen Harper, this grouping seeks voluntary, as opposed mandatory, curbs on greenhouse gas emissions. This dangerous band of renegade states simply wants to spew carbon as they damn well please, which is what voluntary targets are all about. They are the core of the Major Economies Meeting slated later this month in Honolulu that many fear is designed to derail the recently agreed “Bali Roadmap.” ...
As in North, the environmental movements in the South have seen their ebbs and flows. As with all social movements, it takes a particular conjunction of circumstances to bring an environmental movement to life after being quiescent for some time or to transform diverse local struggles into one nationwide movement. The challenge facing activists in the global North and the global South is to bring about those circumstances that will trigger the formation of a global mass movement that will decisively confront the most crucial challenge of our times. Walden Bello, Foreign Policy in Focus, Share The World's Resources, 1-18-08
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Center for American Progress Action Fund's Mic Check Radio has released a witty and compelling compilation on the Top 100 Effects of Global Warming, organized into sections like "Global Warming Wrecks All the Fun" (e.g., "Goodbye to Pinot Noir," "Goodbye to Baseball," "Goodbye to Salmon Dinners," "Goodbye to Ski Vacations," etc.), "Global Warming Kills the Animals" (e.g., "Death March of the Penguins," "Dying Grey Whales," "Farwell to Frogs," etc.) and yes, "Global Warming Threatens Our National Security" (e.g., "Famine," "Drought," "Large-Scale Migrations," "The World's Checkbook," etc.) I urge you to utilize Top 100 Effects of Global Warming in your dialogues with friends, family and colleagues.
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