Monday, December 3, 2012

Global Climate Change Summit Brings Questions of America’s Role in Reversing Carbon Trends

Those who have read the recent reports by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the United Nations and World Bank on the state of global warming may be feeling a little grinchy this holiday season and it isn’t because of the fruitcake. The latest round of global climate talks among roughly 200 nations were held in Doha, Qatar last week and that got us thinking at the Better BTU: what should America’s role in the climate change crisis be?

While the situation may not be as dire as doomsayers who predict the end of the world based on an Aztec calendar, the picture painted by reputable sources is bleak, nonetheless. PwC’s report shows that the global community’s efforts to improve carbon emissions by 5.1% each year in order to avoid a two degree Celsius increase in global temperature has fallen drastically short. The improvement in 2011 was just 0.7% despite a global economic slowdown. Since it is highly unlikely that the international community could jump to the target 5.1% improvement rate in just one or two years, the decarbonization percentage needed to stop permanent damage will only continue to rise along with water levels.

The state of global carbon emissions was one of the topics of the most recent round of climate talks in Doha, Qatar last week. Also on the table was the Green Climate Fund, which exists to assist poorer countries adapt to the changing climate.

Earlier reports that wealthier countries like the United States had nearly reached its $30 billion pledge are now being adjusted as individual entities Oxfam and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) show that very little of the aid has been in the form of cash but has come in the form of loans or diverted funds from existing aid budgets.

The European Union is currently the only governing body that has said it will sign another binding agreement like the Kyoto Protocol and unfortunately, it only accounts for about 14% of the world’s carbon emissions. Unless the larger carbon emitters like China, India and the U.S. get on board, a new agreement isn’t likely to produce results.

At Better BTU, we support the idea of assisting smaller countries, especially those in the Pacific region who will be swallowed up by a rise in water levels, but wonder if the Green Climate Fund is the best way America can contribute.

The documentary film The Island President shows how a rise in two degrees Celsius will completely wipe out countries like The Maldives. But what exactly are these funds doing to help these countries adapt?

The United States has built its reputation in the global community as a pioneer in technology. We are the nation that introduced the telephone, the airplane and the computer to the world. And so it might make sense that our path to contributing to the global climate crisis should go through technology.

Several companies in the U.S. have made significant advancements in gasification technology, in addition to being the leader in wind energy and among the top nations in solar energy. Americans have built upon the contributions made by European countries but the industry remains stalled due to an economic recession and a public that has not yet embraced the technology.

At one time the idea of putting a man on the moon seemed beyond ridiculous. President Kennedy stood in front of millions to declare that his administration would achieve that feat and a space race between nations was born. Now it’s time for Americans to re-engage with that same energy not for exploring new worlds, but for saving our own.

1 comment:

  1. Great article.
    It is amazing and surprising that conservation and energy efficiency (EE) efforts don't move forward even without any government assistance or encouragement. A kilowatt or gallon never used is one that never had to be produced, distributed, and consumed. At least up to a point, the costs associated with EE can be very small with a ROI in months, not years. Then those efficiency savings can be realized for years to come...
    ... And oh, by the way, it helps out the environment as well...
    A gift that keeps on giving and giving. :-)