April 1, 2014

Climate: No Change

Back in 2009, there was a big UN-sponsored climate change conference held in Copenhagen. All the countries, great and small, would gather round and divvy up the globe into must-do, ought-to-do, and don't-have-to-do lists for reducing carbon emissions. To no one's surprise, the lists varied depending upon perceived national self-interest.

Those who produced the most carbon emissions wanted to do the least. Those on the front lines of climate change -- usually poorer countries relying on the good will of others -- sought immediate action. Emerging nations wanted to avoid anything that might impede their emergence. The conference ended in disarray, with each group blaming the other groups for failing to agree on anything other than to disagree.

Nothing has changed since that conference. Zero progress has been made towards eliminating what scientists decry as the single most significant threat facing humanity. Here is what I wrote in the immediate aftermath of the failure at Copenhagen:
"So where does that leave the rest of us? Pretty much on our own, I’d say. It is every man, woman and child for himself or herself. That can mean ... thinking real hard about what it might be like to live with the kind of problems you get with climate change: people on the move, scarcities of food and water, extreme weather, rising rates of disease."

A recently released U.N. Report entitled "Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability" stresses these same problems, no longer potential but very real. A summary of the report in the New York Times states:
“Throughout the 21st century, climate-change impacts are projected to slow down economic growth, make poverty reduction more difficult, further erode food security, and prolong existing and create new poverty traps, the latter particularly in urban areas and emerging hot spots of hunger,” the report declared.
The report also cited the possibility of violent conflict over land, water or other resources, to which climate change might contribute indirectly “by exacerbating well-established drivers of these conflicts such as poverty and economic shocks.”
... climate change is not just a problem of the distant future, but is happening now.
We are in deep trouble. Nothing has happened to reduce carbon emissions. Nothing has been done to prepare for the human and natural catastrophes that are coming our way. By every measure, things have gotten palpably worse. What was unthinkable just a few short years ago is now looming on the horizon line of our lifetimes.

Governments have let one window of opportunity after another slam shut. At this point, it would take drastic measures to get us to the lesser zone of risk, and there is virtually no political will in sight to make this happen. Instead, governmental leaders at the national level continue to be incapable of dealing with this problem. Local governments are doing what they can, but a problem like global warming requires a global solution.

Meanwhile, we the people must face a hard truth. We are on our own. There really is nothing to do at this point but to begin building our Arks in whatever way seems to make the most sense.

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