Friday, February 5, 2010

Carbon Sharing - A guest blog by John Ausiello

Enjoy the second enstallment of John Ausiello's blog - Carbon Sharing.

Man in the Mirror

They arrived in Copenhagen confident, leaders in their respective nations, charged with the task of curbing global emissions. It had been more than a decade since the last agreement, known to all as the Kyoto Protocol. Since that time, a time when the US was too mired in its own concerns to ratify the treaty, the science has become more certain, the threats more severe and yet CO2 levels have continued to rise. So it was with a sense of urgency and hope that these men and women convened in Copenhagen, set to change the world. Instead, based on the thoughts of many, they left having once again shortchanged our future.

To be fair, an “agreement” was reached but one without binding emissions. The US did pledge aid to third world nations to help mitigate some of the costs of global warming adaptation but such generosity seems to me a few decades too late and a few billion dollars too short. The commentary that has followed has been at best luke warm, at worst harsh in its condemnation. Bill McKibben the renowned and widely respected environmental leader of 350.org has gone on record harshly criticizing President Obama.

I too am disappointed with the results of Copenhagen but I believe it is misplaced to put all the blame on our leaders. The reality is that President Obama is an elected official with the sole responsibility to act on behalf of his electorate. He does not speak solely for environmental scientists however correct their ideas may be. His voice is the collective voice of all those citizens who cast favorable votes on that famous night in 2008, a group unified under the banner of the Democratic Party but in reality a group comprised of millions of people with disparate ideas, motives and concerns. As such, when he veers from the path we think he needs to take, we must ask ourselves do we need to make our voice, the voice that yearns for better environmental leadership, more clearly heard?

So I do not put all the blame at the feet of our leader. We must acknowledge that as a nation, we are not where we need to be with regards to climate change. Amongst environmentally minded folk we may speak as one, living by the mantra “reduce, reuse, recycle” while yelling at the top of our lungs that nothing is more important than curbing CO2 emissions. But unfortunately across America, even amongst liberal voters, we speak as many. I suspect some still perceive the state of our current scientific knowledge as incomplete and not convincing enough to warrant the personal sacrifice called for by environmentalists, while I suspect many others, especially in this time of economic hardship, do not doubt the science but simply have too many daily concerns to devote their attention to an abstract and distant threat (a way of thinking I most certainly followed until just a few years ago). It is not surprising therefore that our leaders fail (in our eyes) to do what they need to do: help create a carbon neutral future.

Where does this leave us? For now, those of us that are worried are left to do the heavy lifting without the immediate and full support of our government. But the historical record has shown that in past times, under similar pressure, individuals have helped reshape the course of our nation--whether it was our Founding Fathers who launched the birth of a nation when they dared to dream that “all men are created equal” or more recently Rosa Parks who, with grace and dignity helped usher in the civil rights movement by forsaking her “position” at the back of a bus. This is not to imply we can tackle the challenges of climate change without the eventual support of government. In truth the challenge is too great. But to garner the full support of our leaders we must become more active. We must show greater support to organizations like 350.org that have mobilized millions so that soon we can mobilize tens of millions. We must, in short unify our voice so that our leaders have no choice, lest they risk re-election, to lead us where we need to be, on a path towards a more sustainable future.

So to those of you that have begun the fight, I ask “can you do more?” And to those of you that have not yet started, I remind you of the words once spoken by RFK:

“If not you, who? If not now, when?”

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