In this strained metaphor, the music is the increasing pace of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. As it turns out, the scientific evidence on which negotiators and policy makers have depended – particularly the last report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – significantly underestimated the speed at which global warming is occurring.
…Climate-related changes are already observed in the United States and its coastal waters. These include increases in heavy downpours, rising temperature and sea level, rapidly retreating glaciers, thawing permafrost, lengthening growing seasons, lengthening ice-free seasons in the ocean and on lakes and rivers, earlier snow melt, and alterations in river flows. These changes are projected to grow.In the September issue of the journal Nature, 28 environmental scientists reported we have reached or surpassed the upper safe limit in six of the planet’s 10 critical biophysical systems.
o Scenario 1 is a Son-of-Kyoto treaty in which all nations agree to specific, verifiable and enforceable limits on their greenhouse gas emissions;
o In Scenario 2, nations remain hung up on sticking points and can’t agree on a global treaty. Instead, they agree to cut carbon with national-level efforts and smaller bilateral or multilateral agreements. However, they accept international monitoring of progress and some type of enforcement.
o In Scenario 3, nations decide to go it alone with no international deal, monitoring or oversight.
So far down the road to Copenhagen, we would have hoped that the U.S. Congress had passed an aggressive climate bill and negotiators would have decided on the basic architecture of a global deal. The lack of progress is not for lack of effort. A lot of negotiators, subject-matter experts and key staff on the Hill are sleep-deprived these days. Because of them, hope is not lost. They deserve our thanks.
At the same time, I know they will forgive us for keeping up the pressure for deals in Congress and at Copenhagen – not just any deals, but real deals. All that’s at stake is a civilization worthy of the noun. The Climate Shuffle becomes a death dance if it goes on too long.
With pressure in mind, I will post a series of pieces over the next several days. They will address how our policy-makers are underestimating the risks of climate change; how new evidence suggests we have only five years to completely retool global industry; how consumers, corporations and government might work together; how the White House can provide audacious leadership; and how morality must trump money on Capitol Hill.
William S. Becker is the Executive Director of the Presidential Climate Action Plan (PCAP), a project of the University of Colorado, Wirth Chair, charged with producing a 100 day action plan on climate change for the next President of the United States, and the author of THE 100 DAY ACTION PLAN TO SAVE THE PLANET, available in eBook format from St. Martins Griffin.