As I write this post, the year 2010 is now known to be the hottest on record globally. Climate scientist James Hansen predicts that, once we get beyond the cooling effects of La Nina this winter, 2011 will be even hotter. Time is running out for the U.S. to show leadership in slowing the rate of climate change from greenhouse gas emissions.
Janelle Corn, Ph.D., is an ecologist and wildlife biologist living in western Montana. She has lived and worked in the western U.S. for 30 years, and is currently an activist for addressing climate change before it's too late. Her new blog is Natural History Now. The author's opinions do not necessarily reflect those of the 1Sky campaign.
We are about to enter Week 2 of the U.N. climate negotiations. It’s been a whirlwind 24 hours.
We arrived late Saturday night and immediately trotted down to Señor Frog’s, where the civil society representatives at the talks were partying like it was 1999. It felt like a climate spring break, maybe because some folks required a shot of tequila or two to deal with a couple key disappointments during Week 1.
Moon Palace, where the UN climate negotiations are taking place, looks just like what it sounds like: a sunny college campus meets Hilton Head golf club resort. Amidst somewhat bewildering lawn sculptures and manicured palm trees, high-level negotiators trek between palatial buildings with names like "Maya" and "Aztec." Not once but twice did I see the U.S. lead climate negotiator Jonathan Pershing, marked by his distinctive beard, shuffling between meetings, carrying his worn-down red canvass bag.
Representatives from 194 nations have descended on Cancun, Mexico for this year's U.N. Climate Conference (COP16). Despite a lack of leadership at the international level, the Obama Administration has been moving forward on clean energy on multiple fronts: reining in offshore drilling, calling for renewable energy R&D, and setting strong Clean Air Act regulations for big polluters. Meanwhile, the lame duck U.S. Congress remains consumed with compromising over how to extend the Bush tax cuts set to expire at the end of the year.
As many non-profit folks have commented on at the talks, everything here comes in twos. Two official conference centers each with two buildings apiece, two unofficial civil society venues, and for better or for worse, today - two grassroots rallies for climate justice.
Last year's UN climate change conference in Copenhagen was a disappointment by almost any measure. Like many U.S. progressives, we hoped that things would go differently, but in the end, the U.S. failed to help negotiate anything fair or binding.
So why hinge any expectations onto this year's discussions? Because we know that this time the climate movement can push President Obama for true climate leadership -- and we need his leadership on climate right now.
Yesterday, I sat in on a policy briefing of the U.S. government's plans on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD). The four speakers included Joe Aldy, Special Assistant to the President on the Environment, Maura O'Neill of USAID, Billy Pizer, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy at the Department of Treasury, and Patrick Smith of USAID. The speakers presented a united front about the US's REDD+ plan, focusing on how the U.S.
With just over two days left to go in at the climate talks in Cancun, the U.S. is unfortunately emerging as one of the main roadblocks to progress. Unwilling to move forward with urgency on any given issue unless other issues advance at the same pace, the U.S.'s negotiating stance is effectively stalling out the talks, to the great frustration of civil society organizations here.