The Global Citizen: climate change
Discussion about climate change is often thought to take place on the battlegrounds between the economist and the environmentalist. Whose fault is global warming? Whose responsibility is it to change the way things are? Who should bear the burden of living with the effects of climate change? Who has an obligation to act now?
The simple answer is all of us are responsible and all of us need to act. Interestingly enough, this answer is also the easy way out. The problem of collective action (moreover, the lack of cohesive collective action) has polluted the debate over climate change issues since the international community declared its importance as a major issue for the world's future.
In an article about the perspectives of understanding and analyzing climate change, Olivier De Schutter, the UN Special Reporter on the right to food, made a point about the shortcomings of governments and their political processes in dealing with the issue of climate change. In addition to being "congested and gridlocked," he describes the climate change debate as one that lacks an "honest starting point." He sees the potential to find a solution stemming from viewpoint of climate change as a human rights issue.
Over the last two months, the team here at GlobalSolutions.org has been working to make climate change a bigger election issue this cycle, starting with the first presidential debate on October 3rd hosted by Jim Lehrer of PBS's NewsHour. This morning, GlobalSolutions.org, along with eight other organizations like the League of Conservation Voters and the Environmental Defense Fund, delivered over 160,000 of your petitions to the Newshour offices. Representatives for NewsHour accepted our petitions and guaranteed that our voices would be heard by Mr. Lehrer. According to one staff member, this petition is the largest they have received this election cycle.
By some estimates, Indiana has been the hardest hit state by the 2012 drought, but you would not know it by listening Republican Richard Mourdock or Democrat Joe Donnelly.
They are the front runners to become the next Senator from Indiana. Unfortunately, both have been stunningly quiet when it comes to the causes and meaning of the 2012 drought, perhaps the worst natural disaster to ever threaten the state.
Rain during the last few weeks have allowed Indiana to go from being in an exceptional and extreme drought zone to merely a severe one, but the damage has been done. It was miserable this summer in the Hoosier state. Way too hot and way too dry, served up with dire warnings of "fireweather." Nearly every major Indiana City broke or tied records for the hottest day on record and Terre Haute set at an all-time state record at 108°F. July was the hottest month on record in Indiana and June was the driest. It gets worse. The Union of Concerned Scientists have painted an even bleaker picture for Indiana over the next century if nothing is done to combat greenhouse emissions. The 2012 drought might just be the beginning.
Now that both the Democrats and the Republicans have released their official party platforms for 2012, they can be compared side-by-side. We've done all of the legwork for you and have summarized their main stances on a number of issues. Hyperlinks are included and they will take you to the pertinent section of that party's platform if you want to read the actual text.
Update September 6: Changes made on the floor of the Democratic Convention have resulted in the platform stating that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and that the status of Jerusalem as an Israeli holding is a condition for any peace talks.
On August 21, the committee charged with composing the GOP’s platform for the 2012 election season submitted their draft to the party for approval. According to Fox News, the platform was “emphatically” given the nod on August 28th. While the usual news outlets have paid much attention to the sections of the platform concerning the party’s stances on abortion and gay marriage, the mainstream media has failed to address the Republican Party’s troubling take on the nexus between national security and climate change.
The language used by the GOP’s official platform is quite critical of the Obama Administration’s classification of climate change as a serious threat to national security. In fact, the new GOP platform states that the current national security strategy “elevates ‘climate change’ to the level of a ‘severe threat’ equivalent to foreign aggression.” If the GOP had done their homework, they would have encountered an overwhelming body of evidence coming from some impressive sources that outright contradicts their platform before it was approved and widely circulated.
Much has been made of the sizzling weather this summer. You've heard about it around the water cooler and in line at Starbucks. This week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that July was the hottest month in United States history. 3,215 daily high temperature records were set or tied in June. More than 63 percent of the country in the lower 48 states is experiencing drought. Whether the high temperatures are caused by a broader climate change trend is unclear, but the heat will inevitably affect short-term crop supply, meat prices, and land arability. Moreover, the heat, if part of a climate change regime, could also affect the frequency, duration, and intensity of armed conflicts.
Rio+20, the UN Earth Summit, was held in Rio de Janeiro last week to a decided lack of fanfare. Activists hoping for a significant, binding outcome document were severely let down. Others have written much more eloquently than I could on the underwhelming outcome, both focusing on the disappointments and the silver lining, and I encourage you to read further. But for those of you who want the Cliff's Notes version, here are 5 takeaway lessons from the Rio+20 Earth Summit.
The Rio+20 summit, intended to develop a global sustainable development agenda, concluded last week. In the words of author Gwynne Dyer, "rarely has such a large elephant laboured so long to give birth to such a small mouse." 150 world leaders were unwilling and incapable of creating substantive reforms to reduce greenhouse gas emissions because of a lack of political will and competing economic interests. The United Nations, the G-8, G-20, and other major multinational conferences suffer from many of the same ills. This begs the question, what is the alternative?
Nonetheless, the past few months were busy for the world's major international institutions. The International Criminal Court, which is about to celebrate its tenth anniversary, convicted Thomas Lubanga in March marking a major milestone for the international justice community. However, others have not been so successful. The United Nations is struggling to resolve the fifteen-month long crisis in Syria that has killed more than 10,000 people. The most recent G-20 summit also recently concluded in Mexico producing piecemeal economic recovery efforts and meaningless statements about violence in Syria.
In 1992, President George H.W. Bush, attended the original Rio Earth Summit and pledged America's dedication to reducing ecological degradation. Fast forward 20 years and we are currently looking at the highest harmful emission rates and most pertinent threats to our globe. In a little less than two weeks, the Rio +20 Earth Summit will attempt to rekindle the worldwide efforts in confronting current environmental problems. Now, the one thing the event is missing is an RSVP from President Barack Obama.
Today's Washington Post featured a story about an organizational letter that Citizens for Global Solutions, along with nearly two dozen other groups, sent to President Obama that urged him to attend the Rio+20 Earth Summit this June.
The letter read in part,"Your presence at this Summit would signal its critical importance to all Americans, demonstrate our country's deep concern over urgent global issues that will inevitably affect our security and well-being, and highlight our nation's determination to be a contender in the race to a low-carbon green economy." To read the full letter, click here.
Citizens for Global Solutions believes strong U.S. leadership at Rio+20 will spur other nations to commit to taking concrete action in preserving our planet for future generations.
If you think President Obama be a leader on sustainable development and attend Rio+20, sign our petition here.
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