It is fitting to launch this blog on the day that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its 2007 assessment of global warming. (http://www.ipcc.ch/
) Global warming is the issue of our time – indeed, the issue of all
and time, if our time scale is a human one.
Hopefully the release of this report will be a turning point in terms of the political will of the leaders of the human species to begin to address this problem. Sadly, in the US, the opposite is happening. Bush administration officials announced that they “embrace” the report and asserted that the US has played a “leading role in combating climate change.”
As if that were not incredible enough, Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman again rejected the idea of unilateral limits on emissions: “We are a small contributor to the overall, when you look at the rest of the world, so it’s really got to be a global solution.”
This is the man in charge of US energy policy at the most critical time in human history, when the window of time for addressing global warming is swinging shut (if it has not closed already). His statement shows his ignorance of the most basic facts of global warming that every middle school student should know (in some parts of the world, middle school students do know these facts, but not in the US). “We are a small contributor to the overall, when you look at the rest of the world,” says Bodman.
The United States, with about 5 percent of the world’s population, contributes about a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions.
This breathtaking ignorance leaves Mike Brown’s mishandling of Katrina relief in the dust. And yet, somehow, business as usual goes on. The streets of Washington are not filled with hundreds of thousands of people who will refuse to go home until the government falls. American students are not occupying the square in front of the White House.
Of course not: only about 10% of Americans say they worry a lot about global warming.
The most militant voice on the global political stage seems to belong to right wing French President Jacques Chirac, who suggested that if the United States does not sign both the Kyoto climate protocol and a future agreement that will take effect when the Kyoto accord runs out in 2012, Europe could slap a tax on American products to try to force compliance.
Here is one American who has no hesitation in asking, begging the Europeans: Bring on the tax! But just a tax? We are facing global catastrophe, and most Americans still don't get it. Why not travel bans on Americans visiting your countries? Boycotts on American products? Vigils in front of American Embassies? Arrest warrants for American leaders? Please, help!