Why I’m Not Convinced by U.S. & China Climate Announcements

Is approaching the news that the U.S. and China have both come to an agreement to reduce carbon emissions with fierce skepticism an indicator that neither of these countries have proven to be trustworthy? Yes. Just because neither of these countries have shown ambition or commitment in the past does not mean that the minimal targets that have been established should be celebrated as “ambitious” or even acceptable.

I fear that this is a distraction from moving our work further. Sure,  two of the world’s largest emitters finally had a heart to heart that seemed to produce something more positive is a good start, but what is the hidden cost? Just because they have agreed to set some reduction targets (which, by the way, should not be confused with “ambition” given that they are anything but that) does not mean that this is enough to get these two countries off the hook for their contributions to climate change.

My informed guess is that they are fronting this notion of lower-emissions without factoring in the damages caused by extraction meaning that (you-know-where-I’m-going-with-this) hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, is likely to take the lead in energy development in both countries.

It’s no secret that both countries are already exploring the options of becoming more reliant on natural gas as a new “clean” alternative to oil and coal. In the past few years we’ve heard Obama touting gas as a way to lead into a cleaner energy future while admonishing our attachment to fossil fuels. Methinks our president is a tad confused (you’re right, that’s giving him too much leeway).

To top it off, China has been signing deals with other countries to supply the country with exports. So far they have signed a $20billion deal with British Petroleum (BP) and a $400 billion deal with Russia. So far this has prompted analysts to say that Canada, Australia, and the United States need to step up their gas export game.

All this is to say that Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) is becoming the new paradigm in global energy demand. This is the opposite of progress. This is alarming, to say the least. Following the most expensive mid-term elections of all time in the United States where industry poured over $6 billion dollars in to one California county alone to stop a fracking ban and Texas’ government overturning a democratically voted fracking moratorium, natural gas is showing that it is becoming the new big oil.

Why am I concerned about LNG? First off, natural gas may technically “burn cleaner” than coal, but that does not mean that the overall emission are less. Second, the process of exporting LNG is dangerous. Third, Fracking as a practice is ruining our lands and public health through contamination of air and water with over 600 types of carcinogenic chemicals. Fourth, the American public is being lied to by our “leaders.” They commonly speak of how natural gas production will make the U.S. more energy independent and create make energy more affordable and yet here they are wanting to export this resource and prices of gas are projected to increase dramatically(see graphic below).

 

 

P.S. Anyone heard of a little thing called the Trans-Pacific Partnership(TPP)?

TL;DR: In sum this new emission agreement is a guide for a full-on international gas (LNG)  production arms race and we need to be cautious about letting the excitement about something being called “ambitious” get in the way of our critical thinking.

I’ll close with the last sentence of the widely circulated article from the New York Times: “The announcement on Wednesday did not have the details of the projected makeup of renewable energy sources by 2030.”

Want to read more? Check out this resource.

Advertisements

State of the (Climate) Union

By 2015, the world must commit to new, stronger stances regarding action against climate change. The current platform for achieving this change is through the United Nations platform, called the Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). In light of the recent carbon proposal from the White House, there is much that the environmental and larger American public can be excited about: an administration where mentioning climate change is no longer taboo. There is, however, a long way to go. The Green Climate Fund (GCF) that countries have committed to raising $100 billion per year leading up to 2020 remains empty. The U.S. is being one of the first and loudest countries at COP19 to justify why they stalled, trying to push blame elsewhere and divert attention from their inaction, and all the while the majority of the American public is oblivious of the work being done. 

So here’s my Climate Change “State of the Union”: 

  • Research has recently shown that in the U.S. people respond better to media discussing “Global Warming” over “Climate Change”
  • Less than half of U.S. citizens feels that climate change is an important national issue.
  • The government signed climate denial into action when the Department of Defense tried to allocate Pentagon money for adaptation for vulnerable military bases, and changing responses to resource conflicts and climate change altered disaster response.

In light of all of this denial, there is much work ahead of activists and policy makers alike in the United States. A new report highlights that the U.S. has already faced national climate change.

 

And for those of you who don’t know, most of what you heard through various media outlets about the current state of the climate from the newly released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report was water down “half truth”. Much of the content of the full report was not included in the summary circulated a week prior to its release for general digestion. So, bad news. What you read in the past few months may not have told you the whole scoop

It’s pretty obvious to me that we have a long way to go, but with so little time. Perhaps if we had media that accurately and accessibly spoke about climate issue then we may see some progress- just a thought.

Until then… I’ll keep writing.

Proud to be an American?

I really struggle with this, I’ve found, when I’m abroad. There are normally three reactions from people when I tell them that I’m from the United States 1) they get really excited 2) they get mad at me for everything that the U.S. has done 3) they stop talking to me.

A few days ago, I experienced number 2 while I was getting breakfast in my hostel. I entered our kitchen to hear a man pushing my fellow delegate about why we were here working on climate change issues. He was arguing that climate change is in the past and that we should be focusing on current issues (his example was “people in Africa don’t have water!” to which I responded, “yes, and increasingly more people don’t because of climate change). As we kept talking a bit, we realized it was not so much that he was against us working on climate change, it was more that he was upset about what the U.S. government is doing to his home country  and he wants us to make them accountable for it. According to this fellow hostel dweller, the U.S. is sending the chemical weapons from Syria to Albania to be “destroyed”. What bothers him is a) he’s from Albania b) according to our fellow hostel-er they don’t actually have the facilities to process the weapons- they will just be buried in the area where people whom Albania cares the least about live.

This conversation quickly shifted from us being on the defensive about why we were there to work on climate change to listening to our new acquaintance air his grievances. It’s true that my country continues to dominate other countries. It’s true that my country continues to push burdens that they don’t want onto other, less noticeable countries . It’s true that my country is not taking a firm stand with climate change and continues to block progress in negotiations. What do I have to be proud of?

The export of this?

IMG_6733

What about hegemony? 
IMG_6569

It pains me sometimes to, what it feels like, confess that I’m from the United States. What I’m proud of is that myself and my fellow delegates recognize that we do not come from a perfect country. The United States is not a perfect model- and we want to change that.

I may not be proud of all the my country has done, but I am definitely proud of the individuals that I know. I know so many wonderful and innovative people who care deeply about one another and the work that they’re doing. I’m proud of where I come from and the people I know.

This is an internal struggle that has been a part of me before COP and has since been exasperated. Other traveling folks from the United States, how do you (if you do) experience this?