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Yeb Saño
Cross-posted from usclimateplan.org
The 19th Conference of the Parties (COP19) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)—the annual meeting of delegates aimed at creating an international framework for dealing with climate change—began yesterday in Warsaw, Poland amidst nationalist protests and rioting and with a large coal summit in the background.

As the talks kicked off with the opening plenary speeches, the lead negotiator for the Philippines, Yeb Saño, drew our attention to another crisis that was unfolding six-thousand miles away—the climate crisis.

Or, at the very least, the kinds of extreme weather events we can begin to expect as the new normal if countries do not act rapidly to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases—as highlighted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) recent report.

In a passionate speech, Mr. Saño drew attention to the plight his country was undergoing from “Super-typhoon” Haiyan—a storm that some are calling the largest in recorded history—and  commenced a hunger strike until meaningful outcomes for the Warsaw talks were in sight. Many youth and other activists present at Warsaw and abroad have joined him in solidarity.

The speech issued a call to action for international negotiators and the world, to “take drastic action now to ensure that we prevent a future where super typhoons are a way of life.” He calls for the mobilization of pledged resources for the Green Climate Fund, establishment of a loss and damage mechanism for adverse impacts of climate change, and large reductions in greenhouse gas emissions for all countries.

But what would true U.S. leadership on climate look like in an international context? Moreover, how can we act meaningfully at home with a polarized Congress?

While large domestic emissions reductions will ultimately require Congressional action, as outlined in a recent report, there is much that the Obama administration can do under existing authority to improve our government’s impact on climate change issues internationally.

First, as President Obama continues his call for the repeal of domestic subsidies for fossil fuels, he must continue beating that drum internationally, as well. While scrapping wasteful subsidies at home would only reduce overall domestic emissions by a small amount, responsible reform could have a profound impact internationally where subsidies are proportionately larger.

If we are going to call for countries to abandon direct subsidies of fossil fuels, then we shouldn’t be indirectly providing subsidies through financing by our international development banks. In 2012, the Export-Import Bank of the United States (ExIm) provided financing for a record $9.6 billion in fossil fuel projects abroad according to its own reports. In contrast, it only financed $356 million in renewable energy development. Standards to essentially end ExIm financing of coal-fired power plants are on the way, but we can do much more. ExIm should shift funding away from all fossil fuel related development, including extraction projects, transmission infrastructure, and export facilities.

In 2010, the U.S. launched the Unconventional Gas Technical Engagement Program (UGTEP, formerly the Global Shale Gas Initiative) “in order to help countries seeking to utilize their unconventional natural gas resources to identify and develop them safely and economically.” The Obama Administration and the natural gas industry are peddling natural gas as a cleaner-than-coal “bridge fuel” to renewable energy. In addition to the very serious local environmental risks that extraction of shale gas poses, global over-reliance on natural gas will still lead to a drastically warmer world. This will be especially true if we do not get methane leakages across natural gas systems under control—this powerful short lived climate pollutant has the potential to drive us past dangerous climate tipping points. Instead of peddling global development of shale gas and hooking the world on yet another fossil fuel, the United States should abolish UGTEP and partner with other renewable energy leaders to create a Global Renewable Energy and Efficiency Network (G.R.E.E.E.N.). Such a partnership could promote best practices, encourage cooperation, and exchange of the best innovations in renewable energy and energy efficiency and accelerate global adoption of solutions.

Lastly, as a nation, we need to take a stand on our exports of fossil fuels. As our emissions begin to decline, we cannot in good faith “talk-the-talk” on climate and pursue deeper reductions domestically while our corporations profit from the combustion of national resources abroad—it doesn’t matter where a greenhouse gas is emitted, but rather that it is emitted. To “walk-the-walk,” we must acknowledge this and begin to control our exports of fossil fuels. Luckily, approval of fossil fuel export projects are in the President’s control. Under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the executive branch can and should reject major projects under federal jurisdiction determined to have significant impact on global emissions. Rejecting coal export terminals in the Pacific Northwest, Liquified Natural Gas export terminals, and international export pipelines like Keystone XL would set a major precedent that other world leaders could follow to the two thirds of fossil fuel reserves that must remain buried in the ground.

As Yeb Saño continues his hunger strike, world leaders should think about how they can double down on their commitments to preserving a livable planet for future generations. Even in the United States, a country with such polarizing politics, there is much we can be doing now to turn the tide. As civil society, we must all continue to push our leaders to live up to these commitments. After all, “If not us, then who? If not now, then when? If not here, then where?

Originally posted to evanlweber on Tue Nov 12, 2013 at 08:33 AM PST.

Also republished by Climate Change SOS.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The indifference on this issue is staggering... (5+ / 0-)

    I hope you get some decent discussion going.

  •  If you think the Obama administration is (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Dead Man, KittyPawFive

    going to to anything, their record shows that you are sadly mistaken.    They've been really horrific on this issue, actually.

  •  Thanks for diary. Republished to CCSOS (n/t) (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    julesrules39, evanlweber
  •  I hope you'll stick around for conversation (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    julesrules39, evanlweber, dkosdan

    and engagement with folks at the site.  There are many like-minded folks here...

    Welcome from the DK Partners & Mentors Team. If you have any questions about how to participate here, you can learn more at the Knowledge Base or from the New Diarists Resources Diaries. Diaries labeled "Open Thread" are also great places to ask. We look forward to your contributions.
    Don't just be a post and run type of activist, ok?

    Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

    by a gilas girl on Tue Nov 12, 2013 at 09:16:54 AM PST

  •  Is it indiffference or denial? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    julesrules39

    The people of the Philippines as well as Miama, FL and New Orleans, LA to name a few, need to move away from the sea. The time for speculation about global warming/climate change has passed.  People cannot wait for their governments to act to protect them or save the planet.  That is already abundantly apparent. People must think and act in their own best interest. We are going through another evolutionary period and only the fittest will survive.

    Hope, Faith, Love; the greatest of these is Love

    by orkin on Tue Nov 12, 2013 at 09:17:15 AM PST

  •  Why hasn't the President addressed the nation (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    antirove

    on the Philippines crisis?  His press team needs to be
    replaced.

    What kind of message does it send when he's talking about needing infrastructure in New Orleans?  Everyone who studies climate change knows that we should not be investing there cuz it probably won't be around much longer.  Imagine if Haiyan had struck there?

    •  Seriously? (0+ / 0-)
      Why hasn't the President addressed the nation on the Philippines crisis?  His press team needs to be
      replaced.
      Because he's the President of the United States, and the Philippines are not part of the United States. He has spoken about the disaster in the Philippines on several occasions since the typhoon hit, and he has used the resources at his disposal to send aid and relief there. You're seriously suggesting that his press team "needs to be replaced" because he hasn't asked the networks for airtime to do a prime-time address on the Philippines?
      What kind of message does it send when he's talking about needing infrastructure in New Orleans?  Everyone who studies climate change knows that we should not be investing there cuz it probably won't be around much longer.
      Do you seriously think the President would publicly say, "climate change is going to wipe out New Orleans anyway, so we shouldn't waste any more money by investing there?" You really want him to tell the people of New Orleans "sucks to be you, you're on your own, we're not going to spend another penny of federal money fixing your roads"?

      If his press team actually recommended that he say that, I would say they need to be replaced.

      "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

      by JamesGG on Tue Nov 12, 2013 at 10:32:56 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Although, I appreciate your opinion, I would think (0+ / 0-)

        that given all of his recent and planned climate change efforts by executive order, this would be the perfect occasion to tie the strong storm to climate change, America's role in ghg emissions historically and the need for us to demonstrate leadership in this area.

        My comment on New Orleans is that it seemed untimely for him to be making that speech there, of all places.

        With regard to his press team, it seems like the President is being viewed as reactive versus proactive.  This is not my opinion.  This is what the polls are saying.  It's affecting his approval rating.

        Everyone knew that this storm was going to be devastating last Wednesday.  There were posts here on Daily Kos.  I don't think that Secty Hagel ordered the military to move on this until Sunday.

        •  I'm not seeing it. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dkosdan
          I would think that given all of his recent and planned climate change efforts by executive order, this would be the perfect occasion to tie the strong storm to climate change, America's role in ghg emissions historically and the need for us to demonstrate leadership in this area.
          The problem is that while it's possible to make a strong case that this storm was made more intense by climate change, it's not a clear-cut case of direct causality. Any responsible scientist who says this storm was probably made more intense by climate change will make his or her very next sentence "but we can't know that for certain because of all the factors that contribute to this." And, of course, it's not like typhoons themselves are freak occurrences in the Philippines, which are hit by 7-8 every year.

          So you'd like the President ask the networks for airtime—a huge ask, particularly for a disaster that doesn't directly affect the US—to make a connection that most scientists would say that while likely and maybe even probable, is not in any way certain.

          My comment on New Orleans is that it seemed untimely for him to be making that speech there, of all places.
          Why, exactly? Because there was a super typhoon hitting an island that is almost literally halfway around the world from Louisiana? Not a lot of folks making that connection, and you can't exactly ask the President to cancel a trip based on a storm that isn't directly affecting the United States.

          "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

          by JamesGG on Tue Nov 12, 2013 at 12:09:56 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Actually (0+ / 0-)
            The problem is that while it's possible to make a strong case that this storm was made more intense by climate change, it's not a clear-cut case of direct causality. Any responsible scientist who says this storm was probably made more intense by climate change will make his or her very next sentence "but we can't know that for certain because of all the factors that contribute to this." And, of course, it's not like typhoons themselves are freak occurrences in the Philippines, which are hit by 7-8 every year.
            It's pretty clear to see that climate change likely made this storm worse, and scientists are speaking out about it, too.
            •  Your link made my point. (0+ / 0-)

              From the article you linked:

              The images trickling back from the Philippines in the media are heartbreaking, but do we know whether climate change caused or intensified this immense, record-breaking cyclone? It’s complicated. Climate scientists are very hesitant to blame a single event on global warming. That said, here’s my take: It’s fair to say that climate change likely made this deadly storm deadlier.
              That last sentence is far from unequivocal, what with the "fair to say" and the "likely"... which is pretty much what I said in my comment we'd get from a responsible scientist. "It's highly likely, but there are a lot of variables involved so we can't say for certain." It might not have the nice epistemological certainty some were hoping for, but for a scientist, that in itself is a pretty strong statement.

              "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

              by JamesGG on Tue Nov 12, 2013 at 12:39:11 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  My point... (0+ / 0-)

                ...was not to disagree with you, but to highlight how absolute certainty for individual weather events is becoming increasingly irrelevant as we have greater certainty about the certainty of anthropogenic climate change and the certainty of its impacts. This is reflected in the increasingly less cautious language being thrown around by scientists. Several years ago it would have been blasphemy for a scientist to say something like:

                It’s fair to say that climate change likely made this deadly storm deadlier.
                But when you've got evidence of sea level rise, the ocean is warmer than average, the and the air is warmer than average, and you've got a storm that's bigger than anything we've ever recorded making landfall, it's easy for scientists and citizens to start connecting the dots.
  •  Good list. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    julesrules39, dkosdan

    The price of natural gas will go back up eventually. Before that happens Obama needs to:

    1) Use EPA rules to shut down as many aging coal plants as possible.
    2) Pass a jobs bill focused on renewables, efficiency, the grid and alternative transportation, like the stimulus largely was.

    That will ensure we transition from natural gas to clean energy instead of returning to coal.

  •  But that's different (0+ / 0-)

    Everybody wants to end global warming.

    No one wants to pay $8 a gallon for gas, $1000 a month to heat a house or twice as much for products that we don't buy from China or Mexico any more because of the tariffs we applied to countries that pollute.

    "states like VT and ID are not 'real america'" -icemilkcoffee

    by Utahrd on Tue Nov 12, 2013 at 12:25:17 PM PST

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