December 20, 2011 | Climate Change, Leadership

Have you seen anything in the past two weeks on the front page of the New York Times, Washington Post or Los Angeles Times about the climate change talks?  No?  Neither have I.  This is somewhat curious since all three of these cities are at sea level and can anticipate significant shrinking by rising seawater, but I guess that’s not expected to happen until 2030.

The Barrier is US

The United States has emerged as the principal barrier in the latest round of climate change negotiations to achieve binding limitations on the emission of greenhouse gasses (GHG’s).  Some might argue that China is the dog in the manger, but that’s quibbling.  The US’s stubborn refusal to participate, much less take a leadership role, will likely put an end to the global effort which began in Kyoto in 1997.  That will be a tragedy for many millions of people, entire species and whole ecosystems.  And why does our government hold this position?  Greed, pure and simple. It is believed significant action on climate change will require spending more money, even giving up comforts and conveniences -- specifically enduring hardships such as driving less, taking public transportation (if we had any), eating less meat, turning off lights, not idling at the post office, carpooling.  It’s a long and painful list so it is easier to deny the whole thing.

Since the impacts of climate change are not stark in the US yet, effective response requires top down leadership.  Exercising such leadership exposes the leader to attack from those who would mobilize popular resistance in order to further their political aims. That’s the sorry state we are in here in the United States and it has the very real possibility of ending the world as we know it within a couple of generations.

In Case You're Wondering...

Todd Stern is the US Climate Change negotiator.  Two weeks ago, he was in Durban South Africa…not helping at all.

The following is from Democracy Now, which was covering the talks:

Several prominent U.S. environmental groups have accused the Obama administration of obstructing negotiations at the United Nations Climate Change Conference and have called for the United States to step aside and let other countries carry on with the talks. Earlier today, the top U.S. climate negotiator Todd Stern addressed the U.N. summit for the first time. But as he took the stage, Middlebury College student Abigail Borah interrupted the proceedings. "I am scared for my future," Borah told Stern. "2020 is too late to wait. We need an urgent path to a fair, ambitious and legally binding treaty. You must take responsibility to act now."