Two years ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its fourth Assessment Report, detailing the world scientific community’s consensus on the status of climate change. The IPCC report was frightening, predicting between 2 and 6 degrees Celsius of temperature rise by 2100 without action to control greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. But events have exceeded the IPCC’s most pessimistic estimates as the growth rate of GHG emissions has actually accelerated!
At the International Scientific Congress on Climate Change held in Copenhagen in March, it was estimated that the capacity of the planet to support human life would be reduced to less than 1 billion people with a rise to 5 or 6 degrees Celsius above preindustrial temperatures due to collapse of the food chain and drastic reductions in the availability of clean water. By 2050 the earth’s population is expected to be roughly 9 billion.
If both of those estimates prove correct, human population will crash in the next 90 years unless we have rapid and drastic action to reverse climate change.
We know what it will take to preserve a livable planet. The three step recipe is actually quite simple and more and more people are becoming aware of it. Here’s what we must do.
Establish a limit to the amount of greenhouse gases in the environment that is consistent with science. Our friends at 350.org have a number in mind and we agree with them. We are currently at 389ppm CO2 in the atmosphere and Arctic ice is melting, as are glaciers worldwide. We need to return to a stable level of atmospheric CO2 at or below 350ppm as quickly as possible. That does not mean as quickly as we can conveniently do it without giving up all the goodies that we really, really like. It means Maximum Effort NOW!
Pull the plug on all fossil fuels, especially coal, our dirtiest energy source, and pour our investment dollars into clean, renewable energy and green jobs. With every new coal-fired plant that we allow to be built, we are locking in the GHG emissions of that plant for decades. We have to stop building coal-fired plants immediately!
Bring home a fair and effective climate deal from the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December 2009 based upon returning to a CO2 limit at or below 350ppm as rapidly as possible. There is already a lot of talk about how difficult it will be to reach an agreement. On the contrary, if we Commit to Reach a Fair Deal we can do it. We already know what it will take. The United States and the rest of the wealthy, industrialized countries have to accept financial responsibility for the damage they have already caused, roll back their emissions more rapidly than countries with less responsibility and less financial capacity, and accept the principle that every individual has an equal right to develop. We simply cannot expect the global South to accept the proposition that they must remain relatively poor because we developed the cheap and dirty way before they did. A fair deal will require a significant transfer of wealth from North to South to repair the damage caused by climate change and to build a zero carbon development path.
Many of Global Exchange’s friends and allies are already working on the first two steps, but we believe that more effort needs to be made to build political support here in the United States for a fair climate deal. That’s what we have chosen to work on and that’s why Global Exchange is launching our Campaign for Climate Equity. Global Exchange has been driven by social and economic justice for 20 years now. This is a comfortable niche for us.
In order to maintain a human-friendly climate on earth, all the major GHG-emitting countries must accept emission limits, but that simply will not happen unless they are all bound to an agreement that all consider fair. The major roadblock to a fair international climate agreement is the peculiar belief held by most of our political and economic leaders that we actually deserve to be more wealthy than the vast majority of people in the world.
The most inconvenient truth we must confront in order to reverse climate change is the fact that the wealth of the United States and European countries is built upon centuries of colonial, financial and environmental exploitation. The exploitation of the atmosphere through the dumping of GHG emissions is merely the latest and most universally destructive of the long line of indignities imposed upon the environment and other peoples in order to generate wealth. The countries of the global South get this. We don’t.
The only basis upon which a fair global climate deal can be built is a more equitable distribution of the world’s wealth and resources. If we are to salvage a human-friendly climate on earth, we must not only secure a fair and effective deal in Copenhagen, but also convince the US Senate, which must approve all treaties by a two-thirds vote, that the American people favor sharing the world’s resources more equitably. That will be a difficult task, but it is exciting to realize that the solution to climate change is the creation of a world that is more just and equitable.
With your help, Global Exchange’s Campaign for Climate Equity will build support for a fair and effective global climate deal. The campaign will end when a deal that meets our criteria is approved by the US Senate. Until then
- We’ll host a special Copenhagen Climate Change Conference Reality Tour this December to push for a fair and effective climate deal. If you are interested, please email Reede Stockton.
- We’ll create resources that you can use with your friends, family, school and faith groups to promote a fair deal.
- We’ll keep you updated on domestic and international events that impact the prospects for a global climate agreement.
- We’ll put together online tools that help you promote a fair global climate deal to your legislators and President Obama.
- We’ll organize public events and provide speakers to build support for a fair and effective global deal.
Thanks for your work to promote climate justice!
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