By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now
Student groups and environmental activists are not happy about the U.S. presenting what they see as weak emissions targets for consideration at the Copenhagen Climate Conference.
Instead of the 17 percent cut in carbon emissions proposed by the Obama Administration (by 2020), they want steeper reductions that scientists say are needed to escape the tipping points the earth faces if carbon pollution continues to build unabated.
Check out the blog Its Getting Hot in Here or 350.org or TckTckTck for more about how climate activists are trying to push the debate, which is, in the end, a discussion of their future. As TckTckTck notes, Copenhagen is “the most important meeting of our lives.”
At Its Getting Hot you’ll hear the cry “We want a Real Deal,” as leaders try to put the lie to established governments putting forth less than what they believe is required.
What is a “real deal”? Environmentalists and scientists advocating for the strongest possible action want:
- Targets that provide for carbon emissions to peak by 2015. This is important because carbon pollution is at its highest point now, and growing, and it stays in the air for years, and so the pollution we’re emitting currently accumulates and lingers, building in the atmosphere. Many scientists believe that these emissions need to peak and be declining within five years or we’ll face “tipping points” where we will be unable to reverse climate changes, such as melting ice caps and rising seas. Simply put, you can’t just dial back carbon emissions from one year to the next, it takes generations to clear the air.
- A target of 350 parts per million of CO2, which many consider to be a safe level carbon, now that we see how many changes are taking place with the world at our current level of 387 ppm. A few years ago, climate experts postulated that earth as we know it would be safe at 450 ppm, but that was before they saw how rapidly the ice sheets and glaciers are melting, and how fast the oceans are rising.
- Money for developing nations, to the tun of $200 billion per year by 2020, to aid developing nations and help them survive climate change outcomes, like more severe flooding and loss of agriculture. The Maldives, for instance, is facing a literally vanishing future if the oceans rise as predicted. Developing nations from Africa, where drought and malaria could spread, to those that depend on water from mountain sources, will be challenged by climate change.
- Forest preservation and a halt to deforestation in rainforests is another issue being pressed as one of the only ways to forestall climate change, by preserving these natural carbon sinks, many of which are a fraction of the size they were just 50 years ago. A deal on forests is tricky, because the world needs this carbon backstop, but global conglomerates have been cutting back forests around the world to make everything from toilet paper to palm oil additives to simply clearing trees to grow row crops or establish ranches. That leaves developed nations in a difficult position of responsibility, wedged between industries that want access to the world’s natural resources and their developing nation partners who will need alternative economic plans.
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