The Online Journal & Network of ASPA’s
Section for Public Management Practice
American Society for
Rough Road from Durban to Rio
By Bill Miller
U.N. Climate Change Conference
The 17th Conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that recently concluded in Durban, South Africa has been categorized by such descriptive terms as “underwhelming,” “modest,” “positive” and “historic.” It may be a combination of all of them, since there were both accomplishments and setbacks.
The 194 parties in attendance agreed to work toward a new global treaty and to extend the 1997 Kyoto Protocol for five years. The target date for the new international agreement is 2015, but it may not be ratified until 2020. Regardless of the date, the goal of holding the temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius to restrain irreparable climate change will not be met at this modest pace.
The conference developed a package called the “Durban Platform” that established a new climate fund to assist poor countries to confront climate change, prevent deforestation and convert to cleaner energy sources. But it did not stipulate how $100 billion for the Green Climate Fund would be generated.
On the positive side, China and India, which had been holdouts, did agree to abide by the same legally binding targets agreed to in the Kyoto Conference. Although, the Chinese accused the U.S. of having a double-
Evidence and Controversy Surrounding Climate Change
Climate crisis alarms are ringing around the world. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – which was set up in 1988 by the United Nations and the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) – has been a major scientific player in climate change discussions and reports. The IPCC recently suggested that earthquakes may not be linked to climate change; however, it could be causal with severe droughts, flooding, hurricanes and other severe storms. Last year, all records were shattered when a dozen weather disasters in the U.S. cost over $52 billion. Principal causes of the high expenses have been more severe disasters, larger populations and more valuable property in the path of the storms. As an example, the tsunami in Japan hit a staggering $261 billion which is the most expensive natural disaster recorded.
Other scientific reports offer even more distressing news: the decade between 2000-
With the melting of the ice pack, methane, a gas 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, is bubbling from beneath the Arctic Ocean. The Global Carbon Project, a consortium of international scientists, reported that emissions from carbon dioxide had surged 5.9 percent, the highest one-
One recent poll shows that Americans who believe in climate change fell precipitously from 71 percent to 51 percent. A large part of this decline may be attributed to a well-
People and Institutions Speak Out
One of the most ridiculous examples was Sen. James Inhofe (R-
The evidence is overwhelming that climate change is occurring. The media should ignore faux climate change researchers and lobbyists like the Global Climate Coalition, which was set up by the U.S. oil and coal interests to tout how their products do not contribute to global warming. Their bogus pseudo-
Climate change deniers had a rude awakening when one of the few scientists who scorned climate change did a 180-
Other significant voices supporting climate change include: Pope Benedict XVI believes there is a “global responsibility” to find the “moral will” to combat the “threatening catastrophe” of climate change. American ecumenical organizations, including Church World Service and the National Council of Churches of Christ, urged President Obama to achieve “a fair, ambitious and binding agreement that sets forth a truly moral response to climate change.” Of the 500 largest companies, nearly 400 have placed climate change as a critical component of their business, thus implementing projects to reduce emissions, save energy and train staff to focus on sustainability.
As the world moves well into the 21st century, there are some maxims that should be considered:
1. Nations should continue to work through the UN to combat climate change; however, countries can take individual action, e.g. Obama Administration pushing increased automobile efficiency and tighter Environmental Protection Agency regulations that will eliminate several coal-
2. The main stream media, which excludes supplicants of the fossil fuel industry such as Fox News, should provide more objective coverage of the climate change debate and not give equal time to faux scientists that shill for the fossil fuel industry. The media are abandoning their main responsibility to inform the public. For example, in 2007, the three major networks did 147 stories on climate change; in 2010 they ran 32 stories. When the media give the climate change deniers equal coverage to espouse their discredited attacks, it is almost equivalent to providing a forum for the Flat Earth Society to debate.
3. Although alternative energy and green technology can produce millions of jobs and billions of dollars in revenue, it may also be challenging and painful to shift to a more environmentally –friendly economy. As Naomi Klein highlighted in an article for The Nation (November 9, 2011), “Capitalism vs. The Climate,” major changes should be implemented, such as replacing a more reckless, Wild West form of “free trade” with a more responsible trade that does not wreak havoc on the environment, destroy workers’ rights and eliminate jobs and encourage the public to over consume. Other approaches may be necessary, such as taxing the super-
4. In 1950, the world population was 2.5 billion; whereas, the UN predicted that the 7 billionth person was born on October 31, 2011. Burgeoning populations put more pressure on finite resources and damage a fragile environment through agricultural overgrazing, desertification and water pollution to mention a few. Climate change and overpopulation, which are inextricably linked, may be the two greatest challenges in the 21st century. The Earth’s resources are stretched. Everyone, especially governments, must get serious about promoting voluntary family planning initiatives to maintain or even reduce the size of the population. Given current projections, the population will soar to nearly 10 billion by 2050, which is totally unsustainable. To get an update on this issue, go to the UN Population Fund.
5. In 1992, the countries of the world met in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). UNCED produced several major initiatives, especially the concept of “sustainable development,” which highlighted the importance of utilizing the Earth’s resources, yet leaving them in a sustainable condition for future generations to use. Another UNCED legacy was Agenda 21, a 900-
6. From June 20-
Bill Miller, a veteran ASPA member, is the accredited Washington International journalist covering the U.N. and the Producer/Moderator of “Global Connections Television.” He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org