Right on the heels of his historic climate agreement with China, President Barack Obama announced a pledge of $3 billion to the United Nations’ thus far underfunded Green Climate Fund. The fund was formally established in 2010 at the U.N. Climate Change conference in Cancun. The purpose of the fund was to redistribute resources between the developed world and the developing world in order to assist developing countries in their effort to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change.
It’s clear that the president is doubling down on climate change, which shouldn’t be a surprise, since he has repeatedly highlighted his intention in his second term to take action by any means available. Recently, that has meant primarily by executive order, which, given the upcoming Republican control of Congress, will likely remain the only available avenue left to act on this crucial issue.
I don’t believe the timing of the announcement is random. I think Obama is taking aggressive action right now, in the wake of the election, to signal Republicans in Congress that:
- They are becoming increasingly isolated on the issue as even the Chinese are making major commitments, and
- he has no intention of letting up on this issue, which he intends to make part of his legacy.
Republicans are already squawking. Intrepid denier Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) called it “part of a climate-change agenda that’s siphoned precious taxpayer dollars away from the real problems facing the American people.” Unsurprisingly, Inhofe, who despite his willful ignorance on the subject chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, has vowed to fight the measure.
Some are already spinning the agreement the president made with Chinese President Xi Jinping, saying that while we have committed to doubling our rate of reduction the Chinese don’t have to do anything until 2030. While that makes for a very catchy sound bite, it is highly misleading. The Chinese have committed to add no additional fossil fuels after 2030. If you bother to think about it, that means transforming an economy that is still growing at 7 percent, is heavily powered by fossil fuels (as ours was) and is adding one new coal plant a week, to one that will presumably keep growing — but will do so entirely powered by clean energy, bringing millions out of poverty.
You can’t just flip a switch to make that happen. That entails constructing twice the current world renewable total in 16 years. A good portion of that will be nuclear power. That process takes a minimum of nine years once a site has been selected. With additional time required for approvals, testing and construction delays, it could easily take 15 years. Hydropower projects could take even longer.
You can look at this any way you want to, but what I see are two superpowers, that combined currently produce 45 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, saying, “This is something we are very concerned about, and we are committing to doing everything we possibly can to reduce our impact.”
We can only achieve what we can imagine. That also means we are only limited by our imagination and our willingness to try to achieve the kind of world we would most like to live in. Look at Denmark, which just committed to 100 percent renewable power and transportation by 2050.
Of course, President Obama will have a tough time moving these actions through a Republican majority, many of which have already set their sights on rolling back the executive actions taken that put the EPA in charge of regulating carbon emissions. It’s not clear whether or not these Congressional Republicans will be able to block any of these actions, though it seems almost certain that they will try. This will cost them politically since, in fact, most Americans accept the science and want the government to do something about it. By so pointedly opposing any action on this front, these politicians continue to marginalize their position, both in the eyes of the American public and the rest of the world.
Image credit: Ben Francis: Flickr Creative Commons
RP Siegel, PE, is an author, inventor and consultant. He has written for numerous publications ranging from Huffington Post to Mechanical Engineering. He and Roger Saillant co-wrote the successful eco-thriller Vapor Trails. RP, who is a regular contributor to Triple Pundit and Justmeans, sees it as his mission to help articulate and clarify the problems and challenges confronting our planet at this time, as well as the steadily emerging list of proposed solutions. His uniquely combined engineering and humanities background help to bring both global perspective and analytical detail to bear on the questions at hand.
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