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Oh Hey, The White House To Do Something On Climate Change! Tyranny, Etc., Impeach!
So here's some breaking climate news that's actually a step in the right direction. The Obama administration announced Tuesday that it has set an official target for reducing the amount of greenhouse gases we pump into the atmosphere, and has submitted that plan to the UN agency that coordinates the world's carbon reduction efforts. So yay! We might save the planet and have fewer drowned polar bears, eventually.
The targets were submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in keeping with the carbon-reduction agreement that President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced back in November. So the US, China, and EU have all committed to specific plans to reduce the gases that cause global warming. Yes, India, we're all looking at you, now. Get to it.
This is actually a big freaking deal, as explained by Brian Deese, a senior adviser to Obama, since now, "countries accounting for more than half of total carbon pollution from the energy sector have submitted or announced what they will do in the post-2020 period to combat climate change."
Note that this here is a chart of how much carbon each country/region currently emits, not the percentage of their commitments to reductions (God, Twitter people are DUMM); the big deal is that with China on board, committed to "build more zero-carbon energy generation than they currently have in coal power," one of the most significant objections to reducing greenhouse gases -- the old "why should we reduce when China pollutes more than we do?" -- is gone, except of course for the usual suspects who will insist that China will just cheat.
On the other hand, China being remarkably short on evangelicals who expect the Rapture any day now (or for Jebus to just fix everything), they lack one vocal bloc that would get in the way of reducing greenhouse emissions. Also, the Chinese government may be an oppressive bunch of corrupt capitalists, but even they are probably a tad worried about the implications of all of Beijing not being able to breathe. So there are some incentives there.
The main thrust of the White House announcement is to emphasize that keeping the planet liveable for big old resource-using mammals and economic growth aren't contradictory goals. Deese writes:
Over the last eight years, we’ve cut more carbon pollution than any other country and brought our economy back from the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression, creating more than 12 million jobs over 60 straight months of job growth -- the longest streak on record. Since the EPA was established four decades ago, we’ve cut air pollution by 70 percent while our GDP has tripled.
And yes, "cutting air pollution" is kind of weaselly there, since that has more to do with particulates and other pollutants, not CO2, which is the sucker that's driving climate change. But yeah, the larger point is that clean air and growth can go together.
Also too, there's evidence that international efforts to limit carbon emissions are starting to make a dent -- a small but measurable one -- in the overall CO2 level. It's not a reduction, unfortunately, but it's a start:
We’re seeing encouraging trends in the global economy, too. For more than four decades, carbon pollution from the energy sector rose alongside increases in global GDP. The only periods where carbon emissions didn’t increase corresponded to periods of economic weakness. Until last year. In an historic but underreported shift, carbon pollution from the energy sector was flat from 2013 to 2014 -- even as the global economy grew by 3 percent.
Not that a two-year plateau in CO2 is nearly enough when we need to be reducing atmospheric carbon, but it sure as heck beats the trend up until now.
So two cheers for doing something to try to save the planet. Of course, there are going to be downsides if we truly start making progress on climate. For one thing, the projected boom in third-world prostitution may be prevented. Thanks a lot, Obama.