Why Is Biden At UN's COP26 Climate Summit When Kamala Is The Cop?
President Joe Biden is attending the United Nations's global summit on climate change in Glasgow, Scotland, where he said that the world's leaders are in the "decisive decade" to stop emissions of greenhouse gasses warming the planet and causing climate change. Biden said that up until now, world action on climate is "still falling short. There's no more time to hang back or sit on the fence or argue amongst ourselves."
BIDEN: This is the challenge of our collective lifetimes, the existential threat to human existence as we know it and every day we delay, the cost of inaction increases. So, let this be the moment when we answer history's call here in Glasgow. Let this be the start of a decade of transformative action.
Biden affirmed the US commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions between 50 to 52 percent by 2030, in comparison to 2005 levels, and said he wants to "demonstrate to the world the United States is not only back at the table, but hopefully leading by the power of our example," acknowledging that "I know it hasn't been the case and that's why my administration is working overtime to show that our climate commitment is action, not words."
In a variation on his usual closing, line blessing the US and American troops, Biden closed with ""God bless you all, and may God save the planet."
Following that speech to the full summit audience, Biden later more explicitly referred to the previous president, albeit without naming him, apologizing during a smaller meeting for the decision by Donald Trump to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, saying, "I guess I shouldn't apologize, but I do apologize." To help indicate the bipartisan American commitment to reaching climate goals, rightwingers on Twitter complained that Biden's motorcade was too large, because the CO2 emissions from Biden's armored limousine and several other vehicles no doubt took the world past the climate tipping point. Same goes for the simplistic notion that climate change can't be real, because didn't all those world leaders fly in jets to Scotland? Reminder: Individual reductions in our carbon footprints do matter! But they have to be accompanied by national action to measurably change things.
Then rightwing Twitter went crazy insisting that Biden had fallen asleep during other opening speeches, thus proving that climate change is no big deal and Biden wasn't even really elected. So we're betting there will be a lot of very serious reporting about the challenges of reducing greenhouse emissions in time to keep global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) since the industrial revolution.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres noted that the "six years since the Paris Climate Agreement have been the six hottest years on record." He said, "Our addiction to fossil fuels is pushing humanity to the brink," and urged world leaders to stop "treating nature like a toilet, burning, and drilling and mining our way deeper."
Guterres also noted that without actual action to back them up, recent announcements of pledges to cut emissions are "an illusion," since even if stated national goals were actually met — a dubious prospect — the globe would still face a 2.7 degree C increase in average temperatures (about 4.9 degrees F).
No, the answer isn't to make more ambitious promises without actually backing them up with action. Guterres said that the Paris goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees C is still attainable, but only if industrialized nations act immediately and more effectively. He also called for wealthy nations to meet their $100 billion Paris pledge of assistance to developing nations adapt to climate change and build green power as well.
For a reminder of just how seriously that help is needed, give a listen to = this WBUR interview with Tina Stege, the climate envoy for the Marshall Islands, which is facing the literal loss of some of the islands in the chain, plus disappearing fresh water, as groundwater wells have been made useless by seawater. The nation of 60,000 people now relies solely on collection of rainwater for all its drinking water and agriculture. The World Bank has listed the Marshall Islands as among the world's first nations to face disappearing due to sea-level rise, along with the nearby atoll nations of Kiribati and Tuvalu, although when exactly that's likely to happen can't yet be pinpointed. Raise buildings and reclaim land, though, and residents would at least have the choice to stay.
Climate reporter Kendra Pierre-Louis wrote a sobering thread last night on the eve of the conference — "COP26" by the way stands for "Conference of the Parties" to the first UN climate summit in 1992 — noting that the US response to the COVID pandemic is perhaps not a great precursor to any hopes of taking serious action on climate. Rather than risk the tweets being consumed by our dumb platform, we'll copy-paste, with linkies:
Almost every climate reporter I know is a little broken cause they're looking at how the US handled covid - something with a discrete cause and effect that's in line with out preexisting understanding of the world - and realizing how ok this country is with mass death.
We're 4% of the world's population and had close to 20% of the world's covid deaths. We have broad access to safe, effective vaccines and a significant minority is saying that taking them is akin to genocide.
We're a country that is looking at mass migration from Central America b/c of climate and instead of spending a small bit of money to enable people to stay home- where they want to be - we're spending a lot of money to incarcerate them in inhumane conditions.
Honestly, where the covid analogy falls flat is despite how fucked up our response was we mostly hurt ourselves. But our climate obstruction is taking the world down with us.
That said, it's also worth noting that we nonetheless managed not to keep the guy who was making things worse in office. Public opinion is in clearly favor of action, and is more solidly in favor of change than at any point in polling. As ever, our officeholders are way behind the rest of us on recognizing that, which means we need to make noise and push them in the right direction. It's also a matter of some hope that young people of color are among the most active proponents of action.
I still remember Chris Hayes saying, early on in the pandemic, that the willingness of billions of people worldwide — and even, for a couple months, in the US — to take collective action against a real threat gave him hope for possible action on climate. It's difficult to remain as hopeful now that an entire US political party has become a death cult, to be sure.
But even if some people are bragging on Twitter about how they left their diesel trucks idling all night to teach the UN a lesson, the world will get to clean power and an end to most greenhouse emissions worldwide. We still have a choice about how quickly that's going to happen, and how much harm to human civilization and other life on the planet will be done.
Stay angry and active, kids.
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