Efforts to stem global warming moving at a glacial pace

US lawmakers working on legislation and diplomats everywhere doubt there’ll be any major breakthrough at next month’s meeting in Copenhagen.

Reuters/BPA Handout
German Chancellor Angela Merkel told a joint session of Congress last week that "there is no time to lose" in tackling climate change, but legislation on the issue is moving at a glacial pace.

Political and diplomatic advances on global climate change are proceeding at a snail’s pace. Or to use a better metaphor, like the drip-drip-drip of glaciers melting in the heat of a warming planet. Which is to say, slowly – very slowly.

That’s true in Washington, where lawmakers are trying to craft a climate bill. And it’s also true abroad, where diplomats are preparing for a 192-nation conference in Copenhagen next month.

As the Associated Press reports:

“At U.N. climate talks in Barcelona, Spain, African nations walked out of meetings to protest rich nations' reluctance to make substantial carbon-cutting commitments. In Washington, some conservative Republicans boycotted the start of committee debate on a bill to curb greenhouse gases, fearful of the cost to the U.S. economy.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told a joint session of Congress this past week "there is no time to lose" in tackling climate change, according to the AP. “But the lukewarm response to her comments on global warming -- in contrast to the ovations she received at other times -- only underscored the skeptical mood in the United States about climate action, which would require a shift away from fossil fuels to wind and solar power, smaller cars and -- the Republicans argue -- more expense to consumers.”

Senator Barbara Boxer (D) of California pushed a climate bill through the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee the other day. But as Reuters reports, “it's becoming clear the bill won't get far before the world meets in Copenhagen.”

Most climate science experts agree that the earth is warming at a pace that may be dangerous, and reports from Earth keep illustrating that.

A report by the Natural Resources Defense Council calls global warming “the greatest threat” to national parks in the United States.

And as Monitor science writer Peter Spotts wrote the other day, there’s new evidence that “Global warming appears to be melting the ice on Tanzania’s Mt. Kilimanjaro.” He notes that “mountain glaciers in tropical South America and the Himalayas are undergoing similar changes.”

Even so, reports Voice of America, “world leaders say a global climate treaty might be postponed by up to a year.”

Meanwhile, President Obama is throwing what political weight he can behind efforts to stem global climate change. After meeting with European Union leaders in Washington this week, he told reporters:

“We discussed climate change extensively and all of us agreed that it was imperative for us to redouble our efforts in the weeks between now and the Copenhagen meeting to ensure that we create a framework for progress.”

There may be some wishful thinking there. It’s not only recalcitrant Republicans and global warming deniers he faces. Within the environmental community there are sharp differences over how to proceed, reports David A. Fahrenthold of the Washington Post. He writes:

“Now, some groups have muted their alarms about wildfires, shrinking glaciers and rising seas. Not because they've stopped caring about them -- but because they're trying to win over people who might care more about a climate bill's non-environmental side benefits, such as "green" jobs and reduced oil imports.
Smaller environmental groups, however, say this is the wrong moment to ease up on the scare because that might send the signal that a weaker bill is acceptable.
At the heart of this intra-green disagreement is a behemoth of an unanswered question: Even after years of apocalyptic warnings about climate change, how much will Americans really sacrifice to fight it?”

Meanwhile, drip-drip-drip…..


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