I bet even the Mayans didn’t see this coming when they predicted that the world would end in 2012. Turns out we are not off the hook yet, with an even more legitimate danger staring us in the face. Right now a bunch of suits at the UN are deciding how much climate change we are going to get.
No, really. Their hands are on the global thermostat. And only WE can hold them accountable for how far they crank it up.
Let me explain: Not many people know that each year 195 national governments meet to hash out the details of a global agreement to stop man-made climate change. It’s called the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and this is the take home message: they’re not doing so hot. This forum was supposed to reach an agreement in 2009 to limit catastrophic climate change by creating tangible reduction pledges of greenhouse gas emissions from all member nations. The negotiations came to a standstill when no greenhouse gas (GHG) heavy-hitters, such as the USA or China, stepped up with ambitious reduction commitments fearing economic whiplash if they acted without comparable promises from other countries. When the GHG giants did not commit to significant reductions, no one else did either. Since then we’ve seen Hurricane Sandy, unprecedented drought in California , and biblical flooding in Arizona, among a growing list of climate impacts. At the same time, the most well supported research on global climate change concluded global warming has moved firmly into the present and our window to act is closing.
A new deadline of 2015 was set in 2011 to recover from the failure in 2009 and to create an all-inclusive global agreement that will put the brakes on the gluttonous amount of carbon we are belching into the air.
Frustrated delegate from the United States at Conference of the Parties (COP) 19 in Warsaw, Poland. The final international agreement on global warming is hinging on the contributions proposed by the United States, China, and India. Only one of these key players has to step up with ambitious emission reduction goals to provide the assurance for the rest of the world to set similarly ambitious targets. Photo credit: Spencer R Schecht.
We’ve seen this kind of climate belly flop before with the deteriorating Kyoto Protocol and the meltdown at the Copenhagen negotiations. One clue as to why we keep hearing this broken record may lie in that no single entity, government, nor set of individuals are held responsible if these negotiations fail. Though collective failure has big consequences, it’s still nobody’s fault. Nobody, except for us; we the people of planet earth.
If 2015 doesn’t produce a robust agreement with ambitious greenhouse gas reduction pledges from the world’s biggest economies, we are back at where we are right now: the pollutants that warm our world will continue to flow freely into our air and we are left to prepare for uncharted territory.
Which is where we come in; you and I can each take ACTION to limit the worst of climate change. The UNFCCC is composed of governments and our government is composed “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” We as the people ARE powerful. We have the power to hold our representatives accountable for doing their job of ensuring a safe and just world. And our power grows with our capacity to cooperate. I’m not just talking switching out our light bulbs and recycling, either (but we should continue to do that too).
Here are 3 levels of action you can take:
1- You did it! You read this article, I hope now you know something you didn’t know before. Stay educated on the issue, there are lots of great resources out there that can keep you in the know. Follow updates on this important process on Twitter @SpencerSchecht. Stay educated, my friends, with these great resources:
2- Join the party and take a trip to New York City September 21 to show the UN that they have the eyes of the world upon them. As nations convene for a day of preliminary talks on the agreement, the largest climate march in history will be taking place. Civil participation is an empowering and significant privilege that can produce real change, as it did during the Civil Rights Movement. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to just everywhere”; The People’s Climate March is our opportunity to stand together for justice. To let this injustice persist threatens justice everywhere. Take to the streets in a grand show that we are more invested in real change than clicking like on Facebook. Read up, be heard, experience it for yourself.
3- Activate your power in this democracy– Citizens Climate Lobby is equipping people with tools and training to develop relationships with their politicians and urge them for action on global warming. With more meetings with Congress each year than any other volunteer based environmental organization, CCL is giving the people back their democracy. Let us not forget our government is participatory, so let’s participate.
The author and 600 Citizens Climate Lobby volunteers at the Capitol Steps in Washington DC. We have the power to push those making the decisions to act on climate change. Photo credit: Erica Flock.
Keep up to date, find your voice, and decide for yourself where you fit in. There are a variety of ways to do your part while enjoying the experience of discovering your power as a free citizen. And indeed, freedom plus cooperation has produced some of the greatest successes in history. We as citizens have the power to push our representatives to be leaders at these meetings. Our nation’s influence is unparalleled, and our influence on our nation is imperative.
Those in suits have their hands on the global thermostat, but we can decide to join the cavalry to rescue our collective future.
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Facebook: Spencer R Schecht