2005-12-13

America, hide your shame...

Today's NYTimes editorial, titled America's Shame in Montreal is an indictment of the behavior of the US delegation to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Montreal. Here's a short bit:
"For its part, the Bush administration deserves only censure. No one expected a miraculous conversion. But given the steadily mounting evidence of the present and potential consequences of climate change - disappearing glaciers, melting Arctic ice caps, dying coral reefs, threatened coastlines, increasingly violent hurricanes - one would surely have expected America's negotiators to arrive in Montreal willing to discuss alternatives." [LINK]


The UN is touting Montreal 2005 as a success, with "more than forty decisions that will strengthen global efforts to fight climate change." [LINK]

It's hard for me to really know if anything interesting or substantial has come from Montreal 2005, since it was hardly covered in the crappy mainstream media, which has been my only real source of news lately because I don't have much time to read the in-depth coverage that I'd really like to. My first guess though is that nothing particularly interesting happened at the conference. Most likely a few countries (Canada, Britain, etc) agreed to keep pushing for more responsible energy policies, but no one agreed to actually do more than they are supposed to already be doing. The US acted like a spoile child, "In the wee hours of Saturday morning, the United States finally agreed to allow new discussions, but only after everyone consented to a huge escape clause saying any talks will be 'open and nonbinding,' and 'will not open any negotiations leading to new commitments.'" [LINK]

In the meantime, prominent climate scientists are starting to think about real-life The Day After Tomorrow scenarios. James Hansen, NASA Goddard, has an editorial essay in Climate Change that goes through some rather dire scenarios [LINK]. Essentially, he's worried that the response time of large icesheets (Greenland mostly, but also Antarctica) is only 100-300 years, which is similar to the combined time it takes for humans to see the climate really changing and then do something about their climate-changing activity. Hansen sees a scenario where water pools on the tops of the ice, causing melting downward, lubricating huge chunks of ice sheet, which then break off and plunge into the ocean. Sea levels could rise by several meters in a few years, displacing many millions of people in a short amount of time. It isn't a likely scenario, but we can't yet rule it out.

2 comments:

renee said...

a second dire scenario: what if global warming caused all the snow in the Sierras to melt. This would in turn fill all the reservoirs in Southern California to capacity. We would then experience a surplus water supply, and everyone would be encouraged to water their lawns all the time, and take nice long showers, and wash their cars more often, and do smaller, more frequent loads of laundry. The slip-n-slide would once again be the coolest toy. Water-slide parks would no longer be used as gay bath houses. This is all because Americans seem to have this unnerving "use it or lose it" mentality. Anyway, once the snow was all melted, the reservoirs would stop filling, and we would move into Phase Two: extreme water conservation. After that, I'm not sure what would happen... maybe we'd all have to move to Seattle?

Saheli said...

I was wondering where you were going with that renee. . .melting sierra snow. Bleh.