Moral Low Ground

Our Earth

Global Climate Summit Underway in Cancun

Delegates from 194 countries have gathered in Cancun, Mexico in yet another attempt to forge a global consensus for action on climate change. Expectations are low following last year’s colossal failure to reach a legally binding agreement in Copenhagen, but that’s not stopping countries from seeking a commitment to lower global carbon emissions. Also on the agenda: replacing the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

The world’s nations had better get their act together. Quickly. Rising sea levels, melting glaciers, more frequent and more intense storms, unprecedented flooding, and more widespread wildfires are signs that global warming is already here and wreaking havoc on many parts of the world. As usual, it is the poor who are suffering the most. Entire low-lying island nations like Tuvalu and the Maldives face the unsettling prospect of evacuation.

Things will only get worse. Up to 1 billion people will lose their homes by the year 2100. This will affect people in all seaboard countries, whether rich or poor. Here in the United States, cities like Norfolk, Virginia are already dealing with this. An additional 3 billion people could lose access to clean water due to global warming.

All is not lost, however. It was widely believed that global action on climate change was only possible if the United States led the way. The election of Barack Obama gave the world great hope, but so far he has failed to deliver. Countries are now acting on their own. All the world’s major countries have made commitments to act. All, that is, except the United States. China, Brazil, India, South Africa, Indonesia and other large, polluting developing countries have launched ambitious plans to deal with climate change.

The United States has foolishly made a decision to protect short-term economic gains rather than the future of our planet. This is likely the most grievous error in the history of mankind. But perhaps if Washington and Wall Street were spoken to in a language they understand, they would be spurred to action. Mexican President and summit host Felipe Calderon pointed out that the price of dealing with climate change later will be far dearer than it is now, consuming some 5-20% of future global GDP. Still, it is highly doubtful that the United States, controlled as it is by corporate interests with little or no interest in the planet’s best interest, will surprise the world with a commitment to meaningful action.

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