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Limit Carbon Emissions Or Abandon All Hope
By Jere Locke and Alyssa Burgin
All of our hopes, all of our dreams for the next generation--for our children and grandchildren-- are now on a collision course with nature if our governments don’t soon act to limit carbon emissions. This year will be pivotal in deciding the future of this planet. For many years, the U.S. has dragged its feet in passing legislation on the subject, while sabotaging international negotiations. Congressman Lloyd Doggett is to be applauded in recognizing the severity of this situation, reflected in his just-released “Safe Markets Development Act of 2009”, but he does not go far enough.
At this critical juncture, when emissions have risen faster than at any other period in human history, we need strong and decisive action . We must pass a comprehensive bill that will serve both to encourage the new American resolve to tackle climate change and to push the hundreds of nations meeting this December in Copenhagen to sign the new agreement that will succeed the Kyoto Protocols. There can be no further delay; the scientific community is united in telling us that if we don’t stop the rise of emissions by 2015 at the very latest, future generations will be powerless to change the course of catastrophic climate change.
No doubt, Doggett’s bill has important provisions to stabilize prices in the carbon market, a vital part of any effective legislation. Major proposals in the national debate—carbon tax and cap-and-trade-- can be undermined by either price volatility or uncertainty about whether they would actually result in emission reductions. Without the protections built into Doggett’s bill, the speculators whose greed resulted in the present financial collapse could game the system in exactly the same way, destroying any benefits for the climate. His bill virtually eliminates that possibility.
However, the heart and soul of a climate change bill are the cuts in emissions, which is where Doggett’s bill falls far short of the advice of scientists. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which won the Nobel Prize with Al Gore, has advised us that if we cut our emissions twenty-five to forty percent under 1990 levels by 2020, this would give us a fifty-fifty chance of avoiding two degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels. The scientific community tells us that two degrees is where runaway climate change begins. Rep. Doggett’s bill only calls for emission cuts of seventeen percent below present levels-- which only gets us back to then-existing 1990 levels, nowhere near the recommended cuts.
President Obama himself stated that science and scientists [would] inform and guide decisions of his administration, thus paving the way for a resurgence of adherence to scientific recommendations. Right now, the world's most prominent scientists are united on this subject. Dr. James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, tells us that the earth’s climate is nearing a crucial tipping point that, if passed, would lead to “practically a different planet”. Dr. Rajendra Pachuari, the chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which won the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore, said in 2007 that “If there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment.”
In the past few months, there have been several large conferences as a build-up to the signing of the new agreement in Copenhagen. News reports have been ominous, with attending scientists concluding that even the worst-case scenarios in the IPCC's 2007 report have been exceeded, particularly in the areas of ice melt and drought.
We must either take appropriate action or our children will face the consequences. And in Texas, those consequences are dire indeed--larger and more destructive hurricanes, sea-level rises that will cover our barrier islands and flood our coastal cities as the ice melt proceeds, and drought--relentless, permanent drought, according to prominent climatologists. In time much of Texas would become a desert, like Arizona and Nevada.
Again, we applaud Rep. Doggett for his initiative in putting forward this important bill, while hoping that he will strengthen the cuts in emissions. The final cuts in emissions are crucial as the United States bill and United Nations agreement are our last realistic opportunities to take action in time to mitigate the damage that we have wrought, and to guarantee that the next generations, our children and our grandchildren, will inherit a livable planet and a secure world.
Written by Jere Locke and Alyssa Burgin of Texas Climate Emergency Campaign (TCEC), which is working in twelve Texas congressional districts educating and mobilizing community leaders. TCEC can be reached at email@example.com or 512-964-1134.