After two weeks of negotiations, the Bonn climate talks ended on Friday and made effectively no progress on efforts to curtail global warming. Participants in the talks are giving credit to all parties for making progress on various technical issues, but the most prominent and crucially important areas of discussion have come to naught, with no agreement on standards for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions or financing of future initiatives. The future of the Kyoto protocol is very much uncertain, as well, despite having been ratified years ago by virtually every country on the globe, with only the U.S. having a stated intention not to sign.
Naturally, the United States is being harshly criticized for allegedly blocking progress at these most recent talks by refusing to negotiate its insufficient goals on pollution reduction or to back up earlier financial commitments. The European Union is not winning much praise either, and its reduction goals are also identified by some as being far below where they should be.
Of course, it is easy to understand why the industrialized nations would be hedging their bets in current talks, given the perilous state of the economy. If financing is an aspect of the discussion, it suggests that moving forward on global warming policy demands economic sacrifices that we cannot afford to make right now. But the fact is that what we really can’t afford is to not commit to progress on reducing and reversing greenhouse gas emissions. And as we and many others within the environmentalist movement have repeatedly made efforts to emphasize, transitions to greener societies can create jobs, capital, and investment opportunities. The threat of economic instability is not a valid explanation for a failure to act on global warming; it is only an excuse used to manufacture justification for a lack of the will to take the lead, to effect change, and to change the status quo.
According to the ambassador from Bolivia, Pablo Solon, “The developed countries are not moving. The problem we face is that we are on a path to [warming of] 4-5C. That is the reality. That worries us very much.” And of course there is good reason for worry, considering that global warming of just one degree Celsius could result in arctic ice thawing completely for half of each year, resulting in severe drought and desertification in key areas of the world, including the American west. Speaking of the failure to move forward on avoiding such dire ecological impacts, Solon is correct to say, “The problem is the lack of ambition.”
The will to change must come first. All the rest follows after that. But so far, these talks and the others that preceded it have demonstrated little more than a will to bicker and point fingers. This is the ongoing tragedy of global warming inaction. There is no sense in constantly asking and arguing over the questions of who should be moving first to reduce their emissions, or who should be financing renewable energies and sustainable resources. These questions don’t much matter, because the answer is obvious: everybody should be doing their part. Everybody ought to be doing whatever they can, whether it’s a country that is the largest polluter or the smallest, the richest or the poorest.
What is needed, above all, is will. But the will of nations, particularly in a democratic society, comes from the will of its people, so put pressure on your government to take up the cause of curtailing global warming, not because it’s expedient or because a course of action has been unanimously agreed upon by all nations, but because it’s the right thing to do. And in the meantime, the ubiquitous responsibility to do whatever one can applies to private individuals as much as it does governments. So while you’re waiting for the leaders of the world to stop talking and start acting, you should go on doing both. Do what you can to reduce your carbon footprint by driving fuel efficient or hybrid cars, by going solar, by planting trees, and so on. Also, visit our online store, use sustainable materials where including bamboo clothing and bamboo sheets. Bamboo provides more sustainable resources for your life while supporting a crop that could do wonders for carbon sequestration and be important to our collective efforts once everyone finally recognizes the importance of working to counteract global warming.