The Death of the Kyoto Process

A climate catastrophe descended on the German Foreign Ministry in Berlin early last week. Politicians and diplomats from around the world were attending a conference to discuss how global warming will affect the world. They examined scenarios depicting how millions of people living in coastal areas could escape flooding, what will happen to the fishing and mineral rights of island nations when they no longer exist and how China and Russia will benefit from an ice-free Arctic.

In a statement, the Foreign Ministry said that it intended to “openly and creatively address” the dangers of climate change. The exercise was designed to help “find new paths of international cooperation.”

But the belief that global warming can be halted through international cooperation is elusive. The Kyoto Protocol, the world’s only binding climate agreement, will soon expire. The most important means to date of compelling industrialized nations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions seems likely to become a mere footnote in history.

The current CO2-reduction agreements expire at the end of 2012, and there is enormous resistance to new targets. The environment ministers and negotiators from roughly 200 countries, who will travel to Durban, South Africa at the end of November for the latest global climate conference, are a long way from breathing new life into the Kyoto process.

Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, is making the bold claim that there is “a strong desire from all sides to see a final political decision made” in Durban. But this decision will probably consist of doing without fixed agreements on CO2 reduction in the future. “The meeting in Durban could become an act of mourning,” warns Reimund Schwarze of the Climate Service Center in Hamburg, which analyzes climate policy on behalf of the German government.

The Article

Occupy Wall Street

I’ve followed the Occupy Wall Street activities and have heard several of them speak to NPR reporters. They seem particularly well-spoken about their concerns…and their frustrations.

I certainly understand their frustration….and I share their concern about the unfairness in our political economy. Unfortunately, I don’t think there are any ‘big’ solutions to the problem…other than motivating/educating a LOT of people to change their consumption patterns and their political instincts.

I read a David Brooks editorial and he thinks the real solutions cannot be simplified to the 99% versus the 1%…..I agree. He also thinks real solutions are often seen as boring…..I also agree. Real solutions are thoughtful, complex and subtle…and don’t accommodate today’s sound bites.

Facing Planetary Enemy No. 1: Agriculture

Consider: Cropland and pasture now cover 40 percent of our planet’s land surface; farming consumes nearly three-quarters of all the water that humans use for any purpose; farming accounts for a third of all the emissions of greenhouse gases that humans release into the environment. (Those greenhouse emission come from clearing forests or grassland for crops, the emissions of methane from rice paddies, and the conversion of nitrogen fertilizer into nitrous oxide — a powerful greenhouse gas.)
The NPR Report

A New Direction for American Economic Policy

Americans with a college degree are generally okay. Their unemployment rate is 4.3% and average incomes are above $60,000 per year. There are many help-wanted signs for talented computer programmers, engineers, and other high-skilled workers. Americans with a high-school diploma or less are falling into poverty, with unemployment of 10% and incomes averaging less than $30,000 per year. For these workers, the only help-wanted signs are for dead-end jobs that lead to poverty.

What is surprising and distressing is how few young people are finishing a four-year degree or an equivalent path to high job skills. The proportion of young people achieving a bachelor’s degree has peaked at around 40%. Many more try college, but ended up dropping out because they can’t meet tuitions and can’t afford to be out of the labor market for the period of college study.

With America at the brink of financial collapse and class war, it is time for all sides to follow a new direction: a long-term effort to invest in skills and twenty-first-century infrastructure, paid for by increased taxes paid by cash-rich multinational companies, high net-worth individuals, and polluting industries. Rather than creating low-skilled and temporary jobs for our kids, we should be helping kids to stay in school until they have the skills to compete effectively in the new global economy.

The money to pay for this expanded effort can come largely from the top of the income distribution. The top 1% of households took home 10% of household income in 1980 but now take home roughly 23%. Along with this remarkable surge in income after 1980 came tax cuts and increasingly easy access of the rich to offshore tax havens.

It’s time we insist that the rich do their part to help rescue America from decline. The tradeoff for America comes to this: fewer mega-yachts and other luxuries for the rich, and millions better educated children and young workers for society as a whole. America will recover when all Americans, especially those at the top of the heap, pay the price of civilization.

The entire article by Jeffrey Sachs