The White House put out an official statement on the Copenhagen climate talks, in which they confirm that President Obama will be traveling to the talks on Dec. 9th — a week too early — and officially state the tragically weak emissions targets the Obama Administration is bringing to the table. And that’s not even the worst part.
I know I claimed I was trying not to be too harsh on the Obama Administration in my last post, and yet here I am starting to sound like a broken record. But here’s the deal: Many of us donated our money, gave up our time, and spent months of our lives doing everything we could to get Obama elected. And we did that because we saw in Obama an opportunity to turn our country around in many ways, including on global warming. Obama seemed to get this when, in his inaugural address, he vowed to restore science to its “rightful place” in the climate debate.
Yet Obama has done anything but that so far. True, he’s way better than the last president, who seemed more or less determined to ignore global warming until it went away. But half-measures are not the about-face we were hoping for when we worked to elect Obama. Science tells us we have to reduce emissions 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020 in order to avert the worst impacts of climate change. And Obama’s White House has just issued a statement — little more than a week before the international negotiations aimed at achieving those ambitious reductions — calling for 17% reductions below 2005 levels. That works out to only about 4% below 1990 levels. All this will get us is climate change we can believe in — because we’re going to see the effects more and more right here in our own backyards in the form of droughts, increasingly ferocious tropical storms, and wildfires.
But the most disappointing part of the White House’s statement is what it doesn’t say. There is no commitment to provide financing for developing countries to help them adapt to and mitigate the impacts of global warming. Nor is there a commitment to fund forest protection, one of the easiest ways to quickly lower greenhouse gas emissions. Financial assistance from wealthy countries like the United States is an essential component of any deal that developing countries will be willing to accept.
I’m not saying this to harshly criticize Obama, I’m really not. I’m saying it because he can do better. America can do better. America must do better.