By Amitabh Pal on December 11, 2012

The recent climate change talks in Qatar ended on a disappointing note.

While for the first time the West recognizes a responsibility to compensate the developing world for damage caused by global warming, the agreement lacks teeth, in large part due to American intransigence.

"The U.S. had strongly opposed the initial 'loss and damage' proposals, which would have set up a new international institution to collect and disperse funds to vulnerable countries," reports The Guardian. "U.S. negotiators also made certain that neither the word 'compensation,' nor any other term connoting legal liability, was used, to avoid opening the floodgates to litigation -- instead, the money will be judged as aid."

Perceptive observers correctly concluded that the deal doesn't mean all that much.

"There is no new finance (for adapting to climate change and getting clean energy) -- only promises that something might materialize in the future," said Ronald Jumeau, representative for the small island states whose very existence is at stake. "Those who are obstructive need to talk not about how their people will live, but whether our people will live."

Poorer nations didn't cause global warming, but they are the primary victims of it.

"The problem has been caused not by today's emissions or the last twenty-five years of emissions; it's been caused by cumulative emissions beginning with industrialization," Rajendra Pachauri, head of the Nobel-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the definitive body studying the subject, told me. "The role of the industrial countries is paramount in having contributed to human-induced climate change."

The Obama Administration has to be commended for making a shift from the complete obdurateness of the Bush era and acknowledging at least some Western liability. For some activists, this is a big step.

"This is a highly significant move -- it will be the first time the size of the bill for failing to take on climate change will be part of the U.N. discussions," Ruth Davis of Greenpeace told The Guardian. "Countries need to understand the risks they are taking in not addressing climate change urgently."

However, the U.S. shift is incomplete, since "the American definition of equity does not include historical emissions but only future emissions," Indian environmentalist Sunita Narain told the Huffington Post. "For us, both are important."

Instead, the way the issue is framed in much of the media, poorer nations often come across as ingrates looking for an easy handout.

"The poor are fighting the poor for the little crumbs that are being thrown at us," Narain said. "These negotiations have been reduced down to polluters and beggars."

The whole debate on climate change needs to be reframed to correctly assign the historical responsibility for our ecological crisis. Given by what just transpired at Qatar, the West is not quite committed to making such an acknowledgment, nor to doing what is urgently needed to slow -- and ultimately reverse -- the process of global warming.

If you liked this article by Amitabh Pal, the managing editor of the Progressive magazine, please check out his article entitled "Senate Rejection of Disabilities Treaty Shows GOP Descent Into Irrationality."

Follow Amitabh Pal @amitpal on Twitter.

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From a puny real-estate deal to campaign finance scandals, Walker's stench is in the air.

By Julia Burke
Ali Abd ElRahman believes the United States has the potential to take a leadership role in food...

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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