Warnings Pile Up Before Qatar Climate Talks

As another international conference on climate change is about to get under way in Qatar on Monday, two recent reports issue dire warnings about where we are—and where we are likely to be.

First, the World Bank came out with “Turn Down the Heat.”

It notes that we are plausibly on the path to a 4 degrees Celsius increase in the world’s temperatures this century, which would lead to “unprecedented heat waves, severe drought, and major floods in many regions, with serious impacts on ecosystems.”

Industrial nations are not doing nearly enough to address this crisis. “The sum total of current policies—in place and pledged—will very likely lead to warming far in excess” of the required limits, the report says.

It also notes the double injustice that lies at the center of the global warming crisis: Industrialized nations are the ones most responsible for creating the crisis, but “the distribution of impacts is likely to be inherently unequal and tilted against many of the world’s poorest regions.”

It adds: “The projected increase in intensity of extreme events in the future would likely have adverse implications for efforts to reduce poverty, particularly in developing countries.”

On the heels of this report comes another from the U.N. Environment Program, “The Emissions Gap Report, 2012.”

The gap is the distance between what countries have pledged to do about global warming and what is necessary to keep the planet from heating up more than 2 degrees Celsius. This gap has grown, in part, “because of higher than expected economic growth” after the Great Recession. And it will continue to be a severe problem even if the commitments that countries have already made are “fully implemented.”

The UN report notes that “there is basically one year less to achieve” the necessary reductions in emissions, so “steeper and more costly actions will be required.”

The problem is, the United States is not in any way prepared to take those actions, as Barack Obama himself noted in his press conference after being reelected.

“There’s no doubt that for us to take on climate change in a serious way would involve making some tough political choices, and you know, understandably, I think the American people right now have been so focused and will continue to be focused on our economy and jobs and growth that, you know, if the message is somehow we’re going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, I don’t think anybody’s going to go for that. I won’t go for that,” he said. “If, on the other hand, we can shape an agenda that says we can create jobs, advance growth and make a serious dent in climate change and be an international leader, I think that’s something that the American people would support.”

This selfish “growth is paramount” philosophy is what spurred on the climate crisis, and adherence to it will only impede the resolution of that crisis.

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story “Congress’s Shameful Support for Israeli Bombing."

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