Monday, November 30, 2015

The Turning Point/ "Let's Get to Work"

The New York Times heralded the day:

"The largest gathering of world leaders in history on Monday began a multinational effort toward forging what many called the planet’s last, best hope to stave off the worst consequences of climate change.

“Never have the stakes of an international meeting been so high, since what is at stake is the future of the planet, the future of life,” President Fran├žois Hollande of France told a packed United Nations plenary session at a convention center in this suburb north of Paris."

President Obama was one of the first speakers:

"Nearly 200 nations have assembled here this week -- a declaration that for all the challenges we face, the growing threat of climate change could define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other. What should give us hope that this is a turning point, that this is the moment we finally determined we would save our planet, is the fact that our nations share a sense of urgency about this challenge and a growing realization that it is within our power to do something about it."

"...I’ve come here personally, as the leader of the world’s largest economy and the second-largest emitter, to say that the United States of America not only recognizes our role in creating this problem, we embrace our responsibility to do something about it."

"...One of the enemies that we'll be fighting at this conference is cynicism, the notion we can't do anything about climate change. Our progress should give us hope during these two weeks -- hope that is rooted in collective action."

"...For I believe, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that there is such a thing as being too late. And when it comes to climate change, that hour is almost upon us. But if we act here, if we act now, if we place our own short-term interests behind the air that our young people will breathe, and the food that they will eat, and the water that they will drink, and the hopes and dreams that sustain their lives, then we won't be too late for them.

And, my fellow leaders, accepting this challenge will not reward us with moments of victory that are clear or quick. Our progress will be measured differently -- in the suffering that is averted, and a planet that's preserved. And that’s what’s always made this so hard. Our generation may not even live to see the full realization of what we do here. But the knowledge that the next generation will be better off for what we do here -- can we imagine a more worthy reward than that? Passing that on to our children and our grandchildren, so that when they look back and they see what we did here in Paris, they can take pride in our achievement.

Let that be the common purpose here in Paris. A world that is worthy of our children. A world that is marked not by conflict, but by cooperation; and not by human suffering, but by human progress. A world that’s safer, and more prosperous, and more secure, and more free than the one that we inherited.

Let’s get to work."

A new poll shows that a solid two-thirds of Americans surveyed support the US joining an international treaty to address the climate crisis.  Three-quarters agree that the climate crisis is underway. More than 60% support limiting power plant greenhouse gases emissions.

Other leaders were just as blunt, indicating urgency in the most extreme terms. British PM Cameron referred to "the Earth in peril." Pope Francis said, "Every year the problems are getting worse. We are at the limits. If I may use a strong word I would say that we are at the limits of suicide."

One of the major innovations of the day came from the Prime Minister of India, who announced the formation of an international Solar Alliance of over 120 countries, to rapidly expand solar power around the world, particularly in countries not yet fully industrialized.  This is the much needed "leapfrog" approach for rapidly growing countries like India, where expanding dirty energy would be catastrophic.

This follows the pledges by major nations of $20 billion for green energy research, and the Bill Gates initiative of private companies, also to fund research into cutting edge clean energy technologies.

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