by Charles Fredricks [dsa-la.org / scfs-la.org]
Washington Post columnist and American Prospect editor Harold Meyerson, in town for a DSA event, responded to an audience question with acerbic wit, “The only action we’re seeing on climate change is a massive drop in gas prices.”
Secretary of State John Kerry made a case for climate action at the COP 20 Summit in Lima Peru, taking pains to point out that more than half of global emissions now come from developing countries, so it’s imperative they act too; “We all must do our part.” The final agreement saw the erasure of legally-binding financial commitments, with the U.S. successfully pushing for voluntary limits to carbon reduction.
Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International (Democracy Now 12/12/14) said in assessing a nation’s contribution, three things must be considered: ability, responsibility, and need. Developed nations have historic responsibility: it is through their development that the crisis has been created, while developing nations have until now contributed little or nothing to the problem. Developed nations have more resources and technology to address the problem, and more resources to devote to adaptation to the consequences, which all nations are already experiencing.
Dipti Bhatnagar of Friends of the Earth International echoed her concerns. “COP 20 Lima is doing nothing… Developed countries are undermining their historic responsibility to act. They are reneging on their commitment to support adaptation… the U.S. and the E. U. and the developed countries are not doing their fair share of emission reductions, finance, et cetera to stop climate catastrophe.”
Nitin Sethi, journalist from the New Delhi Business Standard [India], said the disappearance of financial commitments amounted to negotiating in bad faith [Democracy Now 12/15/14].
Asad Rehman of Friends of the Earth termed the final agreement, “A face saving compromise… full of loopholes,” another case of “rich countries bullying poor countries.” He compared the non-binding financial agreement by wealthy countries of 2.5 billion dollars per year for four years to the three trillion spent on war in the Middle East. It was now up to people to hold their leaders feet to the fire and demand rapid change at the meeting this coming year in Paris, he concluded.
At Decarbonizing California, an event held recently on the USC campus, industry players, academics and politicos reviewed action being taken locally to address climate change. George Minter of So Cal Gas proclaimed methane a green alternative fuel. He mentioned the possibility of replacing fossil methane with bio-gas. He did not mention a timetable for the kind of massive infrastructure commitment this would entail. He also failed to mention that methane that escapes unburned has seventy times the GHG forcing effect of CO2.
Independent measures of leakage rates in the L.A. basin are 17%. It only requires 3% to erase methane’s cleaner burning benefit over coal.
Caroline Choi, Vice President of So Cal Edison, mentioned her company’s challenge to create a two-way metering system. She did not mention that the utility penalizes residential solar electricity producers, not allowing them to sell power back if they add a battery backup system. The effect of this requirement will slow adoption of solar power, until the utility has figured out how to maintain its monopoly control.
Nate Lewis of Cal Tech confidently walked the audience through his promising solar research. Afterwards he maintained we’ll be able to make all the fuel we need from the sun [from compressed hydrogen derived through solar-electrolysis]. The massive infrastructure commitment this would entail, or a timetable for the commercial delivery of this or his advances, were not part of the discussion.
No presenter mentioned any plan to keep California on track to meet its AB32 carbon reduction goals, nor a scientific examination of whether those goals are ambitious enough to meet California’s share of the cuts needed to avert climate catastrophe.
At Drop Everything, a Forum on Water and Climate Change held at the Santa Monica Library November 16th, academics, utility reps and local politicians represented to the public that Santa Monica is well on its way to water self-sufficiency. The assumption that present sources will continue at present levels, in a region projected to have protracted increasing drought on into the future, was neither explained or examined.
Charles Fredricks is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America and the Southern CA Federation of Scientists, a regular contributor to Change-Links on climate and related issues, and recently participated in the Converging Storms Action Network study group on climate crisis and capitalism.