Keeping It Real: On Copenhagen
Two years ago, residents in much of the Southeast underwent an utter revamping of their lifestyle. Instead of blindly showering water across their lawns and leaving faucets running on end, they were forced to self-ration their own usage, and in many cases eliminate certain activities. In North Carolina, Governor Michael Easley urged his constituents to cease using water for all purposes not essential to public health and safety, while the nearly five million inhabitants of the Atlanta metropolitan area faced fines upwards in the thousands for violating certain water restrictions. For the first time in more than 100 years, the Southeast region of the United States faced the highest level of drought on record as water resources plummeted to dangerously low levels … and yet the Bush administration continued to turn a blind eye towards a catastrophe looming in virtually everyone’s future.
From December 7th-18th, about 75 world leaders will congregate in Copenhagen, Denmark as they undertake the complex and ever urgent dilemma of climate change. Luckily for the United States–and for the world at large–President Obama himself will attend and address the summit on December 9th as he pushes forth his goals to reduce carbon emissions 83% by 2050. As the first sitting U.S. President since George H.W. Bush’s 1992 trip to Rio de Janeiro where a global warming treaty first began this process, Obama will address the annual U.N. conference and finally propose an emissions reduction target that will undeniably save lives and our planet.
As hurricanes grow in intensity, floods wash away entire towns, tsunamis erase generations, droughts leave children starving and the number of respiratory diseases around the world continues to exponentially rise, there are those that would still chose to deny the existence of a dire global warming crisis. And the sad reality is that even though developed nations are largely to blame for growing environmental damage, it is poorer, underdeveloped countries, which suffer the most repercussions. Many times lacking the appropriate resources and infrastructure to combat natural disasters and emerging catastrophes, these countries almost always experience disproportionate levels of death, starvation and destruction. And a majority of the time, it is children who fall victim to the devastating outcomes of an increasingly volatile environment.
Despite the mounting evidence and countless examples of global warming, those with their own financial or personal incentives would choose to deny its existence. Following eight years of the Bush administration’s rejection of the 1997 Kyoto climate accords, and its continued refusal to reduce greenhouse gases, President Obama will finally make a concerted effort to rectify an overly neglected and increasingly troubling situation. For the first time, the American delegation to the climate summit will have a U.S. Center set up at the conference where keynote speakers will address topics ranging from the investment of $80 billion in clean energy via the Recovery Act, to the President’s gas emissions standards for cars and trucks. Obama will also be accompanied by several Cabinet officials, including the head of the Environmental Protection Agency–marking this as the highest profile contingent of U.S. officials to ever partake in international climate discussions.
When the majority of Americans elected Obama as the 44th President of our great nation, they did so with the conviction that he would not only alter our stance on the world stage, but that he would finally transform political rhetoric into ardent actions. With real, sustainable goals of reducing emissions that have unfortunately grown at a rate of 3.5% annually since 2000, President Obama is once again defining what true leadership should in fact entail. After decades of abuse and neglect, our planet and all the world’s inhabitants will take comfort in knowing that we finally have a President that is making a concerted, meaningful and decisive effort to combat an emergency that impacts us all. It is no surprise then that he is leaving Copenhagen to travel to Oslo, Norway to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.