Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Tardy report on climate change is long overdue

Later than the latest homework assignment, more inadequate than the most half-hearted school project, the US’s upcoming climate change report is expected to disappoint climate scientists around the world.

The report, required by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, was due to the UN no later than January 1, 2006. Yes, 2006. Nonetheless, it is currently still under review by the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

According to the Council, the fourteen-month delay has been the result of an exhaustive review process. Skeptics, however, beg to differ. Rick Plitz, director of Climate Science Watch and a former senior associate of the federal Climate Change Science Program, hypothesizes that the postponement is largely because “the administration is reluctant to make an honest statement about likely climate change impacts on this country.”

This reluctance is rather understandable, given the degree of action that an honest assessment would necessitate. The UN’s own report, released last month, stressed more harshly than ever the drastic need for a significant worldwide reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Although the US ratified the report, along with 112 other nations, the administration has yet to appropriately address the gravity of this news. The US’s current emissions policy calls for limiting the nation’s rate of increase to 19% – which still allows emissions to increase from 7.7 billion tons in 2000 to 9.2 billion tons by 2020.

This slowed rate of increase is simply not enough, according to Washington’s own Climate Institute. “We really need to be seriously reducing emissions, not just reducing the growth rate, as the president is doing,” says Michael MacCracken, the Institute’s chief scientist.

It’s easy to understand why the administration, and indeed, the American public, is hesitant to admit the decisive stance that is truly needed. After all, the greatest sources of greenhouse gases are coal, oil, and natural gas – the very fuels that support almost every aspect of the comfortable American lifestyle. Acknowledging the gravity of the true need for change is going to require a serious policy change from the government and citizens alike.

Both the U.S. Climate Change Science Program and the Climate Science Watch offer continued monitoring of the report’s progress, as well as further information on climate change in the political arena.

By Sara Kate Kneidel

keywords:: global warming, climate change, UN report, US greenhouse gas emissions

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