Standing up to Bush on Climate Change

by on December 17th, 2007

According to NASA researchers, the arctic is melting faster than even the most outspoken scientists predicted just a year ago. Climate researchers warn that the Earth is on the cusp of a tipping point, beyond which a vast release of greenhouse gases from melting permafrost and warming seabeds could irreversibly multiply the impact of human greenhouse gas emissions. Likely impacts include rapidly rising sea levels, coastal flooding, more frequent and powerful hurricanes striking heavily populated regions, more frequent and intense droughts and floods, devastation of the Amazonian rainforest, the extinction of corals and many other species, the dislocation of hundreds of millions of people, and increased threats to the stability and security of many nations, including the U.S.

With this catastrophe fast approaching, the continued intransigence of the United States with respect to negotiating meaningful international emissions goals has become not just an embarrassment but a clear and present danger.

The Bush administration has shown a remarkable indifference to any restraints, whether from scientific research, the U.S. Constitution, the American public, or world opinion. Their behavior in a variety of areas from climate change to war can best be characterized as, “We’ll do exactly what we want, and push our agenda as far as we can, as long as we can get away with it.”

Someone, somewhere, needs to set limits, call Bush’s bluff, and point out that this would-be emperor has no clothes.

How remarkable, then, to find that courageous stance coming not from the apparently cowed U.S. Congress, nor even from other great nations, but from Papua, New Guinea, a nation of just six million people, most of whom make their living by subsistence farming.

At the just-ended climate talks in Bali, Indonesia, it was Kevin Conrad, the representative of New Guinea, who stood up to the recalcitrant U.S. delegation in a tumultuous public session and demanded, “If for some reason you are not willing to lead, leave it to the rest of us. Please get out of the way.”

Bravo for New Guinea. Perhaps, as small and poor as they are, they have little to lose by standing up to the U.S. Certainly, as an island nation in the tropics, they have a great deal to fear from global warming. Whatever their reasons, they did the right thing.

It’s time for the rest of the world to stand with them.

And it’s long past time for the U.S. to take their advice and, at the very least, get out of the way.

Robert Adler

Robert Adler