Wholesale derision greeted a spectacularly clueless statement from Republican Senator Ted Cruz last week, after President Joe Biden committed to signing the United States back up to the Paris Agreement. Cruz said Biden is “more interested in the views of the citizens of Paris than in the jobs of the citizens of Pittsburgh”.
Cruz’s comment was met with abject criticism on Twitter where users pointed out the obvious: the Paris Agreement is a multinational effort and not, obviously, focused solely on the people of Paris.
The trouble is Cruz is not alone. Republican Congresswoman Lauren Boebart was just one who echoed his words, saying she does not work for the people of Paris.
Which, if you think of the raft of climate policy Biden needs to get through Congress, makes you realise the challenge still at hand convincing those lawmakers who either doubt reality, or act as such for the sake of the constituents who voted them in.
One could say that even those who advocate positive change have been equally obstructive in enacting it. If we look at the billions promised by richer nations at the 2015 negotiations in Paris, earmarked to help poorer nations adapt to climate change, the contributions have been woefully short.
A total $100bn per year was promised, yet the amount of financing stands at an estimated $20-30bn, according to World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) deputy climate lead Vanessa Perez-Cirera – no more than 30 percent of what was committed. And according to the UN Environment Programme’s Adaptation Gap Report, $500bn a year is the amount we should be targeting anyway.
Still, with the headwind of a new US presidency, optimism by pledge was once again ramped up at the virtual Climate Adaptation Summit hosted in the Netherlands this week.
Veteran negotiator John Kerry, appointed as Biden’s climate envoy, is back in the fray, pointing out that a drastic reduction in emissions must go hand in hand with adaptation to manage the effects of extreme weather.
“There is no adapting to a 3C or 4C world, except for the very richest and most privileged,” he warned.
“Some of the impacts are inevitable, but if we don’t act boldly and immediately by building resilience, we will see dramatic reversals in economic development for everybody, and the poorest and most vulnerable communities will pay the highest price.”
When I spoke to WWF’s Perez-Cirera, she said adaptation is a moral imperative of climate justice and inaction will have disastrous consequences.
“If we do not adapt there will be a huge impact in terms of social unrest,” she told me. “We are talking about massive migrations from south to north, with water and food disputes between nations. And conflicts. Conflicts between countries and within countries.”
She said that with desperate economies struggling to clamber out of recession, everyone is competing for public finance. “But there is hope,” Perez-Cirera added. “We can bring synergistic approach to investments which will help the world to adapt to climate change while mitigating its effects at the same time.”
That means funding nature-based solutions to build back better, and investing in the likes of forests, coral reefs and mangroves to help populations adapt to the worst effects of climate change while reducing emissions at the same time.
It seems like sound policy, but convincing the likes of Ted Cruz and the Trumpian dinosaurs may be a forlorn hope.
1. Cicada buzz: Billions of cicadas will emerge from underground this spring as part of their 17-year life cycle. Set to cover multiple states and cities in the US, people can look forward to swarms of insects and the deafening noise of their mating calls.
2. Brazil’s budget cuts: In another blow to environmental efforts, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro’s government has proposed the smallest environmental protection budget in at least 13 years for 2021.
3. Clean cars: With prices falling and Joe Biden pushing for a transition to electric vehicles, many advocates hope that the rise of clean cars is finally under way.
4. Watching from space: Scientists are now using satellite imagery to count elephants from space; they hope that the technology, which also uses machine learning to identify and count the elephants, will help them better monitor populations and prevent poaching.
I can hear change humming / In its loudest, proudest song. / I don’t fear change coming, / And so I sing along.