And it’s “back to reality, back to life…” . Actually, before we get back to our environmental reality, whatever that may be, let’s take a detour to the Old Line State where the Maryland House of Delegates approved a same-sex marriage bill! Wahoo! Finally, a very blue state is coming around to providing equal status under the law. Let’s make it happen, Governor O’Malley, let’s make it happen. And, we are back to being better than New Jersey.
And for those of you who took the time to enter into Paul Kingsnorth’s mind, I am here to give you a little lift. For those of you who slacked and didn’t take the time, I am here to also give you lift (although you will probably be lifted a bit higher than the Kingsnorth clan because you didn’t damper your spirits by immersing into and reflecting on the sad state of environmental affairs). Because let’s face it, whereever you were at the past couple of hours or days, this news will be good news. That is, unless, you were caught up making sure that you got to keep an extra twenty dollars in your pocket each month between now and the end of the year. In that case, enjoy your victory and don’t rub it in our faces. Because we enviros got a little joy of our own this week.
Between the back and forth headline drama about the payroll tax extension (for those of you who read the normal news) or the underneath the latest anti-environmental scandal (see the Heartland Institute—yeah, and you thought Bill Gates was such a saint after Foxconn showed how black the soul of Steve Jobs actually was…), there was a small, but notable headline about a climate change effort that is slowly gaining some steam.
This week, the United States, through Hillary Clinton and the Department of State, joined a coalition of five other nations to combat some of the short-lived, but high global warming potential, greenhouses gases. This coalition, called the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, is run by the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) and includes the countries of Canada (shocking, I know), Mexico, Sweden, Bangladesh, and Ghana. In joining, nations are committing to curbing non-carbon greenhouse gas emission such as methane, soot, and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), also known as “short-lived climate enforcers.” There are no hard line numbers; this is just a voluntary, five-year commitment. Instead of targets, the coalition plans fund education projects and joint public-private efforts to reduce emissions nations to “reduce diesel exhaust, stem the burning of agricultural waste, and capture methane from landfills, coal mines, and natural gas wells,” among other policy initiatives.
You might be asking yourself what good will this do, and I’m glad you pondered this. These three pollutants are believed to account for approximately 30 to 40 percent of the nearly one degree Celsius rise in global temperatures since the beginning of the 20th century. Furthermore, this voluntary effort has the potential to slow rising temperatures by up to .5 degrees Celsius. If you read the Washington Post version, that halt could come as early as 2030; if you read the Scientific American version, it may take an additional 20 years. And, in case that is not enough, WaPo points out that even the notorious climate change skeptic Senator James Inhofe (R-Ok) gets behind reducing soot. Just when you and Paul Kingsnorth thought all was lost…
At this point, you might be thinking, “Get your head out of the clouds, optimist. I’ve seen this before—Copehagen, Cancun, Durban… we’ve produced non-binding agreements and unless we hold people’s feet to the fire, nothing will happen.” You, my eternally pessimistic friend (is that you, Peter Thiel?), might be correct that I am the queen of wishful thinking. However, it’s worth noting that we did throw in $12 million for this effort (and by we, I don’t mean we here at Spinach. We save our big dollars for the craps tables in Vegas). So we’ve got our feet within the vicinity of the fire on this effort.
It’s a small accomplishment relative to a national cap-and-trade policy or a carbon tax, but it’s an accomplishment nonetheless. So before we get down and think about going out, let’s remember the little things. Because just like your mother always told you (I know mine did), “Sometimes, it’s the little things that count.”
(Or, for bloggers, it’s the hyperlinks the hyperlinks that count. And I just rocked the hyperlinks. So show me some love with a comment.)