Nov 3, 2012

Global Warming Gridlock with David Victor

By: Kali Orkin

Thursday, October 25th, was an interesting night for sustainability enthusiasts in Seattle. The World Affairs Council, partnering with Sustainable Seattle, Green Drinks and Climate Solutions, sponsored a talk by David Victor, author of Global Warming Gridlock. Victor gave an informed, pragmatic and engaging speech about how world leaders can come together and make progress on climate change, rather than continuing down the current road of political gridlock.  

The talk was broken down into three parts: the hard science on climate, the bad news about politics and questions about how we can change it. Here's how Victor breaks down the situation:

1. Climate change is happening. It is a serious problem that recent science claims was severely underestimated 15 years ago.  Currently, our average temperature change is on an inevitable track to warm 2 degrees Celsius, which is the threshold of previous science. Models are currently being projected for what will happen if the climate warms 4 or 6 degrees. Scientists are not sure, but the results have the potential to be catastrophic if we do not reduce our Greenhouse Gas Emissions immediately and dramatically.

2. Politicians have made almost no progress on this issue. Treaties like the Kyoto Protocol and other big meetings have made an estimated 3 weeks worth of carbon emission reductions in 20 years of meetings and treaties. The 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change in the U.N. was signed by nearly every country, but the treaty is so vague that nearly any ideas about the issues could be interpreted as compliant.

3. We can do better. Victor suggests that Global Warming should start on a smaller scale to not only increase efficiency in making agreements but also to build global credibility. His book suggests that if the 12 top emitting countries got together to discuss the reduction in carbon emissions, that would cover over 80% of carbon emissions with a much smaller group to actually define the issues and strike deals.  He also suggested that fighting a smaller problem, like soot, before carbon would help build momentum.

For more information on David Victor's research and proposals, read his article in Foreign Affairs Magazine.  In the meantime, think about what you can do in your community to promote action on Climate Change. If smaller groups are better as David says, wouldn't it be great to see what neighborhoods, cities and counties can accomplish?

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