US Position on Climate Change

U.S. vs the World on Climate Change: Who will Represent Our Interests?

Earlier this fall, nations around the world gathered in Bonn Germany to strategize and form a united front regarding analysis, predictions and plans for the decades ahead, decades in which sea levels are expected to rise and ecosystems around the planet are expected to shift in as-yet unknown directions as the climate changes. But since the current U.S.administration has taken a hostile stance on climate issues, the conversations generated by the event took place largely without formal U.S. representation. Governors and state representatives lent their voices even when the White House did not, and the global community as a whole showed no signs of backing down from the challenges ahead, with or without U.S. participation. Some reporters and pundits have characterized the meeting as one in which U.S. absence was essentially ignored, and global commitment to the goals of the Paris Agreement remained unfaltering despite U.S. statements of non-engagement.

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But what will this mean for future collaborations and commitments? And just as important, how will states, federal agencies like FEMA, and local governments here in the US follow a similar course? Can states, agencies and municipalities carry on, enacting and enforcing building codes and infrastructure plans that respect climate science, even while the White House remains determined to opt out?

FEMA officials appear to be caught in the middle, pushed on both sides by political and financial pressures as the agency works to find a productive balance between diminished funding and the need to redraw federal flood maps (an expensive process) and rebuild structures in flood zones using federal dollars (even more expensive). 

Importance vs Urgency

While few outside the White House disagree that climate change is an important concern that will—eventually—impact every aspect of policy making and governance in the U.S. from agricultural subsidies to central interest rates, not every agency and local municipality can afford to place climate issues at the top of a list of urgent priorities. What must be dealt with and what must be dealt with immediately differ from one region to another depending on the political climate and the rise of competing concerns (for example, epidemics, security threats, and budget crises.)

As a nation and as representatives of our own local municipalities and hometowns, our mission is becoming clear: we’ll need to make sure our local leadership recognizes the immediacy of climate change issues and is inspired to push these concerns toward the foreground, regardless of the stance taken by the current administration. In this case, it may be possible that change—or the pressure for change—moves from the ground up, not the top down.

Contact our office for more on how to apply this steady pressure through organization and strategic action.

Mitigating the Impact of Climate Change: Can the United States Still Lead the World?

During most of this week and last week, world leaders have gathered at a United Nations conference in Bonn Germany to discuss the looming threat of a warming planet, and while this meeting provides members of the global community with an opportunity to present ideas, share successes, express concerns, and discuss progress on climate change and related issues, the event also presents another opportunity, one that can influence the position of all players in the world community during the years and decades ahead: an opportunity to establish leadership in an arena that will have serious impact on international relationships and economies for years to come.

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The United States, once a prominent leader and respected force on the world stage, has seen its stature diminished by its dithering on climate change. In fact, the only official US representation at this conference involved a forum on Monday on the future of fossil fuels, and the US panel was staffed primarily by fossil fuel executives who took a firm position in defense of the coal and oil industries.

But as it happens, the official federal position on climate change isn’t the dominant position the US, and the meeting was also well attended by representatives from state capitols and city halls. Most Americans—including individuals, cities, and state governments—remain committed to the Paris Climate Agreement which was signed in 2015 and later rejected by the current administration. Polls show strong support for climate protection and transition to reliance on sustainable energy sources, despite the actions of the federal government to undermine these efforts. So which position will come out ahead, and will nations around the world, including the 200 in attendance at the conference, continue to respect the US and follow our lead?

After a three-year plateau, fossil fuel emissions are once again on the rise, and the urgency surrounding the global temperature increase has been paralleled by the efforts of several nations (including Pakistan, India and Bangladesh) to search for sustainable energy options as their economies swell and poverty declines within their borders. The conference will conclude later this week, and we’ll monitor international reactions as the event winds down. Contact our office to learn more.

Also, if you’re in the Easton, Pennsylvania area this Thursday, get in touch with us to learn about our Executive Director’s talk at Lafayette College!