Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.com.
Reprinted with permission from ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION.
This is disastrous.
With his decision to withdraw from the Paris accord on climate change, President Donald J. Trump shoved his country’s chair away from the head of the table. He sided with those notable world leaders Syria and Nicaragua, which were the only two of 197 nations that refused to join the historic agreement to curb carbon emissions in 2016. (Those 197 nations were all signatories to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.)
That means America has abandoned a role it has held since the end of World War II as the unquestioned leader of the free world, the widely respected force for global good, the premier defender of human rights. There is, after all, no human right more basic than the right to clean air and water, the right to live on a planet that provides basic resources, the right to an Earth that is a friendly host to the human species.
President Barack Obama stepped eagerly onto the world stage as an advocate for aggressive measures to curb carbon emissions. He not only led domestic efforts, such as tough new standards for power plants in the U.S., but he also kept up the pressure on China to take responsibility for reducing global warming. (Trump has already taken steps to reverse Obama’s domestic initiatives on climate change.)
With China and the U.S. both agreeing to the Paris document last year, the two nations that generate nearly 40 percent of the world’s carbon emissions had joined the effort to combat greenhouse gases.
Now, Trump has left China looking like a better global citizen than the United States. If the agreement collapses, the United States will certainly be blamed. And if it doesn’t, China is in an excellent position to claim moral authority. Even Trump’s good friend Vladimir Putin has issued a statement saying that Russia backs the Paris accord.
Several of the president’s advisers urged him to stay the course. So did many leaders of business and industry, who have accepted the science of climate change and begun to revise their business models accordingly. So did Todd Stern, who was Obama’s chief negotiator on the Paris framework. “Pulling out of Paris would cause serious diplomatic damage. The countries of the world care about climate change. They see it as a profound threat. … The president’s exit from Paris would be read as a kind of ‘drop dead’ to the rest of the world. Bitterness, anger and disgust would be the wages of this careless act,” Stern wrote recently in The Atlantic.
That just covers the diplomatic damage. It doesn’t take into account the environmental wreckage from a failed accord.
The Paris agreement is no panacea. It is nonbinding and allows individual countries to tailor their reductions in emissions as best suits them. And many scientists don’t think it does enough to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels — an increase considered unacceptably dangerous.
But it does signal a serious start toward genuine solutions to the problem of global warming. Getting the biggest three polluters — the United States, China and India — to even agree to curb emissions was a victory.
If the Paris accord falls apart and the world reverts to its old ways, the human race will be more threatened. The Pentagon has already identified climate change as a serious threat to national security because of the ways in which it challenges global stability. A 2014 report from the Department of Defense called it a “threat multiplier.”
“The impacts of climate change may cause instability in other countries by impairing access to food and water, damaging infrastructure, spreading disease, uprooting and displacing large numbers of people, compelling mass migration, interrupting commercial activity, or restricting electricity availability,” the Pentagon said.
That’s just the beginning. Climate change will first wreak havoc on the poorest countries. But the rising oceans will reach our shores as well, threatening our coastal cities. Droughts, floods and fierce storms will also challenge our way of life. There won’t be any walls high enough to protect us from a worldwide calamity.
Cynthia Tucker won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2007. She can be reached at email@example.com.
By Roberta Rampton
KOTZEBUE, Alaska (Reuters) — President Barack Obama got a taste of the U.S. Arctic on Wednesday, dropping in to two remote fly-in native villages in a journey the White House hopes will show how climate change is affecting Americans.
Crossing the Arctic Circle, Air Force One flew over Kivalina, pop. 400, a whaling village on a barrier island debating whether to move as melting sea ice raises sea levels.
Obama said Kivalina is a harbinger of hardships other parts of the country could face if global warming goes unchecked.
“I’ve been trying to make the rest of the country more aware of the changing climate — but you’re already living it,” Obama told a crowd jammed into a school gym.
It was the culmination of a three-day adventure in which Obama hiked to a glacier and toured majestic fjords by boat, delighting residents in a vast and sparsely populated state often left off presidential itineraries.
“It’s the best thing I’ve ever seen before: the president, in Kotzebue, my hometown!” said Betty Kingeak, 26, who is a cashier and delivery driver at Little Louie’s restaurant.
Kingeak said she worries climate change could mean her children will not be able to camp, hunt, and fish like she does.
Obama, the first sitting president to cross the Arctic Circle, is pushing to marshal support for an international agreement to reduce carbon emissions.
He also wants to convince Congress to back at least one new heavy ice breaker for the U.S. Coast Guard, a national security priority underscored by a report on Wednesday that Chinese navy ships were in the Bering Sea near Alaska.
Earlier on Wednesday, Obama visited Dillingham, a town on Bristol Bay, home to one of the world’s largest sockeye salmon fisheries, where two women gave him a crash course in catching salmon in traditional nets.
“I’ve got to get some gloves so I can handle my fish,” Obama said, donning an orange pair and hoisting a still-flopping silver salmon.
The fish promptly relieved itself on his shoes.
“Uh-oh. What happened there?” he said, laughing as the women explained the fish was spawning.
He tried his hand at Yup’ik native dancing with grade school students before taking his motorcade down the main drag, passing a fishing boat with the hulking head of a recently killed moose.
At the N + N Market, where a large bag of Doritos cost $9.39, Obama talked about the high costs of food in places where almost everything has to be shipped in.
The community was plastered with signs like “Mines and fish don’t co-exist” protesting against the Pebble Mine copper and gold project proposed by Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd.
The Environmental Protection Agency has placed restrictions on the proposed mine, which the company is fighting in court.
“Our view is that if the president is interested in the issue he should try to hear from all perspectives about it, including those closest to Pebble who would like the jobs Pebble may provide,” said Mike Heatwole, a spokesman for Pebble Limited Partnership.
Obama did not address the mine directly, but noted he had taken steps this year to shut off Bristol Bay from oil and gas exploration to protect the fishing industry.
“There are other threats to this environment that we’ve always got to be alert to,” Obama said.
(Additional reporting by Steve Quinn in Juneau, Alaska; Editing by Louise Ireland, Toni Reinhold)
Photo: U.S. President Barack Obama (C) observes traditional salmon preserving with fishermen on the shore of the Nushagak River in Dillingham, Alaska, September 2, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
By Sean Cockerham, McClatchy Washington Bureau (TNS)
WASHINGTON — Is President Barack Obama trying to have it both ways?
Obama is playing the roles of both climate change warrior and driller-in-chief: At the same time he hails the campaign against climate change he announced last week, he’s opening the Arctic and Atlantic oceans to drilling and is on track to lease massive amounts of coal in the West.
Renowned climate scientist James Hansen said he’s planning to write an analysis of the president’s global warming policies “probably entitled ‘Delusions at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,’ or something like that.”
Hansen, who is NASA’s former lead climate scientist and is now at Columbia University, co-authored a controversial study published last month raising the possibility that global warming could result in a 10-foot sea level rise in the next five decades and inundate coastal cities.
Former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt said in an interview that Obama’s climate record is mixed.
“They are in fact subsidizing the production of coal on federal land and oil and gas. And that really is not good,” said Babbitt, who served under President Bill Clinton.
He said Obama has “remarkable achievements” — including the Clean Power Plan announced last week to limit carbon emissions from power plants, vehicle fuel efficiency standards, and a climate agreement with China — that are focused on limiting demand for planet-warming fossil fuels.
But Babbitt sees a reluctance to address the supply of fossil fuels.
Obama calls his approach an “all-of-the-above” energy policy, including oil, natural gas, coal, and renewables. While Obama’s industry critics complain he is waging a war on coal and pursuing a radical environmental agenda, the president is opening up new frontiers to drilling rigs.
Obama agreed to let Shell explore for oil this summer in the environmentally sensitive Arctic Ocean. The president also proposes a 2021 drilling lease sale off the coasts of North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia, areas long closed to fossil fuel development.
The Bureau of Land Management also is proposing a plan for the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming that would continue the federal coal leasing program and could result in 10 billion tons of coal being leased to mining companies over the next two decades.
David Konisky, an associate professor in the school of public and environmental affairs at Indiana University, said he sees the federal approach as more of a collection of individual agency decisions than a comprehensive Obama administration strategy guiding decisions on fossil fuels and climate.
“My sense is that there is not an overall road map here — with fossil fuel development on public lands, coal in the Powder River Basin, and oil in the Arctic, and then also trying to limit emissions from cars and trucks and power plants,” Konisky said. “There’s a bit of a dissonance going on.”
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell touted increases in oil drilling as well as renewable energy development in a recent speech. She called it a balance of “managing our resources to help drive our nation’s economy, without taking our eye off the America we want to hand our children.”
Jewell also pledged reforms that include changes to the federal coal leasing program, in which “companies can make a winning bid for about a dollar a ton to mine taxpayer-owned coal.”
Obama has disappointed his environmentalist allies in the past, though, and many of them are awaiting his decision on approving the Keystone XL pipeline before judging his climate legacy.
Bill McKibben, founder of the climate group 350.org, said “the president is finally taking credible action on the demand side of the equation, by beginning to reign in coal-fired power plants — that’s good to see.”
“But to meet the demands set by science, he has to be at least as strong on the supply side of the equation,” argued McKibben, who teaches at Middlebury College. “The decisions to open the Arctic to drilling and lease more of the Powder River Basin for coal mining are historic tragedies in that regard.”
Photo: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) greets guests after his remarks on climate change at Everglades National Park, Florida, April 22, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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