COP24 and What’s Next

Image of Earth 7-6-15 from DSCOVR (Deep Space Climate Observatory)

Like others, I was skeptical the broad coalition to act on climate formed during and after the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris would last. This week at COP24 in Poland, three top oil producing states, the United States, Russia and Saudi Arabia, along with number nine, Kuwait, blocked acceptance of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report the conference commissioned.

The four oil producers objected to “welcoming” the report and preferred the vague language of “noting” the report. Because the conference proceeds only after reaching consensus, and they couldn’t, the report was not adopted.

“Opposition to climate action is one of the issues motivating Trump’s cozy relationship with the corrupt leaders in Russia and Saudi Arabia,” State Senator Rob Hogg tweeted Dec. 9. “This is not who we are as Americans, and we need to put a stop to it.”

“Under Trump, instead of leading the world to act on climate change, the United States joined with Russia and Saudi Arabia to stop the recognition of a scientific report about the increasingly urgent need for climate action,” he tweeted.

Absent U.S. leadership on climate I expect further dissent within the coalition that reached consensus Dec. 12, 2015 with the Paris Agreement. Our politics, led by moneyed interests, hinders efforts to do what makes sense regarding climate change. We can’t even agree on the facts about climate change. Accepting the IPCC report, or “welcoming” it to use the vernacular of the conference, should be a non-issue.

Although President Trump announced his intent to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, the U.S. continues to be party to it. We live in a time when the truth has become unhinged from reality and it’s hard to see what path our country will take regarding our need to act on climate going forward.

What we see in Iowa is changing weather patterns enhanced and made worse by climate change. The 2012 drought was unimaginably oppressive and reduced corn and soybean yields. After local storms on Sept. 19, 2013 knocked trees down and damaged our home I wrote, “Everywhere in the farming community, people are concerned about extreme weather. Weather is always a concern for farmers, but this is different.” New research shows change in the atmosphere is reducing the nutritional content of foods we take for granted. None of this was expected. All of it hits home.

Whether people use the words climate change is less the issue. What matters more is our lives are changing, with tangible costs, and people are worried about it. Not only for the monetary damages of a storm, or for reduced crop yields, but for what it means for the future.

The aspiration of the Paris Agreement was noble, but likely unfeasible without leadership from the United States. Regretfully President Obama did not get buy-in from Republicans in government before he signed the Paris Agreement. Once he was gone, politics took over and his efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change are rapidly being rendered null.

There’s no easy solution to climate change. Was there ever? The truth before us is we must act on climate before it’s too late. Whether society is capable of doing so remains an open question. COP24 provided another setback to action.