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Climate Change: The Politics

Responding to a question in the Democratic Presidential Debate, Bernie Sanders, an independent Senator form Vermont, responded that Climate Change was the biggest security threat the world faces. In a way, it shows how the politics of Climate Change has become divisive: Early in 2015, Jim Inhofe, a US Senator, bought a snowball to the floor of the Senate to “prove” there is no Global Warming or Climate Change[1]. On the other end of the spectrum, here is a US Presidential candidate who believes that Climate Change is the “Singular greatest threat to this world”[2]. While leading Republican Candidate Donald Trump tweeted in 2012 “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive”[3], and stated in 2015 that “It’s weather. You’re going to have bad weather.”[4] Yes, Mr. Trump. Really Bad Weather. The battle lines are clearly drawn: a Climate “sceptic” Republicans versus the Climate “Apologetic” Democrats. The issue isn’t full black and white here though, as Joint Declarations such as this one[5] by “Partnership for Secure America” composed by both Democrats and Republicans calling for concrete action against Climate Change “as a Global Threat Multiplier” show how important it is we take Climate Change seriously. But why am I concentrating on the Climate Change politics of US? I’m glad you asked.

Climate Change has only become a political issue that weighs on US politics recently. World politics however, have long been defined by the Developed Countries versus Developing Countries, a.k.a. USA & Allies v. China, India &Rest. The issue is simple: The developed nations want to blame the whole issue on the Developing Countries and take less cuts than as the Developing Countries as they produce more Greenhouse Gases. Developing Countries meanwhile, will regulate their use while calling into account the Developed Countries for their earlier indiscriminate use, and want to be compensated to move into cleaner energy sources.

Extensively debated in the Rio Summit in 1992, evolving the “Common But Differentiated Responsibilities” (CBDR) Formula.[6] To ensure that both sides, the Developed and the Developing Countries take their fair share, and walk away happy. Enshrined in principle 7 of the Rio Declaration, it is an important milestone for humanity. One where the Nation States recognised that the limitless exploitation of this Earth cannot continue. But there has not been a single legally binding document applicable to the whole nations of the world. The closest we have achieved to a Legally binding Document is the Kyoto protocol, but the United States did not ratify it, and the largest producer of CO2, China was not party to a cap- so was the third largest CO2 producer, India.

This is why the Paris Agreement assumes significance. Mankind lost that opportunity in 2009 at Copenhagen but this time around, the nations have an opportunity to begin healing the planet.

The United States plays a crucial role in all this. As the leading nation, the decisions and directions of the President of the United States have an immense ramification. The Paris Agreement will be worthless if there is no American pressure on the rest of the world. Especially, if someone like Donald Trump or Jeb Bush who believe that Climate Change isn’t real, becomes President then the consequences would be huge. None of the Republican Candidates believe that the effects of Climate Change are irreparable. Meanwhile, The Democratic Candidates have unveiled their plans to combat or “reverse” the effects of Global Warming/Climate Change. Hillary Clinton believes massive subsidization and “half a Billion Solar Panels” is the way to go. While this is definitely better than nothing, Mrs Clinton does not bring in the urgency expected of her.[7] Bernie Sanders plans, meanwhile involve “Cutting U.S. carbon pollution by 40 percent by 2030 and by over 80 percent by 2050 by putting a tax on carbon pollution, repealing fossil fuel subsidies and making massive investments in energy efficiency and clean, sustainable energy such as wind and solar power. “[8]

The 2016 elections, I believe, will be a defining moment for America as well as for the world. Electing a Republican may spell a premature end not only for the Paris Agreement, but also for comprehensive action against Climate Change as well.

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By Ananth Krishna S

First posted here.

This Article is written in the context of American Politics. I will be analyzing the Indian aspect as well in a future article.

Endnotes

[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/26/jim-inhofe-climate-snow_n_6763868.html?ir=India&adsSiteOverride=in “Jim Inhofe brings in snowball to prove Climate Change is a ‘hoax’” As seen on 13:10,09-12-2015, The Huffington Post online, published on 27-02-15

[2] https://berniesanders.com/issues/climate-change/ “Bernie Sanders on Climate Change” As seen on 11:08, 13-12-2015

[3] https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/265895292191248385?ref_src=twsrc^tfw Tweeted by @realDonaldTrump at 11:15, 6 November 2012

[4] http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/donald-trump-denies-existence-climate-change-bad-weather “Donald Trump Denies existence of Climate Change: ‘Bad Weather’” As seen on 21:21,11-12-2015, Right Wing Watch, Published on 28-7-2015

[5] http://www.psaonline.org/climateaction “Republicans & Democrats Agree: US Security Demands Global Climate action” as seen on 10:59, 13-12-2015,

[6] http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/151320/ “Common but differentiated responsibilities” ,As seen on 19:06,12-12-2015,Article on The Encyclopaedia of Earth, Published on 27-01-2007

[7] htt06p://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jul/29/hillary-clinton-climate-change-plan “Hillary Clinton’s Climate Change Plan “just plain silly” says leading Expert”, The Guardian, As seen on 19:24, 12-12-2015, Published on 29-07-2015, by Caty Enders

[8] https://berniesanders.com/issues/climate-change/ Bernie Sanders on Climate Change. As seen on 19:54, 12-12-2015

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