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“Bankrolling Ted Cruz”: Inside The Anti-Gay Church That Loves Kim Davis And Ted Cruz

Right outside this little town, there’s a tiny church that wants to change the world. And, thanks to the billionaire pastor’s backing, it just might be able to get that done.

The church is the Assembly of Yahweh, and its pastor, Farris Wilks, happens to be one of the most powerful new players in presidential politics. Farris, along with his brother Dan, made his fortune off the fracking boom and is using part of it to back Sen. Ted Cruz in his bid for the White House.

But new wealth didn’t dint his commitment to old-time religion—and to the culture war (read: anti-gay) politics that defined George W. Bush’s presidential campaigns. Now, Cruz is taking a page out of Karl Rove’s playbook, looking to galvanize evangelical voters as a way to make the Republican Party competitive again. And Farris Wilks is just the guy to fund that effort.

The Wilks brothers and their wives have given $15 million to one of Cruz’s super PACs—one of the biggest contributions of this campaign cycle, in either party.

And their generosity that has changed the contours of the Republican presidential primary is newfound: The Center for Responsive Politics notes that the brothers and their wives had only given $263,000 to federal candidates before going all in for Cruz this cycle. Farris Wilks didn’t speak with The Daily Beast for this story, but a visit to the church he pastors may shed light on the way the billionaire’s faith informs his commitment to bankrolling a culture warrior like Cruz.

At the end of December, the brothers hosted Cruz and conservative Christian leaders for a fundraiser at Farris’s homestead in Cisco, as The Washington Post detailed. And it recalls a central element of Cruz’s campaign: He’s said he can win the White House by dramatically boosting turnout among evangelical Christians (never mind that his strategy may have a math problem).

The last time Republicans won the White House, way back in 2004, evangelical turnout was the clincher. So, Cruz argues, it’s worth another shot. And Wilks’s little church provides a tiny preview of what Cruz’s evangelical army could look like.

Assembly of Yahweh is just off a ruler-straight two-lane highway that runs between Cisco, Texas, (population 3,820), and Rising Star (“A Small Town With A Big Twinkle,” population 799), and a few miles down from the ornate gates to Wilks’s home. The roadside is dotted with longhorn cattle, cemeteries, and small oil pumpjacks. Suburbans and pickup trucks whip around you if you drive even a hair below the 75 mph speed limit.

The building itself is simple, with tan bricks and clean lines. There’s a large playground out front and a pavilion behind. Two young girls swing open the pair of glass entrance doors when I walk up, and the younger one—who looks about 7 years old—yells, “Go through mine, go through mine!” Then she gives me a hug.

Right inside, there’s a table with a purple sign that says, “The Salt & Light Ministry Biblical Citizenship”—a project that encourages churchgoers to contact their elected representatives about a different policy issue every month. It’s affiliated with the Liberty Counsel, the group that represents Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis. This is no accident, since Farris Wilks supports Liberty Counsel (according to Reuters, which reports he’s given the group $1.5 million).

Cruz recently told backers at a private Manhattan fundraising event that marriage wasn’t one of his top three issues, but it gets top billing at his benefactor’s church. There is a section for topics they always pray for—the Peace of Jerusalem, All Brethren Everywhere, Hopeful Couples (“Yahweh’s blessings for couples eagerly awaiting children”), as well as young people, pregnant women, and the unemployed. Then there are a few new items: attendees who are ill, facing surgery, or recovering from it. And finally, there is a list of continued prayers, including about two dozen people from the area facing various health problems.

Then there’s an entry for Obergefell v. Hodges.

“The Supreme Court has issued a ruling recognizing homosexual marriage in the United States, thereby forcing all states to issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples within their states, and recognize as valid homosexual marriages issued in other states,” it reads. “Please pray for our nation as we enter a time of upheaval, and pray for those public officials who are fighting to maintain their religious beliefs. (7/4/15)”

And, finally, there’s the space for Kim Davis.

“Kim Davis, the County Clerk of Rowan County, KY, was jailed on 9/3 for Contempt of Court after refusing to issue same sex marriage licenses,” it says. “Liberty Counsel is representing Mrs. Davis. Many other government officials are also refusing to comply with the supreme court decision, however Mrs. Davis is the first to be jailed for her convictions. (9/5/15)”

Like Kim Davis’s Apostolic Pentecostal Church, the Assembly of Yahweh rejects the doctrine of the trinity—that God is one but exists as three persons, the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit. Instead, the church teaches that Yahweh is the only god and that Yahshuah (Jesus), is a separate being. (Davis’s denomination teaches that Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and God are different names for the same being—also a rejection of trinitarian doctrine, but in a different way.)

Though their theology isn’t identical, Davis and Wilks share a committed opposition to same-sex marriage. According to sermons transcribed by the liberal group Right Wing Watch, Wilks has preached that LGBT people endanger children.

“If we all took on this lifestyle, all humanity would perish in one generation,” he said in one sermon. “So this lifestyle is a predatorial lifestyle, in that they need your children and straight people having kids to fulfill their sexual habits. They can’t do it by their self. They want your children… But we’re in a war for our children. They want your children. So what will you teach your children? A strong family is the last defense.”

The Assembly of Yahweh’s teachings on Israel and Jewishness are also interesting. A pamphlet called Doctrinal Points says, “[We believe] That the true religion is Jewish (not a Gentile religion)… [T]he Gentiles must be adopted into the Commonwealth of Israel. This is done by baptism into Yahshua.”

The pamphlet says that the congregation does not observe “the religious holidays of the Gentiles”—including Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, and Halloween. Instead, they celebrate feasts mentioned in the Old Testament. In particular, the congregation sleeps outside in tents or campers for a week in the spring to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and again for a week in the fall to celebrate the Feast of the Tabernacle. Ruth York, a member of the congregation, said the weeklong celebrations take place on church property and include bounce-houses for kids, cookouts, and softball games.

They follow the Old Testament teachings on eating laid out in Leviticus 11, which means no pork and no shellfish. And the church teaches “[t]hat homosexuality is a serious crime—a very grievous sin.” So is getting drunk. “It is debauchery,” the pamphlet on doctrine says. “Drunkenness is classed with such grievous crimes as robbery, sexual perverts, adultery, and idolatry. Do not be deceived; no drunkard will enter the kingdom of Yahweh.”

They worship on Saturdays. Farris Wilks’s parents, Voy and Myrtle Wilks, were founding members of the church back in 1947, according to a separate pamphlet on the congregation’s history. Farris is now the congregation’s pastor.

Besides its literal reading of much of the Old Testament, the church also distinguishes itself in its political advocacy. Beside the bulletins is a pamphlet from a group called Stand Up Texas, praising Molly Criner—a clerk of Irion County who issued a declaration this summer through Liberty Counsel promising to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The church service itself—kicked off with three blasts of a shofar by a teen named Isaac—was largely apolitical. There are tons more kids and no Sunday school, so the sanctuary is filled with their muffled hum—coloring in their bulletins, crying, pushing their siblings, giggling, and wandering about. A towheaded toddler in the row in front of me keeps herself busy with a pink plastic castle. At one point during opening worship songs, an orange ball bounces across the aisle. It’s taken in stride.

After the service wrapped up, an announcer noted that it was Salt & Light Sunday, which comes once a month. York explained that the congregation became part of the ministry several months ago—a project affiliated with the Liberty Counsel (which works with Davis and Criner). Churches that participate in the Salt & Light ministry have a table set up once a month that encourages attendees to call or write postcards to their representatives—in the state legislature and in Washington—about a different topics. This month, one focus is the Texas Advance Directives Act, a law that affects end-of-life care decisions. York, the volunteer liaison for Salt & Light, tells congregants that the law means hospitals could “pull the plug” on patients against their expressly stated wishes.

Then Jo Ann Wilks, Farris’s wife, stands up for a quick interjection, frustrated with the quality-of-life rationale she says is sometimes used in these situations.

“We will put away murderers that do horrific crimes, and pay for their pathetic quality of life, and they have no qualms about that,” she said.

It’s not just end-of-life issues. Visitors to the Salt & Light table were also encouraged to write their representatives about the transgender bathroom debate, as well as to urge their representatives to call for public hearings on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. If that wasn’t enough to keep Salt & Lighters busy, a bulletin insert also suggested that the recent Paris climate change deal could mean we are “misusing our yah-given dominion.”

That refers to a verse in Genesis where God calls on Adam and Eve to have dominion over the Earth—a passage often cited by opponents of laws designed to curb climate change.

“Man, created in Yahweh’s image, is to exercise dominion over all the earth,” the insert says. “Yet disagreements in the scientific community give pause concerning the wisdom of the recently-adopted climate change accord.”

An attached postcard encourages members to write to their representatives asking for public hearings on the Paris deal.

The program is an innovative way for conservative Christian pastors to keep their congregations engaged with policy issues even when Donald Trump isn’t yelling about them. It won’t result in the instant materialization of Cruz’s Christian soldiers. But it—and Assembly of Yahweh—is a reminder that though the Christian right has been set back on its heels for the past eight years or so, it’s far from cowed.

“We are not called to isolation,” the pastor said. “We are called to change the world.”

 

By: Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, January 4, 2015

January 5, 2016 Posted by | Christian Conservatives, Climate Change, Farris Wilks, Fracking, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Things To Celebrate, Like Dreams Of Flying Cars”: Progress In Technology Has Made Saving The World Much More Plausible

In Star Wars, Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon did the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs; in real life, all the Falcon 9 has done so far is land at Cape Canaveral without falling over or exploding. Yet I, like many nerds, was thrilled by that achievement, in part because it reinforced my growing optimism about the direction technology seems to be taking — a direction that may end up saving the world.

O.K., if you have no idea what I’m talking about, the Falcon 9 is Elon Musk’s reusable rocket, which is supposed to boost a payload into space, then return to where it can be launched again. If the concept works, it could drastically reduce the cost of putting stuff into orbit. And that successful landing was a milestone. We’re still a very long way from space colonies and zero-gravity hotels, let alone galactic empires. But space technology is moving forward after decades of stagnation.

And to my amateur eye, this seems to be part of a broader trend, which is making me more hopeful for the future than I’ve been in a while.

You see, I got my Ph.D. in 1977, the year of the first Star Wars movie, which means that I have basically spent my whole professional life in an era of technological disappointment.

Until the 1970s, almost everyone believed that advancing technology would do in the future what it had done in the past: produce rapid, unmistakable improvement in just about every aspect of life. But it didn’t. And while social factors — above all, soaring inequality — have played an important role in that disappointment, it’s also true that in most respects technology has fallen short of expectations.

The most obvious example is travel, where cars and planes are no faster than they were when I was a student, and actual travel times have gone up thanks to congestion and security lines. More generally, there has just been less progress in our command over the physical world — our ability to produce and deliver things — than almost anyone expected.

Now, there has been striking progress in our ability to process and transmit information. But while I like cat and concert videos as much as anyone, we’re still talking about a limited slice of life: We are still living in a material world, and pushing information around can do only so much. The famous gibe by the investor Peter Thiel (“We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.”) is unfair, but contains a large kernel of truth.

Over the past five or six years, however — or at least this is how it seems to me — technology has been getting physical again; once again, we’re making progress in the world of things, not just information. And that’s important.

Progress in rocketry is fun to watch, but the really big news is on energy, a field of truly immense disappointment until recently. For decades, unconventional energy technologies kept falling short of expectations, and it seemed as if nothing could end our dependence on oil and coal — bad news in the short run because of the prominence it gave to the Middle East; worse news in the long run because of global warming.

But now we’re witnessing a revolution on multiple fronts. The biggest effects so far have come from fracking, which has ended fears about peak oil and could, if properly regulated, be some help on climate change: Fracked gas is still fossil fuel, but burning it generates a lot less greenhouse emissions than burning coal. The bigger revolution looking forward, however, is in renewable energy, where costs of wind and especially solar have dropped incredibly fast.

Why does this matter? Everyone who isn’t ignorant or a Republican realizes that climate change is by far the biggest threat humanity faces. But how much will we have to sacrifice to meet that threat?

Well, you still hear claims, mostly from the right but also from a few people on the left, that we can’t take effective action on climate without bringing an end to economic growth. Marco Rubio, for example, insists that trying to control emissions would “destroy our economy.” This was never reasonable, but those of us asserting that protecting the environment was consistent with growth used to be somewhat vague about the details, simply asserting that given the right incentives the private sector would find a way.

But now we can see the shape of a sustainable, low-emission future quite clearly — basically an electrified economy with, yes, nuclear power playing some role, but sun and wind front and center. Of course, it doesn’t have to happen. But if it doesn’t, the problem will be politics, not technology.

True, I’m still waiting for flying cars, not to mention hyperdrive. But we have made enough progress in the technology of things that saving the world has suddenly become much more plausible. And that’s reason to celebrate.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, December 25, 2015

December 27, 2015 Posted by | Climate Change, Energy, Technology | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Indelicate Demands Of Profit”: Exxon’s Weapons Of Mass Confusion On Climate Change

There is a constant flow of headlines these days confirming the mess we’ve made: “Looks Like Rain Again. And Again”; “Alaska Will Keep Melting”; “Climate Change a Worry to Central Bankers, Too”; “Warning on Climate Risk: Worst to Come.”

This is far from a natural phenomenon. A handful of corporate interests are causing these catastrophes. Oil, coal, auto and a few other industrial powers have profited for decades by spewing fossil fuel contaminants into the world’s atmosphere.

Some experts were speaking out about this mess nearly 40 years ago:

“There is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels,” wrote James Black in 1978.

“Over the past several years, a clear scientific consensus has emerged,” said Roger Cohen in September 1982. “There is unanimous agreement in the scientific community that a temperature increase of this magnitude would bring about significant changes in the Earth’s climate, including rainfall distribution and alterations in the biosphere.”

The significance of these early calls to action is that they came from Exxon!

Inside Climate News revealed in an investigative series released this fall that the oil superpower (now infamous for its relentless campaign of lies to discredit climate science) was briefly a paragon of scientific integrity. From 1978 through the ’80s the corporation’s research headquarters were a buzzing hive of farsighted inquiry into the “greenhouse effect,” as the process of climate change was then called.

But in 1988, the elegant space inhabited by principle was suddenly invaded by the indelicate demands of profit. Dr. James Hansen, NASA’s renowned climate expert, testified to Congress that fossil pollution of Earth’s atmosphere had already surpassed the crisis point. “Global warming has begun,” Hanson concluded.

Then the United Nations’ intergovernmental panel on climate change issued an authoritative study in 1990 concluding that the warming was happening and the cause was emissions from fossil fuels.

With that, Exxon dismantled and defunded its research team. Ever since, it’s been the shameful, self-serving leader of a voodoo “science” campaign to keep the world hooked on the fossil fuels that provide its profits.

Their strategy was to create an incessant noise machine, fueled with hundreds of millions of industry dollars, to spread the false narrative that scientists are “uncertain” about climate change. In a confidential 1998 memo, ExxonMobil’s senior environmental lobbyist stated the Orwellian goal of this corporate campaign: “Victory will be achieved when … average citizens ‘understand’ uncertainties in climate science,” and when “recognition of uncertainty becomes part of the ‘conventional wisdom.’”

Their many tactics included: forming a lobbying combine in 1989 to sow doubt among public officials about the need for government action; placing a very costly, decade-long series of essays in newspapers denigrating the very scientists it previously nurtured and the science reports that it published; and trying to get the government’s chief global warming official to decry the uncertainty of climate research (then, when he refused, got the incoming Bush-Cheney regime to fire him). They also made their CEOs into hucksters of bunkum, with such lines as “the earth is cooler today than it was 20 years ago” and “it is highly unlikely that the temperature in the middle of next century will be significantly affected whether policies are enacted now or 20 years from now” and “what if everything we do, it turns out that our (climate) models are lousy, and we don’t get the (rising temperatures) we predict?”

If these denials of reality sound familiar, that’s because they’re exactly the same ones we’re now hearing from such Einsteins as The Donald (who recently tweeted, “I’m in Los Angeles and it’s freezing. Global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax”), The Cruzer (who claimed that climate change is a liberal plot for “massive government control of the economy … and every aspect of our lives”) and Jeb (who said, “It’s convoluted. And for the people to say the science is decided on this is just really arrogant”).

The deniers are not only on the wrong side of science and history, but also on the wrong side of most voters. A New York Times poll taken last January found that only 13 percent of our people (and only 24 percent of Repubs) said they would be more likely to vote for 2016 presidential candidates who contend that climate change is a hoax and America should keep burning oil and coal. A September poll by three GOP firms found that 56 percent of Republicans agree that the climate is changing and 72 percent support accelerating the use of renewable fuels.

The real power, and our great hope, is in the People’s rebellion: marches, civil disobedience, trainings, teach-ins and other actions to pressure leaders to put people and the planet over corporate profiteering, while also raising global public awareness about the crucial need to get off of fossil fuels and into renewable energy. As 350.org puts it, “Politicians aren’t the only ones with power.” So the coalition will be in the global streets, on the Internet, in schools, churches and all other available forums, to rally you and me to save ourselves.

 

By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, December 16, 2015

December 24, 2015 Posted by | Climate Change, Exxon Mobil, Global Warming | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“A Threat To Human Existence”: Perils Of Warming Planet Are Ignored By GOP Hopefuls

Amazingly, tellingly, the last Republican debate included not a single question about one of the most ambitious international agreements in civilized history — the recently concluded Paris accord on climate change. Signed by nearly 200 countries, including the United States, the agreement attempts to moderate a threat to human existence: the warming of the planet.

But there was barely a mention of climate change on that debate stage. Not only didn’t the moderators consider it worthy of a question, but neither did the candidates believe it important enough for sustained comment. Global warming came up only in a couple of asides intended as criticisms of President Obama’s agenda.

The debate was about national security, you say? Well, they contrasted a promised muscular approach to what they described as the weakness of the president, who is too cowardly or politically correct, in their telling, to even use the right words to describe Islamic jihadists.

Yet, the Pentagon has concluded that climate change represents “immediate risks” to national security. Last year, the nation’s military leaders issued a report — “2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap” — that says that global warming will “affect the Department of Defense’s ability to defend the nation.”

Vermont’s Bernie Sanders, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, was widely derided after a November Democratic debate in which he said that “climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism.” No military analyst or climate scientist has gone so far as to draw a straight line between global warming and the savagery of ISIS.

However, the Pentagon’s report does make clear that climate change will lead to greater instability worldwide: droughts, food shortages, mass migrations, failed states. And those are just the sorts of conditions that breed terrorists.

According to the Department of Defense, the U.S. armed forces will also find their resources strained at home as their troops are likely to be called upon more often for civilian assistance in the wake of natural disasters. There will be more extreme events — more violent storms, more fires, more flooding. And as if that were not enough, some of the military’s combat activities will be compromised; amphibious landings, for example, are likely to be more challenging because of rising oceans, according to the report.

Not that you’d know any of that from listening to the GOP candidates. Most leading Republicans are loath even to acknowledge that climate change is occurring — much less acknowledge that it has any connection to national security. Earlier this month, in fact, presidential candidate Ted Cruz, who heads the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, declared at a hearing on climate change that “for the past 18 years … there has been no significant warming whatsoever.”

Au contraire. According to scientists at NASA and the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration, 2014 was the warmest year since records were first kept in 1880. “The 10 warmest years in the instrumental record,” NASA said, “with the exception of 1998, have now occurred since 2000.”

The refusal of the modern Republican Party to come to terms with climate change leaves it as the only major political party that doubts the science, the only modern body of flat-Earthers. Conservatives in Great Britain, Germany, Australia, Israel and everywhere else in the democratic world have accepted the scientific consensus.

So, for that matter, has ExxonMobil, which spent decades trying to muddy the waters around climate research. The oil giant may have been forced to acknowledge the facts by increasing legal and economic pressures, but it finally stated the obvious: “We believe the risks of climate change are real, and those risks warrant constructive action by both policymakers and the business community,” ExxonMobil Vice President Ken Cohen said recently. Other major oil companies have also embraced the scientific consensus.

It’s strange that Republicans are peddling fear at every turn, but they refuse to acknowledge an existential threat. Islamic jihadists are troubling, but they don’t come close to the peril represented by a warming planet.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2007; The National Memo, December 19, 2015

December 22, 2015 Posted by | Climate Change, GOP Primary Debates, Paris Climate Accord | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Moral And Human Duty”: Nations Approve Landmark Climate Accord in Paris

With the sudden bang of a gavel Saturday night, representatives of 195 countries reached a landmark climate accord that will, for the first time, commit nearly every country to lowering planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions to help stave off the most drastic effects of climate change.

Delegates who have been negotiating intensely in this Paris suburb for two weeks gathered for the final plenary session, where Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius of France asked for opposition to the deal and, hearing none, declared it approved.

With that, the delegates achieved what had been unreachable for two decades: a consensus on the need to shift from carbon-based fuels and a road map for the 195 nations to do so.

Though the deal did not achieve all that environmentalists, scientists and some countries had hoped for, it set the table for more efforts to slow the slide toward irreversible changes to the Earth’s climate.

President Obama said on Saturday from the Cabinet Room at the White House, “The American people should be proud” of the landmark climate accord because it offered “the best chance we’ve had to save the one planet we’ve got.”

Mr. Obama added, “I believe this moment can be a turning point for the world.”

It was an extraordinary effort at global diplomacy. Supporters argued that no less than the future of the planet was at stake, and in the days before the final session, they tried relentlessly to persuade skeptical nations.

As they headed into the cavernous hall late Saturday, representatives of individual countries and blocs expressed support for a deal hammered out in a final overnight session on Friday. After a day of stops and starts, Mr. Fabius, the president of the climate conference, declared a consensus and struck the gavel at 7:26 p.m., abruptly closing formal proceedings that had threatened to go into the night.

The hall erupted in cheers as leaders like Secretary of State John Kerry and former Vice President Al Gore stood to applaud President François Hollande of France; his ecology minister, Ségolène Royal; his special envoy, Laurence Tubiana; and the executive secretary of the United Nations climate convention, Christiana Figueres.

South Africa’s environment minister, Bomo Edna Molewa, called the accord the “first step in a long journey that the global community needs to undertake together.”

At its heart is a breakthrough on an issue that foiled decades of international efforts to address climate change. Previous pacts required developed economies like the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but exempted developing countries such as China and India.

The new accord changes that dynamic, requiring action in some form from every country. But the echoes of the divide persisted during the negotiations.

Delegates received the final draft of the document Saturday afternoon, after a morning when the text was promised but repeatedly delayed. They immediately began parsing it for language that had been the subject of energetic debate, in preparation for a voice vote on whether the deal should become law.

All evening, tense excitement was palpable. The delegates rose to their feet to thank the French team, which drew on the finest elements of the country’s traditions of diplomacy to broker a deal acceptable to all sides.

France’s European partners recalled the coordinated Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people and threatened to cast a shadow over the negotiations. But, bound by a collective good will toward France, countries redoubled their efforts.

“This demonstrates the strength of the French nation and makes us Europeans all proud of the French nation,” said Miguel Arias Cañete, the European Union’s commissioner for energy and climate action.

Yet amid the spirit of success that dominated the final hours of the talks, Mr. Arias Cañete reminded delegates that the accord was the start of the real work. “Today, we celebrate,” he said. “Tomorrow, we have to act. This is what the world expects of us.”

The new deal will not, on its own, solve global warming. At best, scientists who have analyzed it say, it will cut emissions by about half of what is needed to prevent an increase in atmospheric temperatures of 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. That is the point, scientific studies have concluded, at which the world will be locked into devastating consequences, including rising sea levels, severe droughts and flooding, widespread food and water shortages, and more destructive storms.

But the agreement could be an inflection point in human history: the moment when, because of a huge shift in global economic policy, the inexorable rise in carbon emissions that started during the Industrial Revolution began to level out and eventually decline.

Unlike at the climate summit meeting in Copenhagen in 2009, Mr. Fabius said, the stars for this assembly were aligned.

As negotiators from countries representing a self-described “high-ambition coalition” walked into the plenary session shortly before noon, they were swarmed by cheering bystanders. The coalition, formed to push for ambitious environmental provisions in the deal, includes rich countries such as the United States and members of the European Union; island nations like Tuvalu and Kiribati, which are vulnerable to rising sea levels; and countries with the strongest economies in Latin America, such as Brazil.

Representatives of the group wore lapel pins made of dried coconut fronds, a symbol of the Marshall Islands, whose climate envoy, Tony de Brum, helped form the coalition. Developing countries with the highest emissions, such as China and India, are not members.

Scientists and world leaders had said the talks here were the world’s last, best hope of striking a deal that would begin to avert the most devastating effects of a warming planet.

The final language did not fully satisfy everyone. Representatives of some developing nations expressed consternation. Poorer countries had pushed for a legally binding provision requiring that rich countries appropriate at least $100 billion a year to help them mitigate and adapt to the ravages of climate change. In the deal, that figure appears only in a preamble, not in the legally binding portion.

It was not immediately clear what horse trading and arm twisting had brought the negotiators into accord. But in accord they were, after two years of international talks in dozens of world capitals, two weeks of focused negotiations in a temporary tent city here, and two all-night, line-by-line negotiations.

While top energy, environment and foreign policy officials from nearly every country offered positions on the text, ultimately it fell to France, the host, to assemble the final document and see through its approval.

Some countries objected to the speed with which Mr. Fabius banged down the gavel. Nicaragua’s representative, Paul Oquist, said his nation favored a global cap on emissions, a political nonstarter. He said the deal unfairly exempted rich nations from liability for “loss and damage” suffered by those on the front lines of climate change.

The national pledges will not contain warming to 2 degrees Celsius. And more recent scientific reports have concluded that even preventing that amount of warming will not be enough.

Vulnerable low-lying island states had pushed for the more stringent target over the objections of major oil producers like Saudi Arabia. But that target is largely considered aspirational and is not legally binding.

The agreement sets a vague goal of having global emissions peak “as soon as possible,” and a schedule for countries to return to the negotiating table every five years with plans for tougher polices. The first such meeting will take place in 2020.

The accord also requires “stocktaking” meetings every five years, at which countries will report how they are reducing their emissions compared with their targets. And it includes language requiring countries to monitor, verify and publicly report their emission levels.

Monitoring and verification had been among the most contentious issues, with negotiators wrangling into Saturday morning. The United States had insisted on an aggressive, uniform system for countries to publicly report their emissions, and on the creation of an outside body to verify reductions. Developing nations like China and India had demanded that they be subject to a less stringent form of monitoring and verification.

The final draft requires all countries to use the same reporting system, but it lets developing nations report fewer details until they are able to better count their emissions.

Some elements of the accord are voluntary, while others are legally binding. That hybrid structure was specifically intended to ensure the support of the United States: An accord with binding targets would be legally interpreted as a new treaty and would have to go before the Senate for ratification. Such a plan would be dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled Senate, where many question the established science of climate change and hope to thwart Mr. Obama’s climate change agenda.

As a result, all language on the reduction of carbon emissions is essentially voluntary. The deal assigns no concrete reduction targets to any country. Instead, each government has crafted a plan to lower emissions at home based on the country’s domestic politics and economy.

The accord uses the language of an existing treaty, the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to require countries to verify their emissions and to periodically put forth tougher domestic plans.

“This agreement is highly unlikely to trigger any legitimate grounds for compelling Senate ratification,” said Paul Bledsoe, a climate change official in the Bill Clinton administration. “The language itself is sufficiently vague regarding emissions pledges, and presidents in any event have frequently used their broad authority to enter into these sorts of executive agreements.”

 

By: Coral Davenport, The New York Times, December 12, 2015

December 13, 2015 Posted by | Climate Change, Global Diplomacy, Greenhouse Gases, Paris Climate Accord | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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