mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“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

“Terrorism Truths No Politician Will Admit”: Republicans Are Uniquely Immune To Learning From History

Here’s a truth that no politician, Democrat or Republican, is going to tell you: There is absolutely nothing that our government could have done to prevent the attack that took 14 lives in San Bernardino last week. If you’re looking for a lesson we can learn from it, that’s the one you ought to take. Universal background checks for gun purchases is a good idea, but it wouldn’t have stopped that couple from killing those people. Starting a new war in the Middle East is a terrible idea, but it also wouldn’t have stopped it.

We can’t stop an attack like the one in San Bernardino before it happens because our ability to do that is dependent on the plot coming to the government’s attention. In order for that to happen, knowledge of the plan has to leak out in some way—to someone who overhears the planning and tells the authorities, to an informant whom the attackers bring into their confidence, over an electronic medium like email or telephone that is being monitored. But what if all you have is a husband and wife working out the details over their kitchen table, and buying their tools of mayhem the same way a hundred million other Americans do, down at the local gun shop? There is no way to stop that.

Which brings us to another truth you won’t see politicians admit: terrorism will never be defeated or vanquished or eliminated or banished. It’s a technique, attractive to those with limited power precisely because it’s relatively easy to use.

Actually, there was a politician who once acknowledged that reality. In 2004, John Kerry said, “We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they’re a nuisance.” He cited organized crime as a comparison of what we ought to seek: “It isn’t threatening people’s lives every day, and fundamentally, it’s something that you continue to fight, but it’s not threatening the fabric of your life.” His opponent was positively gleeful that Kerry would say something so weak and defeatist. “I couldn’t disagree more,” said George W. Bush. “Our goal is not to reduce terror to some acceptable level of nuisance, our goal is to defeat terror by staying on the offensive, destroying terrorist networks, and spreading freedom and liberty around the world.” His campaign rushed to make a television ad based on Kerry’s quote, and four years later, when he left office, Bush’s strength and resolve had ended the threat of terrorism for all time.

Just kidding—for some inexplicable reason, George Bush didn’t manage to “defeat terror.” But now the members of his party say they’ve got the plan that will take care of it. Donald Trump, who already promised to start torturing prisoners again (not that we have any Islamic State prisoners to torture, but whatever), now says if you want to defeat terrorism, “You have to take out their families.” Sure, it’s a war crime, but just think of the satisfaction we’ll get from killing a bunch of children! Ted Cruz is talkin’ the tough-guy talk too. “If I am elected president, we will utterly destroy ISIS,” he said on Saturday. “We won’t weaken them. We won’t degrade them. We will utterly destroy them. We will carpet bomb them into oblivion. I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we’re going to find out.” Yeehaw.

Republicans are uniquely immune to learning from history, and at the moment they’ve convinced themselves that once we crush the Islamic State, terrorism will no longer be much of a problem. But of course that’s just what we thought about Al Qaeda, and it’s what we’ll think about the terror group spawned by our next Middle East war. Let’s just kill these guys, and then the problem will be solved.

How many Americans actually believe that? It’s hard to know. But there’s no question the San Bernardino attack has ratcheted up Americans’ fear. The apparent futility of any practical solution to a threat like this one seems only to drive people into the arms of a hateful demagogue like Trump and the demi-demagogues who scuttle after him. Maybe people actually buy the absurd idea that if we just go after this one terrorist group with enough ruthlessness, no other terrorist group will ever emerge. Maybe people actually believe that if we subject American Muslims to enough suspicion and harassment, no American Muslim will become angry enough to want to kill his or her fellow citizens.

But let’s be honest: what the Republicans are selling isn’t a practical plan to solve a practical problem, because the problem defined that way—can we stop an attack just like this one?—has no real solution. So what they promise is an amplification of all the poisonous emotions swirling inside you. Are you afraid? I will validate your fears and shout that things are even worse than you think. Do you hate? I will give your hatred voice, point it outward, translate it into pledges of rage and violence visited upon the guilty and innocent alike.

In his Oval Office address Sunday night, President Obama tried to make a different argument, that “Our success won’t depend on tough talk, or abandoning our values or giving into fear. That’s what groups like ISIL are hoping for.” But he too insisted that “The threat from terrorism is real, but we will overcome it.” It’s what any president would have to say, I suppose, to reassure and comfort and give hope. The truth—that no matter what we do there will always be the possibility of terrorist attacks, and some of them will inevitably succeed—isn’t something presidents are supposed to say.

The more important truth, also out of bounds for politicians, is that as horrifying as any one attack is, terrorism is a threat we can live with, just like we live with the threat of natural disasters or crime or the flu, all of which take many more lives than terrorism does. Somehow we manage to accommodate ourselves to those threats without losing our damn minds. Surely there’s a lesson there.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, December 7, 2015

December 9, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Mass Shootings, Politicians, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“An American Prayer”: Why Doesn’t Lindsey Graham Challenge The ‘Religious Climate’ Deniers In His Party?

Five years ago, the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza had a lengthy and fairly depressing report on the demise of climate-change legislation in the US Senate. Lizza included this interesting tidbit about Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who initially co-sponsored the climate bill with then-Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT):

At a climate-change conference in South Carolina on January 5, 2010, Graham started to sound a little like Al Gore. “I have come to conclude that greenhouse gases and carbon pollution” are “not a good thing,” Graham said. He insisted that nobody could convince him that “all the cars and trucks and plants that have been in existence since the Industrial Revolution, spewing out carbon day in and day out,” could be “a good thing for your children and the future of the planet.” Environmentalists swooned. “Graham was the most inspirational part of that triumvirate throughout the fall and winter,” Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club, said. “He was advocating for strong action on climate change from an ethical and a moral perspective.”

But, back in Washington, Graham warned Lieberman and Kerry that they needed to get as far as they could in negotiating the bill “before Fox News got wind of the fact that this was a serious process,” one of the people involved in the negotiations said. “He would say, ‘The second they focus on us, it’s gonna be all cap-and-tax all the time, and it’s gonna become just a disaster for me on the airwaves. We have to move this along as quickly as possible.'”

Graham later washed his hands of the legislation under controversial circumstances, setting the stage for the bill’s death in July 2010. Graham’s abandonment of the legislation—just weeks after he had been touted as the future of climate leadership in the United States–was one of three major setbacks that year for those who longed for a bipartisan solution to the climate crisis, the others being Rep. Bob Inglis’s (R-SC) primary loss to future Benghazi bully Trey Gowdy (R-SC) in June, and Rep. Mike Castle’s (R-DE) loss to Christine O’Donnell in a Republican Senate primary in September.

Five years later, Graham is one of only two Republican presidential candidates (the other being former New York Governor George Pataki) who’s willing to acknowledge the reality of human-caused climate change. The problem is, Graham can’t seem to resist taking nasty potshots at climate-concerned progressives, as he did recently in New Hampshire:

Graham continued by contrasting Democrats who view climate change as a “religion” with Republicans that refuse to accept the mainstream consensus on climate science.

“It is, to me folks, a problem that needs to be solved, not a religion,” Graham said of climate change. “So to my friends on the left who are making this a religion, you’re making a mistake. To my friends on the right who deny the science, tell me why.”

The “religion” rhetoric, apparently borrowed from an ugly 2008 column by Charles Krauthammer, is silly, and Graham would be well-advised to drop it as soon as possible if he’s serious about once again bringing both parties together on this issue. If climate change is, according to Graham, a “religion,” that means Pope Francis is following two “religions.” Does that make any sense at all?

Instead of bashing progressives, why doesn’t Graham challenge the climate deniers in his party to travel down to his home state—recently devastated by fossil-fueled flooding—and tell the relatives and friends of those who died in those floods that human-caused climate-change isn’t real, and that we don’t need to take action? That would be far more productive than taking potshots at climate hawks on the left.

 

By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 17, 2015

October 20, 2015 Posted by | Climate Change, Climate Change Deniers, GOP, Lindsey Graham | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Emotions Are Too Raw, Resentments Too Deep”: Republicans Have A Serious Electability Problem — And Marco Rubio Is Not The Answer

Do Republicans want to win the presidential election next fall? Of course they do — but it’s curious that they’ve spent so little time debating not just which of their candidates is the most pure of heart and firm of spine, but which might actually have the best chance of winning the general election.

Contrast that with the Democratic race in 2004 or the Republican race in 2012. In both cases there was a long and detailed debate about electability, and voters ultimately coalesced around the candidate who seemed the best bet for the general election. After being pummeled as unpatriotic and terrorist-loving for years, Democrats in 2004 told themselves that a couple of draft-dodgers like Bush and Cheney could never pull that crap on a war hero like John Kerry, and that would neutralize their most glaring vulnerability. (It turned out they were wrong about that; in addition to the fraud of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a particular highlight was when delegates to the GOP convention showed up with Band-aids with purple hearts drawn on them on their faces, mocking the three Purple Hearts Kerry had been awarded in Vietnam).

Likewise, in 2012, Republicans debated intensely among themselves (see here or here) about whether Mitt Romney really was the only candidate who could win support from the middle, or whether they’d be better off going with a true believer like Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich.

There were always dissenters, of course, and they felt vindicated by the final outcome, even if there’s no way to know whether a different candidate would have done better. But everyone makes the electability argument that serves their pre-existing beliefs. So conservatives now tell themselves a story in which Republicans lost in 2008 and 2012 because they failed to nominate a “true” conservative, and once they do so, millions of heretofore unseen voters will emerge bleary-eyed from their doomsday bunkers and home-schooling sessions to cast their ballots for the GOP. This is what Ted Cruz will tell you — and it’s notable that he may talk more about electability than anyone else, despite the fact that if he were the nominee, the party would probably suffer a defeat to rival Barry Goldwater’s.

Cruz has a passionate if finite following, but the candidates leading the Republican field — Donald Trump and Ben Carson, who between them are winning about half the Republican electorate — represent a kind of cri de coeur, an expression of disgust with everything the GOP has failed to do for its constituents during the Obama years. That either one would almost certainly lose, and badly, doesn’t seem to matter much to their supporters.

The Republican establishment, on the other hand — that loose collection of funders, strategists, apparatchiks, and officials — thinks long and hard about electability. At first they seemed to settle on Jeb Bush, who seemed like the kind of low-risk grownup who could plod his way to victory. Sure, the name could be a problem, but Bush was the right sort of fellow, a known quantity who could be relied on. And so they helped him raise a quick $100 million, in a fundraising blitzkrieg that was suppose to “shock and awe” other candidates right out of the race.

Yet somehow it didn’t work out, partly because he turned out to be a mediocre candidate, and partly because although the Republican base wants many things, Jeb does not appear to be among them. Depending on which poll average you like, he’s in either fourth of fifth place, sliding slowly down. His campaign just announced it’ll be cutting back on its spending to save money, which is never a good sign (the last candidate we heard was doing that was Rick Perry; a couple of weeks later he was out of the race).

So now, after saying to the base, “Jeb’s a guy who can get elected, what do you think?” and getting a resounding “No thanks” in reply, the establishment has turned its benevolent gaze on Marco Rubio. The billionaires love him, the strategists are talking him up, the press is on board, he’s young and fresh and new and Hispanic — what’s not to like? But so far, the voters aren’t quite convinced. Though Rubio has always scored highly in approval from Republicans, he seems like everyone’s second choice, and he hasn’t yet broken out of single digits. Most Democrats will tell you that though he has some liabilities, Rubio is the one they really fear, but that hasn’t earned him too much support (at least not yet) among Republican voters.

Perhaps the reason is that at the end of eight years suffering under a president from the other party, emotions are too raw and resentments too deep for that kind of pragmatic thinking. In that way, Republicans in 2016 are in a position similar to that of Democrats in 2008 at the end of George W. Bush’s two terms. I’m sure more than a few Republicans would like to find the candidate who can make them feel the way Barack Obama made Democrats feel then: inspired, energized, and full of hope that a new era was really dawning, one in which all their miseries would be washed away and they could show the world how great things could be if they were in charge.

That Obama was not just a vessel for their feelings but also a shrewd politician capable of running a brilliant general election campaign was a stroke of luck. So far, Republicans haven’t found someone who can be both.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, October 16, 2015

October 18, 2015 Posted by | Electability, GOP Presidential Candidates, Marco Rubio | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Obama Has Plenty Of Reasons To Smile”: A Useful Reminder That There Is No Such Thing As The “Twilight” Of A Presidency

Attention has been focused on who becomes our next president, but meanwhile the incumbent is on quite a roll.

Throughout his tour of Alaska, President Obama looked full of his old swagger. He took a photo of Denali — the former Mount McKinley — through a window of Air Force One and shared it via Instagram. He used melting glaciers as a backdrop to talk about climate change, posed with small children and large fish, and became the first sitting president to venture north of the Arctic Circle.

He seemed to smile throughout the trip, and why not? The nuclear agreement that Secretary of State John F. Kerry negotiated with Iran is now safe from congressional meddling. U.S. economic growth for the second quarter was a healthy 3.7 percent. Unemployment has fallen to 5.1 percent, according to figures released Friday. Saudi King Salman — portrayed by Obama’s critics as peeved with the president — dropped by the White House on Friday for a chat, reportedly renting an entire luxury hotel for his entourage. And this month, Chinese President Xi Jinping is scheduled to arrive for what promises to be the most important state visit of the year.

Obama gives the impression of having rediscovered the joy of being president. Maybe he really needed that Martha’s Vineyard vacation. Or maybe he is beginning to see some of his long-term policies finally bearing fruit — and his legacy being cemented.

Watching him now is a useful reminder that there is no such thing as the “twilight” of a presidency. Until the day his successor takes office, Obama will be the leading actor on the biggest and most important stage in the world.

It is useful to recall that George W. Bush practically had one foot out the door when the financial system threatened to collapse in 2008. It was Bush and his advisers who put together a massive $700 billion bank bailout and managed to sell it to Congress. Bush signed the rescue bill into law on Oct. 3 — barely a month before his successor would be chosen.

The banks were saved, but nothing could stop the economy from falling into its worst slump since the Great Depression. I believe historians will conclude that one of Obama’s greatest accomplishments was bringing the economy back to real growth and something close to full employment — more slowly than Americans may have wished, perhaps, but steadily.

The Iran deal, in my view, is another remarkable achievement. Beyond the fact that it definitively keeps Tehran from building a nuclear weapon for at least 15 years, the agreement offers Iran’s leaders a path toward renewed membership in the community of nations. The mullahs may decide to remain defiant and isolated, but at least they now have a choice.

Obama’s White House has often been clumsy at inside-the-Beltway politics, but the handling of the Iran deal has been adroit. The drip-drip-drip of announcements from Democratic senators who favor the agreement has created a sense of momentum and inevitability. Now Obama knows that if Congress passes a measure rejecting the deal, he can veto it without fear of being overridden. The question, in fact, is whether a resolution of disapproval can even make it through the Senate. If Obama convinces 41 senators to filibuster the measure, it dies.

All is not sweetness and light, of course. The Syrian civil war is a humanitarian disaster of enormous and tragic proportions, as evidenced by the heartbreaking refugee crisis in Europe. I don’t believe there is anything the United States could have done to prevent the war, but all nations bear a responsibility to help ease the suffering. The fact that some nations refuse to do their share does not absolve us from doing ours.

Domestically, the good economic numbers ignore the fact that middle-class incomes remain stagnant. Even without healthy wage growth, an economic recovery feels better than a slump — but only in relative terms. One doesn’t hear people breaking into “Happy Days Are Here Again.”

All in all, though, it looks like a good time to be President Obama. The Affordable Care Act, as he had hoped, is by now so well-established that no Republican successor could easily eliminate it. Industries are already making plans to accommodate new restrictions on carbon emissions. Oh, and despite what you hear from all the Republican candidates, the border with Mexico is more secure than ever before.

Obama’s legacy will have a few blemishes. But he has good reason to smile.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, September 7, 2015

September 9, 2015 Posted by | Climate Change, Economy, Iran Nuclear Agreement | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

%d bloggers like this: