Jeffrey Sachs, an eminent researcher and policy analyst, minced no words when describing the world’s failures on the issue of climate change. Speaking to a small group of reporters at the United Nations Climate Summit, he blasted certain U.S. media outlets for being “anti-science” and providing “irresponsible” coverage on climate issues. He was more frank on the specifics of the world’s deficits in combating climate change:
On the years since the Copenhagen meetings:
“One thing that’s changed is the air is far more filled with carbon dioxide than it was in 2009, and the pace of carbon emissions has continued to rise, with another startling increase in 2013 just measured and published in recent days. The failure in Copenhagen was a great disappointment, and we have wasted more years in the wrong direction so that we are almost running out of time. The difference between Copenhagen and now is that Copenhagen was the last chance but one. This is really the last chance coming up in Paris.”
On the United States’ lack of comprehensive plans:
“From a policy point of view, what’s needed are plans. Where is the U.S. plan? It doesn’t exist! With all the speeches that Obama may give about the commitment, where is the U.S. pathway to deep de-carbonization by 2050? It doesn’t exist. We’ve never written it down. That’s the responsibility of governments. Show us the pathway.”
On the upcoming U.S. elections and what Americans should do on climate change:
“I think Americans should ask the candidates where they stand [on climate change]. If they get the nonsense that we don’t know the science and so forth, that’s a disgrace. Such candidates have no business in our public life. If you have candidates that support the Keystone pipeline and mumble about it and don’t understand the stakes involved, how can we support them? What Americans need to do is ask, ‘What’s your view?’ If they spout anti-science climate nonsense, tell them they have no place in American politics in the 21st century. We don’t have to be the buffoon country. Because of propaganda, because of money from Koch brothers or Big Oil, such nonsense gets spouted in our country. How can anyone support any candidate until we hear they are going to take decisive stands [on the issue] and how to deal with this menace?”
What is clear from this summit so far from leaders is that we are in a race against time. In remarks this morning, French President Francois Hollande said, “We are battling against time, time that is ticking. Are we capable of mastering nature? Are we capable of mastering ourselves?”
Realistically, the United Nations summit is not set up to be a binding negotiation on climate change. The pronouncements made by more than 120 world leaders at this year’s summit are largely a global pep rally for the Lima Climate Change Conference in December and for the major COP 21 conference in Paris in December 2015. All roads on climate change lead to France. This year may be the last chance to come under the 2-degree Celsius threshold goal set in 2009.
With the backdrop of unprecedented massive demonstrations in support of climate change action, Americans are at a crucial political point in the climate debate. Beyond marching, Americans have every right to take their agitations to the next step and ask candidates where they stand on climate issues. As the political parties begin to gear up for the 2016 presidential elections, Americans must mobilize on political avenues, not just on the concrete streets of Manhattan.