When I come back from vacation, I generally have a lot of unread emails and a very thirsty plant waiting for me. It takes a while to get used to being at work again, to review all the unfinished business and prioritize what needs to be done now. The U.S. Senate comes back to work today with a stack of unfinished laws in their inbox. Climate change legislation has to be their priority.
Copenhagen taught us many lessons. The most important of which is that the U.S. needs to pass domestic climate legislation this year if they intend to be part of – much less a leader – of the world community. Any international deal needs U.S. action. Any U.S. action needs a domestic climate bill. There are a myriad of reasons for us to want such a bill – the need to spur U.S. jobs, develop new clean technologies, a movement towards a healthier environment. One reason we need this bill is the protection of our natural resources.
The earth is a complex living system. There will always be natural incidents that affect our lives. Dumping millions of tons of pollution into our atmosphere and waters will make these incidents more frequent and more powerful. These are simple truths. Another simple truth – the earth’s natural systems, such as our forests, are critical to our lives. Critical not just to the lives of fishermen in Indonesia, or farmers in Africa, but also to U.S. fishermen and U.S. farmers.
The earth is one system, not a set of independent systems.
Protecting a tropical forest in Guatemala can maintain freshwater systems and reduce the chances of dangerous mudslides. Protecting these same forests can reduce global carbon dioxide emissions. One protected system, two benefits – helping to stop climate change and adapting to the already occurring effects from climate change. We’re not even counting the secondary benefits such as protecting biodiversity that support medical research, or reducing national security concerns by alleviating poverty. All of these benefits help the local community and the global community.
In Copenhagen the U.S. pledged $1 billion dollars from 2010 to 2012 to combat global deforestation. This short term finance will help answer important questions and develop a plan of action. What about the long term?
The long term requires global cooperation. Cooperation between all countries, developed and developing. Cooperation between all sectors, private and public. There must be a way to marshal all of our resources. The U.S. climate bill offers a blueprint to do this. The climate bill offers public money from a small amount of set-asides and private money from international offsets that work together to protect tropical forests.
The natural resource of a country is part of its wealth, and is part of our wealth too. We need to protect this wealth. We need the Senate to get to work and make climate change legislation their priority and our priority.