The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) reported this week that climate change is happening faster than predicted. Every day the media publishes stories like this, highlighting the scientific and policy achievements made by groups like NWF, a U.S. non-profit. It’s amazing what non-profits, think tanks, and NGOs can accomplish in terms of science, policy, and grass-roots initiatives in climate change.
Twelve years ago the Conferences of the Parties (COP-3) met in December 1997 to hash out the details of the Kyoto Protocol. A watershed moment in the global recognition of and fight against climate change, the Kyoto Protocol introduced many of the tools in use today for emissions reductions: emissions trading markets, Clean Development Mechanisms (CDMS) for developing countries and joint implementation provisions. However, as much promise as the Protocol showed, it is widely viewed as a failed effort. No doubt, the United States’ refusal to ratify the treaty did, to a great extent seal its fate, with both Clinton and G.W. Bush administrations and congressional counterparts opting out of the treaty, citing harm to business interests and dismay over lack of emissions goals for developing countries. Since 1992 global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have risen by 38%, U.S. emissions by 20% and Chinese by 150%; the EU’s have fallen by only 0.8%. (See shared folder for an in-depth analysis of GHG trends.)
As President Obama and his advisers unveil their plans for the coming term, one thing seems certain: the new administration will usher in a sea change for climate change policy in the United States. For the first time, America is led by an executive who understands the perils of climate change and is committed to doing something about it.