What does the United Nations’ COP26 climate conference in Glasgow tell us about the state of global efforts to limit climate change to under 2 degrees (Celsius)? The short answer is that despite a growing sense of trepidation about hastening climate change, the gap between present and future, and between intentions and results, remains wide.
That has been the story of the previous UN climate meetings, the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris climate accords. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have risen 60 percent since the first climate gathering in 1992. It reflects the vexing nature of the issue.
Addressing climate change is mostly about transitioning to a post-petroleum clean energy system. But, historically, shifts – wood burning to coal, coal to oil and gas, and gas to renewables – are not swift, and the disruptions of the transition politically intimidating.
The difficult politics of seeking disruptive short-term sweeping change for deferred future benefits yields bold pledges to reach net zero CO2 emissions by 2050 with few shared roadmaps on how to get there.
The meeting couldn’t have taken place under worse circumstances: against the backdrop of growing great power competition when greatly increased global cooperation is vital, and amid stark droughts, floods, record heat waves, rising oceans, COVID-19, rising oil and gas prices and a surge in worldwide coal use.
Thus, there was the odd specter of President BidenJoe BidenNicaragua’s Ortega set to win election amid international criticism Rep. Gosar posts anime video showing him striking Biden, Ocasio-Cortez Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by ExxonMobil — Activists cry foul over COP26 draft MORE seeking to curb U.S. oil and gas production while pleading with OPEC to increase theirs. The leaders of some of largest GHG-emitting states – China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinOvernight Defense & National Security — Pentagon works to evacuate US troops’ families CIA director raised ‘serious’ concerns about Russia military actions during call with Putin: CNN Justice Department seizes million as part of crackdown on hackers linked to Kaseya attack MORE – didn’t attend.
That said, the meeting has displayed a heightened sense of urgency, as negotiators tried to turn leaders’ commitments into results. To Biden’s credit, 100 nations signed on to a U.S.-led initiative to cut methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030. Methane is 80 times more toxic than CO2 emissions and can yield immediate GHG reductions.
There was progress on global carbon-trading talks — putting a price on carbon is the fastest way to use much less of it. COP26 delegates also committed to end deforestation by 2030. Trees are a major absorber of GHG emissions. A group of 457 financial institutions managing $130 trillion in assets pledged to prioritize green investments, a growing trend. But the devil is in the details: To date, follow-through on such pledges has been abysmal, though there are promising signs this time around.
Hopefully, the $550 billion in Biden’s Build Back Better (BBB) legislation will make good on many U.S. pledges. BBB is a mix of tax credits, investments and regulations to accelerate the electrification of transport, renewable energy R&D and infrastructure (e.g. smart grids and electric vehicle (EV) charging stations), the largest such effort yet.
Unfortunately, efforts by some brave souls in Congress to create a carbon tax, to allow market forces to drive the process, was shot down. Most economists and several ex-secretaries of state have promoted a carbon tax as the most efficient way to decarbonize; but again, politics prevailed. Nonetheless, it all suggests a new seriousness.
Yet the intractable politics of climate change remain. Recent studies suggest it is technically possible to reach Biden’s U.S. goal of reducing net emissions by 50 percent by 2030, and the UN and Paris accord goals of reaching net zero emissions by 2050 and limiting temperature rise to under 2 degrees.
But the path to get there requires extraordinary transformations that are difficult to see being realized. The reality of surging coal use in China and the U.S., the two largest emitters, as U.S. shale oil and gas producers ramp up production highlight the inertia of the present.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has constructed a detailed roadmap of what net zero GHG emissions by 2050 would require. Among the items: Ending new oil and gas projects starting next year and increasing the use of EVs in the U.S. from 3 percent now to 60 percent by 2030.
The list goes on, but you get the point. Thankfully, investments, research and development, and new deployments are ramping up dramatically, and it is technically possible to reach the net-zero goals by 2050. But even with the new momentum, it remains a very ambitious goal.
But there is a rich menu of low-hanging fruit, things that can be done now to reduce emissions which negotiators finalizing COP26 efforts in Glasgow should pursue. For starters, ramp up the methane initiative beyond the 30 percent goal. Studies suggest ending methane emissions could reduce temperature rise up to 0.3 percent. And begin to phase out coal by expanding natural gas, which produces 50 percent fewer emissions than coal. Agreeing on global carbon trading rules would be another good step.
Natural methods are even easier. Trees and soil are huge carbon sinks. To implement the vague deforestation pledge, have the G-20 endorse a plan for nations, in public-private partnerships, to plant one billion trees by 2025. Giving farmers credits for using techniques that allow soil to better capture C02 would make a near-term difference.
A big push on energy efficiency should also be on the menu. Buildings consume about one-third of electricity in the U.S. Retrofitting buildings with net-zero technology and requiring it of all new buildings could yield quick results. Similarly, with appliances. The BBB would install 500,000 charging stations and would make EVs more attractive to consumers. The U.S. could transition government fleets to electric and/or hydrogen power as a priority.
This is just a sampling. As weather gets more extreme, and leaders become more serious about addressing climate change, a carbon tax should be revisited.
Finally, there is innovation. Ramping up R&D for battery storage, renewables, hydrogen and other energy technologies (including modular small nuclear plants) as well as experimenting with geo-engineering techniques to alter warming, could make a difference in the 2040-2050 timeframe. But for the moment, the politics of climate change still impose dangerous limits.
Robert A. Manning is a senior fellow of the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security and its New American Engagement Initiative at the Atlantic Council. He was a senior counselor to the undersecretary of state for global affairs from 2001 to 2004, a member of the U.S. Department of State policy planning staff from 2004 to 2008 and on the National Intelligence Council strategic futures group from 2008 to 2012. Follow him on Twitter @Rmanning4.
Biden and Putin to hold video call on Tuesday, will discuss Ukraine
U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold a video call on Tuesday to deal with military tensions over Ukraine other topics.
Biden wants to discuss U.S. concerns about Russia’s military buildup on the Ukraine border, a U.S. source said on Saturday, as well as strategic stability, cyber and regional issues.
“We’re aware of Russia’s actions for a long time and my expectation is we’re going to have a long discussion with Putin,” Biden told reporters on Friday as he departed for a weekend trip to Camp David. “I don’t accept anybody’s red lines,” he said.
The two will also talk about bilateral ties and the implementation of agreements reached at their Geneva summit in June, the Kremlin said on Saturday.
“The conversation will indeed take place on Tuesday,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Reuters. “Bilateral relations, of course Ukraine and the realisation of the agreements reached in Geneva are the main (items) on the agenda,” he said.
More than 94,000 Russian troops are massed near Ukraine’s borders. Ukraine Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said on Friday https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/large-scale-russian-offensive-possible-january-ukraine-says-2021-12-03 that Moscow may be planning a large-scale military offensive for the end of January, citing intelligence reports.
Biden will reaffirm the United States’ support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, the U.S. source said. The exact timing of the call was not disclosed. The White House declined to comment.
The U.S. president on Friday said he and his advisers are preparing a comprehensive set of initiatives aimed at deterring Putin from an invasion. He did not give further details, but the Biden administration has discussed partnering with European allies to impose more sanctions on Russia.
Moscow accuses Kyiv of pursuing its own military build-up. It has dismissed as inflammatory suggestions that it is preparing for an attack on its southern neighbor and has defended its right to deploy troops on its own territory as it sees fit.
U.S. officials say they do not know yet what Putin’s intentions are, adding while intelligence points to preparations for a possible invasion of Ukraine, it is unclear whether a final decision to do so has been made.
U.S.-Russia relations have been deteriorating for years, notably with Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, its 2015 intervention in Syria and U.S. intelligence charges of meddling in the 2016 election won by now-former President Donald Trump.
But they have become more volatile in recent months.
The Biden administration has asked Moscow to crack down on ransomware and cyber crime attacks emanating from Russian soil, and in November charged https://www.reuters.com/technology/us-seizes-6-mln-ransom-payments-charge-ukrainian-over-cyberattack-cnn-2021-11-08 a Ukraine national and a Russian in one of the worst ransomware attacks against American targets.
Russia has repeatedly denied carrying out or tolerating cyber attacks.
The two leaders have had one face-to-face meeting since Biden took office in January, sitting down for talks in Geneva last June. They last talked by phone on July 9. Biden relishes direct talks with world leaders, seeing them as a way to lower tensions.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Russian Foreign Minister ” https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/blinken-urges-russias-lavrov-take-diplomatic-exit-ukraine-crisis-2021-12-02 Sergei Lavrov in Stockholm earlier this week that the United States and its European allies would impose “severe costs and consequences on Russia if it takes further aggressive action against Ukraine.”
(Additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt in WashingtonEditing by Heather Timmons and Alistair Bell)
Meet the recipients of the new Women in Politics scholarship – The Signal
Dalhousie award created to encourage more women to enter male dominated field
Having more women at the decision-making table is important for Claire Belliveau.
“If we have male dominated rooms, we’re going to have male dominated issues, as easy as that,” said Belliveau.
Belliveau, along with Charlotte Bourke, are the first recipients of the new Women in Politics scholarship at Dalhousie.
Belliveau is in her fourth year at Dalhousie, studying political science and law, justice and society. She has been involved in politics since she was 18, working for Environment Minister Tim Halman. Belliveau is the community outreach co-ordinator at Halman’s constituency office.
Being a young woman in politics has not always been easy for Belliveau. She recalls instances where people questioned her abilities due to her age and times when male peers would take credit for her ideas.
Despite these challenges, Belliveau has found support among other women in the field. One thing she found interesting was how women in politics support each other despite party alliance.
“It’s so nice to see how much these women want to see other women succeed, in a male dominated field,” she said.
Belliveau would like to pursue a career in government as an analyst, contributing to policy development in education and the environment.
Bourke is also a fourth-year political science student with an interest in environmental politics. Her main research interests are social and environmental policies and she is studying ways to create fairer climate adaptation plans.
Bourke is unsure about her plans after graduation, but she knows it will involve politics, social issues and the environment.
The scholarship serves to encourage, support and inspire young women in their political aspirations. It was established by Grace Evans and Sarah Dobson, co-authors of On Their Shoulders: The Women who Paved the Way in Nova Scotia Politics.
The book addresses the gender gap by showcasing the first and only 50 women at the time, to have served as MLAs in the province. The book highlights the importance of female representation in municipal politics and all proceeds go towards funding the new scholarship.
In 2021, women and gender-diverse people make up only 36 per cent of the legislative assembly in Nova Scotia.
Of 55 MLAs, 19 are women, one is gender-diverse and 35 are men.
“People often don’t want to enter a realm where they can’t see themselves reflected. I think it’s hard for young women to become interested in politics if they don’t see their peers there,” Evans said.
The scholarship will run for as long as there is funding. Every year, two students will be awarded $1,000 each.
“There’s not a lot of scholarships, to my knowledge, geared specifically towards poli sci students, let alone women in poli sci,” Bourke said.
Evans said they are looking to expand the scholarship beyond funding to create a network of people. She and Dobson have been working in politics for a few years and have made many connections they would like to share with the recipients.
Receiving the scholarship was rewarding for Bourke, who felt like all her hard work was being acknowledged.
“It’s kind of just like a relief and a push forward to be like, oh wow I am being recognized, this is really cool, people actually think that I’m good enough, or they actually want me here. It feels sort of welcoming,” she said.
Belliveau was honoured to receive a scholarship designed to encourage women, like herself, who want a career in politics.
“It was just really motivating, especially from Sarah and Grace, knowing how much they care about young women in politics, knowing how much they care about the history and seeing more young women join the field,” she said.
“They’re acknowledging how important it is to have those voices at the table.”
For both women, winning the scholarship has given them a boost of confidence.
Belliveau said it has pushed her to apply for other opportunities, something she hopes other young women in politics will be encouraged to do as well.
“Apply for every scholarship, apply for fellowships, apply for the jobs you don’t think you qualify for because … men are doing it and they get them all the time, so why shouldn’t you?” she said.
“So, take advantage of everything you can and just enjoy the ride, stand your ground and don’t be afraid to speak up.”
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Playing Politics With Democracy? – Forbes
On December 9 and 10, President Biden will host the first of two Summits for Democracy to “set forth an affirmative agenda for democratic renewal and to tackle the greatest threats faced by democracies today.” How do Americans see the threat to democracy in the US now? And do partisans see the health of our democracy differently?
In October, Grinnell College asked them this directly. Fifty-two percent said American democracy was under a very serious threat and 29% under a minor threat. Only 14% perceived no threat. Other polls with differently worded questions produce similar impressions of a democracy in need of serious rehabilitation. In a November poll, Monmouth University pollsters found that 8% thought the US system of government was basically sound and needed no improvement, 35% basically sound but needing some improvement, 26% not too sound and needing many improvements, and 30% not too sound and in need of significant changes. And a late October–early November poll of 18–29 year olds from Harvard’s Institute of Politics (IOP) finds that 7% of them describe US democracy as healthy, 27% somewhat functioning, 39% as in trouble, and 13% as failed.
In 2018, 2019, and again in 2021, Public Agenda, as part of the Daniel Yankelovich Democracy Initiative, asked people identical questions about democracy’s health. In the May 2021 poll, 14% said American democracy was doing well, 50% facing serious challenges but not in crisis, and 36% in crisis. The results were similar to their 2018 and 2019 polls.
In all of these new polls, Democrats were more positive about democracy’s health than were Republicans. In the 2021 Public Agenda survey, Democrats were less likely to see a crisis than Republicans, 25% to 48%. However, in their 2018 and 2019 polls taken during the Trump years, far more Democrats than Republicans said the system was in crisis. In the October 2021 Grinnell poll, 71% of Republicans compared to 35% of Democrats saw the threat as major. In the Monmouth poll, partisans in both parties thought improvements were necessary, but twice as many Republicans as Democrats (38% to 15%) said the system was not sound at all and needed significant changes. In the Harvard IOP poll, 18–29 year old Democrats were more optimistic about democracy, too. There is a clear disconnect between Democratic elites in the media and academia who regularly opine about a US democracy’s decline and the views of rank-and-file Democrats.
This pattern is reversed when we look at questions about the events of January 6 and subsequent investigations as the new edition of the AEI Polling Report shows. Democrats profess much more concern than Republicans about what happened that day and are more eager to see the work of the January 6 congressional committee continue. In a mid-October online Morning Consult/Politico poll, 81% of Democrats compared to 18% of Republicans approved of the special congressional committee to investigate the events that occurred at the US Capitol on January 6. And in a mid-October Quinnipiac University poll, 40% wanted to hear more, but 56% said enough was already known about what led to the storming of the Capitol. Fifty-nine percent of Democrats wanted to hear more compared to 22% of Republicans and 38% of independents. Still, it is significant that nearly four in 10 (38%) Democrats said enough is known already, indicating some fatigue with the investigation.
There are some obvious reasons Democrats would feel better about our democracy than Republicans. They control both chambers of Congress, there’s a Democrat in the White House, and expressing confidence in American democracy is a way of showing support for the party and the president as the polls above suggest. And Democrats will continue to hammer away at anything to do with Donald Trump.
The polls suggest that concerns about democracy have not diminished people’s willingness to participate in the system — at least in terms of voting. Eighty percent in the Grinnell poll said they would definitely vote in the 2024 election for president and other offices and only 7% said they probably would not. What’s more, 91% of Democrats and 88% of Republicans in the survey said that it was very important for the United States to remain a democracy. Five percent nationally said it was fairly important, 4% just somewhat, and 3% not important. When you care deeply about something as Americans do about democracy, you worry at its erosion. But today, this concern has a deep partisan overlay.
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