Report from COP 24: United States Fails the World

This has been a difficult COP (Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) to attend.  Just before the conference there was an IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report which stated that the Paris goal of limiting global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius was insufficient to protect the planet and that we needed to keep global warming to significantly less than 1.5 degrees Celsius. The United States, Saudi Arabia and Russia, the three largest producers of oil, refused to “welcome” the report and moved to “note” it instead.

As Al Gore said today, they care more for their bottom line than the future of the planet.  It is probably the most unethical decision ever made in the history of the world. Knowing what we know, the vast majority of the world is doing all it can to mitigate climate change using various methods such as burying carbon dioxide underground as Norway has doing over the past 20 years, to moving quickly to power generation and storage that is completely free of fossil fuels.  All of this is within our grasp and much of the development of these new technologies are able to switch the globe from fossil fuel power to clean energy: solar, wind, etc. However, those nations and companies which have vested interests in perpetuating the planet-killing use of fossil fuels and continue to enjoy tax-payer subsides in the United States won’t forego their profits even at the expense of the future of the planet and future generations.

Multilateral action on climate change, as Al Gore said today, is the single most important moral decision of our time.  We either move quickly to address this existential threat of climate change or we consign the planet and all life on the planet to a living hell on earth (in the words of Al Gore this morning).  The science is clear to all. Only a handful of nations with vested interests in gaining just a few more years of profits from fossil fuels chose to deny what the rest of the world accepts.

Climate action is on the rise, but in the words of the president of COP 24, the action isn’t happening with the speed nor the scale to avoid great catastrophe.  This sentiment has been echoed by children, trade union representatives, representatives of indigenous peoples, business representatives and nearly every national representative at COP 24.  The task is urgent, and it needs maximum effort to avoid ever greater droughts, forest fires, hurricanes, and more. The lungs of the earth are our forests and we are losing our forests due to human destruction of forests on the scale of a football field size of forest every second, according to Al Gore.  If we want air to breath, we need to protect our forests. The keepers of our forests and water are the indigenous peoples of the planet. We need desperately to learn from them how to live more gently on our planet.

Bruce Knotts
Bruce Knotts
Bruce Knotts is the Director of the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office. He was born and raised in Southern California. He got his Bachelor’s Degree in History from Pepperdine University and his Master’s Degree in International Education from the Monterey Institute of International Studies; both in California. Bruce was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia. He worked for Raytheon in Saudi Arabia and on a World Bank contract in Somalia, before he joined the Department of State as a U.S. diplomat in 1984. In 2004, Bruce was elected to the Board of Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA). Bruce retired from the Foreign Service in 2007 and joined the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office as its Executive Director at the beginning of 2008.