Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Global Challenge of Climate Change

Featured Speakers: James Greene, Office of Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE); William Mansfield, United Nations Environment Program; Ned Stowe, Friends Committee on National Legislation.

Moderator: Paul Joffe, International Affairs, National Wildlife Federation

Moderator Paul Joffe introduced the panel and gave a brief background of global climate change and the complex politics that finding a solution entails. The amount of carbon in the atmosphere has been steadily rising since the beginning of global industrialization, and this has been the most significant cause of rising global temperatures. Because carbon remains in the atmosphere for over a hundred years after its release, it is imperative that we immediately reduce emissions, particularly in the United States (4% of the global population but over 25% of carbon emissions). According to Joffe, the problem in finding an immediate solution will be merging domestic and international issues to find one global plan.

Next, James Greene discussed the current situation with energy and climate change legislation on Capitol Hill. Curbing climate change is a delicate issue because any reduction in carbon emissions would hurt many US industries. Greene noted that though the US has been successful nationally in slowing down growth in carbon output, on an international scale, this gain has been canceled out by emissions growth in China, Korea, Brazil, India, and Mexico. He was followed by William Mansfield, who discussed the United Nations’ role in climate change policy. The UN has been involved with both the science and policy of climate change, and the current Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-Moon, has listed climate change as one of his top three priorities.

Last to speak was Ned Stowe, who focused on the specific energy bill that is currently in the Senate, S1419. If passed, it will increase spending on biofuels, set corporate gas mileage standards, promote appliance efficiency, increase leadership by the federal government, and possibly set standards for renewable energy and energy efficiency.The main message of the panel was that any global consensus on climate change will take forward-thinking politicians and the work of international organizations like the United Nations.

Sponsor: UNA – Washington Council of Organizations
Location: Friends Committee on National Legislation
Date: June 12, 2007
Time: 12:30 – 2PM
Approximate Number of Attendees: 25
Intern Attending: Peter Laidlaw

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