International politics, law, and negotiation are crazy things. They are essential for world-wide problems where without global commitment, we cannot likely achieve an outcome; but at the same time incredibly frustrating and more aspirational than proactive in trying to unite 197 nations to reach collective agreement on the right path forward.
And the “right” path for climate change negotiations is extraordinarily simple and extraordinarily complicated. Simple: we must stop greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) to limit our global temperature change to 1.5 degrees C. And complicated: developed nations, including the U.S., still heavily rely on GHG emissions and are responsible for the majority of historic emissions while developing nations are most at risk because of climate change impacts.
National politics around international treaties are legally complicated. For your two second international law 101: the president can only commit the nation to things under his authority and a full treaty requires a supermajority in the Senate. This forces President Biden – and President Obama in Paris – to negotiate what has previously been authorized as executive powers.
At the start of each Conference of the Parties (COP), we hear amazing calls for action and unity! We can imagine a future where we have acted to protect the planet, life, and our communities.
But as negotiations proceed new information saps that hope. Like the confirmation this year at COP26 that limiting us to a 1.5 degree C change may be out of reach. But this blog is not about despair, it is about action and hope. International politics must play a role in this fight for our future BUT it would be absurd to wait for international law to fix the problem for us – it will never happen. We must act.
Alaskans are used to taking action. We often work together as a community to fix problems. All it takes is a snowstorm to see Alaskans out helping other Alaskans. And we need Alaskans to stand together now. To insist on renewable energy solutions – which are accessible to us now! To vote for leaders who prioritize these vital changes. To demand more from our leaders.
And there are a million places you can start. You can start by composting, solarizing your house, or participating in your local electric utility elections. Or you can show up and ask the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to cancel the proposed oil and gas lease sale in Lower Cook Inlet. This carbon can stay safely underground and not reach our atmosphere! Today is Thursday the 18th – the last public hearing for the lease sale starts at 6:30 tonight – zoom in (info here)! Make your voice heard!!
But if you missed the chance to testify, you can take other action. You can sign our petition: inletkeeper.org/ls258! You can share our petition with friends (yes even friends from Outside! This is a federal lease sale). You can submit your own written comments here.
We know climate change is hurting Alaska and as Alaskans we can stand up to protect the places that we love and our communities. We cannot wait for a future COP to solve our problems but must take an active role in the solution.