Reading the NY Times this morning after the long weekend, I was immediately struck by two stories that seem to encapsulate the lay of the land in the lead up to the climate negotiations in Copenhagen. Spoiler alert: the message will be that we need to get in gear. But I’m going to keep driving that home.
First story, Yukio Hatoyama, the presumptive PM of Japan, according to the NY Times headline, has repeated his campaign pledge to cut emissions from 1990 levels by 25 percent in the next decade, a major commitment given the lack of action by others. One small caveat, it’s contingent on commitments from other major polluters — less than completely helpful. Nevertheless, you have to respect his flying in the face of a government report that said such a reduction could lead to the loss of 90 million jobs in Japan at a time when it’s suffering through a tough recession.
Now let’s leave the land of conditional commitments and climate politics where the argument is largely academic at this point and start getting real. Second story, with a crushing headline: “Lush Land Dries Up, Withering Kenya’s Hopes.” I imagine you can imagine where this is going. A wrath-of-God-level drought is sweeping Kenya, “killing livestock, crops, and children.” WFP has said that 4 million need food and that “red lights are flashing across the country.” This is wrecking the two main industries in Kenya, agriculture and tourism — big game is “keeling over from hunger” — which, of course, inflames an already fragile political situation. This article goes into greater detail about the devastation and makes a more explicit connection to climate change, but I think you get the picture.