December 03, 2007

Ist es nicht schon zu spät?

The headline is from today's Frankfurter Allgemeine. Is it not already too late?, it asks. Accompanying the front page story are many full color pictures about Klimatforschung, providing detail on global warming patterns in anticipation of the Bali conference on climate change, beginning today.

From the front page of today's Le Monde: "On ne pouvait envoyer un signal plus positif : lundi 3 décembre, le jour même de l'ouverture à Bali (Indonésie) de la conférence des Nations unies sur le changement climatique, le nouveau premier ministre australien, Kevin Rudd, a annoncé que son pays ratifiait le protocole de Kyoto." I rely here upon a rusty French first learned in Dwinelle Hall 41 years ago: "One could not envision a more powerful signal: on Monday, 3 December, the same day as the beginning of the United Nations Bali Conference on climate change, the new premier of Australia, Kevin Rudd, announced that his country ratified the Kyoto Protocol."

You will not find anything on the front pages of the New York Times or the Washington Post about the Bali conference. Although the latest IPCC report confirms that scientists have probably underestimated the speed of global warming, and that mankind may have as little as three years to implement heavy-duty changes to avert serious consequences, the American media are still entranced with the mental problems of Britney Spears. To the extent I can follow along with the German article, the data and analysis presented are of a technical quality which presuppose an educated and numerate reading public. This presumption, of course, makes sense in a country where the president is a theoretical physicist.

I consult the foreign press because it reassures me that someone, somewhere, is taking the problem seriously and endeavoring to do something about it. The Bush Administration has dug itself such a deep hole on climate change that its attendance at these conferences is now simply about warding off the most damning accusations by fainthearted references to half-baked measures which Bush claims to have taken. We have now achieved sole possession of the International Pariah Trophy, given to that industrialized country with its head inserted the farthest up its ass. With Australia's nod toward reason and decency, we are now the only advanced nation on the face of the earth which has failed to cooperate internationally.

So take heart, my fellow Americans. Other adults, in other countries with more mature values and with more concern for their lineal descendants, are trying hard to overcome American resistance to enlightenment. We are officially a "work-around" at this point, a speed bump on the path of progress. Do what you can locally; California, for example, is cited favorably by delegations at the conference, as if it were a separate country from Bushland, which, in every way but legally and constitutionally, it probably is.

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