Recent Guardian coverage

This story in the Guardian portrays China and India as stonewalling in current climate negotiations, with the US putting on the pressure to secure firm carbon reduction commitments. The crucial context has been excised, of course: true, Obama has promised an (inadequate) 80% cut by 2050; but at the moment, the only legislation the US has actually passed – the Waxman-Markey Bill – hit such a wall of political opposition from fossil fuel industry-subsidised politicians, including many Democrats, that it has been almost entirely neutered. As Nicholas Stern noted in his talk at LSE yesterday, the Bill now commits the US to bring its emissions to around where they were in 1990 by 2020. From the country with the greatest historical responsibility for the problem bar none, this is beyond weak. And it means that any pressure placed on the developing world has no force whatsoever. The US will not lead by example. As Stern put it, the real nub of the problem in getting an agreement lies in the developed world – not India and China.

The paper produced a similar distortion on the 15 September, claiming that “The US distanced itself from Kyoto under President Bush because it made no demands on China”. Pardon? In fact, the underlying attitude was rather less flattering. As Peter Singer recalls:

“Asked whether the President would call on drivers to sharply reduce their fuel consumption, the White House Press Secretary replied: “That’s a big no. The President believes that it’s an American way of life, and that it should be the goal of policy-makers to protect the American way of life.

The American way of life is a blessed one.””

Bush may well have used China as a cheap excuse for doing what he had every intention of doing anyway. But why should a mainstream newspaper – let alone what is supposed to be Britain’s leading left-wing paper – be giving him the benefit of the doubt?

The paper also repeats a UNEP claim that “[t]he Arctic could be in summer ice-free as soon as 2030 rather than 2100”. That estimate could itself be too conservative, however. Some scientists have predicted much sooner, much steeper declines. For details on this – and why it has huge implications (extending well beyond cute polar bears and lucrative shipping routes) – check out the Public Interest Research Centre’s Climate Safety report.

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