Kerry has been cruising on a six-stop Asian road trip, the last stop of which was Indonesia. He’s on a tear against devastating climate change, with curbing carbon emission as his short-term focus. I looked at a few articles, and both covered the basics: the biggest emitters are China, then US, then Indonesia & Indonesia is in deep quite literally as rising sea level, inherent to climate change, threatens to wreck their fishing industry.
I think this news item is extremely important, but sadly there is little development past “talk” since I first started reading about cap and trade versus taxing of carbon emissions over three years ago. High-ups talk and attend environmentally focused summits and conferences—or not attend in Obama’s case, who missed the Cancun and Rio summits—but as far as legislation that will actually combat or curb climate change, it is almost impossible to see it at a global level especially after our president has shown disinterest.
The Voice of America article is a poignant hard news example of how coverage itself can cause discouragement to interested parties since there isn’t much to say. It was an important overview, but blasé nonetheless. Its dryness drew me to a sentence about a joint statement released by Kerry and the Chinese president: “the need for what they call urgent action to fight climate change and to work together to cut greenhouse gas emissions.”
This generality, this “action to fight,” is just as uninformative as other claims about climate change measures ruminating in the political world. There is story after story about devastation from hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis, but there hasn’t been footing for actual legislation because it involves messing with money—it involves prioritizing and allocation of resources.
I just don’t believe environment is high on the agenda considering Obama’s inaction and the fact that Republicans are arguing climate change isn’t real. Both VOA and The New York Times said Kerry pointed out that 97 percent of scientists say human activity is changing the climate. We are so past differentiating between fact and fiction! As a nation, how can we hope to shape global measures if our politics are so divided on an empirical issue.
The VOA article is an example of how mass media frames issues of great importance with the progress they make politically—if you want to actually be educated and encouraged about what is actually going on to curb or prevent climate control you are better off reading monthly magazines that will give you a detailed picture of the active community. (Rolling Stone had an excellent group of stories a couple years ago in an issue that looked at the particular companies and individuals involved as voices for the environment).
The Times article was provided more of an analysis. Kerry focusing on Indonesia and saying the U.S. wouldn’t be effective on our own could seem hypocritical considering we just cut clean energy in our recent budget. Yet the article makes some keen points: If developing nations actually develop, an increasing population will have increasing dependence on energy—everyone will be driving cars and accessing elective power. Indonesia’s largest emissions come from deforestation—why not build a decrease in other carbon emission now before “its growing population depends increasingly on cheap electricity from coal-fired power plants.”
Both articles stressed how huge and impactful climate change is, pointing out that Kerry likened it to a weapon of mass destruction. And the Times mentioned that he was gung-ho on pointing out the “economic stake” developing countries had in confronting the issue, which I think is a great approach to take when trying to promote policy. All this is positive.
But what made The Times article more informative for me was the specifics it went into about the initiative Kerry hoped to share with Indonesia: “reduce emissions from heavy-duty vehicles, to promote improved technology for power grids and carbon capture, to collect and manage greenhouse gas data and to make buildings more energy efficient. A senior State Department official said the statement was noteworthy because it had been agreed on by “the two biggest emitters.”
It’s not that I haven’t read these vague, big-picture claims of “efficiency,” but that now they have been made into an event put at some sort of forefront, and we know what to watch for in the newspapers and magazines. Or it could all fall flat like the Syria talks…