Friday, December 14, 2007

The Bali is in our court now

It’s a bit ironic that a place with paradise-like scenery — blue lagoons, lush tropical forests, postcard ocean views— would be the backdrop for such dire warnings. But that’s the case on the Indonesian island of Bali this week, where representatives from more than 200 nations have gathered to find common ground in fighting climate change.

With more than 11,000 attendees, the United Nations Climate Change Conference is the largest U.N. climate change meeting ever held. Organizers are hoping the meeting will lead to a “political breakthrough.” Their goal is an international climate change agreement that includes the United States, China and India.

Bali attendees are also looking at ways to help people adapt and prepare for the effects of climate change with a particular focus of helping poorer countries cope with the effects of climate change. Another key issue is how to continue the work of the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the total greenhouse gas emissions of 40 industrialized nations grew to an all-time high in 2005.

Recently, Australia joined the more than 170 nations that have ratified the Kyoto Protocol. That leaves the world’s leading greenhouse gas emitter, the United States, as the only industrialized nation to oppose Kyoto. The United States does have representatives at the Bali meeting, but news reports have them fighting mandatory greenhouse gas cuts.

On a positive note, 15 members of the U.S. Senate wrote a letter to the UNFCCC executive secretary in December. They reported that “change is happening now, and even bigger changes are on the horizon.” The letter referred to a Dec. 5 vote to send the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act to the full Senate for consideration. The bill would greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electric power plants, manufacturing and transportation.

As public health workers, how can we help push the U.S. climate change movement forward?

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