Wednesday, November 20, 2013

We're #43!

We like to think of ourselves as world leaders. We like to think of America as #1 at everything a nation should aspire to. We like to think of this land of ours as "The Land of the Free & Home of the Brave".

So why should we be content with #43? Yes, believe it or not, the US is #43 on a list we ought to be ranked higher on.

Recently, there's been some good news when it comes to US greenhouse gas emissions: They're actually going down. The bad news, though, is that despite this progress, we still only rank 43rd in the world for the overall effectiveness of our climate policies.

That's the upshot of a new report by the Climate Action Network Europe and Germanwatch, a public policy think tank with offices in Bonn and Berlin. The two groups release an annual Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) to assess how much individual countries are contributing to the global carbon problem, and how much they're trying to do about it. The rankings include the globe's 58 leading countries for greenhouse gas emissions—countries that, together, account for 90 percent of the globe's carbon emissions from fossil energy use. Each country is assessed based its emissions trends, its energy efficiency, its progress on renewable energy, and its overall climate policies.

The US ranked 43rd last year and ranks 43rd this year as well, right between New Zealand and Croatia. We get particularly good marks for our 8-percent decrease in carbon emissions from energy sources in the last half decade, but we still fall well short of a stance that could be considered truly progressive or proactive on climate and energy. Still, if we want to gloat then it's easy to compare ourselves to our northern neighbor, Canada, which was "the worst performer of all industrialised countries" and only fared better than Iran, Kazakhstan, and Saudi Arabia.

Hooray, we beat Canada! And we beat Iran & Saudi Arabia! Isn't that awesome?!

Not really. Now yes, we've actually made some progress on tackling climate change. And now that President Obama's executive actions are kicking in, that should help some more.

But why are we still ranked so low? Here's a hint: Congress. Because the G-O-TEA run House and chronically logjammed Senate won't consider any climate legislation (except for stuff that would worsen the crisis), we have a major impediment to serious action on Capitol Hill.

Here in Nevada, we know all too well the promise of action... And the perils of inaction. And while we've seen some progress on the state level, we badly need more federal action to finally rise above #43... And rise to the occasion.

Are we willing to rise to this occasion? Are we ready to take on this challenge. We will need to be ready, willing, and able very soon. After all, it's not just about bragging rights (though come on, being #43 on this sucks). It's about our future survival.

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