Barack Obama and Climate Change

Elio Delgado Legon

Barack Obama observing climate change issues. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES — Barack Obama has become the first US president to have shown a degree of concern over the present and future effects of climate change and has advanced a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions which has promoted numerous reactions at home and abroad.

Internally, several Republican politicians are saying Obama’s plan is impossible to implement and are announcing they will vote against it in Congress. These are the kinds of backward stances that have till now prevented the United States from assuming a responsible position on the matter, as would befit the largest economy in the world and the country that is polluting the atmosphere the most. They have also prevented the United States from signing the Kyoto protocol and from committing to any of the measures proposed at summits on climate change organized by the UN.

Obama will go down in history as the first US president to have attempted to do something regarding carbon dioxide emissions. However, Obama has only 17 months left as president, such that, even if the plan were to be approved, it would need to be implemented by subsequent administrations. In the more than six and a half years since taking office, he has done nothing in connection with the issue. That is to say, he has wasted far too much time, at a time when the impact of climate change is rapidly growing.

On the other hand, the plan proposed by Obama calls for a gradual 32 percent reduction of CO2 emissions until 2030, but with respect to emissions in 2005. Why does it not suggest a reduction with respect to current emissions? The explanation is very simple: in 2005, the economic crisis still hadn’t reared its ugly head and CO2 emissions were 17 percent higher than they are today, as a result of the crisis. That is to say, over the next 15 years, emissions will be reduced by a mere 15 percent with respect to current levels.

Supposing it is approved by Congress and US administrations over the next 14 years can actually implement it, Obama’s plan still comes a little too late. Climate change is no longer something awaiting us in the near future, it is here and, as of now, we will begin to feel its effects more intensely every year.

When the Kyoto Protocol was signed 18 years ago, we still had time to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the chief culprits behind climate change. The United States, however, refused to sign it.

Then Cuban President Fidel Castro warned of the dangers facing the human species if we didn’t take timely action. In June of 1992, during the UN Conference on the Environment and Development, he stated: “An important biological species is at risk of disappearing as a result of the rapid and progressive destruction of its natural living conditions: humanity.”

At the time, some may have thought the Cuban president was exaggerating and they didn’t heed his warnings, as they should have, for Fidel Castro has never said anything without prior thought. When he speaks of such a critical scenario, it is because he has studied it previously, reading the opinions of numerous scientists from around the world, who have been warning us about the problem for many years.

It’s been more than 20 years since Fidel Castro issued that warning, and nothing has been done to reduce the risks since. The risks have in fact grown and it is now too late to launch the shy greenhouse emission reduction plans now proposed. Either we undertake an ambitious, general and worldwide plan controlled by the UN that is binding, or the generations to come will have the sad experience of seeing how life on the planet comes to an end.

10 thoughts on “Barack Obama and Climate Change

  • OK, time to move on. I continue to assert that Fidel was not the first to speak out on this subject, not even on the floor of the UN Assembly. Quite a few Presidents endorsed the establishment of the IPCC four years before Fidel drones on about it in 1992.

  • Moses, sit down please; I don’t want you falling over with emotion here: I admit I oversold my point on the size of the coral reefs in Cuba, you were right and the Meso American is the largest but the Cuban is the clean one, pristine in fact for lack of pollution and overfishing which was the point of the argument.
    No, you do not pull semantics or interpretive meaning to try to trip me up, one old man to another. You “jumped the gun” when you said my misstatements had been exposed. Nowhere did I limit pollution to the territorial confines of the USA in my initial statement but to the USA, and that’s in fact what it is; no USA money, no chemical plant in Paraguay.
    This was my original statement 6 days ago: “Also, your country may not be territorially the #1 polluter in quantity, but all emissions from the USA Capitalist Ventures around the world, such as Union Carbide of Bhopal fame, plus those emissions from the territorial USA combined top the charts.” It is there to make perfectly clear what I mean when I say the USA is the world’s # 1 polluter, which is correct.

    “Take the lead” can be interpreted in a literal (yours) or a figurative
    manner (mine) quite correctly. Yours assumes that “take the lead”
    means “take away from” as in “The #3 horse took the lead in final
    sprint.”, here a former leader is implied.
    But mine puts no such restrictions on “take the lead” as in “the #3 horse took the lead right away”. Here the meaning is simply to be the first. No other “World Leader” before Fidel stood up in front of the whole UN Assembly and spoke up for the environment, no misstatement here either.
    In Summary: I made one half of a misstatement on the length of Cuban Reef System and give you credit for correcting the size but nothing on the issue of the cleanest condition which is the very point I was making about the lack of pollution in Cuba. Everything else I said has been upheld against your High School debating society twists, turns, maneuvers, strategies, tactics, embellishments and all.
    Have a good day!

  • First Paragraph: The late British Prime Minister Disraeli once said when presented by an opposition member of Parliament with a long list of raw statistical figures, such as yours:

    “There are Lies, then there are Damned Lies, and then there are Statistics”.
    Did you know that 100% of all Heroin addicts started on Mother’s milk or formula?

    96% of Cuban energy derived from Non-renewable resources (coal, oil, gas) amounts to very, very, very little in comparison to the 88% in the USA; furthermore the reason Cuba does not have access or is able to afford the latest technology in energy production from renewable sources such as wind, solar and tidal, is the poverty and the restrictions on trade imposed by the Blockade.

    Cuba built a comprehensive system of 80 mini dams/reservoirs around the Island in the1980’s, it provided hydro-power, water and fish to many communities in the interior but it was unable to be maintained properly after the demise of the Soviets. The drying trend of the climate and continuous episodes of drought in the last 20 years has severely affected their power output. Cuba also has a solar power program for remote and isolated communities, which was run by a good friend until 6/7 years ago.
    Second Paragraph: “Given a change, most Cubans…” is the absolutely dumbest truism I have heard in a long time! How about every single person in the whole wide world would love to have a car, except those for which there are no roads and those privileged few that live in Developed Countries and have first-class public transportation systems available and an environmental consciousness. But the truth is most people in the Third World, Cuba included, cannot afford a car or its maintenance whatever changes occur in Cuba’s economy in the next 20-30 years are not going to change that fact. There will never be the incredible car per capita ratio of the USA nor the total output of car emissions of the whole Cuban car fleet when compared to the USA’s, there is just no comparison.
    Most if not all of Cuba’s railroad system was USA made and unable to be maintained by reason of the Blockade. I was a Carman for CP Rail in Ontario and know a lot more than you do about maintenance of rolling stock (railroad cars). No parts, no rolling; same with the locomotives. Beyond that, all the thousands of kms. of sugar mill railroad lines in Cuba were built with a narrower gage track so that it would only be accessible to the mills and not to the National Railroad System.
    In Summary these are asinine questions you are asking, CO2 emissions from José Martí to Havana are infinitesimal when compared with the same stretch of road from any USA city of comparable size; we import oil from Venezuela because it is available to us and our USA/Russian systems were made to run on it, so blame us for the legacy you left behind and to which we are obliged.

    Recycling in Cuba has reached the level of religion, nothing is ever thrown out and if broken beyond repair, usable parts are cannibalized. Look at our famous “almendrones” (USA cars from the 1930’s to the 50’s most of them now running with Moscovitch/Lada/Volga parts; same with telephones and other ancient technologies still in use. People save even plastic bags and use them for all kinds of duties beyond their intended use such as rain-gear and handy ties…How can can you be so wrong?

    You really did not think this one through very well when you decided to jump in with both feet firmly planted in your mouth; every single thing you’ve said here is simply ridiculous, a total inversion of reality. But then you gave me an opportunity to completely counter every one of your false statements/statistics/truisms/platitudes/conjectures and exposed them for what they are: BS.

  • So now you change your story AGAIN? Because the Mexican reef is not “clean”, it’s not the biggest reef? Who says that? Gimme a break! Just admit that you oversold your point. What do you mean by “take the lead”? That implies that someone had the “lead” and Fidel replaced him. If so, you make my point! The idiom “jumped the gun” means that I started to soon. As in a sprint race. How does that apply here? I get it that English is not your first language but you should try to stick to the facts and not try to embellish your comment to strengthen your position. It ain’t working.

  • Cuba contributes relatively little to climate change. This, however, is by default rather than design. Given the change Cuba would be a major polluter. A little Internet search tells us that in Cuba 4% of energy production is from renewable energies, in the USA it is about 12%.

    It is a well known fact that the USA is addicted to the car. Given a change most Cuban would love to do the same. The disgrace of public transport in Cuba is discouraging. Cuba had railways before Spain and let everything go to waste.

    In summary, it is one thing for Cuban leaders to shout and criticise quite another to miss a trick. Where is the decent public transport link between Jose Marti International Airport and Havana? The taxis running between the two are a major and unnecessary source of CO2 emission. Perhaps a quick buck is more important than matching words on climate change with actions. Why send doctors in exchange for fossil fuel from Venezuela and not a little bit for the development of renewable energy sources in Cuba? The saviour of the Cuban government, Hugo Chavez was another unconvincing climate change critic while never ceasing to fuel global capitalism and the destruction of the planet. Venezuela has huge potential with water but failed to divest from oil.

    What about the lack of recycling all over Cuba? When Cuba entered into a partnership with Labatt Brewing Co. proper recycling went out of the window in favour of a throw-away culture. Go to Baracoa, ‘la perla de Cuba’ and cry over the filth at its coastline.

    Measured against his deeds on climate change rather than his loud words I find Fidel Castro utterly wanting.

  • No, it’s explanatory because it’s USA Money that is the leader in destroying our environment.

    The Meso American Barrier Reef is in very bad shape, chopped up into pieces by pollution, it no longer forms a continuous, living structure even though the dead coral is still in place: it’s no longer the largest and definitely not anywhere near as clean as Cuba’s

    The “world leaders” (Do you know who?) may have convened a conference in 1979 and that conference formed the IPCC and called upon the UN to call a convention, etc… these are all undisputed facts, but it took Fidel to take the lead as he has so many times. USA Presidents and Harper have fought tooth and nail to delay and block international attempts at limiting indu$trial pollution; Did the USA sign the Tokyo Accord? NO! What about Harper (Canadian Prime Minister) NO!
    Gee, it looks like you jumped the gun again Moses, at least I don’t ask you to put down the crack pipe or call you a “Black…fascist”, but I do get pissed off from time to time with you, I imagine it’s the same there. Just Remember: Sticks and Stones May Hurt My Bones, But Words Will Never Hurt Me”. Repeat this as a Mantra and you will live a very happy life.

  • What has been exposed is your misstatements about the US as the #1 polluter. Your attempt to recast your statement is noted. Now, you have erred again. Your claim that Cuba has the largest coral reef in the Caribbean is wrong. The Mesoamerican Reef which lies within the Caribbean Sea and touches the coasts of Mexico, Belize,Guatemala and Honduras contains the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere, stretching nearly 700 miles from the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula down through the Honduran Bay Islands. With regards to climate change, as early as 1979, world leaders convened the first World Climate Conference. This led to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) set up in 1988. The United Nations General Assembly, in 1990, began negotiations on a framework convention which took place in 1992 when Fidel finally jumped on the bandwagon. He was far from the first world leader to acknowledge this issue. Please stop the ad hominem attacks an focus on your verifying your facts.

  • Of course you are, you have trouble conceiving anything positive about Cuba or Fidel and suspect any positive source of such information to the point of imagining conspiracy and outright fraud; that is simply called a Negative Obsession with Paranoid tendencies, in your case surely beyond the Neurotic threshold. Fidel did address this issue at the UN in 1992, the first head of State to do so at this highest international level and way before it was popular, particularly among Venture Capitalists who still scoff at environmental issues and at ANYTHING at ALL that stands between them and their plans for exploitation.
    Also, your country may not be territorially the #1 polluter in quantity, but all emissions from the USA Capitalist Ventures around the world, such as Union Carbide of Bhopal fame, plus those emissions from the territorial USA combined top the charts. Furthermore, the toxicity of all these U$A emissions, while internally curtailed somewhat by an uneven patchwork of “swiss cheese” laws, different in each State of the Union, and by very new, very few Federal regulations and guidelines (Obama is the first USA President to try to pass Fed Law limiting the emissions of CO2), are not so controlled in most countries where USA money is financing the destruction and contamination of the environment and the People.
    Lack of massive industrial pollution in Cuba has saved such treasures as our coral reefs, the largest and most pristine in the Caribbean/Gulf of Mexico. The establishment of National Parks and Protected Areas all over the Island, strict environmental laws and extensive studies have succeeded in renewing, preserving and protecting our flora and fauna both on land and in the ocean much better than anyplace in the hemisphere.
    Now explain why do you think either I or any other intelligent reader is going to accept your dismissal of don Elio’s Article as simply “tired and inaccurate praise”. That particular Fidel Speech was HISTORIC, let me rub it in your face a bit more, please; and your attempts at twisting, downgrading, negating and criticizing every single one of our many accomplishments under the Revolutionary Government of Fidel and Raúl Castro has again been exposed and disposed of in the trash bin of history (well, kind of, with a very small h…).

  • I am having trouble believing that 80-plus year
    old Elio wrote this post himself. Nonetheless, is it an investigatve error or
    is Elio’s well -documented anti-US bias showing when he inaccurately writes that
    the US is, “the country that is polluting the atmosphere the most.”? According to the UN, that dubious distinction
    belongs to China who was the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide; the country
    accounted for around 23.4 percent of global CO2 emissions last year. Elio is
    again mistaken when he writes about Obama’s effort to slow if not reverse the
    effects of global warming that “he has done nothing in connection with the
    issue.” On the contrary, he has done more than any previous US President. While
    that isn’t saying much, Obama began his battle for the environment way back in
    2009 after his less than ideal participation in the Copenhagan Climate Change
    conference. Elio also parrots the tired and inaccurate praise of Fidel’s speech
    to the UN in 1992. Environmentalists and world leaders have long warned of the perils
    of air and water pollution since at least the early 1960s. Elio should stick to his waxing nostalgic about his days as a youth 57 years ago in Castro’s revolution. At least then, when he gets his facts wrong, no one still alive notices.

  • For some reason, I don’t believe that 80+ year old Fidelista, Elio, actually wrote this post himself. Nonetheless, is it simply an investigation error or is this Elio’s anti-US politics showing when he inaccurately alleges that the US is the world’s worst polluter. The truth is China andIndia, which have seen unprecedented growth in the past decade, have the highest levels of carbon dioxide emission.

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