February 16, 2011 marked the sixth anniversary of the day that the Kyoto Protocol became the law of the land in 141 countries, not including the United States. Now, nearly 200 nations have pledged to abide by international rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Despite America’s national discourse about Kyoto, there is indisputable proof that the efforts of these countries are succeeding. In 2008, the signatory parties to the Kyoto Protocol reduced their collective greenhouse gas emissions by 6.3% below 1990 levels. In contrast, the United States’ carbon footprint in 2008 was 16% higher than 1990.
As we consider the lessons learned during this Kyoto era, it is important to reflect on two global trends during the first decade of the new millennium. The first trend is that global warming is not going away. Last year was the hottest year in recorded history and 10 of the warmest average global temperatures have occurred in the past 12 years. In December of 2010, the arctic sea ice cover was the lowest on record, having lost a mass of ice larger than Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Nevada combined.
The second trend is urbanization. For the first time in human history, a majority of Earth’s inhabitants now live in cities, and by mid-century, more than two-thirds of our human population will be urban dwellers.
If we are to succeed in slowing down global warming, we cannot wait for Congress to join the international effort. We need to take the climate change movement directly to our cities, and begin to build, from the ground up, the innovation necessary to meet this global challenge.
If we are to succeed in slowing down global warming, we cannot wait for Congress to join the international effort. We need to take the climate change movement directly to our cities, and begin to build, from the ground up, the innovation necessary to meet this global challenge. This is the vision of New Energy Cities.
Another leader in this municipal strategy for carbon reduction, former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, shares his reflections in the Seattle Times on February 20, 2011.