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Putting America on a Carbon Diet

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As we watch the U.N. Conference on Climate Change in Poznan, Poland this week, it's clear that the world is waiting for the U.S. to lead on climate change. We're proud that President-elect Barack Obama has promised bold leadership on climate change and has already announced that he agrees with the world's leading scientists that the U.S. must cut our polluting carbon emissions at least 80% by 2050.

That's good news. And yet, yesterday China and India called the President-elect's goals "inadequate" to fight global warming. 1Sky and its hundreds of allies are urging the incoming Obama administration to lead by setting more ambitious short-term targets for cutting the emission of greenhouse gases that are in line with the science. 1Sky is a national campaign that is building the political power necessary to deliver solutions to the climate crisis. Climate activists worldwide, which now include 1Sky's 250 organizational allies, 3,200 small businesses, and more than 100,000 individuals, wish the President-elect's promise to create 5 million new jobs in this country (a direct embrace of the 1Sky Solutions) through energy efficiency and investments in solar, wind, and advanced biofuels was enough to stop global warming. Indeed, the green jobs initiative is a bold step in the right direction, but it is only a part of the solution.

The incoming administration's short-term goals of achieving 1990 emissions levels by 2020 need to be better. The Nobel-prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said clearly that developed countries like the United States must achieve at least 25-40% reductions from 1990 levels by 2020, which is more than twice the lift proposed by Barack Obama. The European Union representatives at Poznan are seeking commitments by developed countries, like themselves and including the United States, to reduce their collective emissions to 30% below 1990 levels by 2020.

According to the global consensus among scientists, the short-term targets that have been floated by the Obama administration thus far -- to get emissions down to 1990 levels by 2020 -- do not get us far enough fast enough. The United States can be compared with a seriously overweight man. Until he changes his lifestyle and gets down to a safe weight, he is at a substantially increased risk for heart attack or stroke. The planet is in its danger zone because we have gorged on fossil fuels. We are starting to see signs of real trouble: melting ice caps, and rapidly spreading drought.

We need to start a carbon diet, and not let the United States reach for that donut. Delaying serious short-term cuts in carbon emissions is like saying we will start our diet next January. Why not this January? Better yet, why not today? Losing a few pounds in a few years probably will not keep the fat man out of the cemetery, and incremental cuts are definitely not enough to save the planet.

It may seem as though we are expecting too much from our President-elect -- or that we want a perfect world. We know there are competing causes from health care to the critically ailing economy. But President-elect Obama understands as well as we do that a clean energy future is the answer to our economic crisis, and our national security. We urge the President-elect to listen to scientists who can describe what has happened to the Earth's atmosphere while two oil men ran the country. We need to make up for lost time. The United States should have been cutting emissions and getting serious about developing clean energy eight years ago. In the long run, saving our children from climate mishaps due to warming will save taxpayer dollars. How much more will we spend on health care and rebuilding if we do not prevent a Katrina-strength hurricane or a Tsunami-type tidal wave?

As Al Gore and the Reality campaign allies said so well today: In order for the U.S. to lead on climate change, President-elect Obama must be able to tell the world that the United States is done building coal-fired power plants.

Climate activists all over the country are organizing in their congressional districts to help the incoming administration and Congress meet these demanding goals. 1Sky is working with hundreds of organizations from schools to churches in every state across the country to build the political will to back politicians when they make the right decision to reject oil and coal industry lobbyists' arguments and embrace the scientifically accepted solutions to the climate challenge.

We urge President-elect Obama and Congress to:

  • Create 5 million new green jobs and pathways out of poverty focused on climate solutions like energy efficiency, and embrace a 100% renewable energy future;

  • Reduce global warming pollution at least 25% below 1990 levels by 2020 and at least 80% below 1990 levels by 2050;

  • Impose a moratorium on new coal plants that emit global-warming pollution and end our dependence on oil through strong standards and incentives for energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Join 1Sky and our allies in holding the incoming administration to a higher standard and ask them to listen to scientists on climate change solutions. Visit for more information.