It almost seems like there is a firewall between the urgency of the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and the pace of the climate treaty negotiations underway in Bonn, Germany, this week.
The two are very much intertwined.
A fair, legally binding and ambitious international climate treaty will have the long-term effect of reducing the chances of a major oil spill disaster like what we are witnessing in the Gulf by significantly reducing the need to drill for oil in the first place. Such a treaty would see the world move quickly to alternative ways of producing power, like wind, solar and geothermal, that do not use oil and other dirty fuels like oil, coal and nuclear.
After all, when is the last time you heard of a major "wind spill" from an offshore wind farm? Even if there was such a thing the worst you would get is a heavier than usual ocean breeze.
In response to the Gulf disaster, US President Obama announced earlier this week that he would urge Congress to end taxpayer subsidies to oil companies (estimated at around $35 billion annually) and put in place measures that will rapidly increase investments -- both private and public -- in renewable energy. The president stated that this transition to clean energy must happen quickly because "the next generation will not be held hostage to energy sources from the last century."
Whether it is climate change or oil spills, the solution is the same, and the urgency of the situation must be conveyed to our political leaders. The major ingredient that has been missing in the climate negotiations for quite some time now is political will. Our political leaders have said that reducing the worldwide use of fossil fuels is a priority, but so far their urgent words have not been turned into urgent action.
If 20,000 barrels of crude oil pumping uncontrollably into the pristine waters of the Gulf of Mexico is not enough to convince political leaders that an international effort to transition to clean energy sources is absolutely necessary, then I don't know what is.