WBEZ | UN treaty http://www.wbez.org/tags/un-treaty Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Scientists See U.N. Climate Accord as a Good Start, but Just a Start http://www.wbez.org/news/scientists-see-un-climate-accord-good-start-just-start-114174 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/scientist-world_custom-bafdc96856408e56e032268b0ed9ae3a39f27d2b-s400-c85.jpg" style="height: 381px; width: 310px; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px; float: left;" title="Climate scientists who scrutinized the U.N. accord are urging citizens to keep a sharp eye on each nation's leaders to make sure they follow through on pledges to reduce emissions. (Simone Golob/Corbis)" />The United Nations climate summit is over, the weary diplomats have gone home, and now the historic&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/12/12/459464621/final-draft-of-world-climate-agreement-goes-to-a-vote-in-paris-saturday">deal</a>&nbsp;is being dissected by scientists.</p><p>Climate researchers&#39; dire&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2014/04/13/302541260/climate-change-adjustments-must-be-fast-and-large-u-n-panel-says">warnings</a>&nbsp;about global warming helped spur negotiators to draft this unprecedented international agreement, which commits both rich and poor countries to rein in greenhouse gas emissions in the coming decades.</p><p>Some scientists now say they feel relief that the world is finally taking climate change seriously.</p><p>&quot;The accord signals that the world really gets it,&quot; says<a href="http://www.mbl.edu/ecosystems/melillo/">Jerry Melillo</a>, who studies the impact of climate change with the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass. &quot;The world understands that climate change is a serious issue and, if left unchecked will have catastrophic consequences for society.&quot;</p><p>Melillo was particularly struck by the debate over whether to aim for a cap of 2 degrees Celsius in the average increase in global temperature, or to try to keep global warming lower &mdash; below 1.5 degrees Celsius. &quot;This says to me that the world understands that we have to do as much as possible, as soon as possible,&quot; he says.</p><p>But not everyone was so impressed by that debate over temperature targets.</p><p>&quot;There was a tremendous amount of discussion about [whether to have] a target of 1.5 degrees as opposed to 2 degrees,&#39;&quot; says&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cgd.ucar.edu/staff/trenbert/">Kevin Trenberth</a>, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. &quot;Without saying how you&#39;re going to achieve things, I think we will actually blow right through both of those things.&quot;</p><p>Trenberth suspects warming will exceed 2 degrees Celsius probably around 2060. &quot;And so the discussion actually becomes somewhat irrelevant,&quot; he says.</p><p>&quot;There are a lot of commitments, there are goals,&quot; Trenberth continues. &quot;But the things which are not addressed are how to achieve those goals. There is no mention of a carbon tax, there&#39;s no mention of any penalties if countries don&#39;t come through.&quot;</p><p><a href="https://www.princeton.edu/step/people/faculty/michael-oppenheimer/">Michael Oppenheimer</a>, an expert on climate change impacts at Princeton University, says this deal has the promise of moving the world forward, but that governments need to be watched.</p><p>&quot;There are no enforcement and compliance provisions in this agreement which would cause a government to quake at the fear of not meeting the commitments they made,&quot; Oppenheimer says. &quot;And furthermore, the so-called transparency provisions, which allow different governments to understand what other governments have done, are not yet themselves worked out enough so we can be sure we&#39;ll be able to see what road we&#39;re actually going down.&quot;</p><p>Now that the international deal is done, he says, whether it makes a difference will depend on thousands of decisions made in individual countries and inside corporations.</p><p>&quot;Even more important than the transparency provisions is that people who are concerned about climate change &mdash; leaders and average citizens in each country &mdash; focus like a laser beam on what their country is doing,&quot; says Oppenheimer.</p><p><a href="http://globalecology.stanford.edu/labs/caldeiralab/">Ken Caldeira</a>, at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, Calif., says the deal has great aspirations. But he thinks the real test will come five years from now, when countries have to report back on what they&#39;ve achieved and ramp up their ambitions.</p><p>&quot;If countries really do what they say they&#39;re going to do, it could make a real difference,&quot; Caldeira says. &quot;However, we have the experience of the Kyoto protocol, some 20-odd years ago, where countries promised to do a lot; and it was great words but nothing got done. I&#39;m a little cynical that countries will really do what they said they were going to do.&quot;</p><p>Still, he says, this is a landmark agreement. And others point out there&#39;s just no way one meeting could solve the entire climate problem.</p><p>&quot;I don&#39;t think it&#39;s fair to look at Paris and say, &#39;You should have done everything today,&#39; &quot; says&nbsp;<a href="http://www.geosc.psu.edu/academic-faculty/alley-richard">Richard Alley</a>, a geoscientist at Pennsylvania State University. &quot;And so the question is: Are we moving in the right direction? Is this a step on the journey that more steps can be taken and will get us there? And I think that it&nbsp;is&nbsp;that.&quot;</p><p>&quot;We now have a plan for moving forward, which I can tell you for sure is better than no plan at all,&quot; agrees&nbsp;<a href="http://campusdirectory.ucsc.edu/detail.php?type=people&amp;uid=kkroeker">Kristy Kroeker</a>, at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who studies the effect of climate change on the oceans.</p><p>&quot;Based on the science, I would say that we still have substantial risks ahead for large-scale impacts to our oceans,&quot; Kroeker adds. &quot;I think there is considerable work to be done to actually meet some of the targets. But I would say I am really tentatively hopeful that we&#39;re at a turning point for our planet.&quot;</p><p>&mdash;<a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/12/15/459693015/scientists-see-u-n-climate-accord-as-a-good-start-but-just-a-start?ft=nprml&amp;f=459693015" target="_blank"><em> via NPR</em></a></p></p> Tue, 15 Dec 2015 15:31:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/scientists-see-un-climate-accord-good-start-just-start-114174 The GOP votes against international disability accord http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2012-12/gop-votes-against-international-disability-accord-104204 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS5134_AP120317161830-scr.jpg" style="height: 220px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Former Sen. Rick Santorum was a leading voice behind the scenes against passage of an international treaty to protect the disabled. (AP)" /></div><p>In the midst of all the headlines about how the cold-hearted GOP won&rsquo;t pass a middle-class tax cut until the president agrees to a tax cut on the rich, on Tuesday the Senate came up short on the two-thirds vote required to ratify the <a href="http://www.un.org/disabilities/convention/conventionfull.shtml">Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities</a>, a United Nations treaty aimed at securing rights for disabled people around the world.</p><p>The vote was <a href="http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=112&amp;session=2&amp;vote=00219">61-38</a>,&nbsp;and all 38 votes against setting international standards to protect and accommodate the disabled were cast by Republicans.<br /><br />The treaty, based on the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act, is a non-binding international standard &mdash;&nbsp;as opposed to law or requirement &mdash;&nbsp;and demands <em>no change whatsoever</em> to U.S. law. The ADA, if you&#39;ll recall, was signed into law by GOP president George H.W. Bush in 1990, and was renewed by Barack Obama in 2009.<br /><br />This treaty has eight guiding principles: respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one&#39;s own choices; non-discrimination; full and effective participation and inclusion in society; respect for difference; equality of opportunity; accessibility; equality between men and women; respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities.<br /><br />Because the treaty is designed as an international agreement that must also accommodate the resources and abilities of its complying countries &mdash; many of whom, like Afghanistan and Uganda, don&rsquo;t necessarily have the money to do all they might want to do&nbsp;&mdash; it goes out of its way to ease compliance. For example, it only requires &ldquo;reasonable accommodation&rdquo; of the disabled, what the treaty calls &quot;necessary and appropriate modification and adjustments not imposing a disproportionate or undue burden.&quot;<br /><br />In fact, the treaty provides a great deal of flexibility to its signers. So much so that a number of countries &nbsp;&mdash; understanding that the treaty is in great part about <em>intent</em> &nbsp;&mdash; adopted it with exemptions and conditions. Both Malta and Poland interpreted the agreement without a right to abortion, in accordance with their constitutions; the Netherlands interpreted the right to medical treatment as also including the right to <em>refuse</em> medical treatment. And so on.</p><p><span style="font-size:16px;">Eight Republicans did vote for the treaty, including all three outgoing senators, plus John McCain, Susan Collins, John Barraso, the ever more independent Lisa Murkowski and that other presidential candidate in the wings, Kelly Ayotte.&nbsp;</span>So what was it that made 38 Republican senators, including all-but-announced presidential candidate Marco Rubio, vote against it? Here&rsquo;s an explanation from GOP Sen. <a href="http://thehill.com/blogs/global-affairs/un-treaties/270831-senate-rejects-un-treaty-for-disabled-rights-in-vote?tmpl=component&amp;page=">Mike Lee, who led the floor fight </a>against the treaty: &ldquo;I and many of my constituents who home-school or send their children to religious schools have justifiable doubt that a foreign body based in Geneva, Switzerland, should be deciding what is best for a child at home in Utah.&rdquo;<br /><br />Setting aside the ungrammatical use of &ldquo;I,&rdquo; who is Sen. Lee talking about? The UN is an international body based in New York.<br /><br />Sen. Lee&rsquo;s partner on the quest to defeat the treaty was former Republican senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum, the father of a special needs child, who&rsquo;s been <a href="http://www.theblaze.com/contributions/protecting-the-rights-of-parents-and-their-children/">crusading</a> since at least July on this issue.<br /><br />Their big complaint, besides fear of all things outside the Great 48, is anxiety that the treaty could somehow undermine parental rights over disabled children, especially those in home schools.<br /><br />But the treaty, which requires nothing and merely sets aspirational standards, does no such thing. And, even if it did, the U.S. Constitution&rsquo;s federal supremacy clause would trump any international agreement&rsquo;s particular clause.<br /><br />I shared the news of the treaty&rsquo;s defeat Tuesday on my Facebook page and my brother Mario responded with what I think is the best rejoinder to these very ignorant and shameless lawmakers: &ldquo;As a parent who homeschooled their kids, I&#39;m confident my kids would understand the phrase &lsquo;<em>nonbinding</em> treaty&rsquo; and know how to spot xenophobia.&rdquo;</p></p> Thu, 06 Dec 2012 08:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2012-12/gop-votes-against-international-disability-accord-104204