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UN Climate Change Convention Begins Today, Tar Sands and Fracking Protests Continue

Take a deep breath (unless you’re outdoors some place like “America’s energy sacrifice zone,” on the Gulf Coast — more on that later), and take in the rather lengthy description of what begins today, in Doha, Qatar: the 18th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, including the 8th session of the Conference of the Parties who serve as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol. Representatives from 194 nations are attending. Visit the Conference site here

At EcoWatch, Molly Bergen talks with Rebecca Chacko, Conservation International’s (CI) senior director of climate policy, about 7 Things You Need to Know, which begins: (emphasis added)

1. What is the overall goal of the U.N. climate meetings?
The goal of the UNFCCC is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in order to avoid dangerous levels of climate change, which means limiting global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius at the most.

If nations in Doha don’t make the necessary commitments, this goal may soon be out of our reach. A new World Bank report warns that we are currently on track for a 4-degree increase in temperature, which would mean devastating consequences for people and ecosystems. We are talking about the most basic components of life on Earth–where we can live, the food we eat, the water we drink, our economic well-being and our ability to survive, let alone live happy, healthy lives.

The conference focuses on multiple aspects of climate change. Chacko said that, “A lot of CI’s focus will be on deforestation.” Fossil fuels are, of course, another major contributor to environmental pollution. The conference runs to December 7. Hopefully two weeks will give attendees time to make some progress on, I note, what’s still referred to as a “framework.”

Meanwhile, in the U.S., climate / environmental change actions continue, including related to fracking and tar sands. One shared point: these actions are not just occurring in rural and low population areas (not that it’s any better when they do). For example, from EcoWatch: (emphasis added)

Fracking on College Campuses Increases Nationwide

The oil and gas industry plans frack on college campuses in Pennsylvania, just as it currently does in close proximity to K-12 schools nationwide.

But as National Public Radio (NPR) demonstrated in a recent report, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

‘More than a dozen schools in states as varied as Texas, Montana, Ohio and West Virginia are already tapping natural resources on college campuses,’ the report explains. ‘The University of Southern Indiana recently started pumping oil.’

The Tar Sands Blockade also continues to include a focus on those living in, for example, Manchester, Texas, a Houston neighborhood.

Tar Sands Blockade has been thinking about the recipients on the end on the pipeline quite a lot lately. To that end, we’ve been visiting the Houston neighborhood of Manchester, which is nestled firmly against the toxic Valero refinery to where much of the tar sands to be carried through TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline will flow to be refined and then exported. …

Valero Energy Corp’s refinery emits life threatening poisons and pollutants that directly impact Manchester residents. Valero fills the air, water, and land in and around the community with toxic chemicals linked to terrible rates of cancers, asthma, and lung and skin ailments, with the full knowledge that the impacts of its pollutants will disproportionately affect the people of Manchester. With a nearly 90% Latino population, this is an obvious example of environmental racism. …

Manchester is completely surrounded by industry. To the north and east is the Valero refinery with the Lyondell-Bassal refinery to the southeast, Texas Petro-Chemicals plant to the south, a Rhodia chemical plant and a trash shredding facility to the west, a wastewater treatment facility to the east, a Goodyear Tire plant to the southeast, along with the Interstate 610 overpass bisecting the community and an industrial rail yard forming the community’s southern perimeter. …

On a daily basis there are at least eight identified known human carcinogens in the air. Acrolein, chromium V1, diesel particulates, formaldehyde, benzene, chlorine, 1, 3-butadiene, and hexamethylene diisocyanate are just a few of the dangerous chemicals entering people’s lungs every day.

The Blockaders point out the “not in my backyard” mentality which makes it easier, at least for some, to ignore the realities of neighborhoods like Manchester.

Most Americans are ignorant of this type of behavior by Gulf Coast refineries like Valero, allowing for those who are conveniently out of sight and out of mind to suffer at the hands of a lawless industry and the corrupt regulators that continually look the other way.

All of this adds up to the common perception that the Gulf Coast is America’s energy sacrifice zone.

Most people, of course, won’t attend the UN Climate Change Convention, or live in an “energy sacrifice zone.” Maybe if those of us not paying attention would stick our heads in tar sands we’d be forced to see the daily realities of life in places like Manchester, and what the climate change future holds for all of us.

(Doha 2012 UN Climate Change Convention Logo via CCC
Tar Sands / Manchester photo via Tar Sands Blockade)

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