Wednesday, December 2, 2009

South Dakotans urge US action on climate change

Local Leaders and Groups Ask President Obama to Stand Strong Against Climate Change on International Stage

Sioux Falls Event is Part of Nationwide Week of Action to Call for Fair, Ambitious and Binding International Deal

December 2, 2009
Contact: Zachary Keith; 321-356-6603;

Sioux Falls, SD - Speakers representing 1Sky South Dakota, The Will Steger Foundation, Operation FREE, and the South Dakota Future Society today (Wednesday) said President Obama should “fight for a fair, ambitious, and binding international treaty on climate change” when he attends the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark on Dec. 9.

“President Obama can use his international prestige to be the driving force behind true progress on climate change,” said Zachary Keith. “The rest of the world will follow if America leads and President Obama campaigned – and won – on a platform of domestic and international leadership to fight climate change.”

The press conference was among more than 30 1Sky events nationwide this week. The events were designed to push the Obama administration to take a strong stance in Copenhagen, where representatives of most world nations will gather starting on Dec. 7 to discuss an international treaty to stop the greenhouse gas pollution that causes global warming.

The Will Steger Foundation and Stonyfield Farms have launched Expedition Copenhagen to send 10 US Midwest youth delegates to the UN Climate Change Conference. Augustana student Jamie Horter will travel later this week to the conference as a representative for the foundation from South Dakota.

“Without strong climate legislation, youth will inherit an unhealthier, expensive future due to increased pollution and environmental degradation” Horter said.

Through their policy platform, Expedition Copenhagen delegates will attend sessions on mitigation, forests, climate technology, and equity to provide a voice for the Midwest. They will send information regarding UN decisions back to Midwestern media during the conference. The Copenhagen conference is expected to run from December 7-19.

Representing Iraqi and Afghan war vets who are members of Operation Free, Sioux Falls resident Eric Gage said climate change represents what American military and intelligence agencies call “a force multiplier threat” to national security. He said the United States receives a large share of its oil from “hostile regions and unstable governments” which can be controlled by America’s enemies. Climate change-related flooding, drought and famine in underdeveloped nations “opens up the opportunity for terrorist recruitment,” Gage said, noting “desperate people will do desperate things.”

“You hear of families selling children,” he said. “It’s not uncommon for someone to take a couple hundred dollars to plant a roadside bomb just to feed their family.”

Sioux Falls businessman and educator Tom Kilian said world leaders, corporations and scientists have known for a long time that greenhouse gases were a growing threat to the climate. He said other than measurements showing too much carbon is in the air, signs of climate change include disappearing ice sheets and glaciers, a steady increase in average ocean temperature and the disappearance of coral reefs, oyster beds and other marine life.

Kilian, a longtime member of the South Dakota Future Society, said people are skeptical, particularly in South Dakota, but he said strong leadership is needed to create a transition to a clean energy economy to lower the emissions created by humans.

1Sky and other groups dedicated to fighting climate change are calling for a fair, ambitious and binding treaty and warning that failure to generate an effective, working agreement soon could have negative consequences for the globe, which is already suffering from the effects of climate change.

Specifically 1Sky is calling on the Obama administration to:

- Push for stronger action on short term targets for greenhouse gas emission cuts than the 17 percent currently offered by the United States since 17 percent is simply not enough to stave off the worst effects of global warming.

- Acknowledge a degree of U.S. responsibility for climate change by making financial investments in the transition.

- Use the Copenhagen trip to pressure the U.S. Senate to build the political will to pass a strong bill in the Senate this spring.

“Unfortunately the planet cannot wait,” said 1Sky Campaign Director Gillian Caldwell. “We need to see serious progress in Copenhagen and from the United States Senate over the next few months. The economic benefits to acting are very clear and the result of no action is also, unfortunately, very clear.

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