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The terrible price of inconsistency | News day

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So there you have it: aluminum foil wrapped around tree trunks.

Not just any tree trunk; they were majestic giant redwoods in California. And not just any foil; they were huge aluminum-based blankets used to protect homes – and now trees – from flames.

Redwoods have been in the way of two of California’s devastating wildfires. They are among the largest and oldest living things on the planet. Some are over 3,000 years old, a staggering number, and they climb to over 200 feet. Walking among them silenced. Watching breeds reverence.

The Amerindians call them the Elders. People prayed for their survival and mourned their passing.

No wonder the urge to preserve them was so strong.

But this battle to save the sequoias – largely successful so far – has become another fortifying data point among many that take stock of global warming on Earth.

The war on climate change – waged unevenly within and between countries – was reinforced a bit by two news items last week. President Joe Biden has pledged to double the nation’s pledge to $ 11.4 billion to a fund that helps developing countries deal with climate change. And Chinese President Xi Jingping has said his country, by far the world’s biggest supporter of coal-fired power plants, will no longer finance such constructions abroad.

Nice steps, but caveats should be noted. Biden needs the approval of a divided Congress, and Xi has presented no timetable or said anything about building coal-fired power plants in his own country, a huge source of greenhouse gases.

The actions of the world’s two largest issuers were supposed to be adrenaline rushes for the upcoming United Nations climate change conference in Scotland on November 1-2. The rally is awash in doubt over the world’s ability to meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping warming 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. After all, a recent UN report that analyzed the commitments made by all countries on climate change to date found that temperatures would rise catastrophically yet another 2.7 degrees Celsius by the end of the year. century. Biden and Xi’s moves, if they come to fruition, would move the needle a bit.

Inconsistencies abound.

West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, founder of coal companies who has benefited greatly from these investments, will shape climate change legislation in his party’s $ 3.5 trillion budget bill as chairman of the Senate Energy Committee. He says phasing out fossil fuels will not “clean up the global climate,” but make it worse. But he does support planting trees to suck some carbon out of the air. Thank God.

Elsewhere, the leader of the Social Democratic Party leading the polls in Sunday’s German election is proposing to tackle global warming by setting a national speed limit – of 81 mph. The commitments of many countries to achieve net zero emissions do not call for any real reduction in emissions, only offsets.

Meanwhile, the southwest is experiencing an epic 22-year drought, the final year of which was the worst on record. Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico are facing reductions in water allocations from the Colorado River, which supplies 40 million people. The Atlantic Ocean continues to spawn tropical storms – like Ida, by no means a monster when it reached the northeast, but strong enough to kill dozens and stun the region with its destructive floods. And fires continue to burn everywhere.

If we continue to procrastinate, we will need a lot more paper.

Columnist Michael Dobie’s opinions are his.