Obama talks climate change in Indonesia

WASHINGTON — Climate change emerged as the top priority during President Barack Obama’s visit this week to Indonesia.

On Nov. 9, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced a new partnership with the U.S. to combat the threat of climate change, according to a White House press release. The U.S.-Indonesia partnership includes $136 million in U.S. funding, the bulk of which will be spent on climate change research and forest conservation. Another $7 million will go toward the establishment of a Climate Change Center in Indonesia that will link science to policy and set Indonesia’s priorities for climate change adaption and mitigation, according to media reports from Indonesia. The U.S. pledged another $10 million in funding for projects to protect peatlands.

Obama also offered his support for Norway’s pledge of up to $1 billion over the next seven to eight years to support Indonesia’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation. The Norway-Indonesia agreement was signed in May.

Climate change impacts in Indonesia worry security experts like Capt. Tim Gallaudet, director the U.S. Navy Climate Change Task Force. In a recent interview, Gallaudet said he was concerned that ocean acidification, caused by increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, could have a negative impact on fisheries in Indonesia, threatening food security and stability of the country. The low-lying island nation is threatened by rising sea levels, which cases erosion and flooding, and has also suffered from high levels of deforestation, which some climate experts say both contributes to and exacerbates the impacts of climate change.

Just before his arrival in Indonesia, Obama was in India, promising to work together on climate change mitigation. According to the White House, India Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Obama reaffirmed their countries’ commitments to “taking vigorous action to address climate change” through clean energy initiatives.

Obama’s climate change discussions overseas contrast with the conversations — or perhaps, lack thereof — on Capitol Hill, where the House now has a new class of climate skeptics. Environmentalists and climate scientists have been bracing for an attack since mid-term elections last week, when a largely climate-skeptic Republican Party took control of the House.

The Center for American Progress Action Fund found that nearly all Republican candidates in congressional and gubernatorial races disputed the science on global warming, and none supported measures to mitigate it, reported in a recent article in The Washington Post. Moreover, questions abound whether Republicans will shut down the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, which was launched by Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and to bring attention to climate issues. Ranking GOP members have already made threats about investigating the EPA and climate science.

The GOP’s midterm victory effectively ends the two-year effort to pass sweeping climate legislation. Meanwhile, the U.S. appears dedicated to spending hundreds of millions to combat climate change in nations half a world away.


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