Two Brothers and a Birthright
Like Jacob and Esau reuniting after twenty years apart, President Obama and Chinese President Xi met in California last week for two days of informal talks in an effort to reduce tensions between the two countries and discuss issues of mutual concern. While Sino-American relations had not escalated to the level of the biblical story of the birthright and the soup, the allegations of hacking and cyber-attacking that had been flying as well as China’s vested interest in the controversial Keystone XL pipeline had left the relationship between these two leaders somewhat tense.
The two-day getaway was intended to be low-key and relatively informal compared to other state visits to provide an atmosphere for the two leaders to discuss issues of shared concern. Between discussions on North Korea and cybersecurity, the leaders made time to talk about climate change. Notably the two agreed to cut down the production of hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs.
HFCs, sometimes referred to as “super greenhouse gasses,” are byproducts of industrial manufacturing and are often used in refrigeration and air conditioning. They are about 3,830 times more potent than CO2. HFC use is rising at a rate of 15% a year; however, completely eliminating their use would be equivalent to removing two years worth of all other greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere. Not a bad stepping-stone to a broader agreement on climate change!
While the U.S. is still one of the major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, China has become the single largest emitter. China’s historic reluctance to negotiate on carbon emissions out of fear of curtailing its economic growth has been a major obstacle to establishing a major international agreement on climate change. However, there are signs that this may be changing.
Despite not seeing much progress in congress, we have hope that President Obama will start to push more aggressively on climate change and finally ensure we are fulfilling our scared commandment to till and tend the Earth (Genesis 2:15). However, it would be nice to see a happy ending to the Jacob and Esau story that involves the U.S. and China agreeing to significantly curb greenhouse gas emissions. After all, the planet is the birthright both these brothers will pass down to the next generation, and it would be nice for it to be in good condition when they do.
Image Courtesy of ABC News 7, San Francisco.