Category Archives: #SaveMiami

Life Over Death


One of the speakers at COP27 here in Egypt yesterday, Seychelles President Wavel Ramkalawan, made me think of the day a few years ago when I had the honor to speak to the General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters in New York City and was joined on stage by an amazing group of children from all over the world. Some of those children with me on stage that day came from the Republic of Seychelles, a remote island country located in the Western Indian Ocean 1,500 miles off the coast of Africa.

“Like other islands, our contribution in the destruction of the planet is minimal. Yet we suffer the most.”

Wavel John Charles Ramkalawan
Seychelles President


Seychelles is one of earth’s absolute natural wonders with breathtaking, untarnished environments on and around its 115 islands. The residents there know the value of their natural environment and prove their dedication by implementing laws to protect nearly half of their entire country from any sort of development. Unfortunately, their thoughtful protections aside, Seychelles has a dire problem because 90% of its 100,000 residents live in three coastal communities which have an average elevation of only about 2 meters (6.5 or so feet). Folks there have lived along the water’s edge for as long as man has occupied Seychelles because the ocean is how they feed their families. Today Seychelles’ entire economy is dependent on the water as a fishery, a tourist destination, and as a port of call. And just like special places all over South Florida where I am from (places like the Florida Keys, Miami Beach, and the Everglades), these communities in Seychelles are at risk of becoming submerged from rising seas caused by a climate crisis that its residents played nearly no role in creating.

Small and large communities all over the world are using this year’s COP27 meeting here in Egypt to voice their concern over being subjected to the impact of our climate crisis but not having caused it in any material way, as compared to industrialized nations such as the United States, China, the European Union, and others. In some cases, those small, often poor, and developing nations that cause little of the world’s pollution are calling for climate-oriented reparations for what the United Nations is calling their ongoing “loss and damage.”

“This COP27 gathering offers us an opportunity to either make history or, if you like, be the victim of history. Those that pollute the most should pay the most in order to get our planet off this track of climate crisis”

Macky Sall
President of Senegal
Chairman, African Union

In fact, COP27 began this week with news of a diplomatic agreement to officially make the discussion about climate-oriented reparations part of this year’s Conference. Developing countries have been asking to debate climate reparations since 1991 when the tiny island nation of Vanuata first publicly questioned who should pay for the climate catastrophe. In fact, it’s likely that one of the biggest stories from this year’s conference will be the news that this topic will be officially discussed and debated. Ultimately, the agreement to discuss climate reparations here at COP27 centers on what the United Nations calls “cooperation and facilitation,” rather than actual “liability and damage compensation” as smaller nations were demanding. The hope here at COP27 amongst those advocating a discussion on climate reparations is to have decisions on “loss and damage,” as it’s called, by 2024. And I, for one, for now think that that’s a wise decision.

Developed nations, and that most certainly includes the United States, have not made nearly enough progress towards the transition from a fossil fuel-based economy to one based on sustainable energy, nor in reducing its carbon output. In fact, the lack of progress in the United States is nothing short of pathetic. Shameful even. So, if we are to ever fix the climate crisis, we have a great deal of work to do, work that will be costly, and it needs to happen much faster than has been the case thus far.

But just as our renowned space agency, NASA, has led exploration amongst the stars, America must lead the world towards eliminating every possible drop of fossil fuel use as soon as absolutely possible. And it is my belief that if the United States truly makes solving our climate crisis a priority by both government and industry, we will not only transition our economy to one fueled by sustainable energy but that the world will follow America’s lead.

And the world’s nations working together will be absolutely critical when one considers the annual estimated cost per year to transition to sustainable energy is estimated to be between $4 and $6 Trillion over the next decade or so. And, speaking of the cost and challenges, consider the report published this past summer by Professor Aviel Verbruggen, an energy and environmental economist from the University of Antwerp in Belgium, who used data from the World Bank to estimate that the oil and gas industry produce an estimated profit of $2.8 Billion per day.

“These profits have enabled the fossil fuel industry to combat all efforts to switch our energy systems. We have to dismantle such profit seeking systems and build our future based on accessible and distributed renewable energy that is more sustainable and democratic in every way.”

May Boeve

“Loss and damage” topics must, most certainly, be addressed one day soon but today our key priority needs to be making significant progress in transitioning our global energy system to one based on sustainable sources in places like the United States. The stakes, as Vice President Gore said this week while here in Egypt, are truly life over death.

The Controversy of COP27 in Egypt & Why I Am Here


As I wrote in my blog post yesterday, the United Nations global climate meeting, known as COP27, that I am attending this week in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, marks the first time that the conference has been conducted in the Middle East. After 26 prior such meetings, including last year’s in Scotland, the 2015 conference in France that produced the famous Paris Agreement, and another 24 other prior sites, 2022 is the first time a Middle Eastern country has hosted these vital global meetings. The region’s impact on global fossil fuel production is historic by any measure. But this year’s COP in Egypt is not without extreme controversy including boycotts and debate all over the world. lot of controversy in fact. Before I address the controversy, as well as explain why I feel it’s important to be here, I think it’s useful to consider this region’s role in the global energy industry and most especially petroleum (fossil fuel) production.Image processed by CodeCarvings Piczard ### FREE Community Edition ### on 2017-11-21 14:19:10Z | |

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Egypt was the 26th largest producer of fossil fuels as measured by barrels of oil produced per day (560,942) in 2021. Egypt’s immediate and well-known neighbor, OPEC member Saudi Arabia, whose mainland is a mere 17 miles across the Red Sea’s Strait of Tiran from my hotel room, ranked as the world’s third largest producer at around 9,313,145 barrels per day in 2021 (the United States, by the way, is the largest at an estimated 11,184,870 barrels followed by Russia at about 10,111,830).

And speaking of OPEC (the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries), next year’s COP28 will take place in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), an OPEC member since 1967. Although Egypt is not an OPEC member, its proximity to so many others in the region and on this continent that are members would seem to me to send a message that the world is bringing its concerns about the product they produce to the very place it is produced. OPEC produces about 40% of the world’s crude oil and exports about 60% of the total petroleum that’s traded internationally. What’s that saying about keeping your “enemies” close?

And let’s think about where COP is located this year (and next) and then consider the OPEC member nations (Algeria, Angola, Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela). Heck, only Venezuela, located in South America, is not in either the Middle East or on the African continent. So occasionally bringing the “fight,” so to speak, to at least some of these places could be productive and therefore is wise in my view.

And while some might, I suppose, debate the value of even holding the United Nations global climate conference in places that produce the product doing so much of the damage to our environment or even the very value of COP meetings in the first place, those issues are not the essence of the controversy concerning Egypt or the boycotts taking place by some environmental groups or activists.

No, the core concerns at the center of the controversy relate largely to Egyptian governmental leaders and their policies related to free speech, human rights, academic and journalistic expression, its estimated 60,000 political prisoners, as well as the idea that it is “greenwashing” itself as an ecological leader through positive public relations by hosting the event and not allowing public protest. The U.S. State Department even has a list of what our country calls “significant” human rights concerns with Egypt including extrajudicial killings by the government, arbitrary or unlawful killings, forced disappearances by state security, torture, and poor conditions in the country’s prisons.

These are serious concerns for certain that cannot be condoned. But do we avoid working to advance our transition towards sustainability by not attending such talks as COP27 here in Egypt as some activists have suggested because we have rightful concerns over a host country’s government? Or because a country has little to no tolerance for public protest designed to capture media attention? While I wish we could demand that host countries adequately address each of these concerns, the reality is that we have no choice but to take every possible opportunity to find global solutions to our climate crisis before it’s too late. One of our best such chances to advance these discussions as it stands today are the COP meetings like this one.

As I’ve said many times, we will only ever solve our global climate crisis by working together.

All of us.

That’s within our schools, communities, states, and country, as well as of course with other countries all around the world. The reality is that our energy system, sources, and global economy is interconnected. That’s why President Biden will be here. It’s why Chinese President Xi Jinping is coming to COP27, and, yes, it’s why Russian President Putin will be in Egypt. People and countries in the latter two examples are ones that we obviously don’t always agree with and whose social justice policies range from questionable to criminal, but they will be here because only together do we solve this incredibly complicated problem.

Boycotting the only global climate discussion that exists on the planet is not the smart thing to do for our planet at a time when we are running out of time to evolve the world’s energy system to sustainable solutions.


That’s why I am here. To listen and learn. To find common ground. To progress the hard policy work that so often does not capture headlines but will be key to fixing what’s broken. And most certainly to find ways to accelerate the transition that’s needed to solve the most significant challenge my generation will ever face during our time here on earth, our climate crisis.

COP27: Sharm el-Sheikh Day

My first trip to the Middle East has been a long one, but I finally arrived to Sharm el-Sheikh yesterday and could not be more excited, nor proud, to participate. Leaving Miami on Friday night I first traveled for nearly nine hours to London and then it was off to Cairo, Egypt’s capital, on a five-hour fight. Sunday morning I awoke early and flew from Cairo into Sharm el-Sheikh, an Egyptian city located on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula on the Red Sea. All in all, the trip took about 35 hours from Miami including layovers, but I’ve arrived in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt (which means “Bay of the Sheikh” in Egyptian and is also known as the “City of Peace” given the many peace conferences held here over the decades) and today, Monday, I have been fully immersed in COP27.

And speaking of firsts, this is the very first ever COP that’s taking place in the Middle East. Given this region’s impact on fossil fuel production, having a COP here (or, for that matter, having next year’s return to the Middle East by being in the UAE) is a very important step in my view to transitioning our energy systems from fossils to sustainable solutions.


This year’s event will be held at the International Convention Center (SHICC), which is one of the largest conference centers in the Middle East and Africa. And having a large site is important given the scale of COP as the world comes together to discuss our climate crisis.


This year’s conference will include:

  • Over 2,000 speakers
  • More than 35,000 participants including what are called Representatives of Parties to the Convention and Observer States, members of the media, Representatives of various organizations and members of the public.
  • 300 climate-oriented topics
  • 150,000 square meters of meeting space

My day yesterday was centered on traveling from Cairo to “Sharm,” as the locals call this city, checking into my hotel, and then the Conference, obtaining my official identification (I’m here as what’s called an Observer, in this case via my affiliation with the University of Miami where I attend graduate school) and visiting the SHICC where the convention is being held.

Given the seven-hour time difference between Sharm and Miami I am writing this post on Monday morning local time. Allow me to just end by saying to my youngest readers that if a kid from Miami like myself can have an impact on a topic she’s passionate about that takes her around the world, then so can you. I will be thinking about you and our mutual future a lot this week and will be hoping that as many of you as possible will find a way to be at next year’s COP28 meeting in the United Arab Emirates to voice your concerns with the world like I plan to do here in Egypt this week.

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