Administrator’s note: It’s increasingly obvious that despite the gravity of the global ecological crisis, few governments are undertaking anything approaching the actions that might prevent catastrophe. In this article, Adam Parsons makes clear the gap between the form and level of economic change needed to address climate change and the reality of the inaction we see today. Yet he sounds a hopeful note in observing the potential for global warming to become the issue which finally prompts a new examination and restructuring of the global, market based economic system.
Adam is the editor of London based Share the World’s Resources (STWR), an NGO campaigning for global economic and social justice based upon the principle of sharing. He can be reached at: editor [at] stwr [dot] net. — JF
By Adam W. Parsons:
As the latest summit to discuss a post-Kyoto treaty continues in New York this week, the single most revealing statement has already been spoken: “We need to climate-proof economic growth”. These few words, told to reporters by the UN’s top climate official, Yvo de Boer, during the recent Vienna round of talks, define the blinded establishment approach to tackling climate change. Only if continued trade liberalisation and corporate profits are kept sacrosanct, remains the assumption, is it possible to consider even a broad agreement on future cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions.
With dire weather events and studies being reported on an almost daily basis, fewer sceptics are able to dismiss the reality of dangerous climate change. In the same week as around 1,000 diplomats, scientists, business leaders and environmental activists from 158 countries attended the U.N.’s Vienna Climate Change Talks, a top security think-tank stated that climate change could have global security implications “on a par with nuclear war unless urgent action is taken”, whilst leading scientists warned of a looming “global food crisis” that will require more food to be produced over the next 50 years than has been produced during the past 10,000 years combined.
The rapidity of these dystopian predictions has grown to Faustian proportions; the year 2007 already has the dubious accolade of witnessing the most extreme weather events on record, as characterised by the millions of Africans just hit by some of the worst floods in a generation in which villagers were “wiped off the map”. This summer, the collapse of the Arctic ice cap (losing a third of its ice since measurements began 30 years ago and “stunning” experts) was topped off by the latest UN study from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) who now believe that the tipping point for widespread catastrophe – involving a two degrees rise in global temperatures – is “very unlikely” to be avoided.
Common sense would presume that the resulting questions for policymakers, long since removed from a debate on man’s culpability, must inevitably focus on how to achieve a wholesale reorganisation of society to drastically decrease fossil fuel use, curb excessive consumption, and reform the global economic framework to ensure that all countries can live sustainably within ecological limits. The collective government response to date, however, makes it seem like the countless thousands of lives being destroyed by flash floods, famines and desertification are living in a parallel world to the business-as-usual dealings of multinational corporations.
The stalemate reached during the Vienna talks reiterates the ongoing blindness to climate change reality demonstrated by government leaders. China, which continues to open up two coal-fired power plants a week, refuses to cut emissions if it means sacrificing economic growth, compared with the US senior climate negotiator who said that the E.U.’s goal of slashing emissions to half of 1990 levels by 2050 would “be a very tough target to meet” – even though the IPCC determine that an 80 percent reduction in ‘global’ greenhouse-gas emissions is needed before 2050.
At the same time as Japan, Switzerland, New Zealand, Canada and Russia all argued that the level of emissions cuts required should “be kept open”, a Worldwatch Institute report was released that showed more wood was removed from forests in 2005 than ever before, more steel and aluminium was produced in 2006 than in previous world records, and inconceivable billions of tonnes of fossil fuels and oil are increasingly being consumed. The more urgent and fundamental question, therefore, is what factors continue to drive this one way ticket towards ecological disaster, and what social measures really need to be taken if cataclysmic global warming is to be forestalled?
Limits to Growth
The framing of this basic enquiry into environmental sustainability can be traced back to a report published in 1972 that forecast the imminent collapse of life on earth and resulted in an outrage amongst economic thinkers. Limits to Growth, written by leading scientists from the then unknown Club of Rome, used crude mathematical models to project future resource depletion that have long since been discredited, even if it’s essential repudiation of the modern belief in economic growth as “a kind of law of nature” is more relevant today than when it was first published. The observational problem, outlined the report, is that the planet has limited resources and a finite carrying capacity, while the demands placed on it by a growth-dependent economy and the grossly materialistic lifestyles it engenders are insatiable. For this reason, the belief that free trade will lead “to a natural order of things” is catastrophically mistaken, it argued, as there are in fact “no laws of economic ordination” because economics “is not really a science but a set of theories,” and because the ‘Invisible Hand’ of the market does not actually exist.
This challenge to orthodox thinking on development was further underlined by the respected economist E. F. Schumacher who penned the classic discourse, Small is Beautiful, a year later in 1973. As the world economy began to reel from oil price shocks, Schumacher’s eloquent and prophetic writings scorned the materialist assumption that ‘growth is good’ and ‘bigger is better’, and instead argued that natural resources like fossil fuels should not be treated as expendable ‘income’ but rather as capital owing to their non-renewability and eventual depletion.
Often called the ‘philosophy of enoughness’, Schumacher was one of the first economists to question if Gross National Product could sufficiently measure human well-being, concluding with the damning verdict that “modern man has built a system of production that ravishes nature and a type of society that mutilates man. If only there were more and more wealth, everything else, it is thought, would fall into place.” Upon his advice that governments must respect nature’s “tolerance margins” and first prioritise sustainable development, the only answer to solving “the problem of production”, he said, is to first “thoroughly understand the problem and begin to see the possibility of evolving a new life-style, with new methods of production and new patterns of consumption: a life-style designed for permanence.”
These questions of ‘green’ or ‘ecological economics’ may not be anything new, as furthered by other important studies contradicting the blind reliance on economic growth such as For the Common Good (1989) by Daly and Cobb, but the sheer simplicity and common sense of the sustainability conundrum demands constant repetition. The established economic system steadfastly refuses to acknowledge planetary limits, flatly ignores the inevitability of an eventual end to the growth cycle, and fails to recognise that a system based on the amoral concerns of resource allocation has created a world of such unimaginable inequalities that millions of people over-consume to the point of obesity, whilst millions of others are left to die without access to adequate food.
Government leaders, far from contemplating the prognostic warnings of Limits to Growth, have charged in the opposite direction by unleashing a “veritable crusade of economic expansionism” with the prevailing neo-liberal policies followed since the 1980s. The result is a contradiction at the heart of the market economy that literally threatens human life; by maximising trade for its own sake, without questioning the greenhouse-gas emissions brought about by the phenomenal rise in transport that free trade demands, we are placed on a collision course with the limits of social and environmental tolerance.
As set out in a report by the New Economics Foundation during the early years of the Kyoto Protocol, the simple logic of growth and trade liberalisation conflicts with attempts to control climate change. At a time when leading scientists estimated that a 90 percent cut in greenhouse-gas emissions is required from the rich nations by 2030, international trade was forecasted to grow exponentially by 70 percent during the period of the Kyoto Protocol until 2012, yet the agreement failed to include any emissions from freight in its ‘right to pollute’ measures of cap-and-trade. According to recent studies, CO2 emissions from shipping – which are twice as much as airlines and not even covered by the Kyoto accord – are not only far higher than previously thought, but could rise by as much as 75 percent in the next 15 to 20 years if world trade continues to grow and no action is taken.
This ‘blind spot’ about freight, argued the NEF report, has led to a double failure; firstly in appreciating the real environmental impacts of rising freight movements, and secondly in the failure to remotely introduce the necessary policies to shift freight onto a sustainable path. When the World Bank published a report in 2000 called The Quality of Growth, nowhere did they explain how ‘clean growth’ could be achieved globally while simultaneously reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by the drastic amount recommended by the IPCC. It constitutes an underlying conflict of interest that has yet to be debated at the highest levels of government, let alone resolved; do we prioritise the relentless opening of a country’s borders to international competition and the unrestrained movement of goods and services, or do we cooperatively manage the global economy to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions?
‘Ships Passing in the Night’
According to the logic of neo-liberal economics, it is perfectly acceptable for thousands of lorries and ships to be ‘passing in the night’, carrying almost identical goods or with produce that could be produced locally, without consideration of the environmental impact of needlessly burning fuel. The UK, to give a small example, exports one-and-a-half thousand tonnes of fresh potatoes to Germany each year, and imports practically the same amount from the same country, a practice of ecologically wasteful trade that is not only repeated with every material product made, but is endlessly encouraged by the values of a purely capitalistic financial system.
Similar pernicious examples could be repeated ad infinitum, as in recent studies that show how deforestation – which added 5,000 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere between 1989 and 1995 without even mentioning the profoundly deleterious effect on essential oxygen production from trees – is perversely encouraged by the values of economic globalisation and now threatens to annihilate some 60 percent of all species. As succinctly concluded by the NEF; “To build the global economy on the foundations of fuel-intensive international trade and consumption is to build a castle on shifting and treacherous sand.”
The predominant market-based approaches to tackling climate change, not least the carbon cap-and-trade schemes endorsed by the Kyoto Protocol, are equally a part of the central problem owing to their implicit approval of unlimited economic expansion. As argued extensively by alternative and green economists, it is markets that “got us into this crisis in the first place” and now it is markets, somewhat sardonically, that are touted as the only solution, as reflected in the conclusion of the Stern Review that climate change is the “greatest market failure the world has seen”.
Free-market proposals like carbon-trading, advocated by a growing list of prominent economists, high-profile politicians and ‘green NGOs’ (including Sir Nicholas Stern, World Bank chief economist Larry Summers, Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill Richardson, Eliot Spitzer, and not least Bill Clinton and Al Gore who both quipped that “the invisible hand has a green thumb”) are not only deficient measures that give the illusion that suitable action is being taken, but are also prolonging the environmental crisis by creating new market opportunities for corporate profits and by delaying investment into renewable energies.
Commodification and overconsumption
The act of commodification at the heart of offset schemes assigns a financial value to the impetus that someone may feel to take climate action,” reports the Carbon Trade Watch, “and neatly transforms this potential to bring about change into another market transaction. There is then no urgent need for people to question the underlying assumptions about the nature of the social and economic structures that brought about climate change in the first place.” By turning nature into a ‘market’, in other words, attention is temporarily diverted from the reality that “today’s ecological problems are related to a system of global inequality that demands ecological destruction as a necessary condition of its existence.”
The clearly sane response to the emergency of global warming is for all developed nations to considerably reduce their levels of consumption, but this platitude will remain a fantasy until the inherent inequities of the world economy are first addressed. Only then, coupled with an international acceptance of the need to drastically limit the quantity of fossil fuels being extracted and burnt from the earth, can a workable framework for climate change mitigation be meaningfully discussed.
The evidence so far, judged in the context of a continuing “great global coal rush”, is that such an admittance is still critically ignored; China, who remains reluctant to cut any CO2 emissions if it means sacrificing economic growth, has doubled its annual coal production in six years; India will construct more than 100 coal-fired plants over the next decade; US power corporations are frantically pushing ahead with plans to construct around 150 new coal-fired stations; and the UK Labour government is quietly resurrecting two deep coal mines in Wales with furtive plans to reopen several more. “Unaware of the causes of our good fortune, blissfully detached from their likely termination,” says the eco-activist George Monbiot, “we drift into catastrophe.”
It is possible to feel an acute sense of foreboding when comparing the basic threats of global warming with government inertia and denial, but climate change as the “moral question of the 21st century” also holds the potential to initiate global justice on a scale never seen throughout history. This is best illustrated through a key concept promoted by many environmental campaigners as a guide for agreeing a solution to CO2 emissions: carbon debt. If the wealthiest countries first acknowledge that their unequal use of the global commons has run up an enormous and unpaid ecological ‘debt’ to the world, runs the argument, then the stage is set for a new kind of dialogue between rich and poor countries. Any future negotiations on emissions reductions or the sharing of reductions, therefore, must also focus on just recompense for the damage already done to the atmosphere.
A plethora of reports and articles constantly reveal how developing countries, who have done comparatively little to contribute to global warming, have become the world’s ‘climate change canaries’ and will pay the highest price in years to come through increasing droughts, storms and vector diseases, therefore requiring a moral ‘pay back’ of the carbon debt accrued by industrialised nations. The impoverished living standards of the billions of people living on less than two-dollars-a-day, in this respect, is the immoral safeguard preventing the planet from even worse disaster. It would not be alarmist to conjecture that if everyone shared the same lifestyle as the average American, the “holocaust predicted for the distant future would have already visited us.”
A consensus of environmentalists now propose that the only acceptable solution to redressing CO2 emissions must be equity-based, thereby conceding “each individual’s logical claim to the atmosphere”. The proposed mechanism of ‘contraction and convergence’, as formulated by the Global Commons Institute, incorporates these principles by first establishing how much carbon dioxide can be produced each year within a safe limit, then basically dividing that sum between each individual in the world. On a set date, all nations would ‘converge’ to an agreed level of emissions.
This straightforward concept, which is already approved by the European Parliament and key government spokesman in Africa, India and China, embodies more than just equal rights to the atmosphere for every citizen. The implementation of contraction and convergence, based upon an international acceptance of ecological limits, would necessitate a sustainable world economy, an enforced reduction in consumption levels by the wealthiest nations, and hence a vast redistribution of resource usage between nations.
If contraction and convergence can be imagined as a potential model for future world development as a whole, it could also lead to a greater emphasis on sharing through a reformed economic system that prioritises sustainability and basic human needs. The large-scale implications for global justice would be immense and all-encompassing, reflected in a necessary reorientation of the values and driving forces behind the economy. Rather than the blind pursuit of maximum instant gratification and profit, the underlying priorities governing social development would need to focus on the collective desire for human survival, an end to poverty and gross inequality between countries, and the beginning of an international culture defined by cooperation and the shared purpose of averting mass catastrophe.
In the present political climate such a vision might seem like abstract idealism, but if the alarming forecasts of the IPCC come anywhere near to fruition with the exposure of hundreds of millions to drought, hunger and flooding, then “the biggest economic and geo-political realignment of recent history” will soon be unavoidable. Two optimistic examples can be cited of how capable man is at change and adaption, firstly in a study of the Second World War economy in which England radically simplified its lifestyles and reduced its consumption of resources, and in which America turned around its economy “on a dime” upon entering the war in 1941.
Another example of man’s ingenuity and responsiveness to potential calamity is seen in the cyclical response by governments to financial emergencies, as witnessed recently with the respective bailouts enacted by the Fed and the Bank of England. What is clearly missing when these examples are applied to the environmental emergency is the same sense of a shared crisis, the necessary statesmanship and vision distinct from the short-term concerns for economic hegemony and profit, and the combined leadership of governments who recognise the critical need to reverse the escalating “problem of production.”
More than three decades after E. F. Schumacher penned his famous treatise, the global obsession with economic growth has stretched the limits of natural resources to the point of imminent exhaustion, an empirical conclusion that requires no further study or mathematical modelling to confirm. The neglected policy debate on ecological limits, increasingly obfuscated by the complex arguments over CO2 emissions, is unable to call out the elephant of unsustainable lifestyles without challenging the very premise of an economic system built upon endless consumption and competition over scarce resources. The only enduring cause for hope, despite the continued antipathy of the international community in questioning the systemic causes of global warming, is for climate change to become the world’s greatest equaliser by forcing an admission of the failure of globalised market forces.
1 William J. Kole. “Climate-proofing economic growth” (Associated Press, 28th August 2007)
2 Jeremy Lovell. “Global warming impact like ‘nuclear war’” (Reuters, 12th September 2007)
3 Ian Sample. “Global food crisis looms as climate change and population growth strip fertile land” (The Guardian, 31st August 2007)
4 Agence France Presse. “World hit by record extreme weather events in 2007: WMO” (August 7th 2007)
5 Matthew Green, Fiona Harvey and Barney Jopson. “Global warming concerns after Africa deluge” (Financial Times, London, 19th September 2007)
6 David Adam. “Loss of arctic ice leaves experts stunned” (The Guardian, London, 4th September 2007)
7 Cahal Milmo. “‘Too late to avoid global warming,’ say scientists” (The Independent, London, 19th September 2007)
8 John Ward. “U.N. climate talks end in cloud of discord” (Washington Post, September 1st 2007)
9 Agence France-Presse. “Climate change: row mars Vienna talks on future emissions cuts” (August 31st 2007)
10 Worldwatch Institute. “Window to Prevent Catastrophic Climate Change Closing; EU Should Press for Immediate U.S. Action” (September 13th 2007)
11 Wouter Van Dieren. Taking nature into account: A report to the Club of Rome – Introduction (Springer-Verlag New York Inc., June 1995) p. 3.
13 E. F. Schumacher. Small is beautiful: A study of economics as if people mattered (Blond & Briggs, Great Britain, 1973) p. 246.
14 Ibid. p. 16.
15 Quote from Wouter Van Dieren, ibid.
16 Andrew Simms. “Collision course: free trade’s free ride on the global climate” (New Economics Foundation, November 2000)
17 Ibid, p. 2.
18 John Vidal. “CO2 output from shipping twice as much as airlines” (The Guardian, March 3rd 2007)
19 Ibid, p. 9.
20 Andrew Simms, Dan Moran and Peter Chowla. “The UK Interdependence Report: How the world sustains the nation’s lifestyles and the price it pays” (New Economics Foundation, April 2006)
21 Julio Godoy. ‘Incentives Offered to Destroy Forests’ (Inter Press Service, September 20th 2007)
22 Andrew Simms. “Collision course: free trade’s free ride on the global climate” (New Economics Foundation, November 2000) p. 5.
23 See, for example, John Cavanagh, John Feffer, Daphne Wysham. Just Climate Policy (Foreign Policy in Focus, June 28th 2007)
24 See Mitchel Cohen. “Listen Gore: Some Inconvenient Truths About the Politics of Environmental Crisis” (Counterpunch.org, February 2nd 2007)
25 Kevin Smith. “The Carbon Neutral Myth: Offset Indulgences for your Climate Sins” (Transnational Institute report, February 20th 2007)
26 John Bellamy Foster. “A New War on the Planet?” (MRZine, June 8th 2007)
27 John Harris. “The great global coal rush puts us on the fast track to irreversible disaster” (The Guardian, London, August 30th 2007)
28 George Monbiot. “A sudden change of state” (The Guardian, July 3rd 2007)
29 Quote from George Monbiot. “Drastic action on climate change is needed now – and here’s the plan” (The Guardian, 31st October 2006)
30 C.E. Karunakaran. Dangerous Denial (Frontline Magazine, February 2007, Vol:24 Iss:04)
31 Andrew Simms. An environmental war economy: The lessons of ecological debt and global warming (New Economics Foundation, July 2001) p. 2.
33 Ibid, p. 26-33
34 See George Monbiot interview by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez. “If We Don’t Deal with Climate Change We Condemn Hundreds of Millions of People to Death” (Democracy Now! Interview, May 18th 2007)
35 See Andrew Dobson. A climate of crisis: Towards the eco-state (OpenDemocracy.org, September 19th 2007)
Image source: Global Warming Art, posted under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License
Did you hear about the latest NASA study on the disappearing Arctic ice? Now they are saying it’s because of strange wind patterns. They say it might not have anything at all to do with global warming and they are taking another look at their climate models because they aren’t working like they expected. What do you think of that?
NASA did not state that that disappearance of arctic sea ice had nothing to do with global warming. They stated that anomalous wind patterns was one of the reasons the loss in the last few years has been so severe. The root cause is rising temperature in the arctic.
Also, it’s not the “climate models” that this casts doubt on, it’s models *of sea ice*.
The record-setting minimum of arctic sea ice is just the culmination of a trend which has existed for decades.
And the long-term data on sea ice for both hemispheres, is powerful evidence of global warming.
I was typing a response, but Tamino beat me to it, with more substance than I’d have provided anyway. Thanks Tamino. 🙂
You might find this of interest re: climate change.
Criminals And Moralists Working Together
Enron Carbon Trading And Hansen
Enron And Carbon Trading
Why don’t you spell out your point? Then, if it’s of interest, I and others might read the links.
Do you have any comment on the fact that 28 years worth of raw satellite data shows the southern hemisphere temp stable and the norht slightly warmer? http://bp3.blogger.com/_mJmwQtPmusk/RsAw9qTv2TI/AAAAAAAAAzM/PjT6bCYb4fs/s1600-h/satellite+temperature+data.gif
Here are some climate scientists you can ask:
Take it there or to a good climate change blog (try here or Tamino who commented above.). I’m sure they’d be happy to humor your
denialismastounding finding 😯 in contradiction of the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change.
Seriously, climate denialists/”skeptics” have a truckload of little bits and pieces of cherry picked data to toss about. A legitimate climate scientist can put them into the proper perspective.
I’m across realclimate.org. They don’t mention the raw data at all. Not sure how it can be considered cherry picked but thanks anyways.
😡 Here are some climate scientists you can ask:
Quick follow-up on the “data” Ben presented above. Had a moment to google and it seems the author, David Archibald, is a known climate crackpot whose one or two papers are evidently riddled with fatal errors.
But again, on these sorts of things ask a climate scientist. I don’t want to waste a lot of time tracking down likely bogus stuff.
more from incredible climate crackpots…
by Tom McClintock
Speech: At the Western Conservative Political Action Conference, October 12, 2007
You have extended to me a very dangerous invitation tonight – to speak to a gathering of political conservatives on the day that Al Gore has received the Nobel Peace Prize for discovering that the earth’s climate is changing.
I’ve heard that he’s going to contribute half of his prize money to environmental causes and use the other half to pay his electricity bill. And anything left over will come in handy to help pay for the fleet of private jets that allow him to travel around the world to tell us that you and I need to ride our bikes to work.
You have to admit, there is a certain Helmslyesque quality to it all – “We don’t conserve – only the little people conserve.”
Read the rest…
“Ethics do not require that lies be told to children by evil old men.”
– Christopher Hitchens
Please tell us which specific Limits to Growth depletion projections have been “discredited”, or are you just unthinkingly repeating the ‘conventional wisdom’?
I raised an eyebrow at that too. He may be referring to the earliest edition, things they later revised. Not sure.
BERLIN: Climate change is a growing threat to world peace and has led to rival territorial claims in the Arctic that could turn into a cold war, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany said Tuesday.
“Climate change is a threat to worldwide peace and security.”
“It truly is a planetary emergency and we have to respond quickly.”
– Al Gore
“If money is the problem that stands in the way of all of this, then why not pull out of Iraq and use all that money we would have spent staying there on incentivizing the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, both here and in developing countries? It would be a hell of a lot better than flushing all that money down the toilet like we are in Iraq, adding to the world’s misery and accomplishing nothing good for our country, and then whining about how we’re disadvantaging our own economy to save the planet while other countries aren’t doing their fair share.”
“Early in the Bed-In, a reporter asked John what he was trying to do. John said, “All we are saying is give peace a chance,” spontaneously, but he liked the phrase and set it to music for the song. He sang the song several times during the Bed-In, and finally, on 1 June 1969, rented an 8-track tape machine from a local music store and recorded it in bed.”
– — 8)
“Freedom’s just another word for nothing’ left to lose: … La la la da, Me and Bobby McGee.”
— – 8)
For more than 30 years population biologists, ecologists and environmentalists have been trying to alert our political leaders to the potentially pernicious effects of global warming. In the face of these many entreaties, the managers of the global economy and their bought-and-paid-for politicians and minions have resolutely assured us that we have nothing to worry about and, consequently, there is nothing for us to except continue to grow the global economy. All will be well, they said adamantly and relentlessly, by pursuing this path and, under no circumstances, could this path be a primrose path leading our children toward a calamity.
Now the same people who have been saying that we have nothing to worry about and, therefore, nothing to do because global warming is a hoax are now grudingly acknowledging that, yes indeed, we do have a BIG problem. Global warming is real. Global warming is not junk science. But guess what they are saying now. Here it is: the challenges posed by global warming are now too big to address and, as a result, there is nothing for us to do except accelerate economic globalization. Along the way, we will hope for a “technolgical fix” for the disaster that could befall humanity later in Century XXI as the global economy expands beyond the point it can be sustained by the limited resources and frangible ecosystem services of Earth.
Now I ask you, what is wrong with this picture?
“Atom Egoyan’s Where the Truth Lies explores the way truth and lies can become so intertwined that the truth may no longer matter, even if it can be determined. The process of hiding the truth poisons the well of relationship for years to come.”
– — 8)
Steve: “Here it is: the challenges posed by global warming are now too big to address and, as a result, there is nothing for us to do except accelerate economic globalization.”
That’s right. That’s absolutely correct. The new, modern and politically correct morale seems to lie somewhere in-between Eminem’s “Just Lose It” and The Beatles’ “Let It Be.”
Shameful, self-centered leadership……
Are too many of our current leaders hiding the truth of global warming as well as “poisoning the well” of public discourse?
Too many of our politicians, economists, big-business execs and the talking heads in the mass media are all “whistling the same tune.” What is even worse is the way they entice appointees and surrogates to whistle that same tune, too. After all, who can resist offerings of great wealth, power and privileges that accrue to those who go along with what is political convenient, economically expedient, religiously tolerated and socially agreeable.
Not only are too many leaders hiding the truth, they are also actively poisoning the well of public discourse in the process. And for what? Evermore power, wealth and privileges for themselves and their minions so they can carefreely play out the “conspicuous consumption fantasies” of their “Me Generation” by living long, living large and living unsustainably, come what may, having forsaken the future of their children and forgotten how human life depends upon Earth’s limited resources and frangible ecosystem services for its very existence.
**IMMEDIATE EXAMINATION REQUIRED**
* 11 of the past 12 years (1995-2006) rank among the 12 warmest years in instrumental records of global surface temperatures (since 1850)
* Global average sea level has risen since 1961 at an average rate of 1.8mm per year – but since 1993 at an average rate of 3.1mm
* Temperature changes will depend on how much CO2 is emitted, but different scenarios see the increase by 2100 ranging from 0.3C to 6.4C
* Up to 30 per cent of the world’s species are at increased risk of extinction after a 2C temperature rise
* Between 75 million and 250 million people in Africa could suffer water shortages by 2020; in Asia, heavily-populated “mega-deltas” are at greatly increased risk of flooding; tropical forest in eastern Amazonia will turn to savannah by mid-century…………………..
With the establishment of the scientific consensus on climate change, is it reasonable and sensible to ask of government officials who remain obstructive and in denial of this overwhelming evidence if they are perfidiously engaged in a violation of public trust and, therefore, malfeasant in office?
I spent my morning reading the latest IPCC report, Steve, and was pleased that they were as outspoken as they were.
And I think your take on how to address our government officials — and all political candidates — is spot on.
“The world is already at or above the worst case scenarios in terms of emissions,” said Gernot Klepper, of the Kiel Institute for World Economy in Kiel, Germany. “In terms of emissions, we are moving past the most pessimistic estimates of the I.P.C.C., and by some estimates we are above that red line.”
“What we are facing is not only an environmental problem, but has much wider implications: For economic growth, water and food security, and for people’s survival – especially those living in the poorest communities in developing countries.”
– Yvo de Boer, UNFCCC Executive Secretary, shortlist a series of reasons for climate change concern; the threat to economic growth being first up.
“U.S. officials, preparing for a United Nations climate conference, said Wednesday they plan to push for a framework on further negotiations and will make no commitment for specific reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.” …
“”The position of the United States and how much it chooses to obstruct the process — that will depend on what kind of an agreement there is between the EU and the large developing countries,” Dr. Hermann Ott, head of the Berlin office of the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy, told SPIEGEL ONLINE.”
“[Environment ministers from the EU’s 27 member states] approved, on 30 October, a resolution on climate change that confirms the Union’s hopes that international climate talks in Bali from 3-14 December will lead to commitments from all developed countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2020, compared to 1990 levels.
The EU also hopes the conference will set the foundations for a global emissions trading scheme that would replace the current Kyoto Protocol as of 2013.”
“I think it is this twin concern about social justice between countries, the opportunities for human development today and social justice for future generations, for the people who are not born, our children’s grandchildren, that make this a very real human development issue. And I think climate change asks us very fundamental questions about what it means to be part of a human community, what is our ethical responsibility, what are our obligations.”
– Kevin Watkins, lead author of The United Nations’ new Human Development Report (who also has the courage to say a thing or two about third world population explosion).
“Climate Change Action is a site with an obvious goal. It links to blogs that will be updated live from Bali as the climate conference progresses. (…) These guys sound serious and I’m sure a lot of good reporting will come our way when the [United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali] conference is up and running.”
“We are running out of time. The United Nations’ International Panel on Climate Change estimates that we only have around 8 years to take concrete action. … This small window of action is being felt by governments, parties, organizations and individuals everywhere; everywhere except the Arab World. … Out of the 23 Arab countries, 11 are oil producing ones, and 4 of them are among the top 10 oil exporting countries in the World. This makes climate change and the reduction of fossil fuel use a very sensitive topic in the Arab League. …
“We can only benefit from seriously tackling climate change as we have everything to lose if we do not do anything about it. The Arab World needs to get its act together and start showing concern about climate change.. Hopefully, at the next International Demonstration Day for Climate Change in December, thousands of Arabs will hit the streets and voice that concern.”
“The two economic giants [China and India] are becoming increasingly aware of the effects of rising temperatures. But though they are among the biggest contributors to the problem, both say they will not sign any climate change treaty that would slow the pace of their development.
Meanwhile, the United States, which has pumped more carbon into the atmosphere over time than any other country, says it will continue to oppose mandatory reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, especially if China and India refuse to budge.
The positions of those three countries are pivotal as delegates from 190 nations begin gathering this week on Bali to discuss a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol, the climate change agreement that expires in 2012.”
“An international agreement that would really combat global warming would first have to shed the illusion that “market mechanisms” can be the primary driver of change. With this goal in mind, many grassroots organisations from around the world will be attending the Bali talks to demand strong action on climate change.
“Like the government of socialist Cuba, rated by the World Wildlife Fund as the only country that has sustainable development, the Venezuelan government argues that combatting climate change requires radical changes in the world’s economic and political systems. Without such a perspective, the Bali summit is unlikely to met the climate change challenge.”
“Gayoom [President of The Maldives] says it is unfair to expect the world’s industrialised nations, such as the United States, to shoulder the burden of climate change alone, saying developing countries Brazil, India and China are also big greenhouse gas emitters.
December’s climate change meeting in Bali will be crunch time.
“Time is running out to agree upon a post-Kyoto arrangement and Bali could well be our last chance to ensure that the end of the Kyoto Protocol period will not result in a loss of momentum,” Gayoom said.”
Did I ever mention that humanity is very poorly organized? Humanity may well be the greatest of all challenges, but I dare say the international economic, political and diplomatic beaurocracy has a most spectacular role to play around here.
Organizational Dysfunction. — Anyone?
“Although shark is no common household name, this is fast becoming a popular dish.
Once you’ve found your shark meat you can appreciate how low in fat and dense the meat is. However, just because you’ve braved the shark infested waters (or pungent fish markets), and fought past the ferocious teeth (or fellow marketers that have also visited this site), does not mean that the shark has lost all it’s defenses. If you lean closer you will notice that shark meat has a distinct odor, this is ammonia. This is easily remedied. To remove this smell, you must soak your shark meat in milk or Acidulated Water, for no less than 1 hour.”
Served hot to a host of climate diplomats, free of charge. 😉
Thanks for those links Magne. Lot’s of interesting reading and much food (including shark! 😯 ) for thought.
“In 2007 we have crossed the threshold easily in terms of the kinds of issues that we agree on. We are now talking about modalities, mechanisms and money.”
– Achim Steiner
With my previous couple of comments here, I’ve tried to illustrate the international diplomatic drama that is taking place at the Climate Change Conference in Bali, right now.
The U.S. decision to avoid making any real cuts of emissions, but be in favour of a continuation of negotiations, will certainly be followed up by all other governments. The Bali Conference will not be “the starting gun” — to the contrary, it will be “the last stumbling block.”
However; – money and authority has its own way of talking. – 8)
Oh yes. Money and authority has its own way of talking. All these climate change diplomats, who are all at work for the continuation of industrial, financial and military status quo, are certainly going to sell the further negotiations of the next climate agreement as a huge step in the right and commendable direction. No doubt.
I don’t know exactly what will be the spiritual or mental result of the UN’s Climate Conference in Bali, but I will not be too amazed at witnessing a civilizational shift of a somewhat bizarre type; a universal social / cultural appreciation of the apparent fact that honest industrialism, coupled with not-so-honest globalized capitalism, is the modern way of life; so take it or leave it. — The solid scientific fact that any description of this civilization is incomplete without notice of most unfortunate sideeffects, such as global warming, manmade climate change, and mass extinction of species, is of no bearing to any argument what-so-ever, because all ecosystems destruction are tragic but unavoidable facts of modern human nature.
No brain, no headache.
I think we’re moving into a period of complete and utter embarrassment. A period in which we know that we’re destroying the world as a matter of bad habit, while we continue to do just that, because bad habits are habits indeed … so accept it, embrace it, be cool and forget about it … yeah, that’s better …
On a positive note, I can only believe that plenty of humans are ready to face the above worst case scenario of species insanity, and work to oppose the tendency of knowing destruction of all basic life support systems of this planet.
On a positive note, I do believe that most people aren’t plain stupid.
Cogito, ergo sum. – 8)
Those of us who feel reasonably informed about the various forms of ecological degradation this planet is going through, are soon going to have to accept that humanity is knowingly and willingly going to continue to just let this happen. Because bad habits are difficult to lay off. — And the policy makers of this world are not willing to take any kind of respunsibility for the sorry going-ons out here; mainly for economic reasons.
And here’s what we are most likely going to tell our children: “We apologize for the inconvenience.”
Yes. I admit it. Sorry all. I’m frustrated here. It is the unacceptable truth. I’ve finally gone crazy. I believe this must be a permanent condition. Just lose it. In Bali: a fine restaurant: an eatery with yellow curtains, and swordfish soup, shark fin soup, and turtle soup on the menu. Served hot. As always. Uh. Thinking about these naysaying politicians. These credit card flashing diplomats. These tongue-in-cheek climate scientists. And all those smiling faces. Let it be, and just lose it.
Deconstructing Senator Inhofe’s Message for Bali
by David Sassoon – Dec 4th, 2007
“Senator James Inhofe published a special 1065-word message in Roll Call (sub req’d) on Monday to coincide with the start of the climate meetings in Bali and as a send-off gift to embattled Senator Larry Craig, who is attending the meetings as Inhofe’s rep. As a prime focal point of inaction on climate, Inhofe’s words and rhetorical strategies are worth some closer scrutiny. It’s the commemorative memo that telegraphs the messages opponents of climate action will be using for the foreseeable future. ……………….”
Drawing the battle lines, I suppose.
A final international agreement setting new targets to slash greenhouse gas emissions would be “too ambitious” to solidify in this week’s round of climate talks in Bali, the UN chief said Wednesday.
“Practically speaking, this will have to be negotiated down the road,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told reporters, when asked whether delegates could agree to including greenhouse gas emissions targets in a new climate accord.