G8 agree climate goal: almost nothing better than absolutely nothing?

G8News has just come in from Japan that leaders of the G8 have agreed in broad terms to aim for a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

At last year’s summit in Germany they agreed to seriously consider a plan to cut greenhouse emissions by 50 per cent by the middle of this century.

Today they have agreed to that goal as a shared vision, and to press other nations to also adopt the target.

Is this a good thing?

Do the biggest emitters, and therefore biggest contributors to global warming, deserve a pat on the back for agreeing to think about the possibility of making their massive future profits in a marginally less sociopathic manner?

No. No they don’t.

If Saddam Hussein had used a radioactive isotope to kill thousands of Kurds slowly over several years rather than quickly with highly toxic nerve agents, would he have been applauded for this infinitely more humane and sensible course of action?

Not bloody likely.

Not to mention that the US and UK have already covered the Middle East with long-lasting radioactive isotopes and would likely not care for the competition.

But I digress.

If in the ’80s, everybody had agreed that CFCs and HFCs were causing the growing hole in the ozone layer, and that said hole posed a doomsday risk to this planet’s viability for sustaining life, but that doing something real about it would be too hard and it would instead be better to hold protracted and unproductive talkfests while increasing production of CFCs and HFCs, would the media have cheered global leaders for their sensible and measured approach?

Would said leaders have been allowed to publicly gloat and pat themselves and each other on the back for their resolute inaction?

Last year at about this time, noteworthy journalist, academic, and author George Monbiot wrote damningly in his trademark evidence-based way about the nearsightedness of the British Government’s 2050 60% target. Everything points to the need for much more drastic 80, 90, and perhaps even 100% targets.

Clarifying writing of this sort is, even now, unfortunately rare. Not for lack of people producing objectively spine-chilling forecasts, but for the simple fact that the real news never makes it to the front page. If it is even published at all, it is lost amongst the shrill idiocy of the Tim Blairs, Michael Costas, and Lord Moncktons who somehow satisfy the desire to sell papers much more than they satisfy any need to educate the public or illuminate truth.

Still, wrote Monbiot at the time:

A good source tells me that the British government is well aware that its target for cutting carbon emissions - 60% by 2050 - is too little, too late, but that it will go no further for one reason: it fears losing the support of the Confederation of British Industry. Why this body is allowed to keep holding a gun to our heads has never been explained, but Gordon Brown has just appointed Digby Jones, its former director-general, as a minister in the department responsible for energy policy. I don’t remember voting for him. There could be no clearer signal that the public interest is being drowned by corporate power.

Sound familiar? Maybe even universally applicable?

And in his latest article, Monbiot considers a newly proposed model for a global emission taxation scheme that might be profoundly more simple than national models currently under discussion:

This would not be the first time that business was rescued by the measures it most stoutly resists: there’s a long history of corporate lobbying against the kind of government spending that eventually saves the corporate economy.

Do we want to save it, even if we can? It is hard to see how the current global growth rate of 3.7% a year (which means the global economy doubles every 19 years) could be sustained(11), even if the whole thing were powered by the wind and the sun. But that is a question for another column and perhaps another time, when the current economic panic has abated. For now we have to find a means of saving us from ourselves.

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  • Posted on July 9, 2008. Listed in:

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