Sounding the Alarm on Climate Change - Is Anyone Listening?

Green planetHere on Celsias, we like to focus on the positive, highlighting solutions to the climate crisis. In fact, that is why Celsias was created. The idea has always been that people would read the blog and get inspired, then go create an action or project, register it on Celsias, and, as Gandhi said, be the change you want to see in the world, or at least help start it. As we like to say around here, climate change is not a spectator sport.

Lately, we have had some inspiring news on the solutions front, too. Green jobs are vibrant despite slowing in other sectors, wind and solar are on the ascendancy, and new technologies are popping up in all kinds of sectors, from building to transportation.

But we have also had some bad and sometimes frightening news of late. The BBC reports that:

According to the Green New Deal Group, humanity only has 100 months to prevent dangerous global warming.

...

The new grouping says rising greenhouse gas emissions, combined with escalating food and energy costs, mean the globe is facing one of its biggest crises since the 1930s.

In an article for the BBC News website's Green Room series, Mr Simms [a founder of the group] warns that the combination of the current credit crunch, rising energy prices and accelerating emissions are "conspiring to create the perfect storm". - BBC

On top of that, scientists are predicting that a 2C rise in temperature is inevitable, and now, according to the Guardian, DEFRA's chief adviser is warning that the UK really needs to prepare for a 4C rise and the ensuing catastrophes, all of which appear to be increasingly likely if we continue on our current path of too little, too late.

There is hope, though. The Green New Dealers have a prescription for solutions:

The proposals call for massive investment in renewable energy, creating thousands of jobs, while also seeking to rein in the "distorting power" of the banking industry. Among the more radical plans, they suggest large banking groups should be forcibly demerged, to lift the threat of the kind of systemic damage that has forced governments to use public money to prop up the likes of Northern Rock.

The group hopes to shift the balance of power by building a new alliance of environmentalists, industry, agriculture and unions to promote the interests of the wider economy, instead of what are described as "footloose" financiers in the City, while ensuring that more low-cost capital is available for pressing priorities. - The Guardian

Unfortunately, these global problems require global solutions. Recently, 40 negotiators from the U.S., Asia and Europe met in D.C. for the first major climate change war game, sponsored by The Center for a New American Security (CNAS).

Split up into four teams representing Europe, the United States, China and India, their mission was to negotiate the best deal for their team under the following scenario:

  • It's 2015 and greenhouse-gas emissions are rising
  • Climate models of the future are grim
  • Droughts, storms, floods and other forms of extreme weather are on the rise.
  • The UN is calling for international cooperation on emissions reductions, adaptation, disaster relief and response to shortages of crucial resources such as food and water.

According to Nature News:

After lengthy negotiations, the United States and the Europe Union agreed to a 30% reduction in emissions by 2025. They also agreed to finance a portion of the emissions reductions by the developing world. But China refused to accept any specific emissions targets. India committed itself to reductions, but only with a number of contingencies. In a sad mirror of reality, the participants departed after three days without the comprehensive agreement many had been hoping for. - Nature News

Lately we have the U.S. seeming to obsess about more drilling and fossil fuel extraction, despite that increased drilling will do nothing to ease gas prices in the short term or the long term, and will only increase greenhouse gas emissions. And at the same time, it is a little known fact that America is currently exporting oil, at a rate of a record 1.6 million barrels a day. Strange to call for more drilling to put more oil on the market to lower prices while we are exporting what we have, no?

oil profitsOn the other hand, Americans do seem to understand that the oil companies are the primary culprit in our over $4 a gallon price tag at the pump. In fact, the top 5 oil companies are on track to make a cool $160 billion in profits this year. Exxon Mobil's share this last quarter was $11.68 billion, the biggest quarterly profit ever by any U.S. corporation.

On the plus side, Americans are showing even stronger support for renewables than they are for drilling if you look into the numbers (pdf) more closely. Yet oil companies are still the ones getting American tax money, and to the tune of $33 billion (pdf) over the next 5 years while renewable energy tax incentives failed (by just 2 votes, a vote Presidential candidate John McCain missed) to get a veto proof majority in the U.S. Senate.

On the coal front, the news is not only bad, but bizarre. Coal profits soar as China is opening a new coal powered plant every week to ten days, and the U.S. is exporting Appalachian coal - which has increased from $40 a ton in 2007, to $140 a ton currently - and then importing Indonesian coal (pdf). It makes no sense, but apparently it makes dollars.

And while we focus on the energy crisis, we are hard pressed to pay attention to rising food prices and growing water scarcity:

While agriculture in the Colorado Basin faces shortages, farmers to the east in the high plains - tapping the Ogallala Aquifer - have progressively seen their wells dry up. The aquifer is the largest in the United States and sees a depletion rate of some 12 billion cubic meters a year, a quantity equivalent to 18 times the annual flow of the Colorado River. Since pumping started in the 1940s, Ogallala water levels have dropped by more than 100 feet (30 meters) in some areas. - Circle of Blue

So despite viable solutions and opportunities for cooperation, and all systems pointing toward the need for solutions, it seems that the U.S. continues to focus our energy policy in the wrong direction, Europe has fallen under a money and consumption spell, and China and India aren't ready to come to the table. The reality is that we all need a green new deal, and the leaders that come with it.

Further Reading:

2 comments

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Red Keane 60°

Excellent Article.

It seems the love of money has overruled our love for ourselves; we would rather live in a smoking ball of crap than be without it. We are killing ourselves so we can have more money. It’s really ironic; the very thing we pursue in our daily lives is killing us.

But I’m a realist; imagine an earth where money or credit didn’t exist. Your very life didn’t depend on generating large amounts of it. Maybe the only work you have to do was to make sure you and yours had food and clean water. The community that you lived in was energy efficient, clean, and fully self sustainable.

Yeah it does sound like science fiction to me too. The only problem is the emotional impact a place like that would have on people.

What would they do? People who need all that money. In this pursuit for money our technological development has far outgrown our emotional development. Today people who have money have control power and more freedom than anyone else. If that was gone they might even feel a little insecure that everyone has that same freedom as them. And they’d probably be right to, it never happened before, it’s new territory. They have no control no power.

It really would be a different planet. But maybe the key is to start small. It would be great if we had the time. There are designs for communities like the one I mentioned. Here is a link to an article about one.

http://viewtomorrow.blogspot.com/2008/07/al-masdar-initiative.html

You might say to yourself, that’s all well and good but nobody is going to do that for free, well you’d still be thinking in terms of money, not freedom. Some people enjoy working; the joy is taken out simply because of the introduction of money. Give people purpose that sets them free, something other than money which perpetuates the cycle, and you can see great results.

To be honest I generally don’t like commenting on things I have no solution for, but if we continue to do nothing our planet will look a lot like the toxic atmosphere of Linfen in China.

Usually I would say that making people aware of alternatives is the way to start this but honestly there is so much disinformation out there its hard to encourage people to be open.

Written in August 2008

R James (anonymous)

Doesn't it seem strange that over the past 10 years carbon dioxide has increased by 5%, yoe there's been no temperature increase? Doesn't it seem strange that we've seen strong temperature increases before industrialisation? Something doesn't add up - I'm not sure what the problem is that we're trying to solve.

Written in August 2008

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  • Posted on Aug. 12, 2008. Listed in:

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