September 02, 2009

No Real Global Commitment to Solve Climate Change

There is unanimity that climate change poses an enormous challenge to our specie. That is no longer debatable. But assessing the enormity of the problem is one thing and doing something meaningful about it is another. History is replete with examples of catastrophes that were hastened because of our inability or unwillingness to act.

Every aspect of environmental degradation from climate change to desertification, from overfishing to deforestation, from population growth rates to malnutrition , from overproduction to overconsumption, from diminishing biodiversity to the unabiding trust in economic growth, from unjust distribution of income to neo imperialism, from unsustainable practices to the rejection of intrinsic value and from the conviction that the whole of creation was meant for our own whimsical use to the strong belief that humans are hard wired to be selfish is a vivid demonstration that “Homo Sapiens” ( wise humans) we are not. Yet we pretend that we are and furthermore we make believe that we are earnestly looking for a solution.

The upcoming COP 15 at Copenhagen scheduled for December 2009 was supposed to demonstrate our earnest desire in finally seeking a solution that is commensurate to the existential challenge of keeping climate change within an increase of 2 degrees centigrade. Well don’t hold your breath. The UN Development Chief Helen Clark has just issued a statement preparing us for the upcoming disappointment. She declares: “"If there's no deal as such, it won't be a failure. I think the conference will be positive but it won't dot every 'i' and cross every 't'." That does not make you very confident in the quality and commitment of international governance does it?

Kyoto and Copenhagen are about one issue only. If we believe, truly believe that climate change must be stopped and that it is essentially the result of human activity then we need to act and act promptly. Global calamity is about to strike and we have no one to blame but us. The Pogo Cartoon said it best over forty years ago” We have met the enemy and he is us”.

So what is the US, the world's largest economy, doing about this problem? The US seems to have finally accepted the idea that it is its duty, nay its obligation, to reduce its carbon footprint since it is the greatest contributor to the anthropogenically produced carbon since the onset of the industrial revolution. Give the Obama administration its due credit. It plans to submit a plan to reduce the US contribution to the worldwide carbon emission through a cap and trade program.

The proposed reductions are no where close to what they should be but they are greater reductions than what the previous administration has been willing to commit to. Under the proposed system of Cap and Trade the government will set a total level of emissions and issue against that standard permits. The emitters cannot collectively exceed the level mandated by the government but they are free to trade these permits among each other as they see fit. That does not sound so bad except the reduction in overall emissions is no where as major as the challenge dictates that it should be.

The other problem, and may I suggest that this is just as major if not even more so, the government plans to give away gratis, for free, these permits to the corporations that pollute instead of auctioning these permits and raising the 100s of billions of dollars that they are worth. Think about it, instead of asking the polluter to pay we are asking the already burdened tax payer to subsidize pollution. That is madness. But why would anyone give away for free that which is worth billions? Well we have already answered that question. Homo Sapiens we ain’t neither are we rational or even committed to the idea of biodiversity and sustainability.

And finally, let me say that the US is not the only obstacle to finding a solution to climate change. China, India, Brazil and Saudi Arabia are even more adamant that they do not have to apply any restraint to their level of economic activity--let the health of the global ecosystem be damned. One can easily add Russia and Indonesia to the group of countries that have to be dragged to adopt proforma carbon emission reduction targets. (The combined emissions of the above seven countries is over 56% of global carbon emissions). Enough said about our real concern for sustainability and biodiversity.

A podcast of the above can be heard at: ramblings11


Anonymous said...

But, if global change is part of a cyclical pattern what can human do? The earth will do what the earth does. No human technology is available to affect the natural cycle of climate change.

Ghassan Karam said...

It will be very presumptuous to even try to deal with the natural cycle part of climate change. The current concern is directed only at the anthropogenic component

Richard Matthews said...

We have reason to be optimistic about climate change negotiations. However, there is much work yet to be done if we are to meet the December deadline for a global agreement on a climate change strategy. Many obstacles must be overcome before we can hope for an agreement in Copenhagen. The fact that we have yet to find the formula to finance the fight against climate change is one of the important hurdles that must be addressed. Finding a way to bring all 190 nations onboard is an unprecedented challenge but we are seeing positive signs.