Tue. July 29, 2014 Get Published  Get Alerts
HOME  |LOGIN
ABOUT | CONTACT US | SUPPORT US
Our Collective Failure

Comments(0)
By Pratik Patil


We are running out of time to contain Global warming within scientifically recommended and internationally acknowledged safe limits of 2oC. Our planet is approaching the threshold beyond which it will be extremely difficult to prevent disastrous consequences of human induced climate change.

This is the underlying conclusion of string of recent study reports by major international agencies.

The World Bank report titled 'Turn down the Heat'1 cites that there's nearly unanimous agreement among scientists that "countries? current United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change emission pledges and commitments would most likely result in 3.5-4°C warming.? The 4°C scenarios are devastating: the inundation of coastal cities; increasing risks for food production potentially leading to higher malnutrition rates; many dry regions becoming dryer, wet regions wetter; unprecedented heat waves in many regions, especially in the tropics; substantially exacerbated water scarcity in many regions; increased frequency of high-intensity tropical cyclones; and irreversible loss of biodiversity, including coral reef systems.

(For sake of perspective, it is useful to note that 4°C is the difference between temperatures today and those of the last ice age. And current rate of change in temperatures is stupendously faster than any time during Earth's recent history)

More worryingly, Third Emissions Gap Report2 by UN Environment Programme (UNEP) demonstrates that countries are failing to meet even these moderate and inadequate pledges to reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions, by wide margins. In fact, each successive emissions gap report since 2010 has shown an increase in the gap between projections and pledges of CO2 Emissions. The latest figures from the Global Carbon Project, 3 show that global emissions have been growing at an average of 3 per cent each year since 2000.

Other studies4 are showing that IPCC assessment reports under-estimated scale of potential temperature changes by failing to account for runaway effects of melting in Arctic regions, resulting in enormous CO2 and methane releases trapped by permafrost.

Seen in this context, COP-18 agreement in Doha, to extend Kyoto Protocol (which is restricted to countries whose share of global emissions is less than 15%; with big polluters like US, China, Russia and Canada excluded) up to 2020, is clearly too little and too late. It is the final death knell to hopes of achieving reasonable climate change mitigation.

As the delegate from Seychelles put it (while speaking to BBC), "We're past the mitigation [emissions cuts] and adaptation eras. We're now right into the era of loss and damage."

On a slightly positive note, there was one potentially significant "agreement in principle" that rich countries should compensate poor, vulnerable countries for damages due to climate change. This is an implicit admission of guilt on behalf of rich polluters. But in the absence of meaningful enforcement mechanism at the international level, there's not much substance in it. Like they've done before, rich countries can simply walk away from any ‘binding’ commitments without impunity (one such example is, US and Canadian departure from Kyoto protocol).

What is the reason behind our dismal failure to heed scientific warnings on climate change?

At the fundamental level, I think there's huge lag between exponential rate of technological revolution (roughly dictated by famous Moore's law) and our comparatively linear, moral evolution. End result is that, although we are technically masters of the planet, we lack wisdom to be good shepherds.

Climate change is but one such example of our collective failure to evolve.

In his book, World on the Edge5, eminent environmentalist Lester R Brown notes, ?”A 2002 study by a team of scientists aggregated the use of the earth’s natural assets, into a single indicator: the ecological footprint. The authors concluded that humanity’s collective demands first surpassed the earth’s regenerative capacity around 1980. By 1999, global demands on the earth’s natural systems exceeded sustainable yields by 20 %. On-going calculations show it at 50 % in 2007. Stated otherwise, it would take 1.5 Earths to sustain our current consumption. Environmentally, the world is in overshoot mode.”?

Yet, as underpinned by response to current financial crisis, our utmost concern is not how to achieve sustainable development (i.e. development that ?meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs") but to ensure perpetual GDP growth at all costs.

Lester R Brown presents us with thought provoking question:

“How can we assume that the growth of an economic system that is shrinking the earth’s forests, eroding its soils, depleting its aquifers, collapsing its fisheries, elevating its temperature, and melting its ice sheets can simply be projected into the long-term future? What is the intellectual process underpinning these extrapolations?”

Our failure to combat climate change and wider sustainability challenges with traditional ‘economic’ solutions should compel us to fundamentally rethink our dependence on perpetual economic growth paradigm. For example, under the current economic regime, GDP growth is essential for employment generation. But with over 50% youth unemployment in countries like Spain, it’s high time that we take radically different course. Reducing work hours to accommodate more people in the workforce could be one solution. This may seem radical but we need to start thinking about these options seriously to overcome our current predicament, in which neither human societies nor natural systems are coping well.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1. http://climatechange.worldbank.org/sites/default/files/Turn_Down_the_Heat_Executive_Summary_English.pdf
2. http://www.unep.org/publications/ebooks/emissionsgap2012/
3. http://www.globalcarbonproject.org/carbonbudget/12/hl-compact.htm
4. http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn22549-arctic-permafrost-is-melting-faster-than-predicted.html
5. http://www.earth-policy.org/books/wote
6. http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/the-desertec-solar-energy-project-has-run-into-trouble-a-867077.html
7. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-20002801


Pratik Patil is an analyst with IA-Forum's international affairs division.
email - pratik.p.patil@gmail.com


Comments in Chronological order (0 total comments)

Report Abuse
Quick Links Twitter Face Book Get Alerts Contact Us Enter Ia-Forum Student Award Competition
International Affairs
Forum - (2014 Issue 1)

Available Now
ANNOUNCEMENTS
THE WORLD'S DISCUSSING...
08/05/2014: Putting the South Caucasus in Perspective More
07/30/2014: Underage: Addressing Reproductive Health and HIV in Married Adolescents More
07/29/2014: National Security and Climate Change: What Do We Need to Know? More
07/28/2014: What We Won : America's Secret War in Afghanistan, 1979-89 More
07/25/2014: Bill Shorten: Global Growth: Trade, Equity, and Opportunity More
07/25/2014: Let the Good Times Roll: China’s Growing Influence in South Korea More
07/25/2014: Declassified Documents on Korean Armistice Agreement Featured on the Digital Archive More
07/25/2014: Piketty Got It Right (At Least Most of It) More
07/25/2014: Reversing the Decline in Small Business Lending More
07/25/2014: Africa in the News: New Rwandan Prime Minister Appointed and Ghana Protests over Depreciating Cedi More
07/25/2014: Africa in the News: New Rwandan Prime Minister Appointed and Ghana Protests over Depreciating Cedi More
07/25/2014: Egypt Needs a New Social Protection System More
07/25/2014: The Resignation of the Ukrainian Government Was a Welcome Step More
07/25/2014: Reining in ObamaCare--and the President More
07/25/2014: Fed Proposal to End Bailouts Falls Short More
07/25/2014: Stuart Butler to Join Economic Studies at Brookings as Senior Fellow More
07/24/2014: APJ participa en foro internacional sobre seguridad, pobreza y migración More
07/24/2014: Presidentes centroamericanos propondrán alianza común a Obama More
07/24/2014: Immigration Crisis Inseparable From International Criminal Networks – Honduras Minister More
07/24/2014: Central American Leaders Preview Obama Meeting More
07/24/2014: Rethinking US Foreign Assistance: MCC Success Story Is a Failure (spoiler alert: n=1) More
07/24/2014: Migration of Central American Minors: Causes and Solutions More
07/24/2014: Development blog: Better Data in Rwanda More
07/24/2014: Global Health blog: Better Data in Rwanda More
07/24/2014: CGD Event: The Health Consequences of Aerial Spraying of Illicit Crops: The Case of Colombia More
07/24/2014: Why are Thousands of Central American Children Risking their Lives to Reach the United States?: A View from Honduras More
07/24/2014: Israel Deterrence: An Eye for a Tooth More
07/24/2014: Dutch Response to the MH17 Tragedy in Ukraine More
07/24/2014: Dutch Response to the MH17 Tragedy in Ukraine More
07/24/2014: ??????? More
07/24/2014: The U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit: Deepening Trade and Commercial Ties More
07/24/2014: The U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit: Deepening Trade and Commercial Ties More
07/24/2014: China Shifts from North to South Korea More
07/24/2014: China Shifts from North to South Korea More
07/24/2014: Central American foreign ministers meet in Washington to lobby Obama on immigration crisis More
07/24/2014: Gang violence, fears for children fuel rush to US More
07/24/2014: Central American leaders want Washington's help with immigration crisis More
07/24/2014: The Congressional Role in U.S. Military Innovation More
07/24/2014: The Congressional Role in U.S. Military Innovation More
07/24/2014: Facing a Greek Exit from the Eurozone Again? More
07/24/2014: Facing a Greek Exit from the Eurozone Again? More
07/24/2014: Breaking the Impasse on Dodd-Frank More
07/24/2014: Implicit Subsidies for Very Large Banks: A Primer More
07/24/2014: Options for U.S. Policy Toward Iraq More
07/24/2014: Constitutional Solutions to Our Escalating National Debt: Examining Balanced Budget Amendments More
07/24/2014: Should the 'Right to be Forgotten' be Reviewed by an International Court? More
07/23/2014: CGD Event: A CGD Europe Research Seminar*: Migrant Networks and Trade More
07/23/2014: Who Owns the Arctic Video Series More
07/23/2014: See the Immigrant Demographics Presentation that Audrey Singer Gave to the White House More
07/23/2014: Sanctions Finally Find Russia’s Achilles Heel More
More...
About | Contact Us | Support Us | Terms and Conditions

All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2002 - 2014