What are the steps to save the Earth?
Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, 2009
Nuclear Power, Fossil Fuels and Long Term Vision
A Green Economy
Our political leaders let down civilians, let down future generations, let down all sentient beings, let down their own families and let down themselves in the Copenhagen conference in 2009. In the closing session, all references to keeping global warming down to 1.5C were deleted. Copenhagen also dropped the target of reducing global CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050
Scientists and environmentalists walked out of the Copenhagen conference knowing they had witnessed a failure of collective endeavour.
This essay explores significant areas where we need to apply the full potential of human resources to arrest the consequences of climate change, intense weather patterns and the consequences in terms of the desperate living conditions of millions of people in the short or long term.
The Climate Change Conference in Copenhagan in 2009 wasted a precious opportunity to initiate real change. Will world leaders make a firm agreement to implement real change in the current Paris conference.
Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, 2009
The Copenhagen climate change conference in 2009 needed to make a collective commitment to the reduction of emissions to 1.5C. The rich and powerful nations wanted non-Western countries to adopt measures to limit their emissions while the West did next to nothing.
The West, especially America, heaped blame on China for its emission output, even though the USA is the world’s biggest polluter on a per capita (per person basis). The United States generates four times the amount of pollution per capita than China. On that basis, China only produces a quarter of the amount of the pollution of the Chinese.
On behalf of the Senate and powerful US corporations President Obama ensured in Copenhagen that no collective international agreement took place to bring about a massive reduction in carbon emissions. US corporations have consistently refused to enter into any voluntary cut in emissions as it would produce a reduction of profits.
The Copenhagen accord was clearly designed to meet the needs of the US, who always wanted a voluntary “pledge and review later” type agreement with minimum enforcement.
Global corporations show no concern about the environment, even with self-preservation for the long term, and instead pursue maximise growth and profit within the short term of about five years. CEO and political leaders think in much the same way.
The West remains determined to sustain its economic growth model regardless of the cost while wanting to inhibit poorer countries from following the same model since the model accelerates carbon emissions. Not surprisingly, the poorer nations have appealed for $100 billion per year to contribute to sustainability in their countries through alternative forms of technology.
The Copenhagen agreement resulted in the absence of a binding agreement because nations put first their own economic self-interest rather than the future of the Earth and the welfare of all beings.
The dark shadow of Copenhagen looms large over the current conference in Paris. The UN, senior scientists, meteorologists, environmentalists, NGO’s (non-government organisations) and academics know the urgency of this Paris conference. Governments around the world need to take responsibility to reduce carbon emissions and the consequences of these emissions to our atmosphere. Experts know that we have to keep the rise in global temperatures down to 1.5C increase in this century.
It is not rocket science to know the steps necessary to reduce carbon emissions and the impact on environment and climate. Carbon emissions come from four primary areas. Very roughly:
- 40% of carbon emissions come from fossil fuels, especially coal. We use much of these emissions for electricity and heat production.
- 25% of carbon emissions comes from transport – aircraft, shipping, trucks and vehicles on our roads.
- 20% of carbon emissions comes from deforestation, destruction of natural habitats and loss of diversity.
- 15% of these CO2 emissions comes from agriculture, noticeably cattle breeding. Billions of farm animals contribute to methane, a greenhouse gas like CO2. Soil erosion and water pollution of oceans, seas, lakes and rivers make a global impact.
War and weapons of war contribute to human and environmental destruction. If real change comes, then all four areas require an urgency of attention in national/international policies, to reduce the impact of carbon emissions. That is the task ahead. Instead of general agreements, we need detailed commitment of the steps that every country needs to take. The rich countries need to give support to the poor countries to establish a sustainable environment.
President Obama has stated repeatedly that China and other nations have to reduce its emissions as a prerequisite to any domestic emissions in the United States. This has been the Obama mantra since he took office. The White House issued this year: THE PRESDENT’S CLIMATE ACTION PLAN. This 21- page plan proposed a 17% cut by 2020 in domestic emissions since 2005.
In his climate plan, President Obama said America would work to this target if “all other economies agreed to limit its emissions as well.” Does he not realise that the other major polluting nations say much the same thing? The President shows an immature and irresponsible attitude. It is no wonder that barely any action takes place from the major polluters.
The days when the US took the initiative for progressive developments have long gone. America has become a backward thinking nation. Profit takes priority over progress. The President issued this statement without the necessary Senate legislation to back up his words and ensure the dramatic cut in emissions.
The President reads the texts put in front of him. He has little or no power to influence the Senate. The President serves as the public face of the political/corporate world he represents. He may say much which is agreeable or disagreeable but it is only legislation from the Senate that matters, not his expressions of public relations, both domestic and international. It is important to remember that in the USA, power rests in the hand of the Senate, not in the smart rhetoric of the President.
There is clearly an urgency but sadly, we are asking short sighted politicians to show a long sighted vision. To take one example: The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, asks the Paris delegates this week: “What would we tell our grandchildren if we fail to agree on a deal?”
It is a good question but only six weeks ago the same British Prime Minister cut modest government subsidies to solar and energy efficiency companies, as the PM wishes to subsidise nuclear power instead and support fracking, namely mining deep in the earth using high pressure equipment to release gas from rocks.
The brutal cuts meant the cost of solar panels for homes increases, and other means for energy efficiency, became out of reach of many families. The cuts in grants now threaten these efficiency companies working hard to develop a sustainable society.
Nuclear Power, Fossil Fuels and Long Term Vision
Nuclear power emits carbonn emissions due to uranium ore and fuel processes. Nuclear power costs far, far more than renewable power, such as wind and solar. The nuclear power station at Sellafield on the coast of north west England has caused the radioactive contamination of the Irish Sea, the world’s most polluted sea. There is constant danger in the spent nuclear fuel that will never go away.
There are growing risks of failure with nuclear power stations, especially ageing nuclear power stations; the first nuclear power stations were built in 1954 in Europe. There is the burden of the production, storage and disposal of nuclear waste. These power stations leave a heavy carbon footprint.
Only 31 countries out of 200 countries have nuclear power stations. Around 12 countries in Europe, along with Israel, remain opposed to nuclear power stations and other countries, such as Germany and Switzerland, are phasing out nuclear power. Nuclear power belongs to 20th century thinking and has the potential to become a 21st century nightmare.
Politicians, religious authorities, minority of scientists/meteorologists and corporate leaders in US and elsewhere have consistently denied that human behaviour contributes directly to climate change. They consistently maintain that swings in the climate remained a natural phenomenon having nothing whatsoever to do with the heavily industrialised world, the widespread damage to our environment and the pollution of land water and air. Those who advocate this view endorse the persistent spewing of carbon into the atmosphere believing that it will not make any difference to the climate and life on Earth.
We live in an era where we witness the melting of the ice caps around the North and South Pole, the melting of the glaciers in various mountain ranges and a widespread deforestation at an unparalleled rate. Pollutants, contaminants, sewerage, plastic kills marine life and destroys our oceans and reefs. We also see more and more pollution of our seas, lakes and rivers. We know about the destruction of the earth to gain access to minerals through mining and fracking. These global events impact on climate change.
The collusion of governments and large powerful corporations persist in the demands upon dwindling resources of the earth, the exploitation of people and places, in order to maximise production and maximise profit. Our governments and businesses persuade entire populations to live in the spell of the pursuit of gratification through the field of pleasure, acquisition of goods and infatuation with the latest gadgets.
The major fossil fuel countries, namely US, China and Europe, need to make the greatest cuts in transmissions as these industrialised regions bear the greatest responsibility in the past century for the destruction and depletion of our resources. Other countries such as Australia, Brazil, India, Indonesia and South Africa have to change their priorities as well.
The current method of measuring carbon emissions places responsibility on the country that produces and exports manufactured goods. Thus the West condemns China. The responsibility for carbon emissions includes the exporter AND the importer. The West imports on a massive scale from China while blaming China for the environmental cost.
Politicians and powerful CEOs show little interest beyond their time in office. They speak again and again from the level of their short-term interest of themselves, the nation state or on behalf of the shareholders. Every government and corporation needs truly independent bodies to hold accountable the policies of governments and corporations.
Billions of Euros worldwide need to be spent on a variety of renewable energy systems on such a scale that it frees humanity from the destructive dependency on fossil fuels.
A Green Economy
We require a 21st century industry with a green economy at its core that can provide us with the energy we need through a moderate lifestyle, sustainable goods and the closure of the fossil fuel industry. A widespread shift to putting an end to deforestation, factory farming, cattle farms and obsession with transportation, whether by a car, aeroplane or ship. We need a massive reduction in the movement of goods through ocean going tankers, aeroplanes and trucks.
We have to shift away quickly from coal-fired mining, the production and creation of more coal plants and fracking that spells danger under the earth and upon the surface.
We have reached the point where every major financial decision- has to build into it a vision of global sustainability. This requires the phasing out of subsidies for fossil fuels and application of a truly efficient use of resources. We need to change our diet, end dependency on the consumption of animals, cut out of the manufacture of luxury goods, such as huge yachts, private planes and the excesses of lifestyle.
It is an act of imperialism to restrict the desire of poor nations to be as materialistic as the West. It is the West that has to show the way through implementation of a considerate, respectful and organic way of life, which acknowledges its importance for present and future generations and offer sustainable methods to poor countries. We have to learn from thoughtful communities and indigenous people in the poor nations how to live a mindful, caring and a sustainable way of life.
We have the capacity to increase in a dramatic way the share of renewable non-fossil energy through wise application of sun, wind, rain, tides waves to increase the global energy output on a massive scale. We already have the necessary expertise, inventions and resources to effect a dramatic shift from coal and oil dependency to alternatives.
Wind and solar installations are quick and easy to install with the confidence that sun and wind variations in a country means the installations can generate energy. Germany has the greatest appliction of solar while Thailand provides more solar power than the rest of south east Asia combined.
We need a technology, creative and innovative with a low carbon emission, resilient and sustainable with the use of clean energy. We need to reward those who create, implement and support a lifestyle modest and meaningful. Widespread and intensive application of wind and solar power offer a cheap, safe and renewable source of energy.
Our leaders lack the political and corporate will to implement a green economy at a cost to all sentient beings.
Governments need to introduce legislation to stop banks from financing high carbon projects and ensure that banks support low carbon initiatives Corporations and banks will not voluntarily change their hunger for control and profit. The power of people have to force governments and businesses to change their harmful practices.
With a view towards a zero carbon economy, we can accompany a substantial change in attitude which contributes to ethics, mindful living and a sense of well-being. We need to develop our inner life to psychological and spiritual practices and give support to the inner life of others with explicit reference to enviro-mental life, the natural connection of the inner to the outer. We need a deep and liberating sense of renewal with a spiritual awareness in the heart of our being.
The wisdom of the Buddhist tradition and other spiritual traditions remind us of truth of the inter-connection of every event with everything else. We have a duty to explore change so the various process of life support each other.
Every consumer, every household has an important task, namely to examine every aspect of our lifestyle. At home, we explore ways to reduce our heat output, air conditioning, lights, water and electricity. We make the transition to a truly healthy diet. We eat as much organic, plant based food as possible. We end animal consumption. We minimise consumption of processed food, sugar, fat and salt. We do not waste food. We make household items last. We buy eco-friendly products. We look at our travel plans and our means and amount of travel. We examine our modes of transport. We bring our voices of concern to our workplace in the public or private sector. We question authority.
Rather than wait for government actions, citizens develop initiatives towards development of a sustainable socity. Launched in Totnes (population 8000), south Devon, England in 2006, the Transition Town Movement focussed on changes in lifestyle at the local and regional level to cultivate a wisespread reduction in use of energy. The Transition Town Movemnt show the way to develop and understand the principle of the interconnection between people, resources and environment. More than 1000 cities and towns in more than 40 countries have adopted this model and made the principle suitable for local needs.
We need to talk to children about living in respectful ways. We can spend more time with children outdoors talking about nature. We encourage a radical change in the subjects and themes for education in primary schools, secondary schools and universities. Government and businesses have promoted a way of life as if the capital, namely the Earth, existed as an infinite and eternal resource. This 200 year old deluded view brings more and more painful consequences. We have to work together to make this transition to a wise way of life for present and future generations.
We need to work together to change our lifestyle. Individuals, families, friends, streets, villages, towns, cities and countries need to work on a transition from an outmoded way of life to a caring way of life in harmony with global realities. There is no alternative.
MAY ALL BEINGS LIVE A SUSTAINABLE WAY OF LIFE
MAY ALL BEINGS ENGAGE IN WISE ACTION
MAY ALL BEINGS LIVE AN AWAKENED LIFE