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Thursday
Dec062018

We're Losing the Battle Against Global Warming

Global warming is the crisis of our times. Some politicians and many Americans continue to point to fluctuations in temperature, historical shifts in climate, and minority scientific opinions as sufficient evidence to delay any current action. Such arguments ignore the vast bulk of scientific evidence and opinion, sometimes claiming it is some kind of conspiracy among climate alarmists. Other politicians, from all over the world, agree that climate change is a problem and that it is only stoppable by human effort, but, even while declaring it a crisis, put measures to combat it low on their list of priorities when it comes to changing policies.

Several recent reports have shown that the world’s current efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions and to slow rising temperatures are not working. The last four years have set a record for worldwide high temperatures, and a new report from the Global Carbon Project showed that greenhouse gas emissions rose 1.6% last year and are on track to rise another 2.7% this year. China and India are the worst offenders, but the U.S. has also shown an increase in emissions and only Europe showed a decrease. There are many culprits: increased gas consumption is one, use of coal in energy generation is another, burning of forests and deforestation another. 

The Paris Climate Agreement was one global effort to get countries to agree to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but targets were set too low and most have not been met by the participating countries. The U.S., historically the largest contributor of greenhouse gases, although now being surpassed by India and China, has removed itself from the agreement citing the argument that the climate gains it would bring about are not sufficient to offset the economic losses, and that it required the U.S. to spend too much money to fix a problem that was being exacerbated mostly by other countries, who were not doing enough themselves.

Climate change is not the kind of problem that can be fixed by only part of the world acting or by employing policies that treat reducing emissions in isolation from other international policies. In many cases, economic growth and reduction of emissions are opposing factors. In a highly developed country such as the U.S. or many European nations, it may be possible to substitute growth in the renewable energy industry for continued investment in fossil fuel production or use. But in developing countries, including China and India, as well as countries in Asia and Africa that are trying to use industry to lift large populations out of poverty, this has been deemed unrealistic, and not only do the countries themselves choose to use fossil fuels, a global player such as China is funding their use in other developing countries as a method to help its own economy and increase its international influence.

Arms races and wars funnel money away from infrastructure development and research that could allow renewable energy to replace reliance on fossil fuels. The practice of using purchases or embargos of fossil fuels flowing from middle eastern countries as part of global defense and economic strategies perpetuates reliance on oil and natural gas as energy sources because of their role in these strategies. 

The developing countries outside of China, cannot forego reliance on fossil fuels for energy or even on the practice of massive deforestation (often through burning, which releases carbon and doesn’t capture any of it back because the trees are gone) without substantial financial help and incentives from richer countries such as the U.S.. While some argue that this is America paying for other people’s environmental programs, the long term savings from the results of the climate change that these developing countries will cause and are causing, more than offsets the short-term costs.

A truly global effort to stem climate change and global warming will require a total restructuring of international relations. Neither America First or China First will work and, in fact, such international competition is a major threat to our world’s environment. Add to that local greed, head-in-the-sand ignorance on the part of our leaders, and vested interest in the status quo by governments and private industry. All of these things have to change. Leaders have to realize that protecting their economies now is a meaningless exercise when the costs of combating extreme weather, rising oceans, droughts, floods and crop failures begin escalating until they become much greater than most economies can bear. Protecting one’s border and culture will fall by the wayside when whole populations of low-lying or drought-plagued regions of the world create millions of new refugees who need to be accommodated.

Global warming is an outcome that our entire world economic and social structure makes inevitable. Small changes or local decreases in emissions are not going to change things. The kinds of worldwide changes that need to occur require a rethinking of international relationships. The world needs to come together and work on the problem together. The short term pain will be substantial and will demand backing away from the kinds of competitive world-view that has characterized national agendas for centuries. But someone needs to address the issue, or we are all going to suffer.

Reader Comments (1)

Casey, you're always ahead of the curve. Just yesterday, on Ian Masters show on KPFK, Alan Minsky was reporting on a meeting in VT at the Sanders Institute last week where world economists were and leading Progressives in our country were gathered in a conference hosted by Bernie Sanders that spoke to the need for a World Progressive Movement. The rise of Nazism is rising throughout the world, climate change, along with the analysis of the global economic structure in a lightning-fast changing world were topics discussed. Of course, I'm encouraged to hear that there is the Green New Deal that is being presented to Congress at the moment, so there is hope. But the vital question is whether or not the changes needed can be implemented before it's too late.

December 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBillie Kelpin

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