14th General Election (GE14)
A school inundated by floodwaters in Manikganj, Bangladesh. It took scientists two decades to conclude that climate change is caused by human activities. IPS PIC

ON Dec 20, Europe’s 28 ministers of environment met in Brussels, Belgium, to discuss the plan for reducing emissions prepared by the European Commission, to comply with the Paris Agreement on climate change. Well, it is now clear that we have lost the battle in keeping the planet as we have known it. Now, of course, this can be considered a personal opinion of mine, devoid of objectivity.

Therefore, I will bring a lot of data, history and facts, to make it concrete. Data and facts have good value: they focus on a debate, while ideas do not.

As common in politics, interests have won over values and vision. The ministers decided (with some resistance from Denmark and Portugal), to reduce Europe’s commitment. This is going in United States President Donald Trump’s direction, who left the Paris Agreement, to privilege American interests, without any attention to the planet. So, Europe is just following.

While we talk on how to reduce the use of fossils, we are doing the opposite. At this very moment, we spend US$10 million (RM40.2 million) per minute, to subsidise the fossils industry. Just counting direct subsidies, they are between US$775 billion and US$1 trillion, according to the United Nations (UN).

Now, let us go back to the real flaw of the Paris Agreement. Scientists took two decades to conclude with certitude that climate change is caused by human activities, despite a strong and well financed fight by the coal and fuel industry, to say otherwise.

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is an organisation under the auspices of the UN, whose members are 194 countries, but its strength comes from the more than 2,000 scientists from 154 countries who work together.

It took them from 1988 (when the IPCC was established) to 2013 to reach a definitive conclusion: to stop the planet from deteriorating more rapidly, emissions should not exceed 1.5 centigrade over what was the earth’s temperature in 1850.

In other words, our planet is deteriorating already, and we cannot reverse that. We have emitted too much gas and pollution, that are at work already. By halting this process we can stabilise it, but never cancel what we did cause, at least for thousands of years.

In fact, in the last four years we had the hottest summers since 1850. And, last year, we had the highest emissions in history, at 41.5 gigatons. Of those, 90 per cent came from activities related to human actions, while renewables (cost of which has now become competitive with fossils), cover only 18 per cent of the energy consumed in the world.

Now, let us move to another important dirty secret, to show how far we are from really addressing the control of our climate. In addition to what we said, there is a very important issue, that has even been discussed in Paris: the agreements are entirely about the reduction of emissions by the fossils’ industry. Other emissions have been left out.

Animals emit not carbon dioxide (CO2), but methane which is at least 25 per cent more damaging than C02. There is recognition by the UN, that while all means of transportation, from cars to planes, contribute to 13 per cent of emissions, cows do with 18 per cent.

And, the real problem is the use of water, a key theme that we have no way of addressing in this article. Water is considered even by military strategists to be soon the cause of conflicts, as petrol has been for a long time.

One pound of beef uses 2.5 gallons of water. That means that a hamburger is the equivalent of two months of showers! And, to have one gallon of milk, you need 100 gallons of water. And people worldwide use one tenth of what cows need.

Let us conclude with a last example: over-fishing. It is now two decades since the World Trade Organisation (WTO) began attempts to try to reach an agreement on over-fishing with mega nets, that scoop up an enormous quantity of fishes: 2.7 trillion, of which they keep only one fifth, and throw back four-fifths.

Well, at the last WTO conference on Dec 13 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, governments were again not able to reach an agreement on how to limit illicit fishing. Big fishes are now down at 10 per cent of 1970. And, we are exploiting one third of all stocks.

It is estimated that illegal fishing puts between 10 billion and 23 billion on the black market, according to a study by 17 agencies, with a full list of names. And again, governments spend US$20 billion per year to finance the increase of their fishing industry — another example of how interest wins over the common good.

I think we have enough data to realise the inability of governments to take seriously their responsibilities, because they have the necessary information to know that we are heading towards a disaster.

We have all seen, at no avail, the increase in hurricanes and storms, and a record spread of wildfires.

The UN has estimated that at least 800 million people will be displaced by climate change making several parts of the world uninhabitable. Where will they go? Not to the US, where they are seen as invaders. IPS

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