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Some Reasons For Optimism In The Battle For The Planet

Optimism In The Battle For The Planet
Optimism In The Battle For The Planet

Some Reasons For Optimism In The Battle For The Planet

Let’s start 2023 with some positive news for a change.

It’s amply clear that the current global economic systems are not at all sustainable. Business as usual is not an option. “It’s the economy stupid’ now seems to be the most unfitting of political statements in that the most common notion of “The Economy’ is decoupled from extreme externalities such as environmental degradation, impacts on global health and social upheavals.

A famous Einstein quote is applicable – “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” To me – this implies that whatever situation we are facing, we need to rise to a new consciousness — a new way of thinking. This means saying NO to business as usual. Fortunately, there is a growing cadre of scientists, economists, political leaders, activists, conservationists, indigenous groups, farmers, foresters, engineers and more that are applying knowledge to attain solutions for the crises we face.

Christiana Figueres is the former executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (2010-2016). In a 2021 editorial piece she wrote “History will remember this decade as the climate turning point, the moment we finally woke up to the fact that despite (and because of) shocks like Covid-19, decarbonization — the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions — is now inevitable. The only question is how fast we will achieve it.”

Optimism In The Battle For The Planet

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Despite the continued force exerted by powerful lobbies funded by big money, there are rays of hope around the world. Note – some of this was mentioned in my previous article –  https://environmentmatters.ca/climate-change-are-we-beyond-hope/

 

 

  • Loss and damage – COP27 – the annual conference of the parties on climate change did achieve something. The new loss and damage fund promises to finance the rebuilding of poorer, vulnerable countries hit by increasingly severe climate impacts that they have done little to cause. It is a long overdue acknowledgment of the moral responsibility the big polluters have for the climate emergency.

 

Optimism In The Battle For The Planet

 

  • Deforestation – A ground-breaking EU (European Union) deal to ban the import of goods linked to deforestation should set a global benchmark and will hasten the passage of a similar law in the US and hopefully other jurisdictions. This will in effect prohibit the import of commodities such as beef, soya, palm oil, coffee, cocoa, rubber, charcoal and paper, and derived products, unless their origins can be verified as not being associated with deforestation. This is an imperative given the fact that a football pitch-sized tract of forest is lost every second somewhere around the world because of agricultural expansion. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/jan/05/eu-ban-on-deforestation-linked-goods-sets-benchmark-say-us-lawmakers

Helping in these cases is definitive evidence that the fossil fuel industry understood the reality of climate change as early as the 1960s. In a paper commissioned by the American Petroleum Association, the authors wrote ““There seems to be no doubt that the potential damage to our environment could be severe,” https://e360.yale.edu/features/climate-lawsuits-oil-industry-research?utm_source=pocket_saves&utm_source=pocket-newtab

 

  • Politically – In Brazil, the defeat of right-wing president – Jair Bolsonaro means a return to policies to save the Amazon (considered the lungs of the earth), or at least halt the pillage that Bolsonaro enabled. And in the USA – the mid-term elections did not result in a projected ‘red wave’ that would have given the Republican Party the political power to potentially reverse the progress that the current administration has initiated on the climate front. Likewise, Australia elected the Labour Party who, with the support of the Green Party and independents have ushered in bold climate plans and regulations. Strangely – conservative parties around the world seem unwilling to face the urgency of planetary destruction.
  • AdvocacyCollective action is a global imperative. There have been many mega projects cancelled or put on hold due to collective action. Indigenous leaders are now realizing some long-overdue credit and recognition. Moreover, financial support for climate activists is growing and is accelerating change. For example, there is a new initiative called HERO, which aims to provide a basic income for 10,000 climate activists in the next five years. HERO is a subscription-based platform where people can support activist groups around the world working on pressing policy issues, and thereby turning the climate crisis into humanity’s most unifying ethical moment. https://herocircle.app

 

  • The EU – seems to be the leading jurisdiction in tackling environmental issues. For example, up to 12,000 substances could ultimately fall within the scope of a new law, which would constitute the world’s “largest ever ban of toxic chemicals”, according to the European Environmental Bureau (EEB).  In the US – investors are now pressuring the top firms to halt production of toxic ‘forever chemicals’ due to the potential for lawsuits over toxic compounds linked to cancer and other diseases. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/apr/25/eu-unveils-plan-largest-ever-ban-on-dangerous-chemicals.

 

  • Plastics – The EU has the most wide-ranging single use plastics ban. For example, in France – even fruit and vegetables will be sold without plastic packaging. There will no longer be small toiletries in hotels. In Canada – effective December 20, 2022, the manufacture and import for sale of the following harmful single-use plastics, will be prohibited: checkout bags/cutlery / food service ware made from, or containing, problematic plastics that are hard to recycle/stir sticks/and straws (with some exceptions).

 

Optimism In The Battle For The Planet
Optimism In The Battle For The Planet

These are but a few examples that demonstrate some degree of progress towards the battle for Planet Earth. Much more is needed if untenable environmental devastation is to be avoided. The solutions require technological advances, new economic models (circular economy), rigorous regulations, international accords, massive capital investments (some of which must come from the big polluters) and for certain – political courage.

Climate Change – Are We Beyond Hope

Climate Change - Are We Beyond Hope

Climate Change – Are We Beyond Hope

Climate Change – Are We Beyond Hope? 

“When we get our story wrong, we get our future wrong” – David Korten

There is a saying that a pessimist is an optimist with years of experience.  I have been following a variety of environmental issues for over 45 years now and this saying neatly sums up the degree of my frustration concerning the lack of progress on crucial environmental matters. For me – it’s also personal. I have grandchildren and I worry greatly about the future they will face.

 

AN ENGINEERED FAILURE

I acknowledge the negative tone of many of my articles. I wish it were not so. But the reality is indeed dire, and this must be stated clearly. It’s of no value to gloss over the facts. The past few years have seen a drumbeat of climate-driven disasters all over the world. Climate scientists are using words or phrases including – ‘scary’, ‘unprecedented’, ‘unstoppable’, ‘beyond extreme’, “time is running out’ and ‘frightening tipping points’ – just to name a few. Even more unsettling is that social scientists seem as, or even more alarmed in terms of assessing the upheaval that is already occurring and will undoubtedly get worse.   

One role of science communication is to counteract willful ignorance. Science often develops inconvenient facts. Science communication takes this knowledge, translating the complexity into everyday language. If the message is inconvenient, unpalatable, disturbing, or even downright scary, the story still requires telling. This is what I attempt to do with my blogs, joining the chorus of thousands of other science communicators who are sounding the alarm of a catastrophic future if carbon emissions continue their current trajectory.

From what I can ascertain, we (a majority of humanity) are in a collective delusion about our current and impending impact on life on this planet. As such, science communication is not enough. This is not a matter of rationality.  Proper science communication is continually obfuscated by false information. The fossil fuel industry has known since the 1970s that their products cause climate change but took the course of denial and delay by seeding misinformation fed to the public through a variety of “think’ tanks using phony science. Social media greatly aided these efforts.

Climate Change - Are We Beyond Hope

The failure to halt climate change has been engineered from day one. We know that the licence granted to fossil fuel companies by 50 years of failure has enabled them to make stupendous profits – estimated to be 2.5 billion dollars per day (averaged over 50 years and corrected to today’s dollar). This kind of money provides big industry the power over every political decision they require. Even more perverse, -governments continue to supplement this financial grab by granting oil and gas companies 64 billion dollars per year in public subsidies.

So – while I acknowledge the negative tone of my articles, I don’t apologize for that. My frustration is warranted. This year’s CoP (Conference of the Parties) conference in Egypt – confirms this. When the history of the climate crisis is written, in whatever world awaits us, CoP 27 will be seen as the moment when the dream of keeping global heating below 1.5C died. Little wonder, there were over 600 fossil fuel lobbyists attending, more than the delegates of any single country and more than the delegates from all African countries. The words “fossil fuels” do not even appear in the final text. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/nov/20/world-still-on-brink-of-climate-catastrophe-after-cop27-deal

For over 50 years we have all been witnessing an engineered failure and even paying into it. But – we are not beyond hope. In fact, it is impossible to function without hope. The fact is, the 1.5C target is not a threshold beyond which all hope also dies.

RAYS OF HOPE

“Hope is stubborn. It exists within us at the cellular level and works up from there, as the urge to live. So, hope will persist. The question is, can we put it to use.”  Kim Stanley Robinson.

Despite the continued force exerted by powerful lobbies funded by big money, there are rays of hope around the world.

  • The past decade has been one of slow but steady progress with carbon emissions starting to flatten. Countries representing 88% of global emissions have announced plans to get to net zero in the latter half of the 21st century
  • CoP27 did achieve something. The new loss and damage fundpromises to finance the rebuilding of poorer, vulnerable countries hit by increasingly severe climate impacts that they have done little to cause. It is a long overdue acknowledgment of the moral responsibility the big polluters have for the climate emergency.
  • Another reason to be hopeful is that clean energy became cheaper much faster than expected. The cost of both solar energy and batteries fell tenfold in the last 10 years and the cost of wind energy by two-thirds. Solar is the cheapest form of new electricity to build in much of the world today, and electric vehicles now represent 13% of new vehicle sales globally.
  • Politically – Brazil – The defeat of right-wing president – Jair Bolsonaro means a return to policies to save the Amazon or at least the pillage that Bolsonaro enabled. As well as containing 25% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity, the Amazon plays a crucial global role in storing billions of tons of carbon and releasing billions of tons of water each year.
  • Politically – USA – the mid-term elections did not result in a projected ‘red wave’ that would have given the Republican Party the pollical power to potentially reverse the progress that the current administration has initiated on the climate front. Sadly – conservative parties around the world seem to be tone deaf on the urgency of planetary destruction. This applies to Canada as well.
  • Price on carbon – As of 2020, sixty-four carbon pricing (carbon tax or cap and trade) initiatives have been implemented in forty-six countries worldwide, representing over 22% of global emissions. British Columbia was one of the first jurisdictions to introduce a carbon tax (in 2008). Since then, carbon emissions decreased by more than 17% in just 5 years, personal income tax dropped to the lowest in Canada and the BC economy performed well. Carbon pricing works.
  • Advocacy – Collective action is a global imperative. There have been many mega projects cancelled or put on hold due to collective action. Indigenous leaders are now realizing some long-overdue credit and recognition. Moreover, well-informed young people such as Greta Thunberg, Delany Reynolds, and Xiuhtezcati Martinez are often the adults in the room and have been turning the climate crisis into humanity’s most unifying ethical moment. It was unfortunate that the most recent CoP was in Egypt as the opportunity for mass protests was prevented by the authoritarian government. The protests help drive the process.
  • Legal action – is increasingly effective, using the courts to hold governments and industry to account – much like what was achieved to fight ‘Big Tobacco’. Recently, climate change activists secured a major legal victory against oil giant Royal Dutch Shell.
  • Grass roots efforts – Energy poverty is real – 770 million people lacked access to any form of electricity as of 2019. Solar Sister is a non-profit whose goal is to support rural women in creating their own energy businesses. With sufficient funding an organization like this can help rural areas to ‘leapfrog’ to sustainable electricity as opposed to relying on the traditional business as usual model of fossil fuel-based electricity. https://solarsister.org
Climate Change - Are We Beyond Hope

These are some examples that can give us hope. These kinds of efforts must now be exponentially enhanced with monumental conviction. The deeply flawed economic theory that has been driving this disaster must be radically altered. Everyone has a role to play. I highly recommend watching the following 15-minute video. It was made just prior to the most recent CoP in Egypt.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/video/2022/nov/10/climate-carnage-whose-job-is-it-to-save-the-planet-documentary