WWF funded study: We have five years to switch to a global clean-energy industrial economy or it’s too late

The world has just five years to change to a low-carbon industrial economy before climate change goes past the point of no return according to scientists at Climate Risk, an environmental research firm known for its work for global insurance companies. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) sponsored their study, titled Climate Solutions 2 that was publicized yesterday. It is the first modeling analysis that puts a timetable on reducing carbon emissions that answers the question: “How long will it take [for] clean-tech industries to deliver a low-carbon economy (Climate Risk 2009)?” The above photo is of local farmers showing us another dry well near Bodhgaya in Bihar, India. Photo by Angela Rockett Kirwin, KIRF

The scientists discovered that by 2014, projected industrial growth rates would make it impossible for countries to meet the carbon targets required to keep global warming below 2°C. The report also stated that market measures such as the European Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) of carbon credits would not be enough to stop global warming on its own (WWF 2009). Market measures need to be combined with other policies such as “energy efficiency standards, feed-in tariffs for renewable energy and an end to ‘perverse’ subsidies for fossil fuel use according to the WWF web site (WWF 2009)”

Climate Solutions 2 tells us that we need to start making the change to a low-carbon economy today,” said Kim Carstensen, who leads WWF’s Global Climate Initiative that sponsored the study. “The transformation will require sustained growth in clean and efficient industry in excess of 20 percent a year over a period of decades.”

Developed countries, known as Annex 1 countries during the United Nations Climate Change Talks, such as the United States, Australia, and Japan, are responsible for most of the global warming. However, Annex 1 countries have stalled in their commitments to reducing global warming. They committed to decreasing their emissions by only 11-18% by 2020 during the recent Climate Change Talks in Bangkok according to Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) (Bevington 2009). Least Developed States (LDCs) and AOSIS members have the most to lose if there is runaway global warming. LDCs have sizable rural populations who rely on the weather for their agricultural subsistence. For example, in India alone, an estimated 450 million people live off of rain-fed agriculture (Economist Magazine 2009). The AOSIS nations will be under water as the sea levels rise due to global warming. At the current level of global warming of 0.8°C, the AOSIS island nations are already suffering from “coastal erosion, flooding, coral bleaching and more frequent and intense extreme weather events” according to their web site (AOSIS 2009). Photo above was found via Google Images from Progressivestates.org.

On a positive note, Climate Solutions 2 study predicts that renewable energies such as wind and solar power will become price competitive with fossil fuels between 2013 and 2025. This conservatively assumes no more than a 2% annual rise in fossil fuel prices (WWF 2009). “This analysis shows that we can win the fight against runaway climate change … by creating stable long-term investment environments that don’t seek immediate returns,” said Dr Stephan Singer of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF 2009).

The international agreement at COP15 this December will determine how its signatory nations will manage the “low-carbon industrial revolution” that is necessary to prevent catastrophic climate change. COP15 will be the successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol signed in 1993. Hopefully the COP15 negotiators will come to an accord that will prevent runaway global warming in the next five years (COP15 2009).

Resources

AOSIS

2009 “AOSIS High-Level Summit on Climate Change,” Alliance of Small Island States, retrieved on October 19, 2009, from: http://www.sidsnet.org/aosis/summit2009.html

Bevington, Cara

2009 “After Bangkok: the Roadblocks to Barcelona and Beyond,” Adopt-a-Negotiator for Climate Change, retrieved on October 19, 2009, from: http://adoptanegotiator.org/2009/10/16/after-bangkok-the-roadblocks-on-the-way-to-barcelona-and-beyond/

Climate Risk

2009 “Climate Solutions 2,” Climate Risk > News, retrieved on October 19, 2009, from: http://www.climaterisk.net

COP15

2009 “United Nations Climate Change Conference,” COP15 Copenhagen, retrieved on October 19, 2009, from: http://en.cop15.dk/

Economist Magazine

2009 “When the Rains Fail,” Economist Magazine, September 12th, p.27.
Available online. Retrieved on October 19, 2009, from:
http://www.economist.co /displaystory.cfm?story_id=14401149

UNFCCC

2009 “Emissions Trading,” United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, retrieved on October 19, 2009, from: http://unfccc.int/kyoto_protocol/mechanisms/emissions_trading/items/2731.php

WWF

2009 “Deadlines loom for creating new economy to avoid climate catastrophe,” World Wildlife Fund, retrieved on October 19, 2009, from: http://wwf.org.au/news/deadlines-climate-catastrophe/

Climate Change is a social justice issue for developing countries

It’s about time for America to wake up and realized that climate change is affecting real people now. And, that climate change = more poverty, more hunger, higher food prices, & more war unless something is done. Now.

Journalist Cara Bevington, attending the last UNFCCC Climate Change Talks conference in Bangkok last week for Adoptanegotiator.org, reported that wealthy countries such as the United States and Australia were (1) not committing themselves to climate change efforts at the levels spelled out in the Kyoto Protocol required to reduce global warming significantly and (2) were speaking in processual abstractions of measurements and compliance rather than commitments. She reported the plea of the lead negotiator from Lesotho, South Africa reflected the general perspective of climate change as a material social justice issue by many developing countries:

“The failure to combat climate change will increase poverty in my country, and right across Africa. The rights of my people, the rights of people from the most vulnerable countries, are compromised by climate change. We must act now,” the lead Climate Change Talks negotiator from Letho said.

Many developing countries still have a majority of their populations living as poor farmers and it’s important for non-farming Americans to remember this (only 2% of Americans work in Agriculture). For example, 80% of Tanzanians work in agriculture (CIA Factbook, 2009).* More than half of India’s 1.1 billion population are farmers and 25% of all Indians live below the poverty line (CIA World Factbook 2009)**. Also, about 43% of all Indian children suffer from malnutrition already according to a recent report in The Economist. The climate makes a direct impact on these people’s lives if it rains or not. For example, in India alone, an estimated 450 million people live off of rain-fed agriculture (The Economist 2009) Photo above was taken during 2006 drought crises in Bihar, India. Photo by Mark Kirwin of Kirwin International Relief Foundation

The weather affects whether or not they have a job and income at best, and at worst, enough food and water for their family to live on. It’s not like here in the United States where, for the average middle class person reading this blog posting, climate change may mean nothing more than higher energy and food prices…sometime later…in the future. An abstraction. Inconveniences. Right now, the most compelling image I see about climate change in the United States is an endangered polar bear. This is may galvinize the environmentally aware to take action, but it’s not motivating enough for many people in the United States struggling to make it through the current recession. They need to see a human face. They need to feel empathy.

In the primarily agrarian developing countries, climate change is not “An Inconvenient Truth” but a life or death issue.*** It is hurting people and wildlife now. It is creating more political insecurity globally now. I think climate change is a human rights story and a security issue and that is the story that needs to be told if the public is to be galvanized to action. There should be more publicity on the probable outcomes of the Climate Change Talks text negotiations. How does a certain amendment change affect people materially? What will happen to a typical Ethiopian farming family if the drought due to global warming continue? How many more families will suffer the same fate in East Africa? How does that affect our national security and resource interests in Ethiopia, Somalia, or Sudan where there are more and more anti-American terrorist groups attracting impoverished youths? Real lives are at stake. Action on climate change will require some altruistic action on the part of all nations as energy sources are switched to renewable and non-fossil fuel burning sources. To get altruistic action, environmentalists and policy makers will have to elicit empathy out of voters and stakeholders. The best way to do this is to translate climate change into material impacts that are affecting real people, right now.

I just read a griping story about resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan in last Sunday’s New York Times article “Held by the Taliban: 7 months, 10 days in captivity” by a journalist David Rohde. By living with the Taliban, as an unwilling prisoner, for nearly a year Rohde brought a human face to this conflict. A few of the terrorists are truly fundamentalist zealots and can’t be reasoned with–but those are the minority. It seems from his reports that most join the Taliban for better life, to pull themselves and their families out of poverty and out of fear of reprisal if they don’t join. It really comes down to poverty as the main driver of the growth of the Taliban’s political control in Pakistan and Afghanistan. What is poverty? Lack of adequate food and resources for a healthy life. Global warming is causing more poverty and ultimately, will be creating terrorist recruits.

If you want to fight terror, start with fighting poverty.

If you want to take care of the environment and help stop climate change, you must first take care of the people.

But to do this and get real action out of people, you need to show how real people and wildlife are suffering now due to climate change and solutions that will help them. Not enough people will care about climate change unless you to show real people suffering from it and tell their stories.

* I witnessed the devastating impact of the drought on children, the educational system (children can not attend school when it is hot and there is no water to drink) and the environment in rural areas near the Serengeti in Tanzania in July, 2006.

** I saw first hand the dry wells and hungry children in Bihar, India in December 2006.

***I am so grateful that Al Gore made the movie An Inconvenient Truth. That movie has done more for the welfare of people and wildlife than anything else media-wise in recent years. He is a hero.

References

Bevington, Cara
2009, “After Bangkok: the Roadblocks to Barcelona and Beyond,” Adopt-a-negotiator, retrieved on October 19, 2009, from: http://adoptanegotiator.org/2009/10/16/after-bangkok-the-roadblocks-on-the-way-to-barcelona-and-beyond/

CIA
2009 “India,” The World Factbook, retrieved on October 19, 2009, from:
https://www.cia.gov /library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/in.html

CIA
2009, “Tanzania,” The World Factbook, retrieved on October 19, 2009, from:
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/tz.html

Editors
2009 “East Africa Drought,” The Economist Magazine, September 24th,
retrieved on October 19, 2009, from:
http://www.economist.com/world/middleeast-africa/displayStory.cfm?story_id=14506436

Editors
2009 “When the Rains Fail,” The Economist Magazine, September 12th, p.27.
Available online. Retrieved on October 19, 2009, from:
http://www.economist.co /displaystory.cfm?story_id=14401149

Rohde, David
2009 “Held by the Taliban: 7 months, 10 days in captivity”, New York Times, Sunday, October 19, 2009, p. A1. Available online. Retrieved on October 19, 2009, from: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/18/world/asia/18hostage.html