threegenerationsleft

human activity and the destruction of the planet


Leave a comment

End Piece Two

CHAPTER 10

I started this book by talking about my love of nature and how it had been present in me from a very early age and I shared that the fauna of this world have a very special place in my heart. And I saw how this special world of ours, originally so much in harmony and balance, was systematically being destroyed by the hand of man.

I cited an article by American scientists which argues that most of the life forms living on this earth will have become extinct in only three generations, with maybe humans becoming extinct at about the same time too. Hence the title of this book became: “Three generations Left: Human Activity and the Destruction of the Planet”. These scientists may be wrong about the dates and about the mass extinction but I believe that there is sufficient risk to rouse me into writing a book about it and attempting to show how other, apparently disconnected factors, have added to the risk.

The book has been targeted at the average person in the street, because I feel that the message in it has to become worldwide knowledge before serious actions are likely to be taken to reverse the destruction. There are too many vested interests to keep the status quo but the status quo will not be good enough any longer.  We need radical system change.

The message in this book has not yet become universal knowledge.  This was emphasised for me recently when I attended an anti-austerity workshop in Birmingham.  A group of 50 or so thinking people had come together to discuss what might be the alternatives to the present Chancellor’s austerity programme.  We were split up into groups of five and given a poster to write down key factors that we considered to be important as alternatives to austerity.  Then the groups were split up again, so that a different set of people was going through the same exercise.  This happened four to five times.  The thing that astonished me most was that each group seemed to have an entirely different list, though common themes did emerge.  The other thing that astonished me was that the majority of people saw no link between anti-austerity and a green economy; indeed, many people did not know what a green economy was. Nobody mentioned loss of species and few were aware of the links between economies, trade, population increase, the industrial revolution, wars etc. that I have described in this book.

Whilst it was a shock to discover this lack of knowledge amongst thinking people, it has also been a spur for me to proceed to the publication of this book.

I have also been concerned that ordinary people, who are not particularly thinkers but who regularly read the red-top tabloids, have been strongly influenced by the lies that are, frequently and without conscience, spread across the pages and headlines of the daily papers that they read.  I am sad that they have been so misled by a mixture of divisive rhetoric, scandal-mongering and fear-inducing falsification that is the situation we are living with today. How can people tell the difference between the truth and lies, when this is frequently being peddled to them by a frenzied media who gain from the tax breaks handed out to them through austerity economies, and who pander to the corporations because they want to receive advertising revenue from them to help them to balance their own books.  They have no conscience about the lies that they propagate.

This is nothing short of corruption and it occurs, not only in today’s media, but also in the business world, amongst the super-rich and in many politicians in power today, throughout the world. Several corrupt dictators have been brought down but others seem to get away with it because deceit and lies is their second nature and, if something is repeated often enough, people begin to believe in it as the truth.  A good example of this was during the last two general elections in this country, when Conservative politicians repeated over and over that the Labour party were responsible for the 2008 recession and were weak on the economy.  Many people believed this and voted the Conservatives into power as a result; the truth of the matter is that the 2008 recession was a world recession and the UK was not the only country to be affected by it. The recession was caused by banks being able to create too much money too quickly and used it to push up house prices and speculate on financial markets, so that debts became unpayable.


fig80


Figure 80 showing that the 2008 recession did not only occur in the UK but also in the Eurozone and the USA (From: https://www.economicshelp.org/blog/7157/economics/to-what-extent-did-eu-recession-cause-uk-recession/  Source ONS IHYQ)

From the same source as the figure above, is a bar chart of the UK economic growth during that same period, which shows that the economy had recovered before the 2010 general election began.  And the truth of it is that, those who make this claim to be “strong on the economy” are actually not strong at all because the market economy as it stands at the moment (and as described in previous chapters), is actually destroying our beautiful world.  This is not only occurring in the UK but in other countries too who have market economies. So, relentlessly pursuing a market economy is not the answer to the world’s problems. It is positively dangerous.

The other point I want to make in this “End Piece Two” is about how power corrupts.  When people get into a position of power and take rather dodgy actions from that position, and get away with it, never being taken to task by anyone, they gain in confidence to do it more and more, each time taking bigger and bigger risks.  Thus, some politicians will go so far as to change their country’s laws and constitutions to improve their chances of staying in power.  This has happened in some African countries (e.g. Zimbabwe and now Uganda) and is currently happening in the UK, as constituency boundaries are being changed to improve the Conservative’s chances of hanging onto power, as well as giving monetary handouts to Tory-run councils and squeezing the others. And their ability to do this is, of course, being fuelled by the super-rich.

In the last 35 years in the UK, we have had three Prime Ministers who held onto power for longer than usual and, towards the end of their terms of office, I noticed that these three began to have a manic gleam in their eyes. You could say they went power mad.

We have just had another budget in the UK issued by the present Chancellor, George Osborne and yet again, it is peddling this worn-out ideology of austerity measures, this time hitting disabled people even harder.

And, at the moment the media are in a frenzy about a forthcoming referendum to be imposed on the British public about whether to stay in the European Union or whether to come out, most of the frenzy being xenophobic or racist in nature.  I fear this is a distraction.  It is not the main issue we should be concerned about. If the earth on which we live is in danger, it is neither here nor there as to whether the UK is in Europe or not.  The media, and the present government, is focussing on the wrong issue.  Let us work together to ignore this distraction and to set a new agenda. An agenda to save our planet.

So, I will quote again from the “End Piece” to my first book:

“To reverse current trends, and to prevent the destruction of the world, there is an urgent need for co-operation between nations, in which the commonality of the human condition is stressed, rather than its diversity.  Then, mankind might find a way to tackle global warming, to alleviate extreme poverty and to frustrate exploitation by the merchants.”

fig81

Fig.81

From: http://www.catchnews.com/environment-news/cop-out-on-climate-change-will-paris-summit-achieve-anything-1448814544.html

Reproduced with permission from catchnews

 

And I will end by adding a quote (with permission) from Devinder Sharma in India, which is receiving much of the increase in global temperatures:

It has now become even more obvious than before that the world we are living in has changed profoundly in the last five years. Every passing year is turning out to be hotter than the previous. It is just the middle of April but vast tracts of India are reeling under scorching heat with temperatures zipping past the 40 degrees mark. In 13 States, April temperature is higher by 8 degrees from the average. This will only intensify, as the season warms up.

India is on the boil, literally.

This is just the beginning of the summer months. In the next three months, before the monsoons set in, the heat wave is going to deadly. The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has predicted that the summer months this year will be warmer than normal across the country in all meteorological sub-divisions of the country. This year, unlike in the past, heat wave conditions are likely to hit more of central and north-western parts of the country. In fact, this is becoming quite visible with the hills facing very high temperatures.

I don’t know why the IMD uses the word ‘warmer’ to describe sweltering heat conditions but shooting mercury has already taken a death toll of 130. If this is ‘warmer’ by IMD definition, I shudder to think what it would mean if it were to use the word ‘hotter’ instead?

Last year, 1,500 deaths from heat wave were reported from Andhra Pradesh alone.

Now, let us look at the rising graph of mercury. According to NASA, 2015 was the warmest year ever since it began to keep record. But a year earlier, in 2014, the world also lived through the warmest year till then. In other words, mercury has been rising with each passing year. And now, meteorological predictions globally point to a still warmer 2016. Let me add, India is not going to be an exception. The IMD too points to a deadly heat wave in the months ahead. Its predictions shows that ‘all temperatures’ maximum, minimum and mean for most sub-divisions from northwest India, Kerala from south India and Vidharbha from central India are likely to be above 1 degree C.

If you thought January was unusually warm this year, let it be known that February was still warmer. Globally, February 2016 was the hottest month known based on the long-term averages drawn. NASA had used the word ‘shocker’ to describe the unprecedented warming it measured for the month of February and warned of a ‘climate emergency’. The average global temperatures in February were higher by 1.35 degree C. In India too, February was unusually warm this year with average temperature hike fluctuating between 1.5 degree and 2 degree.

But March has now turned to be the hottest. As per the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) March has ‘smashed’ all previous records. Data compiled by Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) shows that the March temperature was higher by 1.07 degree, based on an average since 1891. Data released by NASA also shows that March temperatures have beaten the past 100-years records.”

fig82

Fig.82
A drying out water hole in India, surrounded by thirsty animals

We are now in mid-April and I can already feel the average temperatures creeping up. While we can survive, my thoughts go out to the 700 million people reeling under two consecutive years of drought. With wells almost dry and walking on a parched land they will now have to confront an unkindly hot sun. Some reports say wells have dried to a level in Marathwada not seen in past 100 years. Another report tells us that 133 rivers have dried in Jharkhand. To make matters worse, a BBC report indicated that the government might pipe Himalayan water and carry it all the way to the parched lands. After all, this is the surest way to add to GDP!

The relatively well-off in the cities, towns and suburbs have the facility to switch on an air-conditioner or an air-cooler but imagine the plight of majority population who have no other option but to survive under shade, be it at home or under the tree.

Water bodies have dried up. Many studies point to a steep fall in water levels in major reservoirs to the levels that are lowest in a decade. Reports of several rivers drying up are also pouring in, Tungbhadra in Andhra Pradesh being one of them. But while the media remained embroiled in the controversy surrounding IPL matches following the Mumbai High Court directive to shift them outside Maharashtra, the nation has failed to focus on what is clearly a ‘climate emergency’.

What should certainly be more worrying is that each year is turning out to be hotter than the previous. Quoting JMA, a report in The Guardian says: ‘every one of the past 11 months has been the hottest ever recorded for that month.’ The way the temperature is climbing every month, it seems the records will go on tumbling as we step into the future. Is this because of the climate change or not is something for the scientists and policy makers to conclude but as far as I am concerned the climate is already changing.

Can we do something? Yes, we can. There are already a number of stories of hope – of how ordinary people have made efforts and demonstrated the will to make a difference. Just to illustrate. From Anna Hazare’s water harvesting techniques in the famed village of Ralegon Siddhi in Maharashtra to the tiny but forgotten village of Sukho-Majri tucked away in the Shivalik hills in Haryana, such examples are aplenty. This is just one way to minimize the impact. Several other alternatives and solutions have also been prescribed.

It’s therefore high time to take a fresh look at what development means. Policy planning must shift to address the emerging issues linked to human survival at times of worsening climate. I am not sure whether the two-years of back-to-back drought followed by an unprecedented heat wave have given any jolt to policy planners. We seem to be simply waiting for a normal monsoon to provide a succour, and wash away the dark realities.”

India is on a boil, literally. ABPLive.in April 16, 2016
http://www.abplive.in/blog/india-is-on-the-boil-literally


Posted By Devinder Sharma to Ground Reality at 4/26/2016 05:30:00 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Leave a comment

Bringing it all together and a way forward

CHAPTER 9

So there we have it!  A plethora of human activities which have put the harmonious cycles of our beautiful planet out of balance, leading to loss of habitat for many species, increasing global temperatures, climate change, extreme weather events, melting of the ice caps, raised sea levels, deforestation, acidification of the sea, space junk, accumulations of waste plastic and the threat of a mass extinction – all related to increasing carbon emissions, a process which may never be reversed unless urgent action is taken.

And, alongside of this, there has been the rapidly increasing human population, now seven times greater than at pre-industrial levels, leading to a multiplication of the destructive effects of human activity and loss of habitat for many species. Each of these activities has an inter-connectedness, which has led to a situation where a domino effect may take place, one factor triggering another factor, the total effect of which may make our planet unstable and uninhabitable in just three generations:

  • Industrial revolution, which did not end pre-1900 but which continued with an ever-increasing momentum, through the IR Continuum, to the present time;
  • Increasing human population, multiplying the effects of the IR;
  • Changes to economies from local agrarian economies to market economies, which encourage further industrialisation and rewards businesses who increase manufactured production;
  • International and multinational trading patterns, adding to the IR Continuum and leading to local situations where more is imported than is exported, and politicians desiring to take action for more and more economic growth; such actions are counter-productive, adding to the carbon load;
  • Greater divisions between the rich and poor in the world, leading to migration, unrest and wars, and with the rich contributing considerably more to climate change than the poor and with wars adding to the carbon footprint.

Fig. 75 attempts to show how all of these factors are interrelated and how each is contributing to ecological instability, both in its own right and by interaction with the others.  For example, the increasing human population has a multiplying effect on all the others; weakening economies result in increased efforts to promote economic growth, which multiply the effects of industrialisation, trading systems and global travel; increasing affluence of the super-rich provides a multiplying effect through increased multi-national trading; poverty in some areas being related to deforestation in order to grow crops to survive, this has the effect of reducing the number of trees available to absorb carbon dioxide as part of the photosynthetic cycle; market economies exaggerate the effects of the industrial revolution and its continuum, as well as affecting trading systems; greater unrest in the world, leading to wars, which add to the carbon load.

fig75

Fig. 75:  Our beautiful planet no longer in harmony due to ten of the

                interrelated factors at work in the world today

I hope I have made a convincing case about the urgent need for change in the ways in which the global human population organises its affairs.  To bring this change about needs a complete re-think by everybody, a complete change in the way in which we go about our normal lives and our business (see also Naomi Klein8).

As this book has unfolded, and during the writing of it, I have learnt so much myself – but this new learning has also opened me up to seeing things in a totally different light. It has been a revolution in my own thinking and responses. So, what started as a gut instinct has been transformed into an urgent imperative. I hope it does the same to you as well.

Many of the things that clutter up our lives, or make our lives more comfortable or exciting, have been produced at the cost of the planet.

So, some of the questions that have come to me, I will pose also to my readers:

  • Can we continue to slavishly follow consumer trends? Buying the latest gadgets, regardless of whether they have been transported across the world, thus increasing carbon emissions?
  • Can we continue to use our motor cars just to travel down the road to the shops or the school?
  • Should we continue to import foodstuffs that can be produced in our own country by our own farmers?
  • Can we continue to rob other species which share this planet with us, of their habitats?
  • Can we continue to clutter up the space around our planet with redundant and unused space junk?
  • Can we continue to fill our oceans with discarded, non-biodegradable plastic, which can also kill many marine species?
  • Can we continue to support the free-trade movement, which feeds into further industrialisation and the IR continuum?
  • Can we continue to give tacit support to a market economy, which rewards those companies and individuals who selfishly add to the carbon footprint of our planet?
  • Can we continue to support those industries which make unheeding use of fossil fuels in order to make a profit for themselves?
  • Can we continue to let the super-rich control most of the systems of the planet to feed their own greed, at the expense of the planet and of the poorest of the poor?
  • Can we continue to use nuclear power and manufacture nuclear weapons, when there is no safe way to dispose of nuclear waste?
  • Can we continue to go to war at the drop of a hat, when the carbon emissions released in such a war, add substantially to the carbon footprint of the planet?
  • Can we continue to trade in weapons and spend vast amounts of money in producing them, when many millions of people across the world go hungry?
  • Can we continue to allow the rich and multi-national companies to evade taxes, at the expense of supporting poorer nations to drag themselves out of poverty?
  • Can we continue to ignore the comfortable relationship that our governments have with the business world, which leads them to take decisions which support the business world, regardless of the damage they are doing to our planet and at the expense of the majority of the population?
  • Can we continue to take long-haul holidays, travelling across the world, using airlines, which are one of the worst polluters of the atmosphere?
  • Can we continue to give birth to babies, when the planet is already over-populated, with humans robbing many beautiful species of their habitats?
  • Can we control or curb the results of human curiosity and inventiveness? Or should it be channelled into less world-destroying end-products, such as innovations to produce clean energy?
  • Can we put sufficient pressure on our politicians to change direction regarding current economic thinking, the mathematics of which are flawed?
  • Can changes in the economy be introduced in time to save the planet?
  • What are the risks of changing trading practices on the economy?
  • What if one country makes changes and is exploited by other, less scrupulous, nations?
  • Will big business play ball?
  • What about the rich super elite? Will they recognise the urgency of the situation and change their behaviour to a more altruistic approach?
  • Is the idea of global co-operation to save the planet realistic?

So many questions have come to me and I am sure that other questions have come to you too as you have read this book.  There are so many decisions we need to take as well, both as individuals and as nations and global citizens.

Some groups are looking at the issue of climate justice, in which reparation is made by the greatest polluters, to poorer countries whose way of life is severely affected by climate change. Indeed, this formed part of the COP21 Paris agreement.

fig76

Fig.76:   ©Joel Pett, with permission

Reasons for the lethargy

Of course, many people already realise and understand about the damage we have done to the planet, as a species, and many people are already taking action across the globe, but there seems to be a lethargy to make the significant changes needed, so I will address this too.

Part of the lethargy is, I think, due to the success of the big business-climate-change-deniers, who have influenced people to think that the scientists are wrong and that there is nothing to worry about. Naomi Klein8 addresses this issue strongly in her book, “This Changes Everything”, as she places most of the blame for the desperate situation we face today, firmly in the courts of the big corporate businesses. In her opinion, they have used their money, and lots of it, to establish a climate-denial movement, in which the credibility of the climate scientists is attacked and the seriousness of global warming is minimised. She identifies a strong right wing caucus, which sees those campaigning for climate action, as a group of left wingers who wish to establish their own political agendas on the rest of the world. They also see it as a new battle they must fight in much the same way as they fought communism during the Cold War.  And they believe that they can use their $ millions to protect themselves from climate change disasters. In her view, they have little empathy for the victims of global warming and climate change, especially the poor in developing nations and island states; their attitude to such people is cruel and nothing short of racism.

Another reason for the lethargy is, I believe, that the whole concept of another mass extinction caused by climate change is too horrendous to think about and, in a way, unthinkable. Thus, people blank it out and just concentrate on their own lives and their normal agendas for the next few years.  It is easier to do this than to institute, and campaign for, the major lifestyle changes that are needed to avert this crisis. And it is easier to label people who, like me, write books to raise the issues, as doom-mongers, greenies or left-wing loonies.

I have come across people who look at the greenness of the English countryside, stretching for mile upon mile and, looking at the lovely green foliage, they cannot take on board that this is likely to disappear and so, like others, they dismiss global warming as unlikely.  The problem with this approach is that, we probably will see the countryside looking greener for a while, as plants and trees, in response to the increased carbon dioxide in the air, will produce more chlorophyll.  This may have a minimal effect on atmospheric carbon dioxide. But the mind-set fails to acknowledge that ocean acidification is already taking place and rises in sea levels have already swallowed up some islands (five of the Solomon Islands, for example), that coral is bleaching and that the ice caps are melting at increasing rates.  And that, whilst some areas are greening, other parts of the world are being ravaged and scorched by unprecedented temperatures and others suffering more and more wildfires and bush fires due to tinder-dry conditions (see also the quote from India at the end of chapter 10).

The scientist James Lovelock, who described the Gaia Hypothesis and who came up with methods to measure CFCs in the atmosphere, followed up his thesis with a warning124.  He comments in his book that:  “… it seemed there was little understanding of the great dangers that we face. The recipients of climate forecasts, the news media, government departments, the financial market – normally as skittish as blushing teenagers – and the insurance companies all seem relatively unperturbed about climate change and continued with business as usual until their world, the global economy, almost collapsed.”

Human Responses to warnings

One of the things that I find quite intriguing is how some people fail to take heed of warnings, a fire alarm for example. Whilst I get up, grab my things and run out of the door to the nearest fire exit, most people just carry on as if nothing had happened.  The same thing happens on motorways, when warning messages urge you to slow down because there is some hazard ahead.  Why is this?  Of course, these could be false alarms but why take the risk?  I can remember reading an article once about a tragedy when a ferry sank, drowning many people on board.  It would appear that those who survived were the ones, who reacted immediately and made extreme efforts to get to the upper decks and the lifeboats.  Are people unable to visualise a hazardous and different future?  Why do we continue to live for the present even if it makes the future more risky?

In an article in the New Scientist125, Robert Gifford, a Canadian environmental psychologist looked at the psychological reasons why people have failed to take action on climate change.  He came up with 33 reasons, which he grouped under certain headings.  I’ll attempt to give a short summary of them:

  1. LIMITED UNDERSTANDING

Gifford believes that humans are far less rational than was once believed and gives a list of 10 reasons why humans are not acting on climate change. The reasons range through sheer ignorance, limited brain power, not knowing what to do about it, a lack of priority to climate change because it does not seem to be causing any immediate problems, hearing the message so often that we switch off to it (message numbness), not understanding the urgency of the situation, due to poor reporting, undervaluing distant and future risks, a tendency to over-optimism, a perception that climate change is a complex global problem, so people think that their own behaviour will have little or no impact. Some have a fatalistic bias because they think nothing can be done, even by collective human action. People with doubts about the reality of climate change tend to read newspapers or listen to broadcasters which reinforce their convictions.  Also, studies show that, when people view the time they have available to do something in monetary terms,they tend to skip acting in environmentally friendly ways. Some think they are unable to take climate-friendly action because they don’t have the knowledge or skill and some claim they are unable to take certain actions, such as riding a bicycle or changing their diet.

 

 

fig77

Fig. 77

  1. IDEOLOGIES

Gifford believes that there are four broad belief systems that inhibit climate-positive behaviour. These include a strong belief in capitalism, a tendency to justify the status quo, a belief that a religious or secular deity will not forsake them or that “Mother Nature will take a course that we mere mortals cannot influence” and a belief that technology will be able to solve all the problems.

This category of Gifford’s has resonance with Naomi Klein’s views, though he does not place it first, as she has.

 SOCIAL COMPARISON

Gifford believes that, as humans are social animals, we will gravitate towards the choices of people we admire, so that, if they are climate change deniers, we will also deny that it is happening.  He also believes that, if we see others not changing their behaviour, we will think, “Why should I change if they don’t?” So this also leads to inaction about climate change.


fig78


Fig.78:  From: Justin Bilicki, with permission

We buy things and spend money to make our lives more comfortable and some of these will not be climate-positive.  They include financial investments, in a car, for example, or working in a fossil-fuel burning industry. Habit can also lead to repeating actions which increase climate change, in order to keep life more ordered and regular; people also have conflicting goals, values and aspirations, which do not always accord with climate friendly actions. People have strong aspirations to “get ahead” and their actions may compete with climate change goals, such as buying a larger house or car, taking an exotic holiday for example. This is a form of the consumer culture, which I mentioned in an earlier chapter. Gifford also believes that people get attached to a place and may thus oppose nearby wind farms (Nimbyism).


fig79

 


Fig.79  From : Joe Heller with permission

4.  DISCREDANCE (OR DISAPPROVAL)

When people think ill of others, they are unlikely to believe what they say or take direction from them.  For example, many people mistrust scientists, government officials or politicians, so do not take on board what they are saying. Some programmes have been introduced by government to encourage climate-friendly behaviour (such as solar panels at reduced costs) but are not considered by some to be generous enough. Large numbers of people in most countries do not believe that climate change is happening and so deny it; they are called climate change deniers and would include ordinary people as well as those with vested interests in using fossil fuels.

In chapter 3, I discussed the attractiveness of the concept of freedom and many people may struggle against what they consider will restrict their freedom.  This includes big business, which strongly adhere to the free trade movement.

  1. PERCEIVED RISK

Some people may consider that changing their behaviour and/or possessions is risky (eg buying an electric car, cycling instead of driving) or cost them too much or they may be afraid of being judged or teased by their peers for their choices.

  1. LIMITED BEHAVIOUR

Most of us engage in some climate-friendly actions but these are not enough and may be just tokenistic.  Others may make positive changes but these are cancelled out by other actions they take, which are not so climate-friendly.

It is helpful knowing the reasons why more action against climate change has not taken place but, in acknowledging these, we must also find ways to reduce their effect. In reading through them, I can find examples within my own behaviour amongst the lists, as well as in people I have discussed the issue with.  For example, I have found people with a strong sense of fatalism about it (“What will be will be”), as well as those who react as if its old hat: “We’ve heard it all before. What’s new?”  I feel that perceived risks also feature very strongly and the government could do much more, by providing more generous subsidies for conversion to solar panels, for example, and by encouraging the motor industry to develop greener cars, which do not have perceived operational problems.

At the start of this book, I mentioned that it took me 22 years to begin to write it, after first becoming aware of the clouds of pollution hanging over each of the cities that I visited on my world trip in 1994. So, I have been part of the lethargy in a way that seems to hit most people to one degree or another. When I look back over those 22 years, I can see that I have been altering my behaviour in small ways to be more climate friendly, though like others, not by enough. Also, when I returned from my world trip in 1994, there were other imperatives for me to attend to, most of which have been described in my second book (The Desert will Rejoice). During that trip, I was introduced to many models of good social projects for working with the urban poor and marginalised and I became involved in developing or founding some new inner city projects. And I also had two other books to write – the story of my journey and the inspiration behind these inner city projects.  So, global warming and climate needs went to the back of my mind. But they didn’t totally disappear. Maybe a similar thing happens to others – we all lead such busy lives. Being too busy to take action about global warming may be another thing to add to Gifford’s lists.  But I am glad that I eventually became jolted into researching and putting together the evidence for this book.

And, for those who are still in denial after reading this book, I have just one thing to say “JUST LOOK AT THE EVIDENCE” and let it work on you, just as the clouds of hazy pollution I saw in 1994 eventually worked on me.

2015 has been the hottest year on record, this last winter too has been the wettest, with excessive rainfall leading to devastating floods in the north of England and elsewhere, causing £250 million worth of damage.  The immediate reaction of people who have had their homes flooded is to accuse the government of not spending enough money on flood defences.  This is important but, far more important is that they lobby government to do more to reduce carbon emissions nationally and to take a global lead to institute some of the changes necessary to avert global climate disaster. Just focussing on flood defences is an example of limited understanding (cognition) from Gifford’s lists.

Is the idea of global co-operation to save the planet realistic?

This is a question I posed earlier in this chapter and it is worth looking at the difficulties in more detail.  Global co-operation is the idea I have promoted throughout this book because I believe it is the only way to produce the kind of rapid changes in human activity that are needed if we are to save the world from destruction.  We are all in this together, so the divisiveness promoted by some groups and countries is just not appropriate.  The world is facing a crisis and we need to join hands and work together to solve it.

So, what are the factors which are likely to limit global co-operation? I list some of them below:

  • The massive size of the global population;
  • Differences in national priorities, ethos and cultures;
  • Differences across the world in how climate change is affecting individual countries;
  • Lack of trust between nations;
  • Ideological differences;
  • Other crises seem more important to address, such as terrorism, migration etc.;
  • Risks to national economies;
  • Fears that other nations will not do likewise;
  • Fears of being left behind in trading competitiveness;
  • Unwillingness to give up prestigious possessions, power and status.

Unless some of these factors are overcome, then global co-operation will not occur.  They are all challenging but I do believe that the human intellect is capable of finding ways to take global co-operation forward.  What is less likely to happen is to find the will to do it.

In the meantime

In the meantime a group of UK climate activists found themselves in the dock recently.  The following is a post on Barbara Panvel’s website “Antidote to doom and gloom” which describes what happened.  The five activists had whitewashed the walls of the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and painted on them, in black: “The Department for Extreme Climate Change”, to expose the department’s hypocrisy.

The five activists, members of the Climate Change Action Group, were ordered to pay £340 each at Hammersmith Magistrates Court. The defendants, who represented themselves, did not dispute their presence at the scene or the actions attributed to them, but argued that they had a ‘lawful excuse’ under section 5 of the Criminal Damage Act.126

DECC was not fined.

Their letter, which was handed in to Energy Secretary Amber Rudd, made many powerful points. In a preamble, they declared:

Climate change is not one in a number of issues to be addressed. A stable climate is a fundamental need on which the maintenance of our civilisation and the earth’s abundant life relies. There will be no economy, health or security to speak of on the planet towards which we are currently heading”.

Edited extract from list of actions June-Sept 2015:

In 2009 G20 countries, including the UK, pledged to phase out ‘inefficient’ fossil fuel subsidies. But on the 19 March 2015: George Osborne announces £1 billion worth of subsidies for North Sea Oil, on top of a whole series of previous measures, including support for further exploration:

16 June: The European Union says the UK is set to miss its EU target of generating 15 per cent of its energy (not just electricity) by renewable methods, despite being set one of the lowest targets of all EU countries.

17 June: On the evening of the Big Climate Lobby on the 17th June, when thousands met with their MPs to ask them to put climate as a priority, you announced the first of your ‘cut-the-green-crap’ policies, that new onshore wind farms (the cheapest form of renewable energy) will be excluded from a subsidy scheme from 1 April 2016, a year earlier than planned.

25 June: The UK says it will sell off up to 70% of its Green Bank, set up to lend money to risky green schemes such as wind farms that couldn’t raise cash elsewhere. The sell-off means it may no longer focus on risky green schemes, and most of the profits will not go to taxpayers. By contrast, a similar US scheme is set to make $5 billion profit for taxpayers on $30 billion-worth of loans. Companies it helped include Tesla Motors, which paid back its loan early.

30 June: The Committee on Climate Change warns that the UK is not on course to meet targets after 2020. Its recommendations include taking action to encourage long-term investment in low-carbon energy, such as by extending existing short-term schemes to a 10-year timescale.

Ruth Jarman, one of the five members of the Christian Climate Action demonstration, who are deeply concerned about climate change and its impact on God’s creation, the lives of people now the world over, and future generations, said:

We do not agree with today’s judgement. The point of the law is to maintain justice, stability and order. Climate change threatens all these things so fundamentally that the law should be used to defend those who are trying to stop climate change, not those who are creating it. We think DECC should have been in the dock, not us. The department speaks fine words, but with its actions scuppers any possibility of global action to tackle climate change.”

Michael Northcott, Professor of Ethics at the University of Edinburgh reminds us that without such acts in the history of the United Kingdom, the vote would not have been conferred on non-land owning citizens, nor on women and slavery, or forced child labour in our factories would not have ended. He said:

“The actions of these protestors were a non-violent and peaceable way to expose the hypocrisy of current UK government energy policies. The UK has the potential still to lead the world towards the new sustainable energy economy that the climate crisis calls for and this type of action is essential to the democratic process in the UK.”

I believe that we will see many more actions like this, as the world in which we live gets more and more unstable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Leave a comment

Global Networks

CHAPTER 8

Climate change, the loss of species, global warming, the increase in the human population, trading systems, the type of economy and poverty are all factors that affect every nation of the world in one way or another.  If there is to be a change of direction, in order to save the planet and its inhabitants, it must happen on a global scale and include every country, or at least those countries which have industrialised.  We need to get citizens across the world understanding the implications of climate change and industrialisation, so that they realise the need for urgent action and lobby their governments to make appropriate changes.

The most obvious organisation to initiate such a change of direction is (and has been) the United Nations.

un-logo

 

The Efforts of the United Nations to reduce carbon emissions

 fig70

Fig.70:  The Rio Summit

 In 1992, the United Nations Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro, produced a document, called Agenda 21, which was a non-binding, voluntary-implemented action plan with regard to sustainable development.  It provided an agenda for the UN, other multilateral organisations and individual governments around the world that could be executed at local, national or global level.  The UN body proposed in Rio to take this forward was the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), whose director is currently Halldor Thorgeirsson. Since Rio, regular meetings have been held in different countries of the world, under the title of COP (conference of parties), the latest being COP21 in Paris.  A further appraisal of the major COP agreements reached over the years is given in Table 699.

fig71

 Fig.71

As the United Nations does have a role in addressing the issue of climate change, let’s have a closer look first at how it functions and what it has achieved on climate change. The UN was first formed in 1945, as an intergovernmental organisation to promote international co-operation. The motivation for its formation came as a result of the Second World War, to prevent other similar conflicts from occurring. There were 51 member states initially and now there are 193, each country having one vote at deliberations of the General Assembly.  The headquarters of the UN is in New York, with further offices in Geneva, Nairobi and Vienna. It is financed by contributions from its member states, the United Kingdom providing 5.19% of the total budget.

The UN currently operates through five principal bodies: the General Assembly (the main deliberative body); the Security Council (peace and security); the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) (for promoting international economic and social co-operation and development); the Secretariat (provides, information, studies and facilities needed); and the International Court of Justice. There are also various UN bodies, which have particular functions: the World Bank; the World Health Organisation; the World Food Programme, UNESCO and UNICEF.  The current General Secretary is the South Korean, Ban Ki-moon, whose term of office comes to an end during 2016.


fig72

Fig.72

Structure of the United Nations

Many people are highly critical of the United Nations. Some commentators believe the organization to be an important force for peace and human development but others have called it ineffective, corrupt, biased and bureaucratic. I believe that, if the United Nations is to be taken seriously and respected, it needs to have more clout and to be reformed to be more inclusive.  Its initiatives on climate change certainly need to be more decisive and more closely targeted. The problem is that, trying to get 193 or more nations to agree on one issue, is virtually impossible.

Agenda 21

The original Agenda 21 was divided into four sections:

  • Combating Poverty;
  •  II  Environmental Issues;
  • III Strengthening the role of major groups;
  • IV. Means of Implementation.

The “21” refers to the 21st Century and has been affirmed and modified at subsequent UN conferences. It is a 700-page document that was adopted by the 178 countries attending the 1992 conference.  In 1997, the UN General Assembly held a special session to appraise the status of Agenda 21 and this has continued every 5 years since then. In 2012, at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, the attending members reaffirmed their commitment to Agenda 21 in their outcome document called “The Future We Want”. 180 leaders from nations participated.

  The implementation of Agenda 21 was intended to involve action at international, national, regional and local levels. Some national and state governments have legislated or advised that local authorities take steps to implement the plan locally, as recommended in Chapter 28 of the document.  The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ Division for Sustainable Development (ECOSOC) monitors and evaluates progress, nation by nation, towards the adoption of Agenda 21, as well as progress of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), and makes these reports available to the public on its website.  Europe has turned out to be the continent in which it was best accepted, as most European countries possess well documented Agenda 21 statuses. France, for example has nationwide programmes supporting it, though there are opposition groups in this country, as there are in other countries.

In Africa, national support for Agenda 21 is strong and most countries are signatories. But support is often closely tied to environmental challenges specific to each country (such as desertification in Namibia) and there is little mention of Agenda 21 at the local level in the indigenous media. Agenda 21 participation in North African countries mirrors that of Middle Eastern countries, with most countries being signatories, but with little to no adoption at the local government level. Countries in sub-Saharan Africa and North Africa generally have poorly documented Agenda 21 status reports but South Africa’s participation in Agenda 21 is similar to that of Europe.

Whilst the United States of America has been a signatory to Agenda 21, there is a strong business lobby, which opposes it on the grounds that it is bad for business. The Republican Party have stated that “We strongly reject the UN Agenda 21 as erosive of American sovereignty.” Several state and local governments have considered or passed motions and legislation opposing Agenda 21, Alabama being the first state to prohibit government participation in it. Activists, some of whom have been associated with the Tea Party movement by The New York Times and The Huffington Post, have said that Agenda 21 is a conspiracy by the United Nations to deprive individuals of property rights.  Interestingly though, in view of these opposition lobbies, the president of the USA, Barack Obama, recently participated in a TV documentary, in which he and David Attenborough discussed the issue of climate change and what needs to be done; he referred to a number of American initiatives to reduce carbon emissions.

Yet, despite the focus on environmental issues since the 1992 Rio Summit, global carbon emissions continue to rise, with petroleum, coal and natural gas being the worst culprits contributing to this increase.


Table 6

From Rio to Paris, UN milestones in the history of climate change discussions


International negotiations on climate change have been going on for over 20 years. In the meantime, the Earth has become hotter, wetter and wilder. Like scientists, the vast majority of governments now agree that urgent steps are needed to reduce our impact on global warming. So far, they have failed to sign up to a universal plan of action.

  • 1992: The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted during the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992. It acknowledged the existence of human-induced climate change and gave industrialised countries the major part of responsibility for combating it – but without specifying how.
  • 1997: The adoption of the Kyoto Protocol in Japan in 1997 marked a milestone in international negotiations on tackling climate change. For the first time, binding greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets were set for industrialised countries, with obligations to reduce emissions by 5%. The protocol came into force in 2005, but was soon derailed by the failure of some of the world’s biggest polluters, notably the US, to ratify it. As a result, other countries, such as Canada, Russia and Japan also pulled out.  Another weakness of the Kyoto Protocol was that it exempted three countries, who were in the early stages of industrialisation (China, India, Australia) and now these are amongst the worst polluters. Protocol runs until 2020.
  • 2007: A longer-term vision was introduced by the Bali Action Plan in 2007, which set timelines for the negotiations towards reaching a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, due to expire in 2012. It was expected that an agreement would be reached by December 2009.
  • 2009: Although the COP15 summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, did not result in the adoption of a new agreement, the summit recognised the common objective of keeping the increase in global temperature below 2°C. Furthermore, industrialised countries undertook to raise $100 billion per year by 2020 to assist developing countries in climate-change adaptation and mitigation, barring which poor countries had threatened to scupper any deal. That pledge became more tangible with the establishment of the Green Climate Fund in Cancún, Mexico, in 2010.
  • 2011: Countries signed up to the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP), thereby agreeing to develop “a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force” applicable to all states that are party to the UNFCCC. This agreement was scheduled to be adopted in Paris and implemented from 2020.

At subsequent gatherings in Warsaw, Poland, in 2013 and Lima, Peru, in 2014, all states were invited to submit their pledges towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions ahead of the COP21 summit in Paris.


The Paris Agreement

The objective of the 2015 Paris COP21 conference was to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate from all the nations of the world.  I would like to see the UNFCCC go even further than this, to be involved in an internationally evidenced marketing initiative to demonstrate how urgent it is to take robust action to reduce carbon emissions.  Just talking about it, and making gestures to the world press, is not going to achieve what is needed.

 The COP21 talks in Paris set out more ambitious goals than many anticipated and was heralded, with much media attention, as an historic accord, though many hours had been spent in finalising the wording of this agreement, signed by 195 countries. Many believe that, in getting agreement, the main focus of the document was watered down. I have heard it said that certain oil-producing countries were the ones who caused the watering down of the Paris agreement, a similar action to that of Exxon Mobil, described in Chapter 3. The self-interest of powerful people in the world yet again holding back the actions required to really address the crisis that we all face.

The agreement included:

  • Clauses to limit global warming to less than 2˚C above pre-industrial levels and to endeavour to limit it to below 1.5˚C;
  • For countries to meet their own voluntary targets on limiting emissions between 2020 and 2030;
  • For countries to submit new, tougher targets every five years;
  • To aim for zero net emissions by 2050-2100;
  • For rich nations to help poorer nations to adapt.

 

fig73

Fig.73:  World leaders celebrating “an historic agreement” in Paris 2015

The agreement would come into force only after it had been ratified by 55 countries, who represented at least 55% of global emissions. If this target was exceeded, then the agreement would become operational in the same year.

A March 2016 report from the BBC indicated that the world’s two biggest carbon emitters, the US and China (40% of emissions together), had produced a joint statement to say that both countries were ready to sign the agreement in April. Ban Ki-moon invited leaders to a signing ceremony in New York on 22nd April and expected 120 to turn up for this. The USA and China represent almost 40% of global emissions, so this was a huge step forward.

The move was not initially welcomed by some developing nations100, led by an influential, Malaysia-based think tank who wanted to receive stronger assurances on finance, technology and compensation for damage from extreme weather before signing.  Meena Raman of the Third World Network, was quoted as saying: “It will be more advantageous to developing countries to wait this year and not rush into signing the Paris Agreement. Otherwise… we lose the political leverage that is critical to secure the necessary conditions that will enable developing countries to meet their obligations.” Developing countries have therefore been advised not to attend or sign at the 22nd April ceremony.

That date has now passed and a list of 175 nations who signed on 22nd April 2016 was included on a UN website (http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2016/04/parisagreementsignatures/)

as follows:


“List of Parties that signed the Paris Agreement on 22 April 2016101

The Paris Agreement will be open for signature by the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on 22 April and will remain open for signature for one year. This list contains the countries that signed the Agreement at the Signature Ceremony on 22 April:

Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Bhutan, Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, European Union, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kuwait, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mauritania, Mexico, Micronesia (Federated States of), Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Spain, Sri Lanka, State of Palestine, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Thailand, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, United States of America, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), Viet Nam, Zimbabwe.”


 

This is a very comprehensive list indeed and a significant achievement by Ban Ki-moon, though there are some notable absentees from the list (some oil-producing countries).  Many people are now quite optimistic that there will be significant reductions in the use of fossil fuels and the subsequent carbon emissions. Others feel that the promised emissions’ cuts are totally inadequate. In a review of the Paris agreement, Michael Le Page in the New Scientist (no. 3052) stated that he thinks time has nearly run out for limiting global warming even to 2˚C and he quoted from various scientists and leaders as follows:

“Emissions targets are still way off track, but this agreement has the tools to ramp up ambition, and brings a spirit of hope that we can rise to this challenge”. Tony deBrum, foreign minister of the Marshall Islands.

“If we wait until 2020, it will be too late.”  Kevin Anderson, Climate Scientist at the Tyndall Centre in Manchester, UK.

As for 1.5˚, it would take nothing less than “a true world revolution”.  We need renewable energy, nuclear power, fracking, zero-carbon transport, energy efficiency and housing changes.  Even international aviation and shipping which were excluded from this report will need to be tackled”. Piers Forster, University of Leeds.

I personally don’t agree with this last person in terms of nuclear power and fracking, as I believe both to be dangerous cop-outs.

In a later, full length New Scientist Article, Michael Le Page102 discussed the likelihood of countries being able to keep to the promises made. He reminded his readers that each signatory has to formally approve, or ratify, the deal in their parliaments and only five had so far done so: Fiji, Palau, Maldives, Marshall Islands and Switzerland an interesting group of countries most at risk of rising sea levels or melting ice. The Telegraph reported on 22nd April that there had been 15 ratifications103.

Kimberley Nicholas, writing in the Scientific American (December 19th 2015)104, discussed what is required to bring about the meeting of the 1.5˚ target. She quoted from an article in Nature Climate Change by scientists Rogelj and colleagues, that it will require “rapid and profound decarbonisation” from its current 81% of fossil sources in order to meet net zero carbon emissions as early as 2045 (recognised in the long-term goal in the Paris agreement to balance greenhouse gas emissions and removal). Further they had found that meeting the target would ultimately require actively removing carbon from the atmosphere, through means that have yet to be widely tested or implemented.

The December 2015 Newsletter of Tradable Energy Quotas (TEQs)105 had the following statement about the Paris agreement:

As the fallout continues, many of you may be confused by the outcome of the recent COP21 climate talks in Paris, variously reported as:

“A victory for all of the planet and future generations” ~ John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State
We did it! A turning point in human history!” ~ Avaaz
“10/10 for presentation, 4/10 for content” ~ Kevin Anderson, climate scientist
A historic moment and positive step forward … but not the legally-binding science and justice-based agreement that was needed” ~ Friends of the Earth UK
“A sham” ~ Friends of the Earth International
“It’s a fraud really, a fake” ~ James Hansen, climate scientist
Our leaders have shown themselves willing to set our world on fire” ~ Naomi Klein, author/activist
“Epic fail on a planetary scale” ~ New Internationalist
The US is a cruel hypocrite. This is a deliberate plan to make the rich richer and the poor poorer” ~ Lidy Nacpil, Asian People’s Movement on Debt and Development

COP21: a clear win for political reality – a clear loss for every life form dependent on a liveable climate

The TEQs newsletter105 continued:

“Our take is that when there is a fundamental rift between the physical reality of our changing climate and the political reality tasked with responding to this, this agreement – based on voluntary emissions pledges which even if met would mean more emissions in 2030 than today – is a clear win for political reality. In other words, a clear loss for every life form dependent on a liveable climate.

Sadly, it is not hard to identify the agendas of those hailing the Paris agreement as a great success. The whole conference has, in essence, been smoke and mirrors, distracting us from the real work of reintegrating human society with the reality that it depends on. As most impartial observers predicted, the UN have again failed to deliver an agreement that preserves the future of either humanity or the wider biosphere.

The Paris agreement is, in short, based on non-binding commitments to deliver on dodgy mathematics through the application of technologies that do not yet (and may never) exist.”

 Greenpeace have also criticised the Paris agreement106, whilst applauding parts of it, such as setting 2018 as a review date. The main failure of the agreement, they feel, is that it failed the “justice test”; this relates to the human rights, where indigenous peoples affected by climate change are not given the protection they deserve. However, Greenpeace feel that what did not happen in Paris had already happened in Manila, where a human rights probe has been launched with the Human Rights Commission106.

Thus, the challenge facing the world in 2016 is significant.  This has been reinforced by the excessive rain experienced in the north of the UK over the last few weeks, leading to extensive flooding, as well as in France and Germany and other extreme weather events in other parts of the world, such as the second strongest ever recorded tropical cyclone Winston which devastated Fiji.

I find it hard to reconcile these quoted comments with the “business as usual” attitude of our present government in the UK, a government which we will have to tolerate until 2020, unless something major happens in the next four years, to bring about an election.

In his book, “Why are we Waiting” (MIT Press), Professor Nicholas Stern107, author of the Stern Review on the economics of climate change, sets out some of the goals that now face humanity in the 21st Century.  The goals include:

  1. The elimination of mass poverty and the risk of catastrophic climate change;
  2. These goals are complementary;
  3. The case for action is overwhelming because greenhouse gases stay in the atmosphere for centuries.

A recent research report in Science, and quoted in the Guardian108, provides hope that carbon dioxide can be removed from the atmosphere by pumping it underground. The new research pumped CO2 into the volcanic rock under Iceland and sped up a natural process where the basalts react with the gas to form carbonate minerals, which make up limestone. The researchers were amazed by how fast all the gas turned into a solid – just two years, compared to the hundreds or thousands of years that had been predicted. Juerg Matter, of the University of Southampton in the UK, led the research. Further research clearly needs to take place on this potential resolution to the problems we face.

But, are there other global networks can we call on to make a greater impact than that so far made by the UNFCCC?

Other initiatives

  1. The Elders

In 2007, Nelson Mandela set up a group, called “The Elders”; it originally included elder states-people, such as Kofi Annan (now chairman of the group, former UN-Secretary-General and Nobel Peace Laureate), Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Nobel Peace Laureate and honorary elder), Aung Sun Suu Kyi (honorary elder until her election in 2012, Burmese pro-democracy leader), Ela Bhatt (India, pioneer of women’s empowerment and grassroots development), Lakhdar Brahimi (Algeria, conflict mediator and UN diplomat) Martti Artisaari Finland, Nobel Peace Laureate), Gro Harlem Brundtland (Norway, deputy chair, doctor who champions health as a human right), Fernando H Cardosa (Brazil – former president), Jimmy Carter (USA former president, Nobel Peace Laureate), Hina Jilani (Pakistan, pioneering lawyer and pro-democracy campaigner), Graça Machel (Mozambique, international advocate for women’s and children’s rights), Mary Robinson( first woman president of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for human rights),  Ernesto Zedilla (former president of Mexico who led profound democratic and social reforms).

fig74

Fig.74:  A group of The Elders in 2010. From: www.theelders.org

The Elders is an independent group of global leaders who work together for peace and human rights.  The concept of the Elders originated from an idea from a conversation between the entrepreneur Richard Branson and the musician Peter Gabriel. The idea they discussed was simple: many communities look to their elders for guidance, or to help resolve disputes. In an increasingly interdependent world – a ‘global village’ – could a small, dedicated group of individuals use their collective experience and influence to help tackle some of the most pressing problems facing the world today? Branson and Gabriel took their idea to Nelson Mandela, who agreed to support it. With the help of Graça Machel and Desmond Tutu, Mandela set about bringing the Elders together and formally launched the group in Johannesburg in July 2007.

The Elders work strategically, focusing on work where they are uniquely placed to make a difference. One of their latest campaigns is for the UN, now over 70 years’ old, to be adapted so that it is fit for purpose.  They have four proposals on this (more details available on their website: http://theelders.org/un-fit-purpose):

  • A new category of members;
  • A pledge from permanent members;
  • A voice for civil society;
  • A more independent Secretary-General.

I believe that the issue of Climate Change is now so urgent that it may be too late to wait for a reform of the United Nations to tackle the issue more robustly.  Perhaps a new body, independent of the United Nations, but respected globally, needs to take on the issue, cutting through all the bureaucracy that creates a climate of inaction on major issues.

Whether these proposals will bring about the changes necessary to generate greater respect and support for the United Nations, remains to be seen.  However, the United Nations is the most obvious body to take forward the urgent imperative to work together with global co-operation to turn back the current surge of ever increasing carbon emissions and the devastating effects of climate change. Most of the concerns about climate change come from faith-based networks.

b). Christian-based organisations and networks have had much to say about the need for urgent action, as good stewardship of the earth is a major tenet of the Christian faith, as are the Jubilee principles of environmental restoration and fair allocation of wealth.

There is an ecumenical organisation, Operation Noah, with a seven-year plan to encourage Christians to work together to address climate change109.

Recently, the Pope has issued an encyclical on climate change, which hasn’t gone unnoticed110.

For the Anglicans, Archbishop Desmond Tutu initiated a petition asking governments, and the United Nations, to set a renewable energy target of 100% by 2050111.  Tutu, a  Nobel peace laureate, who rose to fame for his anti-apartheid activism, said: “As responsible citizens of the world – sisters and brothers of one family, the human family, God’s family – we have a duty to persuade our leaders to lead us in a new direction: to help us abandon our collective addiction to fossil fuels. We can no longer continue feeding our addiction to fossil fuels as if there were no tomorrow. For there will be no tomorrow.”

There have also been statements published by:

  • the Baptist Union112
  • the Anglican Synod113
  • the Methodist Church114
  • the Quakers115
  • and other ecumenical bodies, such as Christian Aid and Tear Fund.

A particular initiative is called “Eco-Church”116, which encourages churches to switch their energy supplier to green forms of energy, with special rates being negotiated if a number of churches join the initiative117 (called ‘Big Church Switch’).  Other bodies of Christians network to encourage individuals to reduce their personal carbon emissions, in various ways.  A recent conference in Coventry, “Hope in a Changing Climate” provided much information to inspire hope, as many groups of Christians are working together, rather like the 3G groups I mentioned in Chapter 7, to reduce their personal emissions and to encourage their friends to do so as well. One speaker, a climate scientist, talked about efforts already underway to develop a plan for net zero (from the Paris agreement), with the aim of keeping 80% of fossil fuels in the ground.  This included measurable actions to reduce carbon emissions per degree of warming.

There was also discussion about how churches might disinvest any funds they have with those companies who emit the most greenhouse gases, as well as taking action by joining the boards of such companies to influence their future direction.  A similar action brought down the apartheid regime in South Africa. Indeed, it would appear that such an initiative is already underway through an organisation called Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, based in London118.

There has also been a Green Bible119, which outlines text in green, which relate to environmental issues and teachings.

c). Other faiths

Other faiths making statements about climate change include Baha’i; Buddhism; Hindu; Islam; Sikh; Unitarian Universalist Association120.

It is possible, therefore, that combined interfaith initiatives on climate change may have more impact on the activities of the global population than the United Nations has been able to do.   Indeed, in 1995, at a conference in Japan on Religions, Land and Conservation, a declaration was made – The Ohito Declaration121 which stated ten spiritual principles:

  1. Religious beliefs and traditions call us to care for the earth.2. For people of faith maintaining and sustaining environmental life systems is a religious responsibility.3. Nature should be treated with respect and compassion, thus forming a basis for our sense of responsibility for conserving plants, animals, land, water, air and energy.

    4. Environmental understanding is enhanced when people learn from the example of prophets and of nature itself.

    5. Markets and trade arrangements should reflect the spiritual needs of people and their communities to ensure health, justice and harmony. Justice and equity principles of faith traditions should be used for maintaining and sustaining environmental life systems.

    6. People of faith should give more emphasis to a higher quality of life in preference to a higher standard of living, recognising that greed and avarice are root causes of environmental degradation and human debasement.

    7. All faiths should fully recognise and promote the role of women in environmental sustainability.

    8. People of faith should be involved in the conservation and development process. Development of the environment must take better account of its effects on the community and its religious beliefs.

    9. Faith communities should endorse multilateral consultation in a form that recognizes the value of local/indigenous wisdom and current scientific information.

    10. In the context of faith perspective, emphasis should be given not only to the globalisation of human endeavours, but also to participatory community action.

That declaration was made 11 years ago and, although people of faith make up the majority of the world’s population, it is surprising that very little has been done so far to really get to grips with the damage to the environment and the planet that humans are responsible for.  Perhaps the time has come for a new purposeful faith initiative. Table 7 gives a summary of the recommended actions proposed at the Ohiti Conference.  Maybe it is time for all the religions of the world to take another look at it.

d). Other agencies

In chapter 7, I gave details of the European Environment Agency and the Green Economy Coalition, both of which bodies are providing suggested frameworks for moving away from a market economy, which has been so damaging, to a green economy. Maybe either or both of these agencies can be reinforced to be the body to create more urgent change than the UNFCCC has done.

There is also Forum for the Future122, an independent non-profit organisation, which works with business, government and other organisations to solve complex sustainability issues; they particularly focus on food and energy.


Table 7
Recommended Courses of Action made at the 1995 MOA International Conference on Religions, Land and Conservation, held in Ohito, Japan


1. We call upon religious leaders to emphasise environmental issues within religious teaching: faith should be taught and practised as if nature mattered.
2. We call upon religious communities to commit themselves to sustainable practices and encourage community use of their land.
3. We call upon religious leaders to recognise the need for ongoing environmental education and training for themselves and all those engaged in religious instruction.
4. We call upon people of faith to promote environmental education within their community especially among their youth and children.
5. We call upon people of faith to implement individual, community and institutional action plans at local, national, and global levels that flow from their spiritual practices and where possible to work with other faith communities.
6. We call upon religious leaders and faith communities to pursue peacemaking as an essential component of conservation action.
7. We call upon religious leaders and communities to be actively involved in caring for the environment to sponsor sustainable food production and consumption.
8. We call upon people of faith to take up the challenge of instituting fair trading practices devoid of financial, economic and political exploitation.
9. We call upon the world’s religious leaders and world institutions to establish and maintain a networking system that will encourage sustainable agriculture and environmental life systems.
10. We call upon faith communities to act immediately, to undertake self-review and auditing processes on conservation issues on a regular basis.


A new body?

But some have no confidence in the United Nations and have no faith, so should we consider looking to form, or adopt, some of these other networks into a consortium, to bring about greater consensus about achieving measures to stop or reverse current trends?  If so, how will these bodies be funded?  Perhaps a global tax on all offending organisations would be apt, though probably unenforceable.

I leave this as a question for others in more influential positions than myself to answer, and/or implement, as necessary.  Quite clearly there is a need for the nations of the world to stop seeing each other as competitors, rivals or enemies, for the desired results will not occur without global co-operation.

The Business World

There are businesses who are aware of the problems and who invest their profits in carbon reduction initiatives.  These are showing the way for those large corporations who have been investing their profits in hiding the reality of climate change and in deceiving the public about their products and in paying so-called scientists to question the reality of climate change.

But so much more could be done, as it is often big business who has the financial resources to make a difference. Richard Branson played an active part in bringing The Elders together. As part of the business world (including the airline industry), which has brought us to the current dilemma, could he take a lead in getting business leaders together to understand, and rectify, what they have been responsible for, rather than burying their heads in the sand and continuing in their money-making at the expense of the planet. Recently, a podcast has been produced by Kyung-Ah Park123 of Goldman Sachs on “The Business Case for Climate Action”, as a result of attending the Paris Summit on behalf of this company. It is warming that some businesses are beginning to come up with strategies for the future.

How to make a global impact on the issues facing us

The writing of this book has changed my own attitudes and thinking.  As a result I am no longer influenced by the rhetoric propagated by UK government and its economists to focus mainly on economic growth.  For I know that, in promoting economic growth and redirecting funds to the business world, they are actually multiplying the effects of industrialisation and its by-products, which will further damage and destroy the ecosystems and atmosphere of this world.

I do not support initiatives to get involved in bombing countries far from our shores, in the name of national security, for I know that this all adds to the carbon footprint, as well as driving many indigenous people to flee their homes, adding to the thousands of refugees seeking new homes elsewhere.

But how can we reverse the centuries-old trend of global trade – of believing that free trade is a good thing?  Trading systems and merchant cultures are at the root of all of the cycles I have described and I think I realised this when writing the End Piece to my first book.

There is still so much ignorance about the cycle of activities, described in the pages of this book.  The general public tend not to see the urgency of the situation, or dismiss it as not their concern. If you have been influenced by the descriptions in the pages of this book, then use it to lobby for the changes that need to occur urgently.

 

 


Leave a comment

The Economy

CHAPTER 7

The economy sometimes seems like a mysterious thing to ordinary people – something that is hard to understand – but there is nothing mysterious about it really.  The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as “the state of a country in terms of the production and consumption of goods and services and the supply of money”.  So, in everyday language it is how we, as a country, make use of available money, to ensure that everybody has enough to live on. In a way, it is about balancing the books on a national scale.  It is about money.

fig59

Fig. 59

I have been able to discover five different types of economy. Before the industrial revolution, local communities in the UK lived largely in farming cultures and the economic system was structured around this. But this changed significantly as the industrial revolution gained momentum.  An agrarian economic system has also been called A Traditional Economy, and some countries which did not become industrialised, still use this type of economic system.  Other countries, which followed Britain in becoming industrialised, developed economies based on trading links and, like the UK, developed A Market Economy, which is largely regulated by demand and supply.  For some, a market economy is another way of describing Capitalism. Some countries have a mixture of traditional and market economies, called A Mixed Economy.  Yet other parts of the world have government control of their economies and this has been termed A Command Economy or totalitarianism; this would include countries like North Korea.

A recent article by Pat Conaty describes a Collaborative Economy for the Common Good70.  He suggests that co-operatives and social enterprises are bringing a new dimension to national economies and have been more successful in delivering growth than market economies (in Germany, Italy, Scandinavia, Canada etc.). Some call it community economic development whilst others call it a social economy.  From this has developed a Solidarity Economy, which seeks to secure systemic change by organising small business and self-employed networks, bringing them into a collaborative economy movement.  Such an economy is gaining strength across Europe, as it is based on serving the welfare of people and planet.

The relationship between trade and economies

In chapter 4, I discussed trading systems and how market economies first developed. One suggestion mooted there was that each country, instead of getting involved in complex and comprehensive international trading, should seek to be self-sufficient, only importing goods that they cannot produce themselves.  However, I am pragmatic enough to realise that this is not going to happen overnight, as there are too many vested interests in the business world.  So in this chapter, I will be looking at other measures that could be introduced, by modifying a market economy to a different (and new) form of economy, which helps to reduce the escalation of carbon emissions.

An uncontrolled market economy

But first, I want to look at the reality of what happens in an uncontrolled market economy. One way of doing this is to look at the measures introduced in the UK by the Conservative government since 2010, which wholeheartedly supports a market economy.  These measures are set within the context of a belief that encouraging big business is the only means of making a country wealthy.  Thus, the government introduced measures that enhanced the opportunities of the business world to make money: cutting taxes for the richest 4% and for corporations, whilst reducing the amount spent on benefits for the disabled and for the poorest in society.  The measures were introduced in the name of so-called austerity which, the government argued, is necessary for reducing the deficit in the balance of payments.  In practical terms, the outcome of this is that the government is giving away to the richest people in Britain more money than they are saving by reducing benefits for the disabled and the poorest in society. This does not make sense in a civilised society, as it will lead to further divisions and discontent in society, with the poorest becoming ever more militant.

fig60

Fig.60   used by permission

And big business, empowered by the extra money they have been given, use it to continue manufacturing and selling those products which add to emissions of carbon products and other pollutants.  This enhances the rate at which climate change is escalating.  So, in addition to being in the ever-speeding Industrial Revolution (IR) Continuum, our present government is encouraging businesses to feed that continuum, so that it runs ever more quickly out of control, producing ever more carbon emissions in the process.

A sensible economy in today’s circumstances needs to reduce carbon emissions, encourage businesses which produce goods and services which reduce carbon emissions and maintain its benefits systems for the poorest and most disadvantaged.

A market economy provides unfettered freedom for businesses to carry out their activities, with little government control and little expectation that they will show responsibility for those less well off than themselves, or any responsibility for restricting climate change.  And the UK is not alone in encouraging this. It happens in most of the industrialised countries of the world, which are in vigorous competition with each other.  Businesses like this freedom of course, to make as much money as they can, but this should not be at the expense of the planet, nor of the poorest in our society.

David Cameron swept to power in the UK in 2010, saying that his would be the “greenest government ever”. Jonathon Porritt, in his article: “The Coalition Government 2010-2015; The Greenest Government Ever: By no stretch of the imagination”61 has demonstrated that, in fact, carbon emissions increased during that term of office (2010-15). This has been reinforced by an article by Michael Le Page in the New Scientist, entitled “Ungreen and not-so-pleasant land”62. Le Page provides statistics that show that the UK is not on track to meet its climate goals (agreed in Kyoto Summit 1997) and that, rather than increasing its efforts to do this, the government has blocked a series of green measures, thus leading the country even further off course.  Perhaps the most contentious is the proposed axing of feed-in-tariffs (FITs), which were available to people investing in solar panels for their domestic electricity needs.  Because of these changes the UK has now slipped from 8th to 11th in the RECAI table73. (Renewable energy country attractiveness, published by www.ey.com).

Rewarding the rich is not the only way of creating wealth for a country.  A recent article by Donald Braben, also in The New Scientist74, stated that it can be demonstrated that innovation is more likely to produce growth than existing market economy methods.  His thesis is based on the history of scientific discoveries which, indeed, started off the industrial revolution in the first place. He has shown that some of the biggest scientific discoveries in our history led to the greatest growth in the economy. If this is true then, rather than funding big business, we should be funding research into new innovatory discoveries, such as carbon-free steel.  I would add a rider to this, that the innovation encouraged in this way should also be about reducing our reliance on fossil fuels.

People who like to make money, in any part of the world, appear to have a mind-set that it is their right to do so without hindrance.  Many have no conscience about the impact of their money-making on others and have little compassion for those who are the victims of their acquisitiveness, whether they are those in poverty, members of the animal kingdom or, indeed, the whole planet (see also in Chapter 4 – Paul Tudor Jones II).

Table 4:  RECAI List of renewable energy country attractiveness (first 15 countries in the list) as at Sept 2015.  (See: http://www.ey.com/Publication/vwLUAssets/RECAI-45-September-15-LR/$FILE/RECAI_45_Sept_15_LR.pdf)

_________________________________________________________________ 

table4

_________________________________________________________________

Tax evasion (mainly by the rich) is a major source of lost funds for the economy (£5 billion a year), yet it is often the people who need to claim benefits who are castigated for playing the system.  A recent article by James Bloodworth in The Independent75 showed that four times more money is lost to the economy by tax evasion than by benefit fraud, though the difference may be even greater than this if incompetence within the DWP is taken into consideration (www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/its-time-to-bust-some-myths-about-benefit-fraud-and-tax-evasion). He described this as a double standard, with one rule for the rich and another for the poor

fig61

                                                                     Fig.61                                                                                           with permission from David Baldinger

In the last few years in Britain a number of scandals have been uncovered, all related to this same acquisitiveness: MPs claiming expenses they were not eligible for, bankers and chief executives getting bonuses, even when they have failed in the job; companies and individuals avoiding the payment of taxes, by using offshore business accounts – and so on. All of these are linked to the same acquisitiveness that fuels a market economy.  And the general public in this country have had enough of this.  They want to see some honesty – in politicians and in big business – and to see signs of the responsibility referred to above.

A recent scandal has been leaked about the super-rich hiding away their fortunes in tax havens, with details of the names of some of the people who are doing this.  As a result, the Prime Minister of Iceland has had to resign and this may be followed by other resignations.  Yet, we knew 6 years ago, in a study reported by Heather Stewart in the Guardian76, that a staggering 21 trillion dollars has been lost to the global economy through tax revenues, as it has been stashed away in tax havens.

 

fig62

Fig.62

Yet it is encouraging that, recently, the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney77, made some warning statements in a dinner speech, that the impact climate change could trigger a new financial crisis and derail the economy, as it currently stands.  He based this analysis on the effects climate change has had in Britain on the insurance industry.  Since the 1980s, the number of weather-related events, such as storms and floods, has tripled and the cost to insurers has increased from £6.5 billion to £33 billion, mainly to cover the cost of damaged property and of disrupted trade. He warned that, once climate change becomes a defining issue for financial stability, it may already be too late.

What he identified is that much of the current financial investment is in companies which will be affected by climate change, such as energy suppliers, insurance companies, and oil suppliers etc., whose share prices will fall as climate change begins to bite. If these companies then fail, due to the pressures on them, the value of all kinds of investments, such as pensions and savings, could be affected.  In the case of energy companies, if they do not convert to sustainable forms of energy, the pressure to reduce carbon emissions will also make them vulnerable to a reduction in the value of their shares. Oil companies and other polluting industries may be besieged by increasing numbers of claims upon them for compensation. This is already happening for Volkswagen, through their deception about carbon emissions from their diesel cars; and is likely to happen to ExxonMobil, who actively deceived the public about the reality of climate change over many years.  The US coal giant, Peabody Energy, has already filed for bankruptcy.

If a financial crisis does occur and affects pensions, for example, the consequent loss of value (and potential income to pensioners) will come at a time when unprecedented numbers of people in the population reach pensionable age.  The financial future of many thousands of people could thus be bleak.

This winter, there has been another catastrophic flooding event in the north of England, damaging many people’s homes and putting even more pressure on the insurance industry, as well as causing £1.5 billion worth of damage to bridges, roads and other infrastructure.

Also, a recent investigation has shown that, of 20 zones earmarked by the UK government for the building of new homes, five were hit with alerts and warnings during these recent floods and storms.

fig63

                                                                          Fig.63                                                                                                                                       Flooding in Appleby, Cumbria

fig64

                          Fig.64    The destruction of Pooley Bridge, Cumbria by flooding

From: www.bbc.co.uk

There is growing evidence that population growth and, more significantly, economic growth are the most important drivers in the increase in CO₂ emissions. Since 1970, emissions of CO₂ from fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes contributed to about 78% of the total GHG emission increase78.

Professor Justin Lewis, in an article to The Independent79 about a growing right-leaning bias in the BBC, argues that there is now a growing body of evidence suggesting that a model of permanent economic growth is of dwindling benefit to wealthy countries such as the UK. He cites research which shows that GDP growth is no longer linked to improvements in health or happiness, is environmentally unsustainable and stretches commodity choice far beyond the time we have available to us as consumers. He concludes that there is a serious debate about whether wealthy consumer economies should still rely on growth to generate prosperity.

Thus, there is an urgent need for the development of a new economic system.  Just as the industrial revolution became the trigger for a change from agrarian economies to a market economy, there needs to be a development of a new economic system that is triggered by climate change.  I do feel that the balance of the economy can be, and should be, adjusted to allow for the crisis that is heading our way.  We can no longer continue to run the economy as if nothing is happening, with businesses maximising their short-term profit, with no heed for the wider damage that their activities are doing.  It is not “Business as Usual”. Those who currently make vast profits from a market economy, and who promote it as the only way forward, need to take stock and change their attitudes and behaviour.  Our planet can no longer sustain the robbing of its resources, and the contamination of its atmosphere, in the name of progress (see chapter 3).

fig65

Fig.65

Richard Douthwaite, in his book entitled “The Growth Illusion: How economic growth has enriched the few, impoverished the many and endangered the planet6,80, states that economic growth does not have the benefits that many (mainly economists) claim for it. He demonstrates that, if the rate of growth is fast enough, there may be increased business profits and extra jobs but little improvements in the lives of ordinary people.  Douthwaite goes on to say that the benefits for businesses come at the cost of lower wages and reduced job security.  He also comments that achieving growth through the global system exposes each of us personally, and the countries to which we belong, to much higher levels of financial and environmental risk than did the more nation-state-based economies of earlier generations.  A full quotation from Douthwaite is given at the end of this chapter (5).

Both Douthwaite6 and Fletcher81 (in “Free Trade Doesn’t Work”, 2010) are of the opinion that economists have got things badly wrong, most of their theories being based on inappropriate mathematical equations.  This thesis is further developed by Paul Krugman in the New York Times82 in an article entitled, “How did Economists get it so Wrong?”

George Monbiot also addresses the issue of the mathematics being wrong in his article to The Guardian82 and on his website. The article suggests that the calculations have given a false sense of reduction in the use of the earth’s resources because they have failed to include goods purchased from abroad in the equation.  Indeed, if you look at the UK alone, where carbon dioxide emissions apparently fell by 194 million tonnes between 2002 and 2012 (using the wrong calculations), the real figure cancels this out and gives in fact an increase in emissions, related to the commissioning and importing of goods.

The New Economics Foundation (NEF)83 has done much work on alternative, more sustainable, economic systems. They are the UK’s leading think tank on promoting social, economic and environmental justice. Their aim is to transform the economy, so that it works for people and the planet. However, one learns that they have received a large government grant to develop their work.  Let us hope that they remain objective and are not influenced in their thinking by right-wing pressures.

They state on their website that:

A strong national economy needs a flourishing network of local economies. These are shown to give resilience in times of crisis, but are consistently undermined by the sprawl of supermarkets and other chains – the kind of businesses that are most likely to up and leave in times of trouble. We should be ensuring that money stays in local communities rather than leaking out to distant head offices, and encouraging a range of diverse high streets rather than clone towns.”

 On Bankers and Banking, they state:

A dysfunctional financial sector led us to the brink of disaster in 2008, and yet bank reforms aren’t going far enough to tackle the root causes of the economic crisis. Our four big banks remain too big to fail, and continue to engage in the risky and unproductive activities that caused the crash. We need to establish a more stable, sustainable and socially useful banking system.

 Jeremy Corbyn, in an article to The Times84, stated that Britain must empower citizen suppliers and direct private investment into green technology. He believes that our weakened public services will not be able to cope with the consequences of drastic weather events, such as the floods in Cumbria (2015) and Somerset (2013-4). He states that we need carbon budgeting to be the centrepiece of trade and commerce, taking the planet back to sustainable levels of CO₂ emissions.  Environmental politics must include people working in today’s economy and decisions by government must not take us backwards but must instead invest in the huge opportunities that the low-carbon sector offers.

Colin Tudge presented a paper entitled “Economic Renaissance: Holistic Economics for the 21st century”85 to a think tank at the Schumacher college in 2007.  The think tank explored what the key components are of an economic system which would successfully achieve poverty elimination, climate sustainability and human fulfilment.  What kind of economy do we need to protect ecosystems and people’s livelihoods at the same time?

Professor Richard Murphy and Colin Hines wrote a report for discussion at the Paris 2015 Summit86, which provides solutions for how new green measures might be funded.  The suggestion is that some of the funds already allocated for Quantitative Easing to keep the financial system afloat by the European Central Bank (€7 trillion of new money being printed), should be allocated in the form of Climate QE to save the planet – a figure of €10 million a month is suggested.  This could be used in the form of climate change bonds from the European Investment Bank.  These funds could then be directed to climate change programmes in Europe and in developing countries.

fig66

Fig.66  European currency

 

Other economists have suggested a different form of Quantitative Easing87.

Some countries have introduced a carbon tax and, in some cases, this has been successful in lowering carbon emissions88. Sweden has been particularly successful, first introducing a carbon tax in 1991. Their economy has grown by 50% since that time89 and their emissions of greenhouse gases have declined and been decoupled from economic growth. The OECD report89, which looks in detail at a number of pollution factors showed that Sweden has cleaner air than most other countries in the world (OECD Environmental Performance Reviews Sweden 2014).

The experience of Australia has been different90.  They introduced a carbon tax in 2012, whilst led by Prime Minister Julia Gillard under a coalition with the Greens.  This act was extremely unpopular and was repealed two years later by Prime Minister Tony Abbot.  Full details of how they implemented the carbon tax can be found in Wikipedia.  The chart in figure 69 shows the carbon emissions falling during the carbon tax period (2012-14) and then increasing again after it was repealed90.  The decision to repeal the tax has led to Australia slipping from 10th to 13th in the RECAI list (see Table 4).

 fig67

 Fig.67  Carbon emissions in Australia before and after the carbon tax was repealed

A report from Climate News Network91 indicates that Brazil, whose president Dilma Rousseff is at risk of being impeached, will dismantle their environmental protection laws after the impeachment, in defiance of commitments made in the Paris Agreement. It would appear that the leaders in the impeachment process are businessmen who would benefit from these laws being repealed.  Here is yet another female leader, who introduced environmental safeguards, being undermined by big business.  Brazil has just suffered the worst environmental disaster in its history:  the bursting of a dam of toxic mud last year in Minas Gerais state.  All animal and plant life was destroyed by this disaster, which is said to be the worst since Chernobyl.

Fergus Green, a Policy Analyst and Research Advisor to Professor Stern, recently published a paper, which gave evidence that a nation can develop and implement green policies, without damaging the economy92. The paper was issued to encourage discussion on the issues.

Professor Nicholas Stern has written a paper for Nature93 in which he says that current economic models tend to underestimate seriously both the potential impacts of dangerous climate change and the wider benefits of a transition to low-carbon growth. He thinks that there is an urgent need for a new generation of models that give a more accurate picture and suggests that researchers across a range of disciplines (economics, engineering, science) work together to help those developing policy.

Other ideas have been to develop a system whereby the worst polluters have to foot the bill for cleaning up the damage they have wreaked on the planet.

Another group, linked to Feasta, have come up with a suggestion of capping the use of fossil fuels globally by introducing a global taxation system94.  CapGlobalCarbon (CGC) aims to ensure that the aggregate global emissions from fossil fuels steadily decrease to zero. This would be achieved by a progressively tightening cap on fossil fuel extraction.  Revenues from the extraction permits would be used to benefit the lowest consumers of fossil fuels. Such compensation could substantially alleviate poverty and reduce global inequality. By steadily and predictably reducing the global dependence on fossil fuels the process would also hasten a smooth transition to a zero-carbon economy.

Yet, despite all these well-argued documents and postings, in the UK at least, our present Government in the UK is rushing headlong into yet another era of austerity measures, based on the old economics, promoting growth and rewarding big business at the expense of the environment and the poorest in our society.  And part of their strategy in taking this forward is to reduce spending on, and support for, green initiatives, aimed at reducing carbon emissions.

I am not an economist so I don’t feel qualified to come up with a new system; there are others much better qualified than me to do this.  All I have done here is to demonstrate how everything in this world is interconnected: ecosystems, the stratosphere, the industrial revolution and its continuum, population explosion, trading systems, weaponry and war, the rise of big business and bankers and the failed economics which they promote.  This interconnectedness means that, if any one of these goes wrong or out of balance, then this will bring down all the others in a domino effect.  Denial of this effect has only made things worse, with so much more to do to reverse the destruction.

It is interesting that the word economy has a similar root (eco) to the word ecosystem or ecology. I am told that eco comes from the Greek oikos, meaning ‘house’ or ‘household’.  I have shown in this book how ecosystems and the economy are inter-connected but what is needed is a new form of economy – or a new discipline – that appraises the needs of both through this inter-connectedness.  Perhaps we should call it ecosystomics – a new form of the economy that provides for the human race, without damaging the ecosystems of the world.

Although I am not an economist, I feel I must put together some pointers (or suggestions) for those who do have the ability to construct such a system, making the changes necessary to have a balanced green economy.  Shall I call it Economy 6?  My readers may wish to add to it. It is my first venture into the new discipline of ecosytomics.

Suggestions for Economy 6

Some measures which might move us towards a new, balanced, green economy:

  • For the introduction of greater incentive schemes to encourage businesses to develop, use and market greener technologies and to penalise those who don’t. Examples of this could include: using and developing renewable forms of energy; phasing out motor vehicles which use petrol or diesel and introducing those that run on easily-accessible clean energy;
  • Investing in research institutions which have the ability to develop innovative solutions to today’s climate-change problems;
  • Introducing legislation to reduce the use of the motor car, such as restricting the number of cars owned by each household, unless they run on clean energy;
  • Phasing out coal-fired power generation and ending fossil fuel subsidies;
  • Introducing a carbon tax on those companies who continue to use fossil fuels;
  • Rebalancing the economy, so that the rich are not rewarded for irresponsible behaviour that adds to the carbon load;
  • Setting targets, for meaningful reductions in carbon emissions by an early date, as suggested by Desmond Tutu in his petition (chapter 1) and ensuring that the calculations for this are correct;
  • Phasing out nuclear power and nuclear weapons worldwide and re-channelling the money saved into the incentive-schemes and investments mentioned above;
  • Proper funding of those institutions regulating the tax system, so that tax evasion and avoidance is properly penalised;
  • Shifting the tax system to penalise those activities which need to be discouraged, such as greenhouse gas emissions and the accumulation of wealth;
  • Banning certain household appliances and gadgets, which are not necessary and only add to the carbon load;
  • Establishing a new institution, which will monitor the use of fossil fuels by companies and promote, and provide support for, the use of greener forms of energy;
  • Encourage less air travel, by raising awareness about the damage this is doing to the planet and encouraging airlines to invest instead in technologies that do not damage the planet;
  • Work globally with other partners to reduce deforestation;
  • Re-balancing international trading systems, so that goods and animals are not transported unnecessarily across continents and seas, adding to the carbon load;
  • Encouraging countries worldwide to be self-sufficient in terms of goods and resources, so that goods are not imported which can be produced internally;
  • Re-think and re-balance entirely transnational trading systems;
  • Work globally to find a better means of international co-operation in working jointly to reduce and reverse that damage that is currently being done to the planet;
  • Encourage partnerships between local government and local cooperatives and social enterprises;
  • Encouraging the setting up of local groups (3G groups), where individuals can meet together to share what they are doing to reduce their carbon emissions and to encourage each other to keep going with it, even if the majority of others are still in denial (3G stands for three generations – the amount of time we have left).

Some of the ideas above are already being worked on, and others are not about changing the economic system but about reducing carbon emissions, but I hope these are a starting point for others to add to, if we are really serious about taking meaningful anti-climate-change measures before it is too late.

Green Economy is not a new expression.  It has been promoted by other groups, including the European Environment Agency, who produced the diagram in Fig.68:

fig68

Their definition of a Green Economy is one that generates increasing prosperity while maintaining the natural systems that sustain us95.

Their website goes on to say that:

  1. Historically, the trend has not been towards green growth. On the contrary, economic expansion has imposed ever greater demands on natural systems — both in terms of the amount of resources that we extract or harvest, and the volume of emissions and waste that we expect the environment to absorb and neutralise.
  2. As is increasingly understood, this cannot continue indefinitely: the environment has natural limits in terms of how much it can provide and absorb.

There is also a body called “The Green Economy Coalition”, which is a global network of organisations committed to accelerating a transition to a new green inclusive economy96. They believe the crisis we are in is profound and that piecemeal policy change is not good enough. They want to see deep-rooted transformation and the courage to forge a new economic vision.

Their vision is to develop an economy that provides a better quality of life for all, within the ecological limits of the planet. They are working on five action areas to make that vision a reality:

  • Managing our natural systems – people and economies depend on nature for everything; until now our economies have not reflected that dependency;
  • Investing in people – evidence shows that more equitable access to our natural resources benefits both people and planet; where communities have secure tenure and a say in decisions there are better outcomes for the environment as well as for the local economy;
  • Greening high impact sectors – these sectors include food, housing and transport and their embedded energy needs – accounting for 63% of the global ecological footprint;
  • Influencing financial flows – capital markets are dominated by large banks but smaller, values-based banks, which base their decisions on the needs of the people and the environment, have proved to outperform traditional mainstream banks on all indicators, including financial ones;
  • Measuring what matters – economic metrics, such as GDP and quarterly reports, tell us nothing about the resilience of an economy or business; some investors are asking for new metrics. Governments in Canada, Botswana and India are already working on this.

And just recently, the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has invited 120-odd nations to join a new International Agency for Solar Policy and Application97, aimed at helping poorer countries in the tropics develop solar power.  India is investing $30 million to set up a headquarters and aims to raise a further $400 million.  Modi has also written an article in The Economist (Gathering steam: The World in 2016, p70)98, which outlines the basic precepts of India’s economy, to include incentivising afforestation, setting ambitious targets for renewable energy, faster and more inclusive growth and eliminating poverty.

It is encouraging to know that many people across the globe are already looking to develop new economies that no longer threaten the sustainability of the planet.  The agreement signed at the COP21 talks at the PARIS Summit also takes us in the right direction, even though fossil fuels are not mentioned in the wording of this agreement. The detail of this agreement will be discussed in chapter 8.

fig69

Fig.71

From: http://www.propostalavoro.com with permission

I have come to the end of describing the interconnected factors which have worked together to bring about a situation where the future of this planet is at risk.  Many other people, apart from me, have realised this and are working in various ways to raise awareness and to lobby for change.  However, I feel that far too many people, all over the world, do not understand the urgency of the situation and have not really curtailed their activities as a result.  This is why I have written this book and tried to keep it simple.

The following chapters will look at how we may work towards global co-operation in a united effort to bring about a sustainable future. The final chapter looks at why, despite all the evidence to the contrary, there has been so much lethargy about doing something about it.


Table 5:  Quotation from the Introduction to Richard Douthwaite’s book:                    

“The Growth Illusion” Green Books, 1999

“A decade ago, few of us had any doubt about what growth was for. It was to lift people out of poverty and enable them to have a better quality of life. Political parties dressed these
expectations up in different ways: the left would talk about growth leading to higher wages, improved social welfare, better hospitals, a lower pupil-teacher ratio and so on, while
the right would stress greater profits and a wider range of choice.

But now much of the old confidence about the results of the growth process has evaporated…the only benefits many of us expect from economic growth are increased business profits and – if the rate of growth is fast enough – extra jobs……..
So why, since we know the benefits of growth have… hefty price tags attached, is it still considered so important to achieve it? One reason is that firms are constantly trying to lower their costs by introducing labour-saving technologies. Naturally these technologies cost jobs, so every year, unless the total amount of activity in the economy increases by about 3 per cent, unemployment will rise. As far as jobs are concerned therefore, national economies have to grow pretty quickly just to stand still.

The second reason our countries need growth is that between 15 and 20 per cent of their workforces are employed at any time on investment projects designed to expand their economies in the coming years. If growth fails one year, firms that invested but couldn’t increase their sales in the flat
market will find themselves with surplus capacity. This will cause them to cut any further nvestment plans they might have, throwing the people who would have built their new 
factories, offices and shopping centres out of work. And since these newly unemployed people will obviously have less to spend, further jobs will be lost in other sectors of the economy. Consumer spending will fall even more, causing more job losses. In short, a downward spiral could develop
leading to a serious depression. The possibility of this happening terrifies every government in the world to such an extent that they are prepared to do almost anything to ensure that growth carries on regardless of its social or environmental consequences……

In 1998, I conducted an Internet survey for almost 700 participants from over 50 countries. I had expected that it would take most of the seminar to reach some sort of agreement that, whatever growth might have achieved in the past, current growth was not benefiting ordinary people. Not
at all. It took a bare 24 hours, so most of the seminary was spent discussing how the economic system could be altered to remove its need to grow.”


 

 

 

 


Leave a comment

Conflict, conquest, weaponry, wars and the power of propaganda

CHAPTER 6

Conflict, conquest, weaponry, wars and the power of propaganda

Ever since the Stone Age, man has made himself weapons, initially to help slaughter animals for food but then to fight other tribes to gain power one over the other. Because of human ingenuity, over the centuries more and more sophisticated weapons have been developed, in order to gain supremacy in conflicts between individuals and groups.  So, what may have started with hand-held stones and clubs, escalated into bigger and bigger, more sophisticated and more powerful, weapons, until we are where we are today, with nuclear weapons that can destroy humanity, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction, that can do the same, and missiles that can be fired from distant places, well away from the battlefield, and guided remotely to their target.

The escalation and production of weapons was facilitated and enhanced by the industrial revolution until, towards the end of the Second World War, the nuclear bomb was developed – and released over Japan – which has the potential to destroy the population of the whole world, human, animal and plant.  The recognition of the potential of this lethal weapon to trigger a nuclear war, which would destroy us all, led to the Cold War and a tacit agreement not to use nuclear weapons. But this has not stopped conflict and hatred between nations, suspicion, a lack of trust between nations and the desire to find a (safer) weapon to demonstrate one nation’s perceived supremacy over another. The latest development is the use of satellite-guided drones and missiles, to wipe out targets (people) from a distance, but many mistakes have been made with these, with innocent people and children being slaughtered unnecessarily.

The purpose of this book is to show the interconnectedness of all things, not to get into an argument about the rights and wrongs of wars, but I think it might be worth a look at some of the psychology behind the use of weapons, if we are to find a way of moving to global co-operation in order to save the planet.

I believe that the Hollywood film industry has a lot to answer for in its portrayal of “macho” men, firing guns in order to wipe out the “enemy”, both in their early Westerns and, more recently, in promoting different kinds of aggression, associated with maleness, as being the norm.  Many young men watching such films are influenced by this and identify with the macho culture, so that it becomes part of their sexual identity, much the same as the glamour culture clearly influences young women.

The parallels that can be seen between a potent form of male sexuality and the firing of a gun are obvious to all, though rarely acknowledged.  Examples of this are the rapidly-increasing numbers of mass killings in the USA by young post-pubertal men wielding repeating rifles and the unwillingness of the American male gun lobby to support legislation banning guns from general use, as it is seen as a form of emasculation.

This macho culture, rivalry and the desire for conquest has even crept into sport, with victory celebrations often using a bottle of champagne, shaken to mimic ejaculation.

The Hollywood macho film culture has been exported successfully overseas too, with young males in many countries identifying with this aggressive gun culture and the need to conquer and eliminate rivals.

I am, of course, seeing this from a woman’s point of view and acknowledge that it is not only men who are responsible for instigating, or participating in, wars.  Britain’s Margaret Thatcher set in motion the Falklands War, which led to thousands of needless casualties from Argentina and the UK, when agreement could have been reached through diplomacy.

A hero image is frequently propagated to entice young men to fight for their country, even though the reality of war is very different from the glamorised image. During the First World War, many young men (some barely out of childhood) volunteered to go to war, only to find that trench warfare was far from glamorous and many of them, if they did return home, never really recovered from shell shock (or post-traumatic stress disorder).  Yet, those who opposed the concept of war at that time, were frequently put into prison and scorned as cowards.  Those who deserted the army were often executed.

So, why is this hero/glamour myth taken on board by so many?  Why does the glamour/hero culture perpetuate despite the shocking experiences of the First World War and later wars? I think the rise of the Hollywood gun culture during this period has a part to play here.  Plus a mind-set in politicians that a successful war will enhance their reputation, each aspiring to be a modern-day Churchill or Nelson.

fig55

Fig.55: A young soldier firing an automatic rifle during the Afghanistan war

 

The arms industry

Another factor at work here is the arms industry. Like other businesses, which have international trading opportunities, there is an assumption that selling arms to other countries, even to those who are potential enemies, will be beneficial to our country, to the business, jobs and to the economy.  It is a contradiction and leads to the development of more and more sophisticated weaponry, all leading to more carbon emissions, greater conflict and more mass killings.  The economic reasons, used as an excuse to allow the escalation of the arms industry, are about encouraging economic growth will be dealt with in the next chapter.

Power and prestige

There are power issues at work here too. For example, the USA sees itself as a super-power and certain right wing elements within that country desire to see this power maintained or enhanced.  For example, at the end of the Cold War, when the USSR was split into individual countries, some power-hungry American groups thought that this would be an ideal time to increase their power in the world.  There have been suggestions that, even before the Iraq War, there was a consensus among these right-wing groups that Iraq should be a target, with regime-change and the elimination of Saddam Hussein being a priority.  The war, of course, was a disaster, especially for the people of Iraq, with a vacuum being left there, which has been filled by anti-west terrorists, causing thousands of refugees to flee to Europe for their safety.  There are also historical power issues associated with Russia and its control of former-USSR countries, as shown by the invasion of the Crimean region of Ukraine in 2014.

Propaganda

And suspicions between countries, who were once at war, linger on and are exploited by a xenophobic irresponsible media hype.  Propaganda has been used to increase suspicion, racism and xenophobia between nations.  It was used very much in the two world wars to encourage and recruit young men to join the armed forces (“Your country Needs You” etc.) and used during the wars to wrong-foot the enemy.  But today, it is frequently used by the right-wing media to drive and panic our population into open hostility towards people of other nationalities and ethnic groups.  Most of what is written is lies but, if repeated often enough, it is believed and taken on board by the gullible, precipitating a fear that we are being swamped by foreigners, who are taking our jobs and our housing.  It has led, in this country, to the formation and popularity, of the UK Independence Party.  People with racist tendencies have flocked to it in huge numbers.

And some in Britain still hanker for a return to the power we formerly wielded over the commonwealth countries.  Questions have been asked about why Britain still needs nuclear weapons and whether it is moral to commit some £80 billion on the Trident programme at a time when benefits are being cut for the disabled and others living in poverty, in the name of ‘austerity’.  The defence of the country is usually the explanation for this significant outlay but others believe that it is not about defence at all but about prestige. Trident (together with worldwide military capacity) is a badge of power and, without the Trident submarine and its ability to launch nuclear warheads, our presence on the UN Security Council and other international bodies might be questioned. Successive governments have been only too willing to use taxes to promote and maintain this profitable and prestigious industry.

fig56

Fig.56

From: http://www.google.co.uk

A few months ago, there was an interesting report in The Independent66 that a senior serving general in the British army had warned that the government could face mutiny from the army if it were to downgrade its weapons.  The unnamed general was quoted as saying that, if the government tried to scrap Trident, pull out of NATO or announce plans to “emasculate or shrink the size of the armed forces”, they would be challenged. An interesting use of semantics in view of my earlier comments about the association between male sexuality and weaponry.  Needless to say, the Ministry of Defence stepped in to say that we live in a democracy, so the general’s implied threat of a coup d’état was unlikely to take place.  The incident does, however, further reinforce the theory of a strong link between male sexuality and the desire to possess and use powerful weapons.

Friendship between nations

It is these kinds of attitudes which prevent moves away from xenophobic hostility to international co-operation. However, the Queen’s example of developing friendship between commonwealth countries could be seen as a model for moving away from domination and control to friendly egalitarian partnerships.

Nelson Mandela’s example of relinquishing the desire for revenge on his release from many years’ of imprisonment, is another example of what can be achieved.  His legacy of using peaceful means to achieve greater racial harmony in South Africa has had a far-reaching (and global) impact.

fig57

Fig.57

From: http://www.google.co.uk

Any military strategist will tell you that if, during a battle, the circumstances and priorities change, then a new strategy must be quickly developed.   I believe that we are now in such a situation in the world, with climate change and the imminent destruction of the planet completely changing the goal posts.  It is now totally irrelevant to be maintaining nuclear weapons (of mass destruction), whether for prestige or for defence, at a time when we should be rallying together globally to avert an impending global disaster.

The carbon footprint of war

It has been estimated that the carbon footprint of a small nuclear exchange in a nuclear war would release 690 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, through the burning of cities; this would be more than the current annual emissions of the UK.

But a war doesn’t have to be nuclear to have a large carbon footprint. It seems obvious to me that the detonation of large bombs and the fires that are frequently caused in the aftermath of an explosion, are adding substantially to the overall carbon emissions.  It has been suggested67 that the US military operation in Iraq may have clocked up around 160–500 million tonnes of CO2e, plus a further 80 million tonnes for the healthcare of injured troops. If the coalition forces’ activities are added to this, and the effects of a poorly resourced insurgency, this might increase to 250–600 million tonnes. And that’s excluding the direct emissions from the explosions that took place.

If we are to find a way out of the global, climate-change, crisis that is affecting people of all nations at this time, we have to find a way of moving on from old hostilities, rivalry and mistrust to a new form of global co-operation.  Other great, international icons have also sounded a similar note, suggesting peace instead of warfare as the superior route:

fig58

Fig.58

From: http://www.google.co.uk

And Gandhi said, “There is no path to peace.  Peace is the path.”

Surprising in a way that none of these three great iconic statesmen of the past, who promoted peaceful methods of achieving societal harmony, came from the white communities. Is that a lesson for us? Is the white community to blame for the aggressive lack of harmony in the world?

The relationship between poverty and war

Professor Paul Rogers, in his briefing paper to the Oxford research Group (2012)6,68, argues that, in recent years, there has been significant economic growth across the world, with a super-elite of very rich people developing alongside (but totally unaware of) large numbers of marginalised and exploited people, who have not shared the fruits of economic success.  The super-rich have become so through trading systems dominated by transnational corporations, which produce low-cost commodities at the expense of poor farmers and miners across the world.  Because of improved communications, a consequence of this is that poor people are becoming more aware of their own marginalisation and have developed new social movements.  There has been widespread anger and frustration particularly manifesting against the Middle East autocracies, leading to the so-called Arab Spring.   Rogers expects this to grow across the world, and to combine with a growing environmental awareness of the damage that is being done to global ecosystems by powerful corporations.  He believes that the socio-economic divisions alone, even without the environmental constraints already manifesting, point to a very disturbed future, with a greater risk of revolts from the margins, leading to wars.

It has also been calculated that, for the cost of the Iraq war, we could have ended world hunger for 30 years (John Greenberg, 2014)69.  It would seem that those in power have got their priorities all wrong.

So, in summary then: the production of modern weaponry in itself contributes no more than other products of the IR continuum to increasing carbon emissions, but their use is strongly likely to do so. What war does is to promote a cycle of defensive aggressiveness and hostility, which adds to the escalation of more and more sophisticated weapons systems and increasing suspicion and division between nations.  Unless this cycle is transformed, redirected or even better reversed, then the global co-operation needed to prevent the destruction of the planet will never happen.