In addition to Neil’s report that some members of GAIA were in Poznan and we held a session to denounce some of the false solutions to climate change, such as waste incineration, I also want to share with you my impressions about certain themes in the meeting.
The first impression that I have is that, among the political leaders such as ministers or heads of environmental policy of the various countries, there is no consciousness about the gravity of the climate problem. They all know the problem exists but their reactions and proposals do not reflect the gravity of the situation. For example, they talk of reducing emissions 20% by the year 2020 and 50% by 2050. But the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) says that, in order to have a 50% probability of keeping global temperature rise to 2C (after which there would be true environmental catastrophes), we would have to stabilize the concentration of CO2 equivalent gases in the atmosphere below 450ppm. This implies that the concentration of CO2 itself would have to be below 360ppm; but in 2005, the concentration of CO2 had already reached 379ppm. In other words, we are already past the limit for a scenario where we have only a 50% probability of holding the temperature below dangerous levels, and even so we are not acting with the necessary urgency.
This goal that so many politicians mention, of not passing 2C seems to be merely wishful thinking since we have already increased 0.8C; as one British scientist said: “…we have to try to keep the temperature increase to 2C but we also have to prepare for an increment of 4C…and of course if it rises by 4C most probably there will be a series of feedback mechanisms such as the escape of methane from the permafrost of Siberia, the Canadian tundra and ocean clathrates, as well as the destruction of the Amazon and the melting of the glaciers, which will push the temperature rise above 5C, then to 6C and then… ?”
To see the gravity of the case, we only have to remember that less than
8 months ago there was a tropical cyclone in Burma that left more than 150,000 dead, the equivalent of 2 Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs together. And this is before the temperature has increased even 1C. I wonder, what will be these catastrophes that the IPCC speaks of if the temperature rises more than 2C? Millions of dead in one single climate event?
In spite of all this, the principal polluters (the countries of the
North) want to continue polluting, and in order to do so, they want to give the Southern countries money for them to plant trees, capture the methane from landfills or put up wind turbines. This they call carbon trading, clean development mechanisms, joint implementation – they have plenty of creativity to continue inventing names when an intelligent and honest analysis of the problem demands an immediate halt to any additional CO2 emissions. The problem is complicated because many Southern countries agree with this approach, as it provides them with funds.
On the other hand, although the historical responsibility for the current problem lies with the industrialized countries, since they have produced 70% of all greenhouse gases emitted since the start of the industrial revolution (in spite of having only 17% of the global population), the problem is that, in the last decade, the situation has changed. Those countries called “developing countries” now emit more than the “developed” countries. For example, China has passed the US as the world’s principal emitter of CO2. This means that, in order to solve the problem, the Southern countries must also embark on an effective program of emissions reductions; this could be done if the industrialized countries recognize their historical responsibility of having caused the problem and provide the necessary capital and technology to do so. Some estimates of the necessary investment run on the order of US$200 billion per year; but the industrialized world seems not to be prepared to to put in more than 10% of this amount at best; and, to make matters worse, they want the funds to be managed by the World Bank!
The final decisions will be taken in Copenhagen in one year, but everything indicates that, if the decision makers of Northern and Southern countries do not change their postures, we will soon face climatic situations never before seen in the history of humanity. In the face of this challenge, we in NGOs have a huge task to complete, at the national and international levels.
Greetings to all, and may God and Mother Earth protect us.