Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Global Warming Worry

Business as usual or system change 
 Climate change is the most global and the most threatening, of all of the consequences of capitalism. No part of the world is unaffected by climate change, especially because the environmentally destructive extraction and consumption of fossil fuels takes place in both rich and poor countries, although rich countries managed to concentrate extractive activities in regions populated by less affluent people, with little political power.

The costs of climate change are not spread evenly across the planet. For example, people living on islands or low-lying seacoast are at risk for rising levels of ocean water. For example, small island states, such as the Maldives, face risk from rising oceans submerging their nations but no part of the world is safe from the long-term consequences of climate change. Given such powerlessness, the climate-change deniers have been surprisingly successful in dismissing the threat of climate change; however, the effectiveness of their rearguard activity seems to be diminishing, but not nearly fast enough to begin to take serious action to diminish dangers threatened by climate change.  Largely because of the resistance of domestic business from accepting any responsibility for climate change, states are paralyzed in the face of taking action. One area in which governments do cooperate is in joining together to oppose any regulations that might be useful in reducing climate change.

 Rajendra Pachauri, chairperson of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), explained that "The Synthesis Report will provide the roadmap by which policymakers will hopefully find their way to a global agreement to finally reverse course on climate change. It gives us the knowledge to make informed choices, the knowledge to build a brighter, more sustainable future. It enhances our vital understanding of the rationale for action—and the serious implications for inaction." He went on to say "A great deal of work and tall hurdles lie ahead. But it can be done. We still have time to build a better, more sustainable world. We still have time to avoid the most serious impacts of climate change. But we have precious little of that time."

Time is not on anyone’s side. Global carbon emissions continue to increase year after year and if they don’t peak and begin to decline in the next two or three years, it will be extremely difficult and costly to keep global temperatures from rising above two degrees C. Temperatures have risen .085 degrees C so far and are linked to billions of dollars in damages, with extreme events affecting tens of millions people. Under business as usual economic growth, the new infrastructure planned and likely to built over the next five years will commit the world to enough CO2 to max out the 2C carbon budget. That budget is the amount of CO2 or carbon that can be emitting and stay below 2C. After 2018, the only choice will be to shut down power plants and other large carbon emitters before their normal lifespan.  Data shows “we’re embracing fossil fuels more than ever,” Robert Socolow of Princeton University and co-author of the study told Vice Motherboard. “We’ve been hiding what’s going on from ourselves: A high-carbon future is being locked in by the world’s capital investments,” Socolow said.

China and the United States are responsible for 35 percent of global carbon emissions but could do their part to keep climate change to less than two degrees C by adopting best energy efficiency standards, a new analysis shows. Although China’s energy use has skyrocketed over the past two decades, the average American citizen consumes four times more electricity than a Chinese citizen. Both countries need to dramatically reduce their use of coal,

However, when it comes to energy efficiency, China’s steel industry is far less efficient than the U.S. The reverse is true when it comes to cement production, according a new Climate Action Tracker analysis of energy use and savings potential for electricity production, industry, buildings and transport in the two countries.

China and the U.S. are very different but could learn from each other. If China and the U.S. integrate the best efficiency policies, “they would both be on the right pathway to keep warming below two degrees C,” said Bill Hare a climate scientist at Climate Analytics in Berlin, Germany.
“We looked at how well both the U.S. and China would do if they each adopted a ‘best of the two’practice in electricity production, industry, buildings and transport. We found this, alone, would set them in a better direction,” Niklas Höhne of Ecofys told IPS. 

Should both the U.S. and China adopt the global best practices on energy use, U.S. emissions would decline 18 percent below 2005 by 2020 (roughly five percent below 1990 levels) and China’s would peak in the early 2020s. That would close the crucial ‘emissions gap’by nearly 25 percent. The emissions gap is the amount of carbon reductions over and above current commitments that are needed before 2020 in order to have a good chance of staying below 2C.

In contrast to the destructive anarchy of capitalist competition which reinforces the divides between countries, classes, and cultures, a cooperative worldwide commonwealth would put an end to the unchecked power and authority exercised by both governments and corporate powers. New techniques of transportation and communication should facilitate a world in which the entire population could be cooperating in the creation of the good society. Of course, nothing of the kind is taking place. 

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