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Climate Crisis Update 10-1-07: The Planet's People have Awakened, But Many Business & Political Leaders, Particularly in USA, Continue to Pretend
By Richard Power
In Beltwayistan, the _resident himself, and his Secretary of State, have now made pathetic and disingenuous speeches, acknowledging the reality of global warming, without offering any meaningful leadership or any substantive action of any kind. (See Financial Times, 9-27-07)
But as pathetic and disingenuous as these speeches were, the US mainstream news media was even more feckless, it reported them as straight news stories, without providing the context of the last seven years, in which it has been widely reported (at least in the alternative media) that the Bush-Cheney administration sought to suppress the truth, distort the facts and harass the US government's own scientists concerning their research.
Meanwhile, in the reality-based community --
According to a World Public Opinion poll conducted for the BBC, most of the planet's people feel that "necessary to take major steps very soon." [To download the full report, click here.]
The Worldwatch Institute's annual Vital Signs study, which tracks 44 trends, reports that for 2007-2008, "consumption of energy and many other critical resources is consistently breaking records, disrupting the climate and undermining life on the planet." Worldwatch Institute, 9-13-07
The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) has released a study that the global security implications of climate change could be "on a par with nuclear war unless urgent action is taken." Reuters, 9-13-07
Marcel Alers, a climate expert with the UN Development Programme (UNDP), has declared that the best way of tackling greenhouse gas emissions is for countries to pass laws that enforce the use of existing energy-efficient technology: "Most of the technology needed to achieve significant reduction of greenhouse gases actually exists..." Agence France Press, 9-11-07
In its fifth annual report by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) surveyed some of the Financial Times 500 (FT500) and revealed that although 80% saw climate change as presenting risks and opportunities to their business, and 95% of those who considered climate change to represent a commercial risk had implemented a program to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions with a specific target and timeline (75% overall), unfortunately, more US respondents perceived climate change as "presenting commercial risks rather than opportunities," and only 29% percent had implemented greenhouse-gas reduction programs with timelines and specific targets.Agence France Press, 9-27-07
In the USA, a group of state officials, state pension fund managers and environmental organizations are pressing the SEC to force all public companies to come up with something more useful to investors, in their formal petition, the group is asking the commission to require companies to assess and disclose their financial risks from climate change and legislation. Steven Mufson, Stop Global Warming!, 9-18-07
Speaking at the opening session of Bill Clinton's Global Initiative gathering, Al Gore called for a global "Marshall plan," and urged Bush to "follow the example of former US president Ronald Reagan, who after an initial delay responded to the 1985 discovery of a hole in the ozone layer by supporting a marked reduction in chlorofluorocarbons." Financial Times, 9-26-07
And in the New York Times, Vaclav Havel, another hero of the Evolution, emphasizes the need to comprehend our "moral footprint" as well as our carbon footprint: "I don't agree with those whose reaction is to warn against restricting civil freedoms. Were the forecasts of certain climatologists to come true, our freedoms would be tantamount to those of someone hanging from a 20th-story parapet. ... I'm skeptical that a problem as complex as climate change can be solved by any single branch of science. Technological measures and regulations are important, but equally important is support for education, ecological training and ethics — a consciousness of the commonality of all living beings and an emphasis on shared responsibility.New York Times, 9-27-07
Here are excerpts from the nine stories mentioned, with links to the full texts:
World Public Opinion just released a poll that show that large majorities around the world:
Understand that"human activity IS a significant cause" of Climate Change
Agree that is is "Necessary to take major steps very soon to Address Climate Change"
Believe that wealthy countries should ive financial/technical assistance to less wealthy countries that agree to limit GHG emissions
While the US is, consisently, behind other developed nations in all three categories (thank you climate deniers sound machine), even the US records strong majorities in responding to all three. A Siegal, Daily Kos, 9-25-07 [To download the full report, click here.]
Consumption of energy and many other critical resources is consistently breaking records, disrupting the climate and undermining life on the planet, according to the latest Worldwatch Institute report, Vital Signs 2007-2008.
The 44 trends tracked in Vital Signs illustrate the urgent need to check consumption of energy and other resources that are contributing to the climate crisis, starting with the largest polluter, the United States, which accounted for over 21 percent of global carbon emissions from fossil fuel burning in 2005. Europe, already feeling the effects of climate change, should pressure the U.S. to join international climate negotiations, according to Erik Assadourian, Vital Signs Project Director.
“The world is running out of time to head off catastrophic climate change, and it is essential that Europe and the rest of the international community bring pressure to bear on U.S. policy makers to address the climate crisis,” said Assadourian, who spoke at the Barcelona launch of Vital Signs. “The United States must be held accountable for its emissions, double the per capita level in Europe, and should follow the EU lead by committing to reducing its total greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050.” Worldwatch Institute, 9-13-07
Climate change could have global security implications on a par with nuclear war unless urgent action is taken ... The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) security think-tank said global warming would hit crop yields and water availability everywhere, causing great human suffering and leading to regional strife. While everyone had now started to recognize the threat posed by climate change, no one was taking effective leadership to tackle it and no one could tell precisely when and where it would hit hardest, it added.
"The most recent international moves towards combating global warming represent a recognition ... that if the emission of greenhouse gases ... is allowed to continue unchecked, the effects will be catastrophic -- on the level of nuclear war," the IISS report said.
"Even if the international community succeeds in adopting comprehensive and effective measures to mitigate climate change, there will still be unavoidable impacts from global warming on the environment, economies and human security," it added. Jeremy Lovell, Reuters, 9-13-07
The best way of tackling greenhouse gas emissions is for countries to pass laws that enforce the use of existing energy-efficient technology, a UN climate change expert said Monday.
"Most of the technology needed to achieve significant reduction of greenhouse gases actually exists, doesn't have to be invented and actually is competitive commercially," said Marcel Alers from the UN Development Programme.
"The experts in this area will all tell you that voluntary is nice but if you want impact, it has to be mandatory ... And these things do not cost a lot of money," he told reporters at a climate change conference.
Governments should introduce standards and labels to phase out the use of inefficient electrical products, added Alers, who is part of the UNDP's Global Environmental Facility.
The European Union's mandatory standards on low carbon emission refrigerators are "spectacular examples" that have transformed the market in the last 10 years, Alers said. Agence France Press, 9-11-07
The world's corporate giants are increasingly focused on climate change and many see it as an opportunity for profit but US firms tend to view it as a risk to their bottom line, a new study has said. The paper ... is the fifth annual report by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), a not-for-profit organization that vets corporate response to global warming on behalf of institutional shareholders.
Quizzing a sample of members in the Financial Times 500 (FT500) index of the world's biggest corporations, CDP found that 80 percent of respondents saw climate change as presenting risks and opportunities to their business.
Of those who considered climate change to represent a commercial risk, 95 percent had implemented a program to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions with a specific target and timeline.
Overall, three quarters of respondents said they had implemented a greenhouse-gas reductions initiative of some kind, compared to less than half in the 2006 CDP report. ...
In contrast, though, a sample of US firms, as measured through the Standard and Poor's 500 (S&P 500) index, showed that these "are not as far along" as the more international FT500 group, CDP noted
More of the US respondents saw climate change as presenting commercial risks rather than opportunities.
In addition, only 29 percent of US respondents had implemented greenhouse-gas reduction programs with timelines and specific targets. Agence France Press, 9-27-07
One of the industries considered most vulnerable to climate change is the insurance industry, with shifting weather patterns threatening property in the nation's most hurricane-prone areas.
Yet in its 345-page annual financial report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission this year, Allstate, which insures one out of every eight homes in the United States, did not mention climate change, global warming, greenhouse gases or carbon dioxide.
Exxon Mobil made only scant mention of the issue in its SEC filings. ... Now a group of state officials, state pension fund managers and environmental organizations are pressing the SEC to force all public companies to come up with something more useful to investors. Among those who signed the formal petition were Bill Lockyer, California treasurer; Alex Sink, Florida's chief financial officer; and Richard Moore, North Carolina treasurer. In the petition ... the group is asking the commission to require companies to assess and disclose their financial risks from climate change and legislation.
"The SEC exists to make sure that investors have the information that they need to make smart decisions," said Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, a group that promotes environmental standards among private companies. Ceres and the Calvert Group, an asset management firm, said in a January report that more than half of the companies in the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index "are doing a poor job of disclosing climate change risk."
Environmental groups have written to the SEC twice before without receiving a response. They said that by filing a formal petition, they hoped to prod the SEC to act. Steven Mufson, Stop Global Warming!, 9-18-07
Al Gore, the former US vice-president, on Wednesday called for a “Marshall plan” to make job creation and measures to address climate change compatible and urged President George W. Bush to commit to mandatory cuts in carbon dioxide emissions.
“This is an emergency,” Mr Gore told the opening session of the Clinton Global Initiative. “I think that the key to fighting global poverty is to have the wealthy nations and the developing nations join together to reduce global warming … I think what we need is a global Marshall plan to make the creation of jobs around the reduction of carbon the central principle for how we develop this.”
Mr Gore said Mr Bush should follow the example of former US president Ronald Reagan, who after an initial delay responded to the 1985 discovery of a hole in the ozone layer by supporting a marked reduction in chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs.
“We have to have a binding reduction on carbon,’’ he said. ... Bill Clinton, the former US president whose organisation is hosting the philanthropic forum for world leaders and top businesses, also called on the World Bank to promote ways of dealing with climate change to the governments it deals with. He argued that the organisation needed to persuade developing countries that they could grow in ways that would alleviate damage to the environment and benefit economic growth.
“We don’t have a right to ask anybody in the world to stay poor, but if you can show them that they can get rich quicker … by pursuing a cleaner energy path… that would be a valuable role for the World Bank,” he said. “People can’t seize options they are not aware of.” Financial Times, 9-26-07
We can't endlessly fool ourselves that nothing is wrong and that we can go on cheerfully pursuing our wasteful lifestyles, ignoring the climate threats and postponing a solution. Maybe there will be no major catastrophe in the coming years or decades. Who knows? But that doesn't relieve us of responsibility toward future generations.
I don't agree with those whose reaction is to warn against restricting civil freedoms. Were the forecasts of certain climatologists to come true, our freedoms would be tantamount to those of someone hanging from a 20th-story parapet.
Whenever I reflect on the problems of today's world, whether they concern the economy, society, culture, security, ecology or civilization in general, I always end up confronting the moral question: what action is responsible or acceptable? The moral order, our conscience and human rights — these are the most important issues at the beginning of the third millennium.
We must return again and again to the roots of human existence and consider our prospects in centuries to come. We must analyze everything open-mindedly, soberly, unideologically and unobsessively, and project our knowledge into practical policies. ... I'm skeptical that a problem as complex as climate change can be solved by any single branch of science. Technological measures and regulations are important, but equally important is support for education, ecological training and ethics — a consciousness of the commonality of all living beings and an emphasis on shared responsibility.
Either we will achieve an awareness of our place in the living and life-giving organism of our planet, or we will face the threat that our evolutionary journey may be set back thousands or even millions of years. That is why we must see this issue as a challenge to behave responsibly and not as a harbinger of the end of the world.
The end of the world has been anticipated many times and has never come, of course. And it won't come this time either. We need not fear for our planet. It was here before us and most likely will be here after us. But that doesn't mean that the human race is not at serious risk. As a result of our endeavors and our irresponsibility our climate might leave no place for us. If we drag our feet, the scope for decision-making — and hence for our individual freedom — could be considerably reduced. Vaclav Havel, Our Moral Footprint, New York Times, 9-27-07
Related Posts and Additional Resources
See also Sustainability Update: Thom Hartmann & Bioneer Kenny Ausubel on Evolution, Not Devolution -- From Warring Tribes of Bacteria to Green Collar Justice and Climate Crisis Update 9-21-07: Radio Eco-Shock Interviews Richard Power on Why Global Warming, Not Terrorism, is the #1 Security Threat
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