By Jeff Fedee
The international news has been dominated in the last two weeks by the ongoing conference on Climate Change taking place in Paris, France, from 30th November – 11th December. I am a natural born skeptic who digs beneath the surface to find out what lies beneath the superficiality and the posturing that is very much in evidence during this conference.
I decided to do some research after my declared skepticism over the recruitment by our government of poets and artists to be part of the St. Lucia delegation to attend the Climate Conference, which I perceived to be a forum for learned scientists to stem the damage to the world’s atmosphere by the industrialized countries of the world.
My skepticism has however been reinforced by an article that I read in the New York Times by an eminent scholar, that the plans outlined by the I.P.C.C. (The Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change) sound unrealistic about future technology, to stem the high temperatures in the world. “We have to start removing more carbon dioxide from the earth’s atmosphere, if we are to eventually reach the IPCC’s net zero emissions target by 2070”, writes the academic.
The much ballyhooed slogan used by the Third World countries, which was very much in evidence by our Caribbean region was that they would insist to the world’s industrialized countries that ‘one point five’ or 1.5 degrees Celsius, should be the target figure for the world’s temperature for the foreseeable future. Without discussion the industrialized countries just dismissed the 1.5 degrees proposal of the Third World countries, to 2 degrees centigrade.
The New York Times article quotes a United Nations report last year which stated that ‘negative emissions could be achieved by extensive re-forestation and forest growth,’ as well as ‘the capture and storage of carbon emissions.’ But the feasibility of such large – scale schemes are unrealistic and uncertain.
The scientists envisage cultivating vegetation to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This would require enormous capacities for extracting, transporting and storing carbon dioxide extracted from the atmosphere. The whole enterprise sounds like a nightmare scenario from science fiction, because this would require enormous land areas for carbon storage.
Despite these nightmare scenarios, the last decade has seen the behaviour of man by its rapid industrialization threatening man’s existence on earth. For while the industrialized countries are suggesting the re-forestation and forest growth, their actions in recent years have destroyed much of the world’s natural bio-diversity.
There has been wide-spread deforestation and destruction of the Amazon rainforest which houses 10% of the world’s biodiversity, and provides a canopy for the entire world, which regulates the world’s temperature and humidity. The report states that the World Bank is responsible for the funding of development projects for the purposes of mining and other industrial projects in the Amazon Forest.
The rapid industrialization of the newly developed countries such as China and India, which are pursuing development and growth strategies to equal the international economic standards of the United States and Western Europe, is that they are not willing to compromise their growth strategies, because they argue that the industrialize countries are primarily responsible for the threat facing the world today for they have dominated the world economic order for centuries.
The Climate Change Conference in Paris reflects those tensions between the industrialized countries which have dominated the world, in which China and India are key to a Climate Change Agreement emerging in Paris. They are the ones who will determine the success or failure of efforts to stave off environmental disaster.
India’s position is, that it has the right to increase its emissions indefinitely in the name of uplifting its poor, and bringing electricity and modernity to the more than 300 million of its people who are without electricity and modern amenities.
The reality is that no satisfactory deal is likely to be reached without India and China. And the argument by these two emerging industrialized countries bears validity. For a cursory glance of the lifestyle, particularly of the U.S.A. is that despite the threats of warming temperatures, warming seas, availability of water, decreases in food production, and more highly destructive weather events, Americans continue with their conspicuous consumption, vulgar materialism and wasteful habits.
American TV, which dominates the viewing patterns of Third World citizens globally, is engaged in the relentless advertising of useless consumer products, the manufacture of which contribute to atmospheric pollution. The American culture of vulgar, consumerism, has earned it the title of ‘the throw-away society,’ in which Americans discard or dispose of perfectly working product, whether it be a TV, washing machine or car, to buy a new model, just to impress their neighbours.
We witness the gridlock that dominates American highways, belching enormous amounts of deadly carbon-monoxide which poisons and pollutes the earth. Why hasn’t the American Government restricted the manufacture of cars and resort to mass transit?
We have experienced this nightmare of vehicular traffic of clogged highways to the north of the island because of the repair of a collapsed bridge, with the daily grind to and from work, with vehicles belching invisible carbon monoxide. We too are contributing to global warming.
When the 15 member CARICOM team left the Caribbean, they expressed the view that they will identify ‘red line’ issues that are sacrosanct to the Caribbean, at the Paris Conference. They also stated that their aims in attending the conference, ‘are to contribute to the writing of an ambitious and binding global agreement which must be adopted.’
But earlier this week, the news reported that the representative of CARICOM at the conference were meeting with U.S. President Obama, to reassure the leaders that they matter.
Logic tells us that if our leaders were being treated as equals in this enterprise, they would not need a special meeting to be reassured by President Obama, who has done little as a Democrat to aid our region economically.
Republican President, George bush, has done much more for our little island by initiating the Caribbean Basin Initiative, which assisted our islands economically in exporting textile products to the U.S. This has been suspended which has drastically affected our clothes manufacturing sector. Unless our islands pursue science and technology like Singapore and Taiwan, we will remain as by-standers at these important gatherings.