Climate versus planet

By Johan Galtung

Within the global eco-system humanity has – since industrialization – upset balances and now suffers the consequences, trying to tackle them. COP21, the UN 195 States conference in Paris, reached the unanimous agreement demanded of them after two weeks of hard work. However, as the U.S. points out, an agreement is not a treaty with legally binding targets.

Droughts-storms-floods and surface warming: land-oceans-glaciers. As glaciers melt oceans and rivers will over-flood major settled land. With the current 1 degree C warming bad and 2 degrees intolerable, they settled for the 1.5C goal “if possible”; a compromise. Better .5 only.

The dominant theory sees greenhouse gases CO2-CH4 from using fossil fuels for energy, trapping heat in the atmosphere as the cause. Removing this cause, a sluggish process, calls for alternative energy sources, like wind and solar (the author got solar panels in 1975).

Human settlements and forests darkening the planet, attracting more heat from the sun, may be another source. Remedy: care with both.

Yet another: cattle for meat. Remedy: vegetarianism, veganism.

Nevertheless, fossil fuel is used for economic growth all over, also by the three worst polluters: the most populous states China and India (the third is USA). Hence, the agreed pledge of US$ 100 billion a year to help them and other developing countries bridge the gap, hopefully not in cash to help elites preserve their toxic lifestyles.

But, the obvious solution to over-flooding is to move inland, as people did escaping Viking raids by ship from coasts and rivers. A Völkerwanderung of climate refugees as when the Big and Little ice ages came and went of people from small islands and big cities like London-Paris-Sydney not waiting for COP21 to work. Land speculation will flourish unless seriously controlled. In addition, “market forces” must be forced by law, and consumer boycott, to divest from oil-gas-coal and invest in greener technology. China does; India invests in more coal.

There is general agreement that those who have benefitted from polluting industrialization with sustained growth and have become rich should bear most of the costs. But from that it does not follow that developing countries should make the same mistakes and base growth on planet- and life-threatening energy. That would be like saying, “You long-time smokers: stop smoking, now time has come for non-smokers”, regardless of health damage, medical costs to themselves, families and society, and passive smoking damage to others (young 3rd world women seem to think like that).

Remedy: make smoking increasingly illegal.

Economic growth, increasing exchange of processed nature? No problem. But the goals of the economy have to change from only that to enhancing the planet and human lives. It can be done: lift the bottom up by millions of self-reliant agricultural cooperatives using agri-aqua 3-dimensional permaculture, very labor-, not fossil fuel-intensive.

Involve all of humanity in more local production and exchange with neighbors, cutting down transportation pollution. Produce, exchange and consume with ever greener technologies. China has done a lot of that; verbose India is lagging behind. China is also experimenting with what they call “economic sharing”, more collective, less individual ownership to cut down all kinds of pollution, also thermal.

Prognosis: in the USA with free = sacred markets land speculation and cheap oil-gas-coal will prevail for some time; most developing and China countries will do as indicated above; India and EU in-between.

Let us leave COP21 clever verbalisms, goals and plans, and turn to the world of technologies, means and concrete action.

Some decades ago very few were conscious of solar-wind alternatives and isolation to trap heat inside the house rather than in the atmosphere. Today it is part of our culture by thinking it, speaking it, doing it; better than just declaring it. Nevertheless, the world needs both-and: COP21 has educated governments, non-governments, the public at large.

Concretely Germany has been very good on household eco-energy, China on societal eco-energy but has a long way to go. A decade ago, I stood at a corner in the center of Beijing surrounded by noiseless, electric motorbikes and cars. No such corner in Paris that today celebrates that the declaration carries that name. We look forward to new French material and social technologies, to invention, practice.

Thus, we still do not have that one cubic meter thing on four wheels to put into the sunshine from sunrise to sunset and wheel in for washing, heating, cooking from sunset to sunrise – and something like that for the temperate zone. We still do not have streets with people-movers based on green energy; jump on, jump off. E-cycles are coming, like e-cars, but they should plug legally into green energy. Nor are we converting enormous loads of garbage into biomass energy; maybe garbage has to become greener first? Moreover, how about zeppelins instead of aircraft, and more ships with wind- and solar power?

They made a major mistake in Paris, or Le Bourget rather: much about what to do and the legal framework, too little about how.

Innovations do not come by themselves; many already exist. Use them! Demand specific innovations to be shared with humanity; no patents, no “market forces” – generally for the rich to become richer – please.

The ten greenest countries in the world are Sweden, Norway, Costa Rica, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Austria, Finland, Iceland, Spain. Concrete action to share and to learn from.

Prognosis: everything mentioned above will happen. Including the unmentionable: those who benefit from the warming, in the polar regions, above the arctic circle. The Northeast and Northwest passages will boom and attract great masses of “wanderers”. Climate refugees.

The Chinese see Crisis as Danger+Opportunity and the Hindus give birth to new life, preserve what should be preserved and destroy what should not.

Let us move forward with much more than CO2 on our minds.

Originally published by Transcend Media Service here.

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