Rhein on Energy and Climate

Heed the Warnings on the Wall

Throughout the last 15 years, Alan Greenspan, the once illustrious FED Chairman, had indulged in an irresponsible deregulation of the American banking system, ignoring occasional warnings from subaltern officials. He had full trust in the self-regulating capacity of Wall Street and could fully rely on the backing of US Presidents, in particular G.W. Bush.

Today, we see the devastating results of a policy, which allowed human beings to overstep normal barriers and become victims of their megalomania.

I cannot help drawing comparisons between the meltdown of the global financial system that is taking place before our eyes and the approaching breakdown of the planet’s climate system.

Both are due to the unwillingness of human beings to accept limits to their individual and collection action.

  • Bankers did not care about potential systemic consequences from emitting rising volumes of “toxic certificates”.
  • Modern human beings do not care about rising emissions of “toxic gases” into the atmosphere.

The bankers knew what they were doing. They were only interested in making profits and continued emitting ever new “papers” until the final bust. Humanity also knows that it is doing lethal damage to the climate, but cannot agree on how to stop emitting “toxic gases.”

Humanity has fixed rendez-vous in Copenhagen in early December to decide on how to reduce C02 emissions as fast as possible. That is by itself a positive sign. Unfortunately, the odds are set for a gigantic failure, for reasons of national selfishness, short-sightedness and lack of political leadership.

We are likely to see no country willing to take the concrete steps necessary to reverse the accelerating trend of emissions. At the negotiating table each party will try to avoid taking substantial commitments, arguing that it is doing already much and that one should not dramatise.

Unfortunately the most recent news from climatologists is extremely worrying. According to provisional findings that still need to be confirmed b the IPCC, the undisputed world authority on climate issues, C02 emissions have increased at an annual rate of 3.5 percent since 2000, four times faster than during the 1990s (0.9 percent p.a.).

These data look perfectly plausible in the light of the unprecedented – and unsustainable – economic growth humanity has benefited, or rather suffered, from since the start of the 21st century. Much of this growth has occurred in China and other emerging countries, and it has been fuelled by rising consumption of coal, the fossil fuel with the highest spedic C02 emissions.

I draw three conclusions from this worrying analysis.

  • It is the supreme responsibility of the heads of government of the 10-15 major emitter countries to agree on a common strategy to stabilise global emissions by 2020 and to reduce them by half until 2050.
  • To that end, developed countries will have to reduce their emissions by 30 percent until 2020. No excuse should be acceptable. They have the financial and technical means, as the well as the moral responsibility to do so.
  • But China, Brazil, India, Russia, GCC and other major emerging countries can no longer be dispensed from reducing emissions arguing that the “West” has been solely responsible for the climate change during the last century. However true that is, they have now replaced the West as the main emitters.
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