News, insights, opinions November 16, 2021

November 15, 2021

The argument goes: We need economic growth to let poorer nations and disadvantaged populations catch up, thereby alleviating inequality between nations and people.
Objection: But economic growth makes it impossible to reduce greenhouse gases, stop the poisoning of the biosphere, and reverse habitat destruction.
Question: How can one stop GDP growth and nevertheless reduce inequality?
Answer: Rich nations and people must share their wealth and distribute it to the poor ones.
Objection: But that is impossible, the rich will not give up one penny and they will block any redistribution schemes. They control the governments.
Conclusion A: So let’s destroy the world.
Conclusion B: Or start a revolution.
Changing course will be difficult, because in the past decades Western culture has undergone a remarkable transformation. For one, a rise in economic liberalism and free-market capitalism has encouraged an environment of competitive individualism. Secondly, social media emerged and grew rapidly, along with smartphone technology. Studies suggest these changes have led to generational differences in personality, including rises in narcissism, self-esteem, self-focus, and materialism. Heightened educational and job pressure, a more hectic environment, and decreased family stability may also have contributed to these changes in the social climate.
Black Friday (11.26), Cyber Monday (11.29), Single’s Day (11.11), and 10.10 sales are a symptom of the disease of mindless consumerism. Big sales events may excite shoppers and net billions in profits for online retailers but if we don’t stop this insatiable need to consume, all of us are in trouble.

The aim of business is to make money and online shopping platforms will do whatever they can to drive up sales and increase market share. More shopping and buying is good for the bottom line and it pays for thousands of jobs. But the exponential growth of online shopping on the back of a new age of mindless buying comes at a huge expense to the planet and we have already started to pay for it.

Powered by surging emissions from natural gas and coal, global greenhouse gas pollution has almost completely rebounded from pandemic lows, scientists reported Wednesday. The research shows that countries have powered their economic recoveries largely with fossil fuels, leaving humanity with room to emit just 420 gigatons of additional carbon dioxide before the world exceeds an important threshold for catastrophic warming.
An Australian man has set an ambitious target to reduce his alcohol consumption by 68 percent within the next 20 years, as part of an impressive plan to improve his health. With a record of domestic violence, he also pledges to beat up his wife from now on only twice a week and maybe phase out (phase down) beatings completely (partly) till 2040.
The climate summit in Glasgow was a failure. Everybody says that, UN officials, renowned scientists, delegates of poor or severely affected nations, and activists. Now it is time for the blame game. Who is responsible? China, India, Russia, the USA, the EU? All of them — everyone?

COP26 was a failure, but what does that mean? Nothing! Grand statements, resolutions, pledges, promises are useless anyway, are just idle talking.

Speaking to the thousands protesting in Glasgow outside the UN climate summit, named COP26, Greta Thunberg called the summit a public relation event and criticized world leaders’ climate efforts.

A giant gap between greenhouse gas data nations are reporting and what they are emitting, is clouding the finally reached COP26 agreement. An analysis of emission reports from nearly 200 countries found significant differences between what nations say they are sending into the atmosphere and reality. That gap — which at its highest estimate approaches the annual emissions of China — calls into question any commitments at the UN summit.

COP26 saw a pledge to reduce methane emissions by 30 percent, which will cut global temperatures by about one tenth of a degree, pretty much the warming we’ve seen since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015. The 30 percent methane target is too low to significantly slow warming and the largest emitters, including China, Russia, India, and Australia have not joined the effort.

Over 100 world leaders, representing 85 percent of the world’s forests, pledged to halt deforestation by end of the decade. A similar declaration in New York in 2014 saw 200 countries and civil society groups pledge to halve deforestation by 2020. Instead, it rose by 41 percent and the global tree cover decreased by 10 percent from 2001 to 2020. It is also unclear how the new agreement will be enforced or whether countries face penalties if they fail to reach their targets. Indonesia, home to the world’s third-biggest rainforest, already questioned the terms of the deal. Siti Nurbaya Bakar, Indonesia’s environment minister, said that “forcing Indonesia to zero deforestation in 2030 is clearly inappropriate and unfair”.

Some countries that were planning to stop using coal anyway have said they are going to stop using coal. Yet, coal-fired power generation is rising again in the wake of the pandemic, both in Germany and the US. Meanwhile, China’s government has mandated an expansion in coal production to address its power supply crisis.

Most of the large coal consumers – Australia, China, the US, India and South Africa – have not joined the Glasgow coal phase-out agreement. China’s recent ban on new financing for overseas coal power is expected to axe 44 plants worldwide, but China’s domestic coal power stations continue to multiply. For the first time in 2020, China became host to over half of the world’s coal power capacity. It still has 100 gigawatts (GW) of coal power under construction, and another 160GW in the planning stages.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that promises to reduce emissions were meaningless while governments continued to invest in fossil fuels. “Promises ring hollow when the fossil fuels industry still receives trillions in subsidies,” and: “We need action if commitments are to pass the credibility test.” He called the announcements in Glasgow “far from enough,” adding: “We know what must be done.”

For instance: Governments should set carbon taxes, devise safety nets to protect the vulnerable from energy price rises and not only pledge but impose (implement) emission cuts. Not to forget the urgent need of educational programs to “nudge” consumer behavior away from mindless buying.

Consumers need to stop buying anything beyond the bare essentials, vacationers have to stay home or near home, lumberjacks have to put down their chainsaws and start planting, companies have to stop mining and producing, factories have to reduce their output or shut down, governments have to end subsidies which encourage more industrial activity, the religion of “economic growth” has to be abandoned.

The billionaires and multimillionaires will object to such changes. They need continuous hefty profits to bribe politicians, pay or buy the press, hire security guards, shield them from climate disasters, and setup comfortable doomsday retreats.
In October global food prices shot up another 3 percent and it is expected that food prices around the world will continue to escalate dramatically, pushing millions of people in poorer countries into hunger.

Bad weather hit harvests around the world this year, freight costs soared and labor shortages have roiled the food supply chain from farms to supermarkets. An energy crisis has been an aditionnal headache, forcing vegetable greenhouses to go dark and causing a knock-on risk of bigger fertilizer bills for farmers.
A spine-chilling headline in the Washington Post reads: “If we want to save the natural world, we’re going to have to change it.”
The article is written by Beth Shapiro, professor of ecology and evolution at UC Santa Cruz and investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. https://news.ucsc.edu/2021/10/shapiro-book.html

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