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Green Planet

Lima 2014: Climate Change – Humans Remain the Same

Anis H. Bajrektarevic

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Let me report… Of Nearly Everything: From Copenhagen, Durban, Rio+20 to Lima 2014), the conclusion remains the same: We need principles and accorded actions as this is the only way to tackle the grave problems of this planet.

We are lacking the elementary consensus in the Bretton Woods institutions, on Eastern Europe and Ukraine, on the WTO Doha Development round, on a nuclear non-proliferation (and NPT), in the IPCC, on the post-Kyoto negotiations, and finally on the alarming state of environment. Ergo, on a global scale we fundamentally disagree on realities of this planet and the ways we can address them.(1)

I am neither moralizing & idealizing nor agonizing. The world based on agreed principles and commonly willing actions is not a better place. It is the only way for the human race to survive.

Already some years ago, I noted in my writings (and in my lectures) that the confrontational nostalgia and academic inertia keeps recycling the Cold-War rhetoric, although the Soviet Union has disappeared from the geopolitical map over two decades ago. Hence, if these practitioners and thinkers are so fascinated with the simplified either with us, or against us logics – let’s keep it then! Adjusted to reflect our today’s realities (or as the grand Wiz of the EU, Jean Monnet used to say: if you have an unsolvable dilemma – enlarge the context), it would state as follows: either your socio-economic and politico-military policies and practices are for this planet and the very survival of human race or you are against the planet and every form of life inhabiting it.(2) What we have recently witnessed in MENA (including the unmentioned and unmentionable) and elsewhere, is highly disturbing and rather discouraging: as if the confrontational nostalgia, perpetuated by the intense competition over finite resources, in lieu of a real, far-reaching policy-making has prevailed again.(3)

We falsely believed, throughout the 20th century, that the nuclear holocaust will put an end to the entire human race. No! It will be a slow, nearly-unnoticed, gradual but steady construction of the global gas chamber (filled by the green-house gas emissions). And, this is not an environmental alarmism as the environmental nihilists, or to say lobbyists would like to water it down. The way we extract, produce, transport, distribute and consume, the way we keep all this running on a blind obedience to hydrocarbons, and finally the way how we do reflect, contemplate and study on all that (and live in denial of it), inevitably takes us right into the environmental holocaust.(4)

What we euphemistically call Climate Change is actually a brutal war against nature. It is a covert armed conflict since we are predominantly using the so-called monetizing-potent ‘technologies’ instead of firearms in our hands. (For this purpose hereby, the army units are replaced by the demolition-man of other name; ‘transnational corporations’.) This armed insurgency is waged against most of what is beautiful and unique on Earth – on the planet that gave us time and space enough to survive as species and to evolve as cognitive life. Thus, the known sustainability matrix of 3 maximums (of good, of species, and of time) becomes the maximum species, minimum time, and the maximum harm.(5)

Intentionally or not, it is a synchronized attack: We are steadily and passionately polluting our public sphere with the diverting banalities manufactured by the so-call social networks, reality shows, ‘celebrities’ and the like – trivializing the contents of our lives. At the same time, we are massively contaminating our biosphere (waters, lands, air and near outer space) with non-degradable and/or toxic, solid or aerosol, particles radiation and noise – irreversibly harming our habitat. We pollute the time as well, turning it into cross-generation warfare’s battlefield: Our dangerous patterns might seal off the fate for untold number of generations and sorts of species to come. No wonder, our corrosive assertiveness has (time-space) parallels: acidifying of oceans and brutalization of our human interactions, as well as over-noising both are just two sides of a same coin. What is the social sphere for society that is the biosphere for the very life on earth: the (space/time – content/form) frame we live in all.

Therefore, our crisis cannot be environmental, as it was never a financial – our crisis must be a moral one. This is a cognitive deficit crisis, which we would love to eagerly spend in a limbo of denial!   
Are we intentional in persistently spreading climate-change denial? Has the human race already passed the point of no return of its survival? Frankly, we do not know! Very sincerely, we do not care!

In every OECD country, an ordinary plumber (with just a few years of formal education and of no expectation pressure) is of a considerably better income then the university professor or the hospital doctor with a higher medical specialization (both of the huge societal responsibilities and both with over two decades of studies through the rigorous selections). Per average, the bank clerk (with under- or Matura level) of any banking entity in the EU states earns 14 to 16 salaries annually (basically, creating no new value for the society), but is nearly – per definition – protected by a life-long employment contract. At the same time, the majority of the EU double-PhD top researchers (per definition, creating a new value for the society) have comparably lower total annual pay, and many of them are just happy to win a 2 to 5 years research contract with the murky hope that the funding might be extended.(6)

Nearly all football players in the European Premier League, as well as the Formula I drivers (essentially the modern age gladiators, usually with a little to no formal education whatsoever) have individually higher yearly income than many key research institutes in the OECD states can afford to spend annually. Besides the superficial entertainment (enveloped in the ovations of masses on a brink of collective orgasm à la Mussolini parades), it is actually a triumph of brutal competition or competing brutality (football) and a massive exhaustion of hydrocarbons (Formula I) – what added value do they create to be so disproportionately overpaid?(7)

Some may contra-argue by stating that the present-day football celebrates the sports and a healthy life though the triumph of the physical strength of a sportsman. The Antique Greece has celebrated its athletes, and nearly worshiped the contesters and winners of the Games paying a tribute to the all-mighty Olympus. Equally, the old Greeks largely encouraged and celebrated, promoted and (financially) supported its philosophers and scientists. It was the age when the consciousness blossomed, wisdom flourished and knowledge triumphed – the theoretical basis of all essential technological breakthroughs, that occurred in the course of subsequent centuries up to nowadays, are in fact originating from the Ancient Eagan world. Ergo, the Classic times knew about the important equilibrium between an intellect and human body.(8) Modern Age has forgotten, disregarded, abandoned, betrayed and tacitly ridiculed this evolutionary wisdom.

Irrespective of our wrongly placed priorities (and passionately sustained craving to re-channel and discourage, to derail and denounce any serious debate, far too often by hiding behind a superficial entertainment), of our obscure and encouraged greed and incompetence, of our silencing, of all our residual or imposed ignorance and arrogance, and of our paramount and loud anti-intellectualism, the real facts are immitigable and are inexorably defeating:
–    There is not a single peer-reviewed international journal that has published even one scientific article in last 30 years, which reports on factual evidences that any organic (marine and conti- nental biota) or inorganic (soil, glaciers, water, polar caps, etc) system is doing better on this planet.
–    There has not been a single RE or UN report in last 30 years that credibly denies a worrying increase in severity and frequency of “natural” catastrophes worldwide.
–    Finally, there is not a single internationally recognized medical journal that has not been constantly reporting on an alarming increase in skin-cancers, respiratory and allergy related diseases for the past 30 years.   

We are drifting, dissolving and retreating on all levels and within each and every organic or inorganic system. For the grave, burning planetary problems, our human race needs an urgent and lasting consensus which presupposes bravery, virtue, vision and creativity. All this will not result from fear of coercion, or from further military (nuclear) confrontations, but from the universally shared willingness to accord our common planetary cause. Cognitive mind can do it all.
    


(1)    Additionally, we fundamentally disagree on a role to be played by technology, even on a very definition on what should be considered as technology. Technology is not a state-of-art of science; technology is a state of mind! It is not a linear progression in mastering the natural science disciplines, but a cognitive, emphatic cluster–mastering of the critical insight.   

(2)    As H. G. Wells once said in a different context: It is clearly the universe or nothing!   
(3)    Sagan, the great Cosmic Fugue’s storyteller, claims: “Up there in the immensity of the Cosmos, an inescapable perception awaits us. National boundaries are not evident when we view the Earth from space. Fanatical ethnic, religious or national chauvinisms are a little difficult to maintain when we see our planet as a fragile blue crescent fading to become an inconspicuous point of light against the bastion and citadel of the stars”.   
(4)    It is not only that our energy appetite is increasing. In a peak-time of what we call the ‘technological age’, our inability to achieve any global energy efficiency is widening as well. According to the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA), the total Primary Energy Supply (PES) in 1973 totalled at 6.107 Mtoe while the global Final Energy Consumption (FEC) for the same year totalled at 4.672 Mtoe. Still over 90% based on fossil hydrocarbons but already doubled in less than 40 years, the PES in 2010 was at 12.717 Mtoe while our FEC scored only 8.677 Mtoe. Ergo, we greedily demand more to burn but also to waste.   
(5)    The Geneva-based Global Humanitarian Forum (GHF) headed by former UN Secretary General Kofi has stated in its Report the following: „Climate change is responsible for 300,000 deaths a year and affects 300 million people annually. By 2030, the annual death toll related to climate change is expected to rise to 500,000 people, and economic cost rocketing to $ 600 billion.” Usually the confidential reports of the reinsurance industry leaders such as Swiss RE or Munich RE are less optimistic and more realistic than this one of the GHF.    
(6)    However, ignorance is bliss: In 2010, the GHF that authored such an indispensable report: Human Impact Report – Climate Change: The Anatomy of a Silent Crisis, has shut down for lack of funds. The organization was unable to raise enough cash to stay afloat “because of the global economic crisis. On 31 March 2010 the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs announced that the Forum was over-indebted and obliged to cease its activity. “   
(7)    Finalists of different TV primetime tirades (so-called Reality shows) that mushroomed in the last decade are receiving generous paychecks and enormous media coverage. This is the way how these anonymous nobodies are overnight becoming prominent celebrities, societal roll-models with the wide influence, unquestionable authority and respect in the blink of an eye. In this constellation a subtle, yet message is clear: the education and to it related creativity, innovations, patents, and discoveries – notably a regular career path based on a diligent creation of new value for the entire society appears as a choice for the misfortunate youth, as the last resort for the failed segments of society.    
(8)    As Plato claims, the famous philosopher from Miletus Thales’ saying Νοῦς ὑγιὴς ἐν σώματι ὑγιεῖ – Healthy Soul in a Healthy Body (or in Latin: Mens sana in corpore sano).  

References:

1.    The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UN FCCC/1992/84, GE.05-62220 (E) 200705 and the Kyoto Protocol to the UN FCCC of 1998, UN Office of Legal Affairs;
2.    Final Document: Durban Climate Summit 2011, The Climate Institute;
3.    IEA (2011), World Energy Outlook 2011, OECD – IEA Publications
4.    Sagan, C. (1980), Cosmos Random House, NY /Carl Sagan Productions Inc. (page: 109)   
5.    Global Humanitarian Forum (2009), Human Impact Report – Climate Change: The Anatomy of a Silent Crisis, GHF, Geneva
6.    Dresner, S. (2002), The Principle of Sustainability, EarthScan London
7.    Smith, L.C. (2010), The World in 2050 – Four Forces Shaping Civilization’s Northern Future, Dutton (by Penguin group)
8.    Bajrektarevic, A. (2004), Environmental Ethics, Lectures/Students Reader, Vienna (IMC University Krems), Austria

Modern Diplomacy Advisory Board, Chairman Geopolitics of Energy Editorial Member Professor and Chairperson for Intl. Law & Global Pol. Studies contact: anis@bajrektarevic.eu

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Green Planet

Thirty years on, what is the Montreal Protocol doing to protect the ozone?

MD Staff

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The Montreal Protocol to protect the Earth’s ozone layer is to date the only United Nations environmental agreement to be ratified by every country in the world. It is also one of the most successful. With the parties to the Protocol having phased out 98 per cent of their ozone-depleting substances, they saved an estimated two million people from skin cancer every year.

Following the thirty-first meeting of the parties in Rome during 4–8 November, Stephanie Haysmith, the communications officer for the Ozone Secretariat, explained why the Montreal Protocol has been so successful and what lies ahead for the treaty.

The 2019 ozone hole is the smallest on record since its discovery. How does the ozone repair and how long will it take?

The Montreal Protocol has been successful in reducing ozone-depleting substances and reactive chlorine and bromine in the stratosphere. As a result, the ozone layer is showing the first signs of recovery. It is expected that the ozone layer will return to pre-1980s levels by the middle of the century and the Antarctic ozone hole by around 2060s. This is because once released, ozone-depleting substances stay in the atmosphere for many years and continue to cause damage. The 2019 hole is indeed the smallest since recording of its size began in 1982 but the ozone is also influenced by temperature shifts and dynamics in the atmosphere through climate change. In 2019, the stratosphere was particularly warm during the Antarctic winter and spring.

The Kigali Amendment, which came into force January 2019, requires countries to limit hydrofluorocarbons in refrigerators and air-conditioners by more than 80 percent.  Yet, there is a growing demand for cooling. How can the two needs be met?

While there is a growing global demand for cooling systems for personal well-being and in the commercial sector, improving energy efficiency with low or zero global-warming-potential will be needed to meet needs while minimizing adverse impacts on climate and environment. Research and development have kept pace: equipment design has changed and improved with the ozone-depleting substances phase-out.

At the Rome meeting, parties were made aware of an unexpected increase in global emissions of trichlorofluoromethane, or CFC-11. Why is that, and what is being planned to address it?

The issue of unexpected emissions of CFC-11 was brought to the attention of the parties in 2018. Global emissions of CFC-11 had increased in the period after 2012. This unexpected trend suggests that there is illegal production and consumption of CFC-11. The exact sources of these emissions have yet to be found. The parties take this very seriously and a decision was made at the MOP30 [30th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol] to cooperate in further scientific research. In addition, the parties will assess the mechanisms of monitoring for the Montreal Protocol and the Multilateral Fund. 

What is meant by “a sustainable cold chain” and how does it reduce food loss?

A cold chain is a connected set of temperature-controlled facilities (pack houses, cold stores, refrigerated transportation, etc.) that ensures perishable foods maintain their freshness and quality while in transit. Access to cold chain allows local producers to link with high-value markets locally, nationally and internationally. By enabling perishable food commodities to be stored and transported in a temperature-controlled environment not only ensures quality and safety, but reduces overall food loss, while improving economic gains and increasing sustainability.

From an environmental perspective, it is important that increasing demand for cold chain is sustainable with increased use of green fuels, energy efficiency and low or zero global warming potential technologies.

What do you hope the Montreal Protocol will inspire?

The Montreal Protocol is one of the world’s most successful environmental treaties and since its adoption, it has encouraged countries to commit to phasing out the production and consumption of ozone-depleting substances. The parties to the Protocol, on realizing that the alternatives, known as hydrofluorocarbons, are potent greenhouse gases contributing to global warming, agreed to address this. After protracted discussions, in 2016 the parties adopted the Kigali Amendment. The global partnership, stakeholder involvement and overall commitment of the countries lent to the success of the ozone protection regime. A successful hydrofluorocarbon phasedown is expected to avoid up to 0.4°C of global temperature rise by 2100, while continuing to protect the ozone layer.

UN Environment

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Consequences of U.S. formal exit from Paris climate pact: More isolation globally

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The U.S. has formally begun to exit the Paris climate agreement. Regardless of whether or not the Paris Agreement is legally binding, the U.S. has committed to cut 26-28% of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 from 2005 levels, and donate three billion dollars to poor countries by 2020.

 The U.S. is now the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China. In other words, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2015 were about 7000 million metric tones, which is more than total emissions of the entire EU countries. However, the U.S. president claimed that he has decided to pull his country out of the Paris climate pact because his job is to “protect America and its citizens”. 

Commenting on the reason for withdrawing from the agreement, the U.S. president said that the pact is favorable for other countries not the United States, because it puts the country at a very big economic disadvantage. Trump also presented statistics showing that implementation of the agreement for the U.S. will result in losing 2.7 million job opportunities by 2025 as well as 440,000 industrial opportunities inside the country. The president added that this is not what the U.S. needed. This issue is not acceptable to Trump that China can continue to emit greenhouse gas for another 13 years, and India is able to continue its greenhouse gas emissions till 2020, while receiving billions of dollars.

The U.S. president also complains that his country has already donated about one billion dollar to Green Climate Fund, which is founded to help developing countries, while no other country has spent such a large sum in this field. 

Trump, despite his decision to exit the Paris Agreement, has announced that he is ready to “begin negotiations to reenter either the Paris Accord or a really entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers”. He also said that if they reach an accord, that will be great and if they do not, that will be fine.

 Consequences of U.S. withdrawal

It should be noted that the withdrawal from the Paris climate accord by the U.S. is not its first unconventional action toward valid international documents. After coming to the White House, in one of his first moves, Trump ordered to pull the country out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that was signed in 2016. The TPP is the greatest trade agreement in the world, which was signed between 12 countries around the Pacific Ocean with the exception of China, and aimed to remove trade barriers to the countries that signed the agreement. 

However, the Paris Agreement is of particular importance for the current generation and the world’s future in terms of environmental and international rights. Obviously, legal and political consequences of the Paris accord is more serious than those of the TPP. The following is the summary of the effects of the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate pact:

1.    U.S. political and legal isolation: the U.S. will be seriously isolated if it withdraws from the Paris accord, because besides Europeans, countries like Canada, Russia, and Asian countries such as China and Japan have signed the agreement. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Chinese president reaffirmed that they will be committed to the pact even after the U.S. withdrawal. 

Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, at a meeting in Berlin, described the U.S. withdrawal as a completely wrong move.  Juncker said that the U.S. cannot exit the agreement just like that. He added that Trump says he will exit the Paris climate pact because he is not well aware of this pact. This is while, he said, in 2015, about 200 countries signed an accord in 2015 in Paris, based on which they were committed to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 °C to prevent global warming.

2.    Lack of states’ trust on the U.S. to reach an agreement on other issues: this move by Trump shows the U.S. non-compliance with international agreements that could disturb its prestige and position in the world. The move also will cause other Western partners, especially Europeans, lose their trust of the United States. Following the U.S. withdrawal from the agreement, other countries will hesitate to cooperate and sign contract with the White House on other issues. 

3.    Distrust of environmental rights: one of the important issues in legal subjects is environmental right, which is being taken into account at national and international level. The U.S. withdrawal from the pact means disregard to international documents related to environmental rights. This approach can be a serious threat to plans to control global warming. Furthermore, the approach indicates that the world’s second largest polluter does not pay much attention to environmental protection, which has been one of most important challenges for environmental rights in recent decades.

From our partner Tehran Times

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Green Planet

Climate Risks: Wildfires, Glacier Melt, Coastal Flooding … A Beautiful Antelope

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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California wildfires are again in the news as the Kincade Fire now raging risks 50,000 people, who have been evacuated.  It might come as a surprise but there have been 41,074 wildfires compared to 47,853 in 2018 for the first nine months of the year.  Blame the downslope Santa Ana winds for fanning them.  Fires can occur naturally through lightning strikes but these days some 90 percent are due to human carelessness:  discarded cigarettes, unquenched campfires and the like, all exacerbated by a warming climate.  Killing 85 people, the deadliest wildfire in the state’s history seemed to have been caused by Pacific Gas and Electric power lines (although it is still under investigation), and they are suspected in the present Kincade Fire.  Wildfires do clear brush — 4.4 million acres burned off this year — ensuring a worse fire will not occur in the future.

As can be expected, such fires also place property at risk.  California, Texas and Colorado have the highest numbers of properties at risk, while Montana and Idaho are tops in percentage terms; in Montana 29 percent and in Idaho 26 percent of properties are in the danger zone.

If the west is prone to wildfires, the east has an opposite problem:  flooding.  Sea levels are rising.  The Greenland ice sheet holding enough water to raise the water line by 7 meters is melting.  Scientists estimate two-thirds of the ice loss is due to glacier calving as chunks of ice detach from the 300 odd outlet glaciers that end in the fjords.  As reported in Science magazine recently, (October 11, 2019), Helheim, a major glacier responsible for 4 percent of Greenland’s annual ice loss is being observed by a team headed by Fiamma Straneo of the Scripps Institution.

In severe retreat since 2014, the glacier has reduced “by more than 100 meters, leaving a tell-tale ring on the rock around the fjord.”  This summer its water temperature is 0.2C above the previous high in a relentless rise.  Also the data collected will improve mathematical modeling to predict future consequences.

Coastal flooding on the East Coast has been noted by the New York Times (October 8, 2019) in a feature article,  As Sea Levels Rise, So Do Ghost Forests.  Trees in coastal areas are dying off due to frequent total incursions of saltwater.

An excellent estimate of coastal flooding on the East and Gulf coasts, Encroaching Tides, was prepared by the Union of Concerned Scientists a few years ago.  Sober reading, it forecasts coastal innundation over the next three decades.  It talks about adaptation to the new norms, the responsibility of Municipalities, States and the Federal Government, sea walls, economic consequences, and a retreat from heavily impacted areas.  Is anybody listening, and when they called for reducing emissions was the US listening?

When more than 190 countries signed up to almost all of the rulebook buttressing the 2015 Paris Agreement, it made the 24th International Climate Conference in Katowice, Poland (Dec 2018) a major success.  This December the 25th International Climate Conference will convene in Santiago, Chile.  A primary issue before it is how to avoid double counting i.e. counting the same emission reduction more than once.  Countries have so far failed to reach common ground on how to avoid it despite the threat to carbon markets underpinning the Paris Agreement.  Is bashing heads together in Santiago one answer? 

Meanwhile on the top of the world, inhabiting the Tibet plateau, the beautiful and majestic chiru or Tibetan antelope, once in trouble from excessive poaching and then recovering, is at risk again.  This time it is due to climate change.  It has caused excessive melt and a burst natural dam that used to surround Lake Zonag right beside their calving site.

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