We have been conditioned with the belief that human activities are increasing the incidence of CO2 and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which is the prime cause behind global warming and climate change. We are also led to believe that science is predicting that the consequences of this will be catastrophic to the earth and threaten our very existence.
Most of what we read within the mainstream media today, and from the politicians, has the above assumptions subliminally embedded within the various narratives. Government policy towards carbon emissions and renewable energies reflects these beliefs, as hard caste scientific and moral truths.
The public are continually told that the vast majority of the world’s “scientists” are in general agreement about man-made global warming being the cause of climate change, and the potential damage it will do to the earth. However, the reality is that there may actually not be more than a couple of hundred people in the world who really understand the science of climate change, and are experienced and qualified enough to make a valid scientific opinion.
The public are confused more when evangelists from both sides of the debate put their views forward using statistics, information, and arguments that are convincing. Many of these stalwarts on both sides make a professional living through the speakers’ circuits, turning the global warming and climate change debate into an entertainment spectacle. What makes this even more sinister, is the vested interests some of these parties represent.
Climate change models are built upon limited sets of assumptions which make them far too simplistic for the task of making accurate predictions about global warming. There is no generally agreed theory that explains global warming and climate change in existence today.
No model can predict changes in temperature, and layout climate change scenarios with any degree of accuracy. However the earth has warmed up much less than what most global warming models had predicted.
The opinion of Nobel Prize winner James Lovelock, the creator of the GAIA hypothesis, reflects the above. He was quoted as saying…..”The problem is that we don’t know what the climate is doing. We thought we knew 20 years ago. That led to some alarmist books – mine included- because it looked clear-cut, but it hasn’t happened.”
Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring also predicted that all the birds would be killed through the use of DDT during the 1950s and 60s – a prophecy that never happened.
Alarmism clouds scientific judgement and this is very much the case in the global warming and climate change debate.
Global warming and climate change cannot be considered a ‘settled science’, as it is portrayed today. The truths about the matter are still yet to be understood.
First it must be understood that global warming and climate change are not interchangeable terms. Global warming concerns the rise in average temperatures across the globe. Is this really occurring? And, how much is humanity actually responsible for this phenomenon?
These are very interesting scientific questions where there is a diverse range of scientific opinions today. We still require answers to tackle the second part of the equation, climate change.
We know that climate change is occurring on a continuous basis. We also know that climate change also changes habitats. How we tackle climate change, if in sense of the word, we can do nothing but adapt to climate change, depends upon answering questions about global warming.
However, climate change is not just an earthly phenomenon, it is an interplanetary one. Climate change may have more to do with solar energy, than with man-made CO2 emissions. This is only an observation, but if this observation has some validity, then the whole ‘science of climate change’ is about to enter a new paradigm of explanation in the next few years by the scientific community, just as quantum replaced Newtonian physics concepts just on a century ago.
The evolution of science is not being factored into the global warming debate, and this is the biggest mistake being made at the moment by global warming proponents.
If humankind is not influencing global warming through greenhouse gas emissions, then the real issues at hand are completely different. The issue is not about abating global warming, but more about the changing habitats and environment humankind faces in the future.
The destruction of the forests, animal species left to go extinct, the creation and growth of unsustainable cities, water management and the pollution of the earth’s oceans, and the application of non-renewable energies, and not to forget poverty, migration, and population growth, are the real issues that must be engaged by humanity. Humankind must learn how to adapt to a continually changing environment. This means both natural and human induced changes. This is where the real crises exist.
Climate change will destroy some societies on one hand, but nurture others on the other hand.
We have to learn to understand how the earth is a cradle for humankind. And then importantly, how we must exist within this cradle, in a coexisting manner.
Charles Darwin’s message was not about survival of the fittest, but one of co-existence. Darwin’s hinted the solution in the concluding paragraph of his The Origin of Species where he said…”It is interesting, a tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborate forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us.”
Carbon emission controls and other political solutions will not solve any of our real problems.
We don’t really understand the science of climate change, and can’t even say for certain whether the world is going through a period of global warming, due to the multitude of factors and influences involved.
Over the last decade or so, the influence of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) on global temperatures is just coming to light. The PDO is a cycle of different sea circulation patterns that changes over a 30 year period. A number of scientists believe that this PDO phenomenon is vital to our understanding of global warming and climate change, although we are still in our early years of understanding how the phenomenon really works. According to Dr Roy Spencer, the PDO phenomenon can be used to explain Artic ice melting over the last 30 years. The PDO phenomenon can also explain why Antarctic ice is actually increasing.
Some scientists are even claiming the world is heading into another ice age right at this moment.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) only exists within the earth’s atmosphere in trace amounts, at around 380ppm. It is an important nutrient for flora, a building block for all life on earth. CO2 being an invisible gas will not hold onto and trap heat within the earth’s atmosphere. Water vapour is the most important greenhouse gas, which primarily evaporates from the oceans and is responsible for both reflecting and trapping heat within the atmosphere.
Carbon dioxide is not a poisonous gas, and higher concentrations are actually beneficial to plant life on this planet.
The global warming issue is full of opinions, as we don’t know the facts today.
We also live in the fallacy that humankind has the power to fix any global warming problem. This is in the light of the success the world had in limiting chlorofluorocarbons in refrigerants and aerosols, in eliminating the hole in the ozone layer back in the 1980s. This belief that we as humans can control the environment is arrogance in the extreme.
The proponents of global warming would have the world belief that it controls its own destiny in terms of being able to control the environment. Is this living in true reality?
When we connect morality with truth, inquisitions, purges, and clampdowns on the unbelievers usually occur. This is where the global warming evangelists can take us, back to the ‘dark ages’ of science and understanding, to where the earth was once flat.
Perhaps the last words of this article should be left to the Canadian limnologist David Schindler, who said “To a patient scientist, the unfolding greenhouse mystery is far more exciting than the plot of the best mystery novel. But it is slow reading, with new clues sometimes not appearing for several years. Impatience increases when one realizes that it is not the fate of some fictional character, but of our planet and species, which hangs in the balance as the great carbon mystery unfolds at a seemingly glacial pace.”
2021 will be defined by the more long-term crisis facing humanity: Climate change
Rather than low-tech and often unworkable solutions (reduced or no travel, mass vegan diets) governments are increasingly embracing technology to help us understand and influence the climate – rather than merely respond to it. This should become the norm for public authorities across the world.
China’s weather modification programme, for example, could be a lifeline for workable solutions to climate change globally. The technique, known as cloud-seeding, uses silver iodide and liquid nitrogen to thicken water droplets in the cloud, leading to increased rain or snowfall.
The technology has been used to prevent droughts and regulate weather before major events, like in the run up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
The Chinese cabinet has announced that its weather modification programme will cover half the country by 2025, with the aim to revitalize rural regions, restore ecosystems, minimize losses from natural disasters and redistribute water throughout the country.
And China’s ambitious ‘Sky River’ programme could eventually divert 5 billion cubic meters of water annually across regions, which could protect millions of people from the effects of drought and water scarcity.
Although critics have, without evidence, described these projects as ‘weaponization of the weather’, the humanitarian and development potential is huge.
Necessity is the mother of invention, and this is truer than ever with regards to the climate. The world faces a climate-change induced water crisis, with 1.5 billion people affected globally.
The UN predicts that at the current water usage levels, water scarcity could displace 700 million people by 2030.
Carbon emissions are unlikely to be eliminated in high growth economies in regions like Asia, meaning that the world must develop a way to manage emissions’ effects on the climate.
Whilst it is true that the basic solutions of eating less meat, cycling to work and cutting back on international flights can help to curb our carbon output in the long-run, it does nothing to help those who suffer from flooding or water scarcity today.
Ultimately, technology is an essential part of the solution.
Big Tech is leading the charge in tackling climate change through the use of Big Data and machine learning. In November 2019, a group of data scientists published a paper entitled ‘Tackling Climate Change with Machine Learning’. The paper laid out 13 different applications of using machine learning to tackle the impacts of climate change. One such application was using machine-learning to predict extreme weather events.
Such an application is already being put into action. For example, Bangladesh is one of the most flood-prone countries in the world; approximately 5 million people were negatively affected by flooding last year alone. In order to help combat this, Google teamed up with the Bangladesh Water Development Board and the Access to Information (a2i) Programme to develop a flood notification app that is approximately 90% accurate.
The app, which is enabled by AI flooding simulation, provides the population with timely, updated, and critical information that can help users make informed decisions on the safety of their families and friends.
The same technology has been used in both India and South Africa, and has the potential to save thousands of lives and livelihoods. It is these sorts of innovations that we must rely on to help those who are most vulnerable to the impact of climate change.
It is not only cloud-seeding and weather prediction technologies that will provide humanity with a route out of its biggest existential threat. Breakthrough battery technology, green hydrogen, 5G-based smart grids and carbon-negative factories are set to become commonplace in our fight against rising CO2 levels.
As a global society, we must set our political divisions and some critics’ technophobia aside, and step forward in a spirit of international collaboration.
Similarly to how the pandemic showed the need for united global action, climate change will do the same. And just as technology and science was a key part in how the pandemic was brought under control, climate change can only be addressed through tech-based solutions.
The solution to marine plastic pollution is plural, and plastic offsetting is one of them
Due to growing concerns around environmental protection, businesses, individuals and governments have been looking for solutions that can be largely implemented to close the tap on plastic pollution.
In the last five years, businesses have strengthened their Sustainability Approach to acknowledge the need to take responsibility for their plastic production and consumption.
If targets have been defined and strong policies followed them to ensure high recycling rates of plastic products, a problem remains. What is the solution for low-value non-recyclable plastics?
This is where plastic offsetting enters the scene. As a derivative of the Carbon Offsetting concept, where trees are planted or protected to capture CO2 emissions, Plastic offsetting also known as Plastic Neutralization, enables companies to take responsibility for their plastic footprint.
Put simply, neutralizing means funding the collection and treatment of plastic, equivalent to the plastic impact of the business. Therefore, giving it the opportunity to compensate for every ton of plastic it has produced by ensuring there is one ton less in the environment.
From linear to Circular Economy Itis also a breakthrough in our traditional model of production, the linear economy. By extending the producer responsibility (EPR), this concept allow to build the bridge that lead to the ideal model, the circular economy, where no waste remains.
This innovative solution brings with it diverse positive impact. To the environment, by protecting ecosystems from plastic pollution, reducing landfilling and CO2 emissions. A strong social impact, by local communities by empowering local communities with work and better incomes. But also businesses, by becoming more sustainable with the reduction of the plastic footprint and a strengthen corporate social responsibility.
TONTOTON, a Vietnamese company, based in Ho Chi Minh City has succeed to connect all stakeholders to create a new market for low-value non-recyclable post-consumer plastic, on the scheme of circular economy.
TONTOTON Plastic Neutralization Program
Following the idea that the informal sector achieve to collect and recycle large amount of plastic in poor waste management areas, Barak Ekshtein, director of TONTOTON decided to look closer to the problem. In fact, a study shows that ‘97% of plastic bottles were collected by informal waste pickers.
The problem therefore does not lie in the logistics but in the price. By giving a market price to non-recyclable plastic, it allows waste collectors to collect and treat waste and thus avoid plastic pollution.
TONTOTON currently works in Southern Vietnamese Islands, Hon Son and Phu Quoc, and has already few tons of low-value plastic waste. To do so, it collaborates with local waste-pickers and thus provide them better incomes. The program focuses on preventing ocean plastic by following the Ocean Bound Plastic Certification. Their activities are audited by a 3rd party control body, the internationally recognized company, Control Union.
To treat the waste, TONTOTON partners with a certified cement plant, through co-processing, to valorize waste as an alternative energy and raw material. “Our system can solve two issues. Plastic is made of fossil fuels and contains more energy than coal. Thus we can replace industrial coal consumption with non-recyclable plastic waste. The plastic will not end up in landfill or oceans, therefore reduce levels of coal consumption and thus also CO2 emissions.”, says Barak Ekshtein.
Businesses engaged in their program can claim plastic neutrality on the amount of plastic neutralized to share their sustainability efforts. Moreover, indicate it on their neutralized product by bearing the “Plastic Neutral Product” label.
Climate Change in Vanuatu: Problems Ensue
Authors: Harsh Mahaseth and Shubham Sharma*
Vanuatu announced its intention to seek legal action against corporations and governments who have benefited from products which had caused climate change. Minister Regebvanu, in the 2018 Climate Vulnerable Summit sought to explore legal actions against companies, financial institutions and governments liable for the damages caused to Vanuatu due to climate change, either by direct to indirect actions of the said parties. Vanuatu, like other small island nations, is seeking damage claims against carbon emitters who have contributed to climate change and benefited from it. Vanuatu seeks to claim reparations for damage caused by events related to climate change such as the 2015 cyclone which wiped out an estimated 64 per cent of Vanuatu’s GDP.
A case of action against global polluters isn’t novel. Climate Change litigation has its precedence, with over 1300 cases having been filed across 28 countries, where various public and private entities have petitioned the Courts for environmental action or relief. The source of the litigation comes for various multilateral treaties, such as the Stockholm Declaration on the Human Environment, Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and others treaties combating pollution.
For Vanuatu, one of the major obstacle, other than the likely opposition from powerful States, includes finding a suitable forum; identifying relevant substantive obligations and various challenges relating to attribution, causation and evidence before they are able to make successful climate litigation before an international body such as the International Court of Justice (ICJ), scholars have argued that a path for successful litigation exists through Article 36, paragraph 2 of the ICJ Statute, where by accepting compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJa case for prevention obligations under the lex special is of the UNFCCC, human rights law or customary international law.
Strategic Public Climate Litigation, an injunctive relief solution where the aim is to influence public policy or policy decisions primarily through the attainment of injunctive relief by asserting governmental failure to account for GHG emissions associated with public projects and cases of judicial review of public regulatory action (or inaction) on climate change, has already achieved some degree of success. An example would be the Australian Conservation Foundation et al. v. Minister for Planning where there were concerns with regards to GHG emissions of a new coal mine which lead a tribunal to determine the lasting significant environmental effects of the coal mine in the future would be against the objective of the act which is to “maintenance of ecological processes” and the “future interest of all Victorians.” Another example is that of the State of the Netherlands v. Urgenda Foundation, where an injunction was sought to compel the Dutch government to reduce GHG emissions, the supreme court of appeals, upheld this view and ordered the Dutch government to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25 per cent by the end of 2020, compared with 1990 level.
The second option for Vanuatu is to cast a wide net of a variety of legal theories, such as domestic tort law against carbon majors similar to the petition brought before the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines, which investigate the responsibility of 47 investor-owned carbon majors for human rights violations due to climate change. For this approach, the initial challenge Vanuatu faces is the lack of a national human rights institution who can bring rights violations caused by climate change. However, the lack of a human rights institution can be mitigated by Vanuatu’s independent judicial system, as it is competent to address claims for damage caused by climate change by the polluters. The major hurdle Vanuatu faces is establishing the causation between the defendants’ conduct and its result, which is to say whether the action of the defendant lead to or contributed to the disaster, and secondly, the ability to certain specific damage sorted by Vanuatu on the other, especially in cases of non-economic loss and damage.
The recent surge in climate change litigation bodes well for Vanuatu, as the establishing precedence only strengthens their claim for damages. However, Vanuatu still faces major obstacles. Firstly, a lack of an international body to address the issue. Even if a case is brought before the ICJ, it can only be against a Member State. Thus, action against private entities cannot be brought before the ICJ. Secondly, identifying the rights violated and then assessing and assigning the damage liability to individuals, entities and governments. Thirdly, if Vanuatu pursues action in domestic courts, there are issues relating to the appearance of the party to the summons and the ability of Vanuatu to enforce the judgment. As the primary means of compliance for offenders in the international area are sanctions, Vanuatu without support from larger nations wouldn’t be able to handout sanctions to force compliance. There are many problems that Vanuatu faces but they cannot sit still now, and it is time to act and make the polluters liable.
* Shubham Sharma is a graduate from NALSAR University of Law. He has worked on several research projects relating to human rights, juvenile justice, and climate change.
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