The Song Remains the Same | Are Wealthy Countries Guilty of Criminal Negligence?
The Song Remains the Same | Are Wealthy Countries Guilty of Criminal Negligence?
Climate Change Continues to Accelerate yet our Demands in the West Continue to be Passive and Weak
It is Time to Declare a Global Emergency. It is Time to Tell the Truth.
Canadians for Action on Climate Change
November 26, 2009
As the lyrics go …
‘City lights are oh so bright, as we go sliding… sliding… sliding through.’
As a Canadian citizen in a developed nation I am ashamed. If developed means awash in monetary wealth – we have this. If you look up the word ‘undeveloped’ in the dictionary it states ‘undeveloped social awareness’. In this sense I think we can all agree that we only continue to fool ourselves. Emotionally and intellectually – it is we, the wealthy that live in this undeveloped state of social awareness. We are now left to stand amid the ruins of a socially bankrupt nation amidst the clear signs of peak apathy and peak complacency. Corporate media grinds away relentlessly on the numbing and stupefying of consumers who were formerly recognized as citizens. Critical thinking, creativity and imagination are on the endangered list while our ecosystems collapse before our eyes. Yet, we turn away.
Last night I went to watch my youngest daughter perform in a play at the ‘EcoSchool’ she attends. Inside, both children and adults rushed in blissful unison to buy *Coke (*see killercoke.org) for one dollar per can to raise money for our own ‘needs’ at the expense of others. Approximately half of the parents and children already visibly suffer from our national obesity epidemic which is now rapidly spreading to developing nations. Outside, even though it was 10 degrees (very warm for November) parents had their cars and SUVs idling while they waited. I wonder what they are waiting for. Perhaps they are waiting for the rest of the Arctic Sea Ice to disappear. Last week my daughter went on a class trip to the Diabetes Museum. Maybe this is to prepare our children the new epidemic that they now face – a future of diabetes and heart disease. Not long ago, our Chief Medical Officer declared urgent action was needed on our very real obesity epidemic. This fell on deaf ears. Our bodies become obese and bloated as we are waste away mentally and spiritually. In 2009 we have yet to evolve to social awareness. Our critical thinking is M.I.A.
What does any of this have to do with climate change? Everything. The future of humanity is lost without deep systemic change. Even if we stop emissions tomorrow – we are destroying our planet and ourselves at an unprecedented, ever accelerating rate. Indeed scientists call this the sixth extinction. We may live in what we like to refer to as ‘developed’ nations but perhaps we need to redefine what developed truly means. Ethically – we are empty. Emotionally we are starved. Voids are filled with the consumption of junk we don’t even need. Few seem to mind that this stuff arrives from sweatshops. Stuff we could be employing our own citizens to make. Few seem to mind any more that children are a large part of the sweatshop industry. Few are even aware that science has now identified the first signs of male extinction are underway. At least one in two men and women will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime and this has become acceptable. Our children’s tiny bodies are inundated with chemicals, toxins and pollutants. Artisans are vanishing. Yet, we are insatiable. As we sit on the brink of extinction I wonder – it may be too late to save our planet – but perhaps we are not late to save our humanity.
Are we so comfortable in our ignorant bliss that we pretend targets brought forth years ago are going to save us? We know that if every piece of climate change legislation that is currently on the table was brought forth and legislated today it would not be nearly enough. Many of our activists and NGOs claim they support climate justice and those suffering today. But the truth is, the grossly outdated targets we still stand behind are anything but climate justice. Yes, the song on climate change targets remains the same – even though the science tells us climate change is accelerating beyond what anyone thought possible just a few years ago. The passive targets and the passive messaging condemn not only the vulnerable nations of the world but condemn all of humanity including our own children. The activists, the politicians, the NGOs – all those that know the current science – all are fully aware that ONLY ZERO emissions as fast as humanly possibly can stabilize the planet and save us from catastrophic climate change. No one disputes this fact. Yet, the very real planet ending threat of catastrophic global warming is taken so lightly that the weak, meaningless targets that are being called for are being successfully portrayed as targets that can save civilization. How many times do we need to read about methane percolating out of the poles before we wake up to the harsh fact that we are now approaching irreversible tipping points of no return?
Our society’s blatant contempt for zero carbon emissions and systemic change to avoid catastrophic climate change is irresponsible beyond belief. The entire world is today is already beyond dangerous climate change. We can now only try to prevent catastrophic climate change. Mothers should be outraged. Not only are we in a car barreling full speed toward a cliff – we have our children strapped in the back seats. In our society we call this infanticide. Copenhagen is around the corner. May we all be careful what we wish for. What is currently on the table is nothing less than a suicide note. The shortsightedness and lack of vision is not only appalling, it is terrifying. Our damaged society clings to the words of the climate skeptics yet I hear no one disputing the fact that the arctic sea ice is now in a death spiral, that the glaciers are quickly vanishing, that our oceans are turning acidic and our coral reefs are considered so lost that scientists are now freezing the coral in hopes that centuries later, if there is human life on Earth, it can be brought back to life.
The latest science tells us that we have to peak our emissions now and bring them back down to zero as quickly as possible. Leading climatologists including Holdren, Hansen, and Schellnhuber are telling us we have ten years to get to zero in order to avoid the worst tipping points and GHG emissions that will commit us to 0.4C or more (see 0.6C below) before the end of the century. Less than 2 years ago, no one dared imagine humanity pushing the climate beyond an additional unsafe two degrees C of heating, but rising carbon emissions and inability to agree on cuts has meant science must now consider the previously unthinkable. “Two degrees C is already gone as a target,” said Chris West of the University of Oxford’s UK Climate Impacts Programme. “Four degrees C is definitely possible…This is the biggest challenge in our history.”
Recently, Schellnhuber told the 4 degrees and beyond conference in Oxford: “Political reality must be grounded in physical reality or it’s completely useless.” Schellnhuber recently briefed U.S. officials from the Barack Obama administration – he states that they chided him that his findings were “not grounded in political reality” and that “the [U.S.] Senate will never agree to this”. Schellnhuber told them that the U.S. must reduce its emissions from its current 20 tonnes of carbon per person average to zero tonnes per person by 2020 to have an even chance of stabilizing the climate around two degrees C.
It’s past time to get real. We need to state the truth by simply telling it. What many activists and NGOs continue to push for; 20-25% emissions reductions from 1990 levels on behalf of industrialized nations as sufficient targets to save civilization is nothing more than a fairy tale. Once certain thresholds are past, they are past. There is no going back. The problem is this; the public buys into these demands and they embrace the false perception that such targets are adequate.
This month ‘The Coral Triangle Group’ has called for industrialized countries to cut emissions 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2015. Also this month the Global Carbon Project released a report showing the world is now on course for catastrophic 6° rise, that the fast-rising carbon emissions mean that worst-case predictions for climate change are now coming true.
We may be industrialized but I question if we are in fact civilized. Why are we not backing the demands of the countries and small island states that are being hit first? This would be real climate justice. If ‘Actions speak louder than words’ we are absolutely failing miserable at both.
This is nothing more than a preamble of the sick society; a brief commentary of our embarrassing lack of ethical being and social awareness which is portraying us as the selfish fools that we are to the most vulnerable of the world. Our brothers and sisters with children just like our own. Media tells us that the public is now afraid of climate change. This is not what I see. People afraid of rising emissions do not sit in the drive-thrus, shop like savages and buy brand new massive luxury vehicles.
We need to call this what it is – a global climate emergency. We must agree in Copenhagen to launch ‘a Green Apollo Project’. Like Kennedy’s pledge to land a man on the moon in ten years, a global Green Apollo Project would aim to put leading economies on a trajectory of zero carbon emissions within ten years. Such a ‘wartime mobilization’ might still save us from the catastrophic impacts of climate change. With no urgent messaging – how can we possibly expect emergency responses? Most recently in North America a national emergency was declared on swine flu. There was media hype of unbelievable proportions for over thirty days which resulted in 25% of Canadians being vaccinated in less than one month for a flu that world wide had very few deaths. Why did this happen? Because it was called an emergency. People mobilize and act in an emergency. There was no discussion on where this flu actually originated from (intensive factory farming) … there was little discussion of the multinational corporations that reaped billions in profit, whose shares went through the roof and who were given blanket protection from all liability. Climate change is killing 300,000 people per year – yet there is no call for emergency. When there is a house fire – one does not get out the fire safety handbook – you react and do what is necessary to get out. After a disaster, people mobilize and work together to rebuild. We need to do for climate change what we did for H1N1 and real disasters in the past and present. Too bad there are no lobby groups funded by multinationals that could reap profits from clean air. The task at hand would be much easier. On a positive note the only missing ingredient is political and the will of the people and that is a renewable resource.
In item 12 of our global petition for Copenhagen we state the following: ‘Under common law, such as the following: Canadian common law provides useful guidance. Environmental negligence suits focus on compensation for loss caused by unreasonable conduct that damages legally protected interests. Unreasonable conduct means doing something that a prudent or reasonable person would not do, or failing to do something that a reasonable person would do. The plaintiff must establish certain key elements of the tort cause in fact and proximate cause, damages, legal duty, and breach of the standard of care. Note that fault may be found even in the case of unintended harm if it stems from unreasonable conduct. The Criminal Code (Section 219) is even clearer that lack of intent to harm is no defence if damage results from conscious acts performed in careless disregard for others: Everyone is criminally negligent who (a) in doing anything, or (b) in omitting to do anything that it is his duty to do, shows wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons (where duty means a duty imposed by law). Significantly, Section 222(5)(b) states that a person commits homicide when, directly or indirectly, by any means, he causes the death of a human being, by being negligent (emphasis added). (Dr. Bill Rees, “Is Canada Guilty of Criminal Negligence?”) Are we, the wealthy of the world, guilty of criminal negligence?
Civil society can and must make a submission to the Copenhagen Conference that we are beyond dangerous climate interference and facing planetary catastrophe. If not the Copenhagen Climate Conference will
proceed on the deadly deluded assumption that we have lots more time to prevent our planet being wrecked by global climate change devastation. For the people that understand the reality of climate change, including NGOs, activists, scientists, etc. I have a message: By not asserting, that the world is beyond dangerous interference now, will in the not far off future, come to be regarded as the most monstrous crime against humanity ever reflecting the attitude of our society as a whole.
On the outside as portrayed by media – western society looks good. On the inside it is a cancer. And it is terminal.
Contact Cory Morningstar: @elleprovocateur
Special thanks to Bill Rees for allowing us to use his brilliant words in our global petition. You can sign it here: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/2/global-climate-change-copenhagen-petition
0807331105 PNAS September 23, 2008 vol. 105 no. 38 14239-1424
Proceedings National Academy of Sciences
1. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber | Global warming – Stop worrying, start panicking?
1. *Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, P.O. Box 60 12 03,
14412 Potsdam, Germany; and
2. Environmental Change Institute and Tyndall Centre, Oxford
University, Oxford OX1 3QY, United Kingdom
In their excellent Perspectives article in this issue (1 http://www.pnas.org/content/105/38/14239.full#ref-1), Ramanathan and Feng (R&F) sound a harsh wake-up call for those concerned about anthropogenic climate change: the authors maintain that the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the past have already loaded the Earth System sufficiently to bring about disastrous global warming. In other words, the ultimate goal of climate protection policy, as stipulated by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (2 http://www.pnas.org/content/105/38/14239.full#ref-2), appears to be a delusion. So should we stop worrying and rather start panicking now?
Also, by construction, the IPCC vessel tends to steer clear of value judgments that might be easily converted into “policy-prescriptive” statements. The downside of this well-meaning attitude is that the 2007 report does not, for instance, make a systematic attempt to characterize what dangerous anthropogenic interference (DAI) with the natural climate system is all about.
Our planet is already committed to anthropogenic warming in the range of 1.4–4.3°C, where 2.4°C is the most likely amount. The main reason why only roughly a quarter (actually 0.76°C since the latter half of the
1800s) of that equilibrium temperature response to the current atmospheric GHG concentrations has been observed is the (predominantly) cooling effect of various aerosols that often accompany GHG emissions.
Large scientific uncertainties remain regarding the forcing potential of the various aerosol species. There is certainty, however, that GHG concentrations (in particular, CO_2 levels) will rise further in the
medium-term future and that clean-air policies will remove that accidental antidote against global warming in the decades to come. Thus, the likelihood of global warming even beyond the 2.4°C margin in the
21st century is frustratingly high.
The resulting expectations for the planetary temperature clearly qualify for DAI (dangerous interference with the climate system), whether one refers to the emerging political consensus on a long-term climate stabilization goal as implicitly debated at the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC in Bali (COP13) or to the growing scientific evidence about critical thresholds for tipping vital Earth System components (e.g., the Greenland ice sheet) into different modes of operation.
No conceivable international CO2 -reduction strategy (including the one hoped to transpire from the COP15 negotiations in Copenhagen next year) could possibly avoid that the planet will enter the DAI zone,
where largely unmanageable climate impacts (like sea-level rise in the multimeter range) lurk. All we can do is to limit the warming in excess of the 2.4°C.
Venturing into the 2+°C-warming realm is risky, as the authors rightly emphasize in their second point, because large-scale nonlinear responses of the planetary machinery are likely to be triggered then (8
http://www.pnas.org/content/105/38/14239.full#ref-8, 9 http://www.pnas.org/content/105/38/14239.full#ref-9). These effects might even conspire to bring about—in the worst of all possible climate
change science fictions—something like a runaway greenhouse effect. However, the research community keeps churning out relevant specific findings—for instance, about positive feedback processes such as methane release from Siberian thawing (10 http://www.pnas.org/content/105/38/14239.full#ref-10), teleconnections between tipping elements in the planetary system (11 http://www.pnas.org/content/105/38/14239.full#ref-11), or the volatility of the climate machinery as confirmed by empirical evidence about abrupt environmental transitions in the past (12
My conclusion is that we are still left with a fair chance to hold the 2°C line, yet the race between climate dynamics and climate policy will be a close one. The odds for avoiding DAI may be improved by aerosol
management as suggested by R&F (taking the warming components such as black carbon out first), and even techniques for extracting atmospheric CO_2 (like bio-sequestration) might eventually prove necessary. However, the quintessential challenges remain, namely bending down the global Kyoto-GHG output curve in the 2015–2020 window (further procrastination would render necessary reduction gradients too steep thereafter) and phasing out carbon dioxide emissions completely by 2100. This requires an industrial revolution for sustainability starting now.