Special edition of the INES Global Responsibility Newsletter for the Klimaforum10, Cancún / Mexico, 26. 11. - 11. 12. 2010
Changing the Climate of Complacency
By David Krieger
You are gathered in Cancun to take action on the climate change that is threatening our beautiful but beleaguered planet. The changes, which are resulting in global warming, pose extremely dangerous threats to quality of life and even survival for people today and in the future. We must heed the warnings of scientists who are examining this phenomenon and change our habits with regard to fossil fuel consumption and carbon emissions. We must dramatically lower our fossil fuel consumption and our carbon imprint on the planet and this must be undertaken immediately and seriously by the over-industrialized nations that are the worst energy and resource abusers.
Strong need to change our climate of thinking
There is another way in which the term “climate change” may be used. That is, to refer to “climate” in the sense of “ambiance.” There is a strong need to change the climate of our thinking, specifically the passive acceptance of the abuse of our planet and its myriad species, including our own. In this sense, humanity lives far too much in a “climate” of ignorance and indifference. We have organized our-selves into consumer societies that demonstrate little concern for our responsibilities to the planet, to each other and to the future.
There are many ongoing problems in the world that deserve our awareness and engagement. The fact that these problems receive insufficient attention and action speak to the change of climate that is needed. Many of these problems were identified in the eight Millennium Development Goals: eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; achieving universal primary education; promoting gender equality; reducing child mortality; reducing maternal mortality; combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; ensuring environmental sustainability; and establishing a global partnership for development.
$1.5 trillion wasted annually on military establishments
While these major problems on our planet are not adequately addressed, the world is wasting more than $1.5 trillion (1 trillion= 1 million millions) annually on its military establishments. Many states are attempting to create military security at the expense of human security. The poor people on the planet are being marginalized while countries use their scientific resources and material wealth to produce ever more deadly and destructive armaments. In a climate of complacency, the military-industrial complexes of the world fulfill their gluttonous appetites while the poor and politically powerless of the Earth are left to suffer and die.
At the apex of the global order, the countries that emerged victorious in World War II anointed themselves as permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. They continue to flaunt international law by their reliance upon nuclear weapons and by failing to engage in good-faith negotiations for the elimination of these weapons as required by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Because these countries behave as though their power and prestige are built upon these weapons of mass annihilation, other countries seek to emulate them. Nuclear proliferation is thus encouraged by the very states that seek to set themselves apart with these weapons.
Nuclear power is not a solution
Large corporations that stand to profit from a “renaissance” of nuclear power are promoting large nuclear energy projects as an alternative to using fossil fuels. They are trying to make nuclear power appear to be green. But they have not solved the four major problems with nuclear power: the potential for nuclear weapons proliferation; the failure to find any reasonable solution to storing the nuclear wastes, which will threaten the environment and humanity for tens of thousands of years; vulnerability to terrorism; and propensity to dangerous accidents.
If the large global corporations have their way, the Earth will become home for thousands of nuclear power plants, nations will seek to protect themselves with nuclear weapons (an impossibility), the threat of nuclear annihilation and global warming will continue to hang over our collective heads, extreme poverty in its many manifestations will persist, and we will follow either a slow path to extinction or a rapid one.
The power of engaged citizens
This is why we must change the climate of indifference and complacency that currently prevails upon our planet. We humans have the gifts of consciousness and conscience, but these gifts must be used to be effective. We must become conscious of what threatens our common future and we must care enough to demand that these threats be eliminated. The only force powerful enough to challenge the corporate and military power that is leading us to catastrophe is the power of an engaged global citizenry. This remains the one truly great superpower on Earth, but it can only be activated by compassion and caring.
If we do not care enough about the future to engage in the fight to save our species from catastrophe and our planet from omnicide, we need only to continue our complacency and leave the important decisions about protecting the environment and human life to powerful corporations and the world’s militaries. They have a plan, one based upon dangerous technologies and plunder. Their plan is shortsighted, designed to further enrich the already overly rich. To be silent is a vote for their plan.
As Albert Camus, the great French writer and existentialist, wrote in the immediate aftermath of the Hiroshima bombing: “Our technical civilization has just reached its greatest level of savagery. We will have to choose, in the more or less near future, between collective suicide and the intelligent use of our scientific conquests. Before the terrifying prospects now available to humanity, we see even more clearly that peace is the only battle worth waging. This is no longer a prayer but a demand to be made by all peoples to their governments – a demand to choose definitively between hell and reason.”
Let us stand with Camus in waging peace. Let us stand with Camus in choosing reason. Let us raise our voices and choose peace and a human future. Let us fulfill the responsibility of each generation to pass the world on intact to the next generation. We may be the only generation that has faced the choice of silence and annihilation, or engagement and rebuilding the paradise of our exceedingly precious planet, the only one we know of in the universe that supports life.
David Krieger is President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and the Chair of the Executive Committee of the INES. He is a Councillor on the World Future Council.
Interview with IPCC member Hartmut Graßl, Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg/Germany
What really needs to be done now regarding the immense challenges the world has to face regarding climate change?
Because Climate is the most important natural resource any major climate change always was a challenge for all living beings. The present anthropogenic climate change rate is higher than all historical changes in the recent at least million years. Therefore, the capacity to adapt will be lost for many existing natural and managed ecosystems, if the climate change rate will not be reduced. Concentration changes of the three long lived naturally occurring greenhouse gases of the atmosphere, namely carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane, affect all areas on our globe and the unprecedented mean global warming at the surface of the Earth since the existence of homo sapiens will last for at least centuries if not millennia. Climate policy must therefore be “world domestic politics”, i.e. all culprits and the sufferers must jointly set just time tables and targets how to reduce the radiative forcing of climate. A first, albeit too small step in this direction was the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which ends end of 2012. We need a more stringent successor protocol. It has to include:
1) Timetables and targets for the emission reduction adopting the long term goal of equal emission rights for any person on this globe.
2) Integration of so-called emerging countries into binding measures that now also move in the direction of becoming strong per capita emitters of greenhouse gases.
3) Financial help for the real developing countries, when adapting to the already unavoidable climate change, which expresses itself first and foremost in new weather extremes often leading to major damages if security related infrastructure is lacking.
4) Economic and research incentives for an energy system transformation away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy sources, preferably the direct sun and in parts the wind.
What do you expect from the COP16 in respect to the essential measures that have to be taken?
Despite numerous proposals to go forward in bilateral or multilateral agreements concerning climate change policies, the only just solution to the climate change challenge is the globally co-ordinated policy making under the umbrella of the United Nations (UNFCCC). All the other attempts will always be threatened by free rider countries. Therefore every effort has to be made to reach a new more stringent protocol at COP 16 in Cancun or the latest at COP 17 in South Africa. The goal accepted - or better taken note of - in Copenhagen (less than 2°C mean global warming until the end of the 21st century in comparison to the preindustrial level) is much more stringent than widely recognized and it is from the scientific point of view probably already too much warming when a dangerous interference with the climate system, i.e. tipping points of the climate system, have to be avoided. Hopefully, the serious errors made in Copenhagen by the Danish leadership of COP 15 and the lack of involvement of the developing countries in internal debates by the dominating countries will not be repeated in Cancun. It is highly improbable that a Cancun Protocol will contain more than a framework of a real treaty because humankind is typically not able to decide before the very end of a time table set by an earlier treaty. And even after 2012 the small print of a new binding protocol will still be negotiated.
What is the role and duty of the civil society?
Climate policy making needs an informed public, because otherwise politicians are typically not inclined to decide on such a long term topic as anthropogenic climate change, where the success of the political decisions taken can only be judged by the grandchildren. A good example is the situation within the European Union. Its old members, highly developed industrialized countries, have in most cases a tradition in environmental policy making, driven to a large extent by their NGOs and political parties formed or changed because of the environmental movement. Therefore, EU environmental and climate policy is not dominated but strongly influenced by these countries, setting the agenda. The fundament of it is the informed public and an independent jurisdiction. I am often astounded by the lack of awareness in these matters in the new member states, which are however taken along by existing directives and the need of implementation of these directives by national legislation. The civil society’s duty is the continuous request to the political decision makers to act foremost on long-term topics like biodiversity conservation and climate change rate reduction, i.e. to act also for the future generations and not only for the near-term economic well being of the present generation.
Protecting the Climate: Scientific Challenges for a Sustainable Energy Transition
The atmosphere and the climate are common goods that we have to preserve not only for our own benefits, but to share with the future generations as well. They are fundamental resources for life on our planet, provide basic services such as water, food and energy, and they shape our lifestyles and affect the way economy works.
Scientific evidence tells us that humanity is beginning to face the consequences of the climate challenge that we have to solve together. Climate change threatens the natural environment that is supporting the fundamental resources for life on our planet, notably water, food and energy. During this century, countries and societies in all parts of the world will have to work together, including those that suffer from poverty and starvation, as well as those that are wealthy and have to acknowledge present and historical responsibilities in order to lead the way toward a low-carbon society. In either case, action is urgently needed.
Thousands of people attended the world climate summit in Copenhagen (COP-15) in 2009 and called for concrete action for a low-carbon society. The great expectations raised last year were disappointed. However, not getting to any agreements will not prevent or at least contain the climate crisis. Therefore, we urge governments to work together for a set of future arrangements for the post-Kyoto phase that significantly reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, and prevent dangerous climate change, as required by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). For the United Nations Conferences to be held in Cancun, Mexico (COP-16) in December 2010, we call upon governments to run significant climate measures as well as to indicate, facilitate and propose to different sectors of society ways in which they can help building sustainability in their respective countries.
Climate change is the most evident indication that the development of the world is highly unsustainable. Nevertheless, scientific research has indicated that, if we act now, there is still a window of opportunity to take an alternative development path. In fact, many synergies and cost-effective strategies exist that will help to adapt and mitigate climate change, while building a sustainable economy.
There are other urgent needs in our societies, such as attending to basic economic development, food security, improving medical and educational services as well as providing for environmental care, that all need be encompassed while facing global warming. In this sense, the real long term strategies to climate change necessarily translate into changing the traditional ways of the current industrialized urban model toward natural and social equilibria, renewable energy development, food and water security, as well as a better quality of life for everyone.
Thus, we should start focusing on the many opportunities and synergies that are involved in climate action, in order to compensate for the deficits in financing the costs of mitigation and adaptation. All participants at COP-16 in Cancun should recognize that there is a unique window of opportunity that needs to be filled with appropriate actions.
To find the most effective solutions to global warming, the scientific, economic and political ways of thinking that caused and failed to prevent this crisis must be left behind... Scientists can act as a bridge towards new pathways into a sustainable future that catalyse and merge the human resources of research and education towards building the capacities and livelihoods needed for a sustainable energy transition that preserves the key natural resources. Scientific bodies – like the IPCC and Stern report – did make significant contributions to the debate but have been too optimistic regarding the potential of knowledge in solving the problem. What is missing is the willingness to overcome partisan and short-term interests and to engage politics with business for the sake of the common good.
INES and La Unión de Científicos Comprometidos con la Sociedad (UCCS)
INES at the Klimaforum10 in collaboration with UCCS, Mexico
1. December 2010, 11:00 – 13:00
Science and Responsibility
Examples of the commitments of scientists against a global climate catastrophy will be described and discussed. The role and importance of the IPCC. Boundaries of responsibility and political challenges.
Science and technology are playing an ambivalent role in the context of achieving a more peaceful and sustainable world. They are part of the global problems and are a necessary part of the solutions. They help to accelerate and globalize the complex nexus of world problems through innovations that multiply impacts and risks on the environment and society. But they can also contribute to solving the problems through better understanding and developing more sustainable technology. A transition to a sustainable science requires breakthroughs within the science system and its place into society.
Speakers from INES, UCCS and of the Union of concerned Scientists (UCS) USA.
1. December 2010, 14:00 – 16:00
Climate and Conflict - How climate changes and conflicts/wars cause and worsen each other.
Climate change will increase the appearance of floods and draughts and will force millions of people to flee from their homes. We will experience more conflicts about farmland, water and food. We need to find social, just and responsible solutions. The money used for weapons of mass destructions and warfare need to be rededicated to social and sustainable development. The alternative to war is climate protection, disarmament and peaceful conflict solution strategies. Military activities aggravate the problems of climate change. We need disarmament for development.
Speakers: Reiner Braun, INES Program Director; Enrique Leff , UCCS (tbc)
2. December 2010
16:00 – 18:00
INES and its role: Scientists engaging in the struggle for peace and sustainability.
INES is an Organisation of Scientists and Engineers That Promotes Global Responsibility for Peace and Sustainability.
INES is an independent non-profit organisation committed to influencing the role and the impact that science and technology have on society. INES was founded in 1991 in Berlin at the international congress “Challenges - Science and Peace in a Rapidly Changing Environment“ and has become a network of over 160 organisations and individual members.
- Abolition of nuclear weapons
- Promoting the responsible and sustainable use of science and technology
- Implementing ethical principles in the education of scientists and engineers
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