Addressing the silence surrounding the real global threat of climate change
While environmental activists protested in100 cities around the world ahead of a United Nations climate summit set to take place in New York on September 23, 2014. As I write this article the debate has commenced at the United Nations, a debate that has been nearly sidestepped by a telltale elite group: China, India, Russia and Canada, which collectively emit the lion’s share of the total annual global carbon emissions.
It is not the first time that this wrathful dance of environmental activism and economic pragmatism waltzes across the climate change agenda. Remember Kyoto and its umpteenth follow up meetings including Copenhagen and before Kyoto there was Rio in 1992 ostensibly dealing with biodiversity, which was a predecessor to the climate change agenda? These initiatives failed not because smart people were not at the head of the agenda. Voters promptly eviscerated politicians with climate change ambitions as exemplified by Al Gore (USA), Stephane Dion (Canada), and Julia Gillard (Australia).
Past efforts at eliciting concrete actions on climate change failed because the commitments had yet to be made by the people with the right influence at the right time.
Also it is easier to adopt a climate silence policy than a climate change policy, which give climate change deniers the upper hand from the very start: it is easier to support the status quo than a foray into the uncharted waters of carbon taxations, and cap and trade. Because of the nature of the debate the nay argument is easier to articulate than the yeah argument.
But the climate of climate change is changing and the nay argument is getting significantly easier to articulate than the yeah argument.
For once, everyone has an opinion about climate change. In 1997, I wrote a position paper for the Canadian Institute of Forestry about climate change: back then I remember scratching my head about what I would say that would make sense. Climate change was as ethereal as a pink unicorn.
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But some opinions count more than others. The Rockefellers, who made their vast fortune on oil, have pledged together with other philanthropies and high-wealth individuals to sell and get out of a total of $50 billion US worth of fossil fuel assets.
This past summer, U.S. President Barack Obama announced a proposal to cut carbon pollution by 30 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030. The main way to carry out that rule would be by limiting emissions from coal-fired power plants.
Collectively we acknowledge that climate change is dangerous. The previous Sunday the streets of New York City were flooded by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and renowned primatologist Jane Goodall and other celebrities and activists marched with arms locked together during a moment of silence for lives lost to deadly weather, believed by many to have been brought on anthropogenic carbon emissions.
Innovation has reduced the cost of energy alternatives dramatically, especially when the cost of pollution is considered. For example the cost of solar photovoltaic installations has decreased by half over the past 4 years.
The Pentagon acknowledges that climate change is one of the most significant global threats (click here) not as a direct menace but as a destabilizing force causing famine and migration.
But perhaps the most significant argument is that the insurance industry is passing the costs of climate change premiums to consumers. There is no room for denying here. The insurance industry pays weather-related claims of about $50 billion (U.S.) a year, which has over doubled every decade since the 1980s. In 2013, the Calgary foods displaced 100,000 people. The extent of the damages was estimated to be as high as $6 billion (Canadian), of which $1.7 billion was insured.
In 2012, the 10 costliest natural catastrophes, from Hurricane Sandy to floods in Pakistan, caused $131 billion (U.S.) in damages, of which about $56 billion (U.S.) was insured.
It seems that right people are getting it. The question is whether we are too late.
Dr. Luc C. Duchesne is a Speaker and Author with a PhD in Biochemistry. With three decades of scientific and business experience, he has published ... <Read more about Dr. Luc Duchesne>