Underlying progress with climate change are: a) immediacy of the pending crisis; b) fear of talking about climate change as a crisis; c) the snail’s pace of change; d) various economic and military instabilities dominating the world stage, and; e) the muddle of communications emanating from our conventional and social media.
Meanwhile, we are left with the issues of alternate energy, global collaboration and the role of the individual as we look to backing away from extinction.
A) As we deal with climate change, time is the critical element (1).
The Tipping Point is that irreversible threshold where environmental collapses trigger economic, political and social crises. Avoiding the Tipping Point depends on eliminating greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.
Nature eliminates Co2 by storing it over a thousands-year cycle and even if we reduce Co2 emissions to net zero by 2050 (20 years past the predicted Tipping Point), it will still take several decades of hopeful innovation to eliminate the surcharge of these emissions (2).
So far, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is telling us we are making little progress with the reduction of Co2 (3). Oh, and let’s not forget those other greenhouse gases like methane, nitrous oxide, fluorinated gases and water vapour that also trap heat. We have little time left.
B) Climate disasters have become the new normal for our complacent populations and we are inured to the stark evidence flashing at us on a daily basis.
Activism has predominantly become a vehicle for good-news platforms where talk is about alternatives that will save the world while being silent about the crisis that is fueling the activist movements.
Activism is one of the critical avenues that will evoke change, but the groundswell and critical mass of understanding for the immediacy is still lacking. While millions are involved in climate activism, billions are not. Of course, thoughts of extinction evoke fear and discomfort and so they should.
However, relegating the reality to covert discussions will not eradicate its threat. Fear is often applied effectively with policy implementation and it creates the same kind of heightened awareness that allowed us to survive primordial jungles.
C) On May 27, the G7 Ministers of Climate, Energy and the Environment announced joint actions to end governmental, cross-national support for fossil fuel-emitting projects by the end of 2022 (4).
Even if approved by their respective governments within the next five months, the “joint actions” will still allow the existing ‘climate bombs’ (coal and oil developments) to continue with their previously approved government subsidies, and does not limit public support for domestic projects or control funding by private sources. Once again, much ado about very little.
Historically, societal and global changes occur through a gradual process of growing acceptance. With the multitude of factors that are beyond control, change has been accommodated through inertia and the movement of competing issues and ideas.
But the changes needed of the climate crisis cannot be relegated to this normal mode, simply because there is no time. Dealing with climate change frequently requires thinking out of the box and engineering a global change revolution is a concept that is far removed from that box.
Dramatic global change throughout history usually resulted from aggression and force or dramatic technological innovation. Hopefully, we will be able to rely less on aggression and more on technology, reason and global cooperation.
Now that is thinking out of the box.
D) “We will never trust the West anymore,” said Dimitry Pskov. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary’s 2022 remark on behalf of Russia (5) accentuated the fact that the Cold War had returned to full force once again.
Today’s international momentum of government activities are predominantly shaped by economic and military instabilities that threaten our security on so many levels. Some kind of truce is needed for the next 50 years to allow for the needed co-operation.
The global community needs to realize it has a common enemy that can exterminate all nations. There has been peace and stability in the past, albeit, short-lived. ‘Pax Romana’ existed for 200 years because the Roman legions had squelched resistance in its colonies (6). The First and Second World Wars were followed by periods of peace with devastated enemies and victors coexisting to rebuild themselves out of a world that was tired of destruction and mass killings.
Our times, however, are different because we cannot afford to invest in aggression that will lead to global dominance. Intelligent and sophisticated leadership is critically needed to eliminate the competitiveness in our histories.
E) Any hope of resolving climate change will rest on communications between nations, political rivals, international organizations, corporations, social institutions and individuals of all races, creeds and ages.
Today, one could describe our communications systems as: out of control or repressed; polarising or unifying; confusing or enlightening, and’ helpful or destructive.
Basically, our communications are not effective as change instruments. There is a need to reconcile the need for accurate information against the doctrines of free speech and to resolve the conflict between privacy and transparency. A smart model to govern communications will satisfy these differences. How successful we will be in addressing climate change will hinge on how successful we will be with developing and accepting smarter communications.
As more crises emerge, people will become more desperate to understand what is going on as the noises from conventional and social media increase. As technological advances and policy shifts accelerate, hackers will continue working within hidden origins as they insinuate themselves into data banks and communication networks. Perhaps smarter, legitimately enforceable communications will solve this problem. Education could help people acquire the skills needed to evaluate the communications they are receiving, but changing these skill sets will require generations and time is already a factor.
Energy, the transition from oil and coal to green, renewable energy is high on the agenda.
We cannot terminate our dependence on carbon-emitting energy sources without shifting to cost-neutral alternatives that are proven effective and affordable. Electricity is the holy grail with energy production and it calls for increased, reliable generation and its transmission.
Wind and solar are promising, but they fail to guarantee consistency unless new battery technologies, despite their ecological footprint, can make them dependable. Nuclear energy, on the other hand is proven to be reliable despite its spotty record. Resistance to nuclear power is declining as new data emerges about the industry’s technological advance with safety and the storage of wasted nuclear materials (7).
Nuclear energy should be the next alternative to fossil fuels, provided the new safeguards are included and the use of nuclear fission is time limited, say for the next 80 years. Eighty years could generate nuclear waste to a volume of intolerance after which the nuclear plants could be shut down as green alternatives become widespread. On the other hand, nuclear waste could be re-used to eliminate its radioactive elements, or nuclear fusion that produces little radioactive waste could come into its own being. Small Nuclear Reactors (8) and Micro Nuclear Reactors (9) are evolving to lower their risks, costs and construction time – all to increase the accessibility of nuclear energy. Nuclear energy can provide us with a relatively immediate source of energy and a respite from the carbon emissions that are killing us. During this 80-year hiatus we can still strive for other emission-free energy options, but, given the years to approve and construct nuclear power plants, “we” had better get started now. Recall that Tipping Point.
Global instabilities call for greater collaboration between nations. A radical change in governance philosophy is not just desirable, but necessary.
How leaders can shift their governments and corporate counterparts from nationalist to international priorities remains a mystery. International organizations like the UN, several international think tanks and economists have been working on this since they existed.
The solution to this multi-faceted dilemma appears to depend upon a crush of global crises to bring the significant leaders to the table with a serious intent to cease hostilities and disruptive economic competition. Hopefully, their constituents can be brought on board with their international agreements and hopefully, when that time comes it will not be too late.
Underlying the above issues is the need for each individual to come to terms with the climate change crisis by facing their fears.
We either adapt to fear now or face the horrors down the line. If visceral fear is needed to engage our species in collective action, so be it. Once fear is understood and accepted, people can get on with the business of dealing with it. This will require each person to think about the worst-case scenarios in order to accept and plan for them. People are capable of leaving their comfort zones and facing their fears (ask anyone who has bungee-jumped off a bridge). Once fears are controlled, people can realize that predictable and unpredictable changes are coming. They can work diligently on getting reliable information to be selectively active with technological and policy bandwagons. And that’s how hope is generated.
With the clock inexorably ticking towards the cascade of crises, we need to focus on five paths of remediation:
- Reliable, updated scientific data to create defensible climate models and to pinpoint the progress or lack thereof on identifiable greenhouse gas emissions.
- Dependable communications that will convey accurate, understandable and trustworthy information for all who are affected by Climate Change
- Technology that reaches out of conventional thinking to be confirmed as effective and supported by business development, the financial industries and governments.
- Government direction that is wrapped in one comprehensive and dynamic strategic plan to:
- Analyse data on all issues affecting Global Warming
- Mitigate damages and risks from present and predictable climate effects like floods, wildfires and hyperthermia
- Support technological development
- Govern the country’s daily issues
- Develop more effective international relationships based on collaboration
- Engage the constituents in the initiatives and rigours to follow.
- Our engagement in climate action with a confrontation of our fears and with compassion for each other in the weeks and years to follow.
The present consists of 250 wildfires in the Yukon and Northwest Territories (10) as the arctic warms at three times the global average (11). The immediate future will consist of bad news and good news about global warming / climate change.
It is time to be informed.
André Clement lives in Greater Sudbury. He is the author of “Evolution to Extinction, a Primer on Global Warming”. This is the third part of a four-part series. You can read Part One here, Part Two here, Part Three here and Part Four here.
- CBC The National, June 21, 2022.