The major new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released in Korea on Oct.8, is nearly 800 pages long and includes more than 6,000 scientific references. It can be summarized in few sentences with absolutely horrific implications:
The average global temperature is now 1.0°C above its pre-industrial levels. That increase is already causing more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, and is damaging untold number of land and sea ecosystems.
A 1.5°C increase, likely by 2040, would make things worse. A 2.0°C increase would be far worse than that. Only radical socio-economic and politico-diplomatic change can stop catastrophe. The world’s leading climate scientists have warned that only a dozen years are left for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C. Beyond that an irreversibility effect would be set in motion: even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.
To avoid the most serious damage requires transforming the world economy within just a few years, said the authors, who estimate that the damage would come at a cost of a fantastic US$54 trillion. This transformation goes – of course – beyond what we usually label as “economy.” It will require a change of entire human dynamics; moods and preference of how we extract, manufacture, distribute, consume, spend, live, travel, power all that, think of and teach about it.
Reactions are unfolding: “Limiting global warming to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels would be a herculean task, involving rapid, dramatic changes in the way that governments, industries and societies function” – says Nature magazine. Science Daily predicts: “Limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society … With clear benefits to people and natural ecosystems, limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to 2°C could go hand in hand with ensuring a more sustainable and equitable society”.
Ecological Footprint of ‘Here-Us-Now’ civilization
However, for the informed and willing, all was clear already with the Rio summit. Back then, I was quick to react: I was one of the very first to conceptualize and introduce (and set as obligatory) the subject of Sustainable Development (along with Environment Ethics) in the universities of Europe. Thus, for the past two decades I’ve been teaching my students that: “Currently, the amount of crops, animals and other biomatter we all extract from the earth each year exceeds what such a small planet can replace by an estimated 20 percent – meaning it takes almost 14.4 months to replenish what we use per annum – in 12 consecutive months – deficit spending of the worst kind.”
Lecture after lecture, generation after generation, I have sought to educate my students that: “Through pollution and global warming are legacies of products, processes and systems designed without thought to the environmental consequences, cohesion of international community along with rapid introduction of new international policies and strategies in a form of clean practices and technologies holds the solutions (e.g. promoting greater coherence between energy, research and environmental policies).
Since the environmental degradation (incl. the accelerated speed of extinction of living species – loss of biodiversity) knows no borders – the Sustainable Development is a matrix of truly global dimensions.”
In the meantime, the Climate Change nihilists and paid lobbyists have dominated the media by accusing this sort of constructivism and predictive education as environmental alarmism and scientific sensationalism. This is how we lost almost three decades from Rio over Johannesburg, Copenhagen, Kyoto and Paris to come to our current draw: an abyss of “only 12 years left” diagnosis.
How shall we now tackle our past optimism about the possibilities and the current pessimism about the probabilities? How to register our future claims rapidly and effectively on preservation of overall human vertical when we systematically ridiculed and dismissed every science short of quick profit (or defensive modernization), when we pauperized and disfranchised so many people of this planet in the past few decades like never before in history?
Hence, rapid, far-reaching changes to almost every facet of society are needed to avoid catastrophic climate change, reforms far beyond anything governments are currently either doing or planning to do. Additionally, it requires complete reversion of our life styles and socio-economic fashions, passions and drives – e.g. elimination of “here-us-now” over-consumerism of everything tangible and non-tangible.
Planet devastated by anti-intellectualism
Are we able to mobilise our socially fractured, and anti-intellectualised globe that fast and that solidly?
The world must invest US$2.4 trillion in clean energy every year through 2035 and cut the use of coal-fired power to almost nothing by 2050 to avoid catastrophic damage from climate change, according to scientists convened by the United Nations. That of course includes elimination of oil and gas from our Primary Energy Mix (PEM) as well as total eradication of the ICE-powered cars (of both diesel and petrol). All that is required within the following decade.
What changes this new “Cambrian explosion” will cause on adaptive and non-adaptive inorganic clusters and systems of our biota, and its group dynamics? Notably, what impact it will have on the traditionally automotive-industry leaning regions, and what on aviation industry – which, at least when comes to continental Europe, could have been grounded decades ago – since even at our current technological level, rail transportation would be cheaper, faster and safer than using planes?
What implication does it bring to the extremely crude-exporting dependent Middle East, which is situated in one of the centers of our planet but at the periphery of human progress? This is to name but few of numerous implications and unanswered dilemmas yet even unasked question.
No doubt, our crisis is real, but neither sudden nor recent. Our environmental, financial and politico-economic policies and practices have created the global stress for us and untold number of other species. Simply, our much-celebrated globalisation deprived from environmental and social concerns, as well as from a mutual and fair cooperation (instead of induced confrontation and perpetuated exclusion) caged us into ecological Globalistan and political Terroristan. (Acidifying of oceans and brutalization of our human interactions are just two sides of a same coin. What is the social sphere for society that is the biosphere for the very life on earth, since what we euphemistically call anthropogenic Climate Change is actually a brutal war against nature.)
The world based on agreed principles that – besides businesses and governments – involves all other societal stakeholders, re-captured global cohesion and commonly willing actions is not a better place. It is the only way for the human race to survive.
Deep and structural, this must be a crisis of our cognitivity. Therefore, while the latest Climate Change Report is only seemingly on Climate, it is actually a behavioristic study on (the dead end of) our other ‘CC’ – competition and confrontation, instead of cooperation and (all-included) consensus. Simply, it is the Report on our continued global jihad against the cognitive mind.
Anis H. Bajrektarevic (firstname.lastname@example.org) is chairperson and professor in international law and global political studies, Vienna, Austria. He has authored six books and numerous articles on geopolitics energy and technology and other subjects. No Asian Century is his forthcoming book, scheduled for later this year.