— The Erimtan Angle —

‘A discussion with Patrick Bond on the lack of political will to deal with climate change and the forces mobilizing for action (20 April 2014)’.

The Guardian‘s Leo Hickman writes that the “seven-year task undertaken by hundreds of the world’s leading scientists, who sifted through thousands of the latest peer-reviewed studies examining the causes, impacts and mitigation options of climate change, is over. The last of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change’s (IPCC) three “working group” reports was published [on Sunday, 13 April 2014] in Berlin and the take-home message was crystal clear: ‘The high-speed mitigation train needs to leave the station very soon and all of global society needs to get on board’, said the chair, Rajendra Pachauri. This is now the fifth time that the IPCC has been through this Herculean process of summarising the latest climate science and repackaging it as digestible information for the world’s governments and policymakers. The message from the IPCC over the past two decades has been consistently clear and compelling. For anyone to downplay or deny its findings would be irresponsible, short-sighted and, above all, a gross failure of risk analysis”.[1]

In 140 characters, Hickman summarises the IPCC message: “[c]limate change is real. We are to blame. It will get worse if we fail to act. The solutions are available and affordable. But time is short”.[2] The IPCC report is not all doom and gloom really, as the report’s co-chair Prof Ottmar Edenhofer said on 13 April: “It will not cost the earth to save the planet . . . This report outlines the challenges, but it provides hope. Modest hope”.[3]

The admission that there is modest hope available in the report appears like confessing that there is no hope left . . . Or is there??? In the run-up to the Copenhagen summit in 2009, Stanford University’s Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark A. Delucchi wrote A Plan for a Sustainable Future, a publication with the telling subtitle “How to get all energy from wind, water and solar power by 2030”. The authors confidently proclaim that “[o]ur plan calls for millions of wind turbines, water machines and solar installations. The numbers are large , but the scale is not an insurmountable hurdle; society has achieved massive transformations before. During World War II, the U.S. retooled automobile factories to produce 300,000 aircraft, and other countries produced 486,000 more. In 1956 the U.S. began building the Interstate Highway System, which after 35 years extended for 47,000 miles , changing commerce and society. Is it feasible to transform the world’s energy systems? Could it be accomplished in two decades? The answers depend on the technologies chosen, the availability of critical materials, and economic and political factors”.[4] In other words, it is all an issue of political will, or rather political leadership not hampered by commercial and/or corporate considerations. Jacobson and Delucchi propose a radical switch to WWS or Wind, Water, and Sunlight as a means of achieving a viable and sustainable future, as summarised by the publication’s editors in a sidebar: “Supplies of wind and solar energy on accessible land dwarf the energy consumed by people around the globe. The authors’ plan calls for 3.8 million large wind turbines, 90,000 solar plants, and numerous geothermal, tidal and rooftop photovoltaic installations worldwide. The cost of generating and transmitting power would be less than the projected cost per kilowatt-hour for fossil fuel and nuclear power. Shortages of a few specialty materials, along with lack of political will, loom as the greatest obstacles”.[5] The “lack of political will” appears to be the biggest hurdle, as the leaders of men more often than not serve the interests of Big Capital and their own wallets . . . rather than those of their constituencies or electorates.

 

[1] Leo Hickman, “IPCC report: the scientists have done their bit, now it is up to us” The Guardian (April 2014). http://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2014/apr/14/ipcc-report-scientists-world-seize-opportunity-roadmap.

[2] Leo Hickman, “IPCC report: the scientists have done their bit, now it is up to us”.

[3] Leo Hickman, “IPCC report: the scientists have done their bit, now it is up to us”.

[4] Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark A. Delucchi, “A Plan for a Sustainable Future” Scientific American (November 2009). pp. 58-9.

[5] Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark A. Delucchi, “A Plan for a Sustainable Future”, p. 59.

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