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The road to Glasgow must not be a dead end

The COP26 climate summit can give respite to the growth-based, consumption-oriented global economy

The road to Glasgow must not be a dead end

Protesters take part in a demonstration against climate change in Brussels on Oct. 10 ahead of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. (Photo: Kenzo Triboutllard/AFP)

The fight against global warming is a race against time and yet the hypocritical world fails to lift a finger to end this ecological Armageddon. With fire, drought and floods striking at will, how much longer can the Earth hang in climatically?

Life has become threatened on an alienated planet that is exploited merely to maximize profits for corporations with governments acting as facilitators while people are tied to the compliance culture, molded by the invisible hand of market forces.

Climate change and its unpredictable consequences are evident now on every continent and in every facet of the weather.

Despite the temporary hiatus in emissions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, global temperatures will rise faster than previously as much carbon will be discharged into the atmosphere under the guise of fixing the environment and solving the woes of the world's 8 billion inhabitants.

The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is higher and increasing 10 times faster than during the last 800,000 years. Nearly 85 percent of carbon dioxide emissions are caused by burning fossil fuels and the remaining 15 percent are the result of deforestation and degradation.

Oceans absorb 91 percent of energy from the atmospheric greenhouse gases and the results are sporadic heatwaves hitting coastal and low-lying countries like India and the US in the past 15 years.

Since its inception in 1988, the IPCC for the first time unequivocally stated that pretty much all global warming is due to human activities.

Even if the world restricts global warming to 1.5-2 degrees Celsius, as decided at the Paris Agreement in 2015, marine heatwaves will not be conspicuous by their absence and will instead be four times more frequent by this century's end.

The Earth has warmed by 1.09C since pre-industrial days and has rendered sea level rises and glacier melting virtually irreversible, according to another sobering report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Since its inception in 1988, the IPCC for the first time unequivocally stated that pretty much all global warming is due to human activities.

Unmindful exploitation of the planet has resulted in an “immense pile of filth” and never has mankind “mistreated our common home as we have in the last 200 years,” Pope Francis noted in his 2015 environmental encyclical Laudato Si' (Praise Be).

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Climate-related cracks have already appeared in all nations. Each year from 2008 to 2020, an average of 21.8 million people were displaced from their habitats by extreme heat, storms, cyclones, floods and wildfires.

Now the world is looking forward to a UN summit in Glasgow, an important financial and business services hub and Scotland’s largest city, to put in place more ecological green commitments.

The United Kingdom in collaboration with Italy is hosting the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12. Covid-related factors and the return of the US to the climate negotiation table are the added items at the summit.

Touted as the most significant meeting in human history, COP26 will take on faceless ecological tyranny.

The world’s efforts to find a solution to climate change gathered pace with the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. International negotiations, however, have not achieved any significant breakthrough as many countries are sticking to their guns by placing their national interests above the common good. The result is that Americans refuse to conserve, while Indians and Chinese vie with each other to burn more coal at an ever more rapid pace.

Pope Francis, probably the first pope to address protection of the environment in a serious way, termed this a “failure of conscience and responsibility” in his encyclical.

Honesty is nowhere in sight in the actions of two big-time polluters — the fossil fuel industry and the agrochemical industry

Moreover, world leaders have reduced climate change to a single-point agenda of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Lack of honesty and transparency and lopsided priorities have prevented the world from achieving anything substantial in terms of climate change.

As Pope Francis observed in his encyclical: “Reducing greenhouse gases requires honesty, courage and responsibility, above all on the part of those countries which are more powerful and pollute the most.”

Honesty is nowhere in sight in the actions of two big-time polluters — the fossil fuel industry and the agrochemical industry (now known by its sobriquet "biotechnology industry"), which is based on fossil fuels but falsely packaged as a solution for dealing with climate change.

The Food and Agriculture Organization has stated that 70-90 percent of deforestation in the world takes place due to industrial agriculture and its push for monocultures to grow commodities for overseas markets — not for food.

Chemical agriculture and a globalized food system, championed by an increasingly powerful multinational food industry and biotech evangelists, have rendered the soil with less capacity to withstand a drought.

Nearly 15-20 percent of global fossil fuel emissions are traced to processing, packaging (generally non-biodegradable plastic), refrigerating and transporting processed food and commodities.

It takes energy to make solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicles and new green industrial tools of all kinds

In place of fossil fuel-driven cars, tractors, trucks, supermarkets, electricity grids and internet shopping, people will drive around in electric cars, heat their homes and workstations with heat pumps, and fly around on biofuels in an ecotech world.

Because of compliance culture, people are forced to believe that the sun and wind are the best candidates to take the place of fossil fuels. Though sunlight and wind are themselves renewable, the technologies applied to them are not and are based on non-renewable materials like steel, silicon, concrete and rare minerals, which calls for mining, transport and transformation of these depleting materials.

Since no one can say when the sun will shine, massive conservation technologies and alternative infrastructure of pipelines and storage tanks are needed to source them for future and peak use. This will result in a significant increase in carbon emissions over the short term.

It takes energy to make solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicles and new green industrial tools of all kinds. For an electric car, nearly 40 percent of energy use takes place in its manufacturing. In most machine-based carbon removal, energy use is frontloaded to the manufacturing phase.

Rapid replacement of the current industrial infrastructure and equipment, therefore, entails a large burst of energy use and carbon emission. This defeats the purpose.

Maybe the Glasgow summit can give respite to the growth-based, consumption-oriented global economy. Like the problem, as accepted by the IPCC for the first time, the solution must be anthropogenic. Because people cannot fail the Earth.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.

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