WHAT will the global environment be like in 2050? LJ will be 60; Cal Dean will 64. And I will not be around!
Let’s face it, there has been no abatement in CO2, the primary greenhouse gas, since 2007 or 1960.
Scientists still debate what the exact impact this will have on global temperatures and weather, but they do agree on one thing: the frequency and intensity of storms will increase dramatically. James Hansen’s Storms of My Grandchildren is an excellent insight into this ominous scenario. Or more current, the recent (2011) Guardian report on the crazy world weather patterns (written prior to the European freeze of February 2012). Keeping an objective track of it all is Dr Jeff Masters.
Let’s be clear. We have the scientific knowledge and modelling to provide a comprehensive understanding of climate change and its consequences. We also have the scientific and technical knowledge to mitigate climate change at this stage. We have the technology to provide non-fossil energy sources and the technical knowhow to dramatically reduce energy consumption, whether its in building, manufacturing, agriculture or transport.
So, what is stopping us from mitigating climate change, nationally and globally?
This question has to be asked because in doing so, it becomes clear where the education, training and skills development focus must be in the time span we have between now and 2050. We need to see 2050 as the pointy end of the stick and work backwards from there.
There seems to be nine main obstacles to taking concerted action.
1. The fetishism of economic growth. Sir Nicholas Stern remarked in 2007 that climate change was ‘the greatest market failure in history’. The by-product of its inefficiency is global pollution and waste.
2. The privatisation of energy sources (mining and production). The control of energy sources (coal primarily) and distribution is in the hands of private companies that make decisions in terms of profits, not on the basis of social good.
3. The fear of capital loss (previous investment). Investment has been already made into buildings, infrastructure and equipment that generally has at least a 25 year life cycle. Buildings built today with inefficient energy demand will not be revisited until at least 2037.
4. The imperviousness of knowledge silos. So problems are passed on from one silo to another rather than working collaboratively on solutions. It also means that although one aspect may be dealt with, the energy stream is often not.
5. The politics of vested interests. Political parties and governments heed the call of powerful interests, particularly conservative corporations and mining companies.
6. Propaganda. People are paid by vested interests to deny climate change, and the media that promotes debate and seemingly remain neutral, confuses popular concern and action.
7. Imperceptibility of change. There’s a subtlety about changing climate. The one incident (floods in southern Queensland) is never directly caused by climate change. At a personal level, change difficult to reference: it seems like the weather has always been like this. Unless it’s reported as a ’100-year event’, but this begs the question: what happens if the event is worse next year, or in 5 year’s time?
8. Nose to the grindstone. Most of us are just too busy to be concerned, and don’t want bad news to spoil our party or positive outlook regarding our family, career, education, longevity or whatever. No time for research or reflection. We just don’t want to hear about the bleak predictions of the future.
9. Buck passing. I won’t do anything until you do something, after all you started it, or our contribution is so negligible (in global terms), it’s not worth the trouble.