Climate change and empty promises

Last week, the two biggest polluters in the world announced a pledge to curb greenhouse gases. Barack Obama pledged that the United States would cut emissions 26-18% by 2025. China pledged to use 20% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030.

Unfortunately, not only are these promises non-binding, they are too little, too late. It is ironic that this pledge, along with Obama’s promise of $3 billion to the world’s poorest nations to help them cope with climate change, is made only one year after the same Barack Obama praised the deadly practice of hydro fracking as a means to increase oil production and boasted, “We have produced more oil at home than we have in 15 years,” and “We produce more natural gas than ever before.” This is nothing to brag about. According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC,) unless we cut them 70% by 2050, and go to zero emissions by 2100, the poorest countries may as well use that $3 billion to build Noah’s ark.

According to scientists at MIT, as we pollute the earth’s atmosphere with carbon emissions, the effect traps long wave infrared energy coming from the Earth. The atmosphere then emits less of this long-wave radiation to space because the Earth’s surface is warmer than the upper atmosphere. The Earth gradually heats up under this blanket and hotter objects emit even more long-range radiation. This is the effect we are seeing now. But it is going to get worse. In the long-term, the warming effect will be multiplied when the Earth begins to absorb more shortwave radiation from the sun. Imagine a world covered in tanning oil, intensifying climate change and giving the Earth a severe “sunburn.” Melting ice will create darker surfaces that absorb more heat. Since warmer air holds more water vapor, the Earth will absorb even more shortwave radiation that would otherwise bounce back off of clouds and snow.

Increased freezing spells from the polar vortex, lightning strikes, dead zones in oceans, rivers and lakes devoid of oxygen, severe droughts and desertification, killer hurricanes and tornadoes, species extinctions and reduced crop yields are only a few things we have to look forward to.

There will also be a 100% increase in ocean acidification which, with the present overfishing that is likely to increase, will result in the complete depletion of fish reserves responsible for feeding over a billion people on Earth. Every coastal area and most coastal nations will be completely underwater. Diseases like the Ebola virus, dengue fever and malaria will become mega-epidemic and wipe out millions of people like the black plague. Once these combined effects reach a tipping point, infrastructures break down, governments become ineffective, and it is “every man for himself.”

In short, if we keep on the collision course we are on now, in less than 100 years we will be back to the feudal age, or worse, the Stone Age. We already have the technology to replace our dependence on fossil fuels and produce 100% of the energy we need by renewable sources, such as wind, solar, hydro and wave power, tides and geothermal heat by 2030. So why don’t we? The answer is the multi-billion dollar fossil fuel industries like oil and gas. Instead of reinvesting their enormous profits in renewable energy generation, they continue “business as usual” policies which will cost governments trillions of dollars to sustain.

This doom and gloom of all this is, theoretically, completely avoidable. Voting against climate change denying politicians may help divert the effectiveness of the fossil fuel lobbies. Buying electric and hybrid cars, and boycotting such companies as General Electric, Chevron, Conoco, Shell and Exxon Mobil will help, but the most effective tool to avoid the effects of climate change is education and awareness. Recognizing this issue as the most important geopolitical issue of our time, as well as the most important environmental issue, will shave years of achieving the goal that we must achieve in order to survive in the life as we know it on Earth today.

Kenneth Eade is a best-selling author and international lawyer based in Los Angeles,

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