Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Make Them Stay
The Doha climate change summit now underway appears likely to end inconclusively as have all the international climate change summits that preceded it over the past 18-years. About the only agreement may be where to hold the next climate change summit.
By now it should be obvious that the format being used doesn't work. Recalcitrants, like Canada, can show up, drag their heels, get their tickets punched, and they're good to go until the next summit. On and on and on. 18 years worth and counting.
Here's a thought. Since anthropogenic global warming is the greatest threat facing our civilization and since 18-years of climate change summits haven't even slowed the growth of greenhouse gas emissions much less reduced them, maybe it has come time to gather up every country's environment minister, aides and negotiators; lock them all up in a big arena and tell them they're staying put until they have hammered out a deal that works.
Look, global warming is a huge problem but it's only one huge problem. There are others. And, once we do get a workable fix for global warming, we're going to have to turn our attention to the other threats to our survival as a species.
We need collaborative fixes for a host of problems, some global others regional, including overpopulation; population migration; air, water and soil contamination of all varieties; preservation of global fisheries; deforestation and desertification; species, disease and pest migration; the freshwater crisis; over-consumption, allocation and waste of renewable resources; and a host of security issues including terrorism, food insecurity, nuclear weapons proliferation and destabilizing arms races now underway.
In other words, global warming, no matter how critical, is just the floating tip of an iceberg of challenges and threats overdue for our attention as a family of nations. Yet we're in a state of dysfunction so debilitating that we're not even talking about these much less making any genuine effort to find solutions. Now, if you're still with me, ask yourself why not?
Believe it or not, with this ever towering tsunami of global woes, there are common links and, from them, common approaches to solutions. There are common threads that run through all these problems. The most obvious one is that they're all, to a significant degree, man made. They're of our making. The good news is that means we can undo them although that may not be as easy or pleasurable as it was creating them.
So what are these common threads? You find them. Take a look at the problems listed (bear in mind my list is representative, not exhaustive) and try to find the ties by which they're linked. And then try to identify the most common solutions that come to your mind. There is no one perfect solution, no magic wand. There are, however, a handful that form a basic tool kit for cleaning up our mess. Have a go.
Two things to bear in mind. There are brilliant types, like anthropologist Jarred Diamond, who make a convincing case that the sort of problems I have listed here, including global warming, are of a magnitude that we cannot solve them in isolation of each other. We cannot solve any of them unless we solve them all.
The second thing is that we don't have another 18-years to forge a workable, effective international consensus to slash carbon emissions. Some give us no more than another four to five years to begin implementing major emissions reductions. Are you really willing to bet they're wrong?
And, meanwhile, let's keep those buggers in Doha until they get climate change sorted out.