Friday, May 25, 2018

Like a Punch In the Gut

Five words that sum up a lawsuit underway against the European Union. Five words that perhaps should be a rallying cry for people around the world.

We Can't See a Future

Lawyers acting for a group including a French lavender farmer and members of the indigenous Sami community in Sweden have launched legal action against the EU’s institutions for failing to adequately protect them against climate change. 
A case is being pursued in the Luxembourg-based general court, Europe’s second highest, against the European parliament and the council of the European Union for allowing overly high greenhouse gas emissions to continue until 2030. 
The families, including young children, claim their lives have been blighted by the policy decisions in Brussels, and that the EU’s inadequate emissions targets will cause more suffering. 
The legal complaint asserts that the EU’s existing climate target to reduce domestic greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030, compared with 1990 levels, does not protect their fundamental rights of life, health, occupation and property.
The litigants, from Portugal, Germany, France, Italy, Romania, Kenya, Fiji, and the Swedish Sami Youth Association Sáminuorra, say the EU should define a higher reduction target.

We Can't See a Future 

Be honest. Can you? Can you see a future for your grandchildren that protects their "fundamental rights of life, health, occupation and property"? Can you see that in the policies your government is pursuing today? Of course you can't because your government isn't making a secure future for our grandchildren its priority. If it was it would be saying, "Okay, there's the objective. What must we do to reach it?" 

Only your government isn't doing that, not even close. They're muttering about carbon pricing, a policy that is not connected to meaningful outcomes. How does a carbon tax, this far into the 21st century, secure future generations rights of life, health, occupation and property? It doesn't. It's window dressing and nothing more. What connects paltry carbon taxes to a livable future for the next generation? Nothing. There is no connection. It's merely a gestural response especially coming from a government hell bent on flooding world markets with toxin-laced, high-carbon bitumen.

Can courts force governments to change course?
In 2015, a court in The Hague ordered the Dutch government to cut its emissions by at least 25% within five years, ruling that its plans to cut emissions by 14-17% compared with 1990 levels by 2020 were unlawful, given the scale of the threat posed by climate change. The government has appealed the decision, which will be heard in The Hague on Monday.
Science has spoken, loudly and clearly. We must decarbonize our economy and our society as rapidly as possible. As in "now." We don't have another 20 or 30 years to screw around. It's not going to be easy and it's not going to be cheap but we have to do it, now.

People hit by drought, people hit by floods, people hit by severe storm events of increasing frequency, duration and intensity, people hit by sea level rise - these are real people, victims of our inaction. This is just the start. So why are we continuing to subsidize Canada's fossil energy giants to the tune of nearly $46 billion a year?

With the political parties we have today - Liberal, Conservative, New Democrat - we can't see a future. I wish so many of us didn't prefer it that way.


Karl Kolchak said...

Decarbonize the economy and you'll have a massive across-the-board economic crash. The dirty little secret about alternative energy is that it will never be able to replace fossil fuels and support the kind of lifestyle we in the west have come to expect while also admitting billions of other people into the global middle class.

This is likely the real reason why governments--even ones who talk a good game--continue to not take action. It's a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation, and they have decided to try to keep the system propped up as long as they can and hope they'll be long dead when the real crisis begins.

If you don't believe what I just wrote, ask yourself how many people you know--even the most liberal among them--would be willing to give up their cars, their electronic gadgets, their vacations, their single family homes (if they have one), air conditioning in summer, central heat in the winter and a college education for their children. Because losing all of that would just be a start.

Toby said...

Karl, if all we do is stop then you are right. However, if we don't change course we are screwed. Rock and a hard place. We need, the whole world needs, governments with alternate visions that tackle the problems you point to.

The Mound of Sound said...

Karl, I can't argue with the reality you describe. We have become nihilistic. This is discussed by Jared Diamond in his book, "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Succeed or Fail." In it he provides examples of long defunct societies, some of which took decisions for their immediate advantage knowing that they were initiating their own ultimate demise.

Diamond's examples were of individual societies, usually regional or tribal communities, that disappeared while many other contemporary societies survived, even flourished.

What makes our predicament more vexing is that it extends to a global society, civilization itself, and it encompasses a host of existential threats from climate change to overpopulation to the depletion and exhaustion of essential resources, renewable and non-renewable not to mention the ultimate mass extinction trigger, ocean acidification. A point Jared Diamond drives home is that when you have a matrix of these interconnected, existential threats, you either fix them all or you ultimately fail to fix all of them. I cannot see that he's wrong.

I don't know what people would be willing to do if they were confronted with reality and given options, which has not happened. What have we done in the past in times of great crisis? We are not the first to face enormous danger. That said, compared to societies in the past, today we may have become astonishingly enfeebled.