A MAJOR conflict erupted in 2019 between Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and French leader Emmanuel Macron, as thousands of fires engulfed the Amazon rainforest. Macron angrily accused his Brazilian counterpart of “ecoside” for allowing the looting of the world’s largest forest. He accused Bolsonaro of a heinous crime against the planet.
Needless to say, the Brazilian strongman was enraged and he countered by claiming that Macron “viewed Brazil as a colony or a no man’s land”.
âOur sovereignty is not negotiable,â he exclaimed.
It is the sovereignty that is in question. Is Brazil the keeper or owner of the rainforest? Should the world simply smile and put up with it while Bolsonaro demolishes this indispensable carbon sink and vital repository of plant and animal life?
Most people would agree that the behavior of the Brazilian leader is totally unacceptable, but what about Australia, a highly developed country, which continues to expand its production of coal, most of which is exported .
The Prime Minister of Canberra claims their coal is somehow cleaner than what is produced elsewhere. In reality, coal is by far the dirtiest fossil fuel, and it remains the largest source of climate-warming carbon dioxide in the world.
America, until recently overtaken by China, was the biggest polluter internationally. Even at the COP26 climate meeting in Glasgow, they refused to sign an ambitious anti-coal plan because they did not want to annoy Senator Joe Manchin, a key Senate vote, who represents West Virginia where black stuff is a big driver of economic activity.
India is booming economically with growth driven by fossil fuels. They argue that it is unfair to place restrictions on them as they try to meet the demands of a huge population. They refuse to embrace carbon neutrality, demanding instead that others, led by the United States, with much more responsibility for historic emissions, do more.
Indonesia and some African countries play the same card. They claim that given their underdevelopment and the deprivation of their resources by colonial powers, talking about rigid climate goals does not fit with their legitimate plans for economic progress.
These were debatable questions in the past, but now the future of the planet is at stake. There is a looming danger that, like Nero of old, we will play the violin while Rome burns down. Territorial sovereignty cannot be understood as the authorization to plunder collective resources.
According to the prestigious World Meteorological Organization, the heat accumulated by greenhouse gases “has propelled the planet into uncharted territory with profound repercussions for present and future generations”. Another expert described the crisis using more graphic images like “a deafening, howling smoke alarm going off in the kitchen”.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned that the past seven years have been the hottest on record. âFrom ocean depths to mountain peaks, from melting glaciers to relentless extreme weather events, ecosystems and communities around the world are devastated,â he said.
Every year the world loses an area of âârainforest the size of Costa Rica. More than a million plant and animal species are threatened with short-term extinction. It is even difficult to imagine the terrible extent of the destruction taking place.
Scientists are almost unanimous in saying that greenhouse gas emissions must be halved by 2030, but instead of reductions, they actually continue to increase. Limiting the increase to the threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius, a minimum sought by scientists, is no longer a realistic goal. In fact, even if all countries stick to the reductions they have previously committed to, temperatures are still expected to rise 2.7 degrees by the end of the century.
The Republican Party provides another cause for dejection. In 2008, John McCain was the party’s presidential candidate and he offered serious plans to alleviate the climate crisis.
Donald Trump’s time in the White House was a conservation disaster. He pulled America out of the Paris Climate Agreement and stripped the Environmental Protection Agency.
The GOP, a major political party, shamelessly continues in a state of denial that is very difficult to understand. Their depressing message: Our leader says this is all a hoax – and that he will likely be the party’s presidential candidate again in a few years.
Yet humanity will not give in easily as evidenced by the enthusiasm and real progress represented by the 20,000 delegates from nearly 200 countries at the Glasgow summit. They agreed to reduce deforestation by 85 percent by 2035 and adopt a similar but less ambitious program to minimize the use of charcoal.
In addition, they predict a significant 30% reduction in methane gas during this period. The experts showed there convincing charts and professional studies that prove the superior profitability of using wind, wave or solar power compared to coal, oil or gas.
Former Irish President Mary Robinson’s tearful plea in Glasgow to ban fossil fuels in order to save the planet echoed across borders. Young people roamed the city, emphasizing the serious positive impact of a carbon-free atmosphere on human health.
There were sweet celebrations towards the end of the conference when China and the United States, despite the frosty relationship between the two governments, agreed to “heighten their ambition” in the climate field and to find together ways of doing so. ‘go forward.
The capitalist system requires long-term planning as well as the accumulation of annual profits. The crisis is so threatening that recently major banks, pension funds and asset managers pledged as much as $ 130 trillion to finance the development of renewable energy, providing a strong optimistic message that there will be abundant funds to save the planet. Their money is in wind and solar as well as in new technologies.
There is also a great hope that a young generation will activate on this issue across the world. The votes of millennials and the generation that followed were major factors in Biden’s victory in 2020. The climate was a crucial issue for many of those voters.
Think about the inevitability of worsening catastrophic weather events and how their effects will influence legislative and presidential elections. Will the younger generations vote for a political party that completely denies the carbon crisis?
In Europe, the Green parties exert a great influence on policymaking. Democrats will benefit greatly from this issue in the United States.
We are in the early stages of new technologies that suck carbon from the atmosphere. Major new developments are underway in this area with a realistic expectation of positive climate consequences over the next decade.
Finally, we must recognize and make known the central moral dimension of this crisis because leaving a decaying and polluted world for future generations would be an act of crass immorality. The emblematic teaching of Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si states in the clearest and clearest terms why we must protect what he calls âour common homeâ.
The deep wisdom of the Pope’s message, supported by a range of other distinguished religious leaders, is being heard more and more from the pulpit, which will have increasing impact. This also gives reason to hope.
(Blogs by Gerry O’Shea at wemustbetalking.com)
Yonkers, New York
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