By ANIS H. BAJREKTAREVIC
A major new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was just released in Korea on Oct. 8, and although it is nearly 800 pages long and includes more than 6,000 scientific references, it can be summarized in few sentences:
The average global temperature is now 1 degree Centigrade above its pre-industrial levels. That increase is already causing more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, and it is damaging untold numbers of land and sea ecosystems.
A 1.5 degree increase, likely by 2040, will make things worse. A 2 degree increase will be far worse than that. Only radical socioeconomic and politic diplomatic change can stop catastrophe. The world’s leading climate scientists have warned there are only a dozen years left for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5 degrees. Beyond that, an irreversibility effect would be set into motion. Even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.
To avoid the most serious damage requires transforming the world economy within just a few years, said the authors, who estimate that the damage would come at a cost of a fantastic $54 trillion. This transformation goes – of course – beyond what we usually label as economy. It requires a change of entire human dynamics — moods and preference of how we extract, manufacture, distribute, consume, spend, live, travel, power all that, think and teach.
Reactions are folding: “Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Centigrade above pre-industrial levels would be a herculean task, involving rapid, dramatic changes in the way that governments, industries and societies function” – says Nature magazine. Science Daily predicts: “Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society … with clear benefits to people and natural ecosystems, limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees compared to 2 degrees could go hand-in-hand with ensuring a more sustainable and equitable society.”
However, for the informed and willing ones, all was clear already with the Rio summit. Back then, I was quick to react: It was me being one of the very first to concept and introduce (and set as obligatory) the subject of sustainable development (along with environment ethics) in the universities of Europe. Thus, for the past two decades, I’ve been teaching my students that: “Currently, the amount of crops, animals and other biomatter we all extract from the earth each year exceeds what such a small planet can replace by an estimated 20 percent – meaning it takes almost 14.4 months to replenish what we use per annum … deficit spending of the worst kind.”
Since the environmental degradation (including the accelerated speed of extinction of living species and loss of biodiversity) knows no borders – sustainable development is a matrix of truly global dimensions.
In the meantime, the climate change nihilists and paid lobbyists have dominated the global media by accusing this sort of constructivism and predictive education as environmental alarmism and scientific sensationalism. This is how we lost almost three decades from Rio over Johannesburg, Copenhagen, Kyoto and Paris, to come to our current stalemate: an abyss of “only 12 years left” diagnosis.
How shall we now tackle our past optimism about the possibilities and the current pessimism about the probabilities? How do we register our future claims rapidly and effectively on preservation of overall human vertical when we systematically ridiculed and dismissed every science short of quick profit (or defensive modernization), when we pauperized and disfranchised more people of this planet in past few decades than ever before in history?
Hence, the rapid, far-reaching changes to almost every facet of society are needed to avoid catastrophic climate change, reforms far beyond anything governments are currently either doing or planning to do. Additionally, it will require a complete reversion of our lifestyles and socio-economic fashions, passions and drives – e.g. elimination of “here-us-now” over-consumerism of everything tangible and nontangible.
Are we are able to mobilize our socially fractured and anti-intellectualised globe that fast and that solidly?
The world must invest $2.4 trillion in clean energy every year from now through 2035 and cut the use of coal-fired power to almost nothing by 2050 to avoid catastrophic damage from climate change, according to scientists convened by the United Nations. That, of course, includes an elimination of oil and gas from our primary energy mix (PEM), as well as total eradication of the ICE-powered cars (of both diesel and petrol/benzin). All that is required within the following decade.
What changes will this new “Cambrian explosion” cause on adaptive and non-adaptive inorganic clusters and systems of our biota, and its group dynamics? Notably, what impact will it have on the traditionally automotive-industry leaning regions, and what will be its impact on the aviation industry – which, at least when it comes to continental Europe, could have been grounded decades ago – since even at our current technological level, rail transportation would be cheaper, faster and safer than planes? What implication does it bring to the extremely crude-exporting dependent Middle East, which is situated in the geographic center of our planet, but at the periphery of human progress? This is to name but a few of the numerous implications and unanswered dilemmas and even unasked questions.
No doubt, our crisis is real, but it is neither sudden nor recent. Our environmental, financial and political economic policies and practices have created the global stress for us and untold number of other species. Simply put, our much-celebrated globalization deprived of environmental and social concerns, as well as from a mutual and fair cooperation (instead of induced confrontation and perpetuated exclusion) caged us into the ecological globalistan and political terroristan. (The acidifying of our oceans and brutalization of our human interactions are just two sides of a same coin. It is the social sphere for society that is the biosphere for life on Earth, since what we euphemistically call anthropogenic climate change is actually a brutal war against nature.)
The world based on agreed principles that – besides businesses and governments – involves all other societal stakeholders, recaptured global cohesion and commonly willing actions to create not just a better place. It is the only way for the human race to survive.
Deep and structural, this must be a crisis of our cognitivity. Therefore, the latest climate change report is only seemingly about climate. It is really a behavioristic study on (the dead end of) our other cc – competition and confrontation, instead of cooperation and (all-inclusive) consensus. Simply, it is the report on our continued global jihad against the cognitive mind.
Anis H. Bajrektarevic is a chairperson and professor in international law and global political studies in Vienna, Austria. He has authored six books and numerous articles on geopolitics energy and technology.