Originally published in It’s Getting Hot In Here.
Suppose you’re a business major attending a great business school. Your chances of being wealthy are pretty high. Ten years later, you decide to live near a poor neighborhood, but your standard of living is high (i.e. you have more than what you need and you produce lots of wastes). There are no services to pick up waste, so you decide to dump it in the area where the poor people live. They, on the other hand, don’t produce as much waste, and probably can’t do more than complain because you’ve got the big bucks and you can get them into trouble if you wanted to. You try to calm them by explaining that there’s no harm and that they should go on their daily lives as usual. But eventually, some scientists get together and show this waste is killing these people, and morally it is clear to the judge that you’ve gotta clean up your act. Not only do you have to take out their stuff, but you gotta figure out where your waste is going (or you gotta stop producing it) and you gotta compensate them for their loss. Or did you think you were playing some game on X-Box where you do whatever the hell you wanted at no cost?
Today, a report was released concluding that world agriculture will drop by 16% by the year 2080. By then, our population will probably have grown by 30-50%. Most of the drop will be in developing nations, many of which will be developed by then, unless global warming says otherwise. This will mean absolute chaos.
Another report mentioned that dirty energy was affecting the health of 2 billion people worldwide. This doesn’t include those people whose health is being affected by simply thinking about the fact that we’re still heavily based on fossil fuels! And just today, the price of oil hit $80/barrel. Italy also came out with a report saying that they were warming faster than anywhere else, and that climate change would take off 30-50 of their GDP with business-as-usual. Then came a security report saying that global warming will be equivalent to a global nuclear war!
So, on one hand we’ve got rich nations that have dumped 75% of all greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, on another we’ve got billions of people being victims of waste the developed nations dumped on them, and on some other magical hand we have tons of evidence saying we’re guaranteed a flight to hell if we don’t do something serious.
We are at a tipping point. It is time to get rid of barriers to a complete elimination of fossil fuels. And it is time to get serious about this. There is one thing we really need, and that is to show this nation and the rest of the developed world that climate neutrality needs to be reached within 20 years and that making the world climate neutral will involve EQUITY. Equity because we’re that rich guy dumping the trash on those poor guys. If we are to achieve something that will extend our lives on this planet, it is the complete control of what happens at the post-Kyoto treaty. This international agreement needs to make sure this happens:
1) Binding commitment to a climate neutral world within 20 years, with no make-it-easy-for-the-rich junk like CDM, JI, or cap-and-trade on certain industries. The commitment needs a complete transformation of the electrical grid, the transportation system, etc.
2) The pumping of at least 3/4 of all the money developing nations will need to shut down their power plants, pay those plant owners and transform their transport system equitably, and get fully powered by renewables.
3) Pay for developing nations at least 75% of the expenses that will go into adapting to the crazy climate they’ll continue to have.
If the language isn’t the same everywhere, if the urgency about how serious this stuff is getting isn’t there, if people aren’t thinking beyond “leadership” and understanding equity, and if a movement isn’t calling for a climate neutral world, then we can say that the only tipping point we’ll see will be the one that will plunge us into climate hell.
If you still think this is radical, not feasible, not strategic, a different issue, situation, scale, or whatever else, put yourself in the position of the poor people who could do nothing or knew nothing about the waste the rich guy was dumping on them. If you’re a human, what you want is a complete elimination of what’s happening and compensation for what you lost, not just removal of a bit of trash. Reality is not what the politicians or the business people are telling us they can do; reality is what needs to happen if the world where the poor people and the rich guy live is truly just.
If it isn’t, then recognize that the Earth will roast us like chicken within our lifetime. If it isn’t, then why do we allow it? If it isn’t, then why don’t we make it? The only tipping point that will save us is a global commitment to climate neutrality and climate equality! The path: frame the message!