Sunday, 16 August 2015

Why strategies for carbon reduction will not succeed? 2 little 2 late...

Earlier in the 20th century, there was a consensus among climate experts the 350 ppm co2 emissions would be the upper limit beyond which green house gasses would lead to significant climate changes.This level was breached by 1980. Then the next target was pegged at 400 ppm, with liberal fallback to 450 ppm depending upon the differential impact on climate pattern in different places. Based upon these end goals, varying carbon emission reduction targets have been assigned to all countries.  
According to the Presidential Climate Action Report, “In order to stabilize CO2 concentrations at about 450 ppm by 2050, global emissions would have to decline by about 60% by 2050. Industrialized countries greenhouse gas emissions would have to decline by about 80% by 2050”. The thumb-rule applied is the each year a 2 ppm co2e is acceptable. Recently in march 2015, the 400 ppm milestone mark was breached. This has sent the climate activists and environmentalists into worried huddles. At this rate by 2050, the co2e levels would probably reach 470 ppm, which would be in the red flag territory. Already climate change and extreme events are increasing exponentially. The list of extreme events during the past two years beggars all imagination spread across all continents.
The unusual freak occurrences are the severe storms which battering the US east coast, unprecedented hurricanes and twisters, flooding, earthquakes, soaring temperatures, plummeting temperatures, melting glaciers, rising sea levels, sinking cities. Climate refugees have trying to gain toehold in developed economies. Most of these refugee are from Africa which is reeling from extreme weather and dwindling agricultural production which has provided a fecund ground for breeding fundamentalists and terror.  These climate events also have to be viewed against a background of weakening global economy. Most of Europe is mired in deep debt. Except Germany and a few more economically strong economies like in Scandinavia and relatively UK, the others are just too weak to implement strong green measures or even absorb climate refugees.  
We are too deep into our hyper energy intensive lifestyles. Everyone is talking of a transition process where gradually fossil fuels will be, Apart from the high cost of reducing carbon emissions and adopting other green measures, there are a host of factors which are impeding a wholesale rewind of the high energy intensive lifestyle moat which humankind has built around themselves in the blind pursuit of  so called highly developed and technological societies which now are stifling their very creators ie humans.
All pointers are towards a sixth mass extinction.No strategy for replacing by greener sources like solar with no finite time frame. No one is talking of:
  1. Voluntary reduction of energy use and energy guzzling gadgets.
  2. Reducing and eliminating fossil fuel based energy in say five years or so.
  3. Walking to work and fulfilling all chores, thus reducing production of cars, and instead only permitting green public transport.
  4. Staying in small eco friendly self sufficient green communes, thus changing the very structure and design of cities away from high energy intensive high rises ones These monsters are soak-pits which consume copious amounts of energy for lifts, air conditioning, pumps...
  5. Not wearing suits in summer which hikes up AC costs. This list can go on ad infinitum.
The intrinsic problem or crux of the matter is that the growth of these monstrous multi hydra so called icons of human development forms the very foundation of capitalism. The continuous development of new products, some based upon minor incremental improvements, is the principle of competition which demands companies have to continuously innovate in order the survive the hyper competition. With technology changing so fast in these nanosecond times, product life cycles are shortening. And humankind is forever being tempted to buy the latest gadgets and models. Inspite of all the advancement and better quality of life, humans are always craving for more. Retail therapy is the best way 90% of upper middle class and above realise their instant nirvana.
What i am trying to drive at is we are too deeply entrenched in all the goodies capitalism offers us. Any attempt to stop, reduce or ration the goodies would be unacceptable to the populace. They would rise in revolt. The need for these goodies is too deeply ingrained like the addiction of heroin. Hence the problem of reducing co2 emissions is not as simple as only curbing fossil fuel. There are just too many vested interests and lobbies in the coal industry. There are enough reserves of coal and crude to last out perhaps another 100 years. Hence from the supply side, it is too alluring a proposition to make profits for another three generations even though margins are declining both due to over supply and the fact that best quality crude and coal, generally the low hanging fruit, has already been exploited. Too add to this grim supply side scenario US has has commercially exploiting shale gas which is fraught with its own nemesis ie the fracking method leads to earthquakes...which in some US states has compounded 1000 fold! To literally... add oil to fire... speaking tongue in cheek...US has recently repealed a 40 year old ban they had on exporting oil...hence the supply side solutions are not easy to effectively implement.
Apart from the doublespeak on supply side, there a hilarious double chaos on the demand side. On one hand, rampant urbanisation has lead to chocking roads and highways which are further being clogged by ever increasing population of cars which are the toys of doom of the human race. Now all the best car companies are manufacturing in india and china to meet the bottomless appetite for cars by the rising nouveau riche. Even though several eco friendly cars have come out, but the overwhelming suicidal demand is still for the petrol and diesel versions. On the other hand, ironically city planners and administrators encourage mass rapid transit systems. Even though high proportion of commuters use the public transport systems, many of which in the developed countries are technologically advanced hybrid vehicles, still the march of cars is unabated. Cars have symbolically become the mascot of advanced humans, even though are hastening increase of co2 ppm levels to dangerous levels.
Plus the automotive industry, which has powerful lobbies, still feels that more fuel efficient cars can still drive the car sales for at least another 25 years. Habits die hard. By and large people still yearn for fuel based cars over electric cars. To add to the mounting crisis now driverless cars are emerging. Even if we transition to hydrogen cars one day, though co2 emission is minimal and limited to production of hydrogen varying upon process, still we will need steel for the bodies and alloys for engines production processes of which are carbon intensive also. There is no respite from co2 emissions.
The demand side is too chock full of human comfort and luxuries which have become necessities and essentials such as monsters like air conditioning (emitting hydrofluorocarbons), heating, lifts, cooking gadgets.....yes indeed we are slaves to electricity. Except solar power, all the rest have harmful greenhouse gas impact. There is no way we can significantly reduce these emissions within the next 30 years. The post modern industrial structure will not allow it since it will deal a death blow to capitalism apart from our conditioned needs and wants.
There is no turning back the clock since we are too conditioned and deeply dependent upon our energy intensive lifestyles. What we are experiencing today in terms of:
1)  global warning,
2) extreme climate,
3) melting glaciers and poles,
4) rising sea levels,
5) unprecedented floods, storms, droughts,
6) drying rivers,
7) depleting aquifer levels the cumulative effect of so called called progress since the industrial era started about 300 years ago. The momentum created will be impossible to arrest by the slew of half baked measures we are adopting. The root causes are not being addressed or even articulated. Too much doublespeak… double-think.... schizoid..... head buried in the sand ostrich like behaviour. Cars air conditioning are bad while new factories are being set up all the time for the rapidly growing emerging markets.  
Where are the viable alternative lifestyle solutions and strategies which can wean away humans from this morass of energy intensive urban nightmare existence? The bright lurid neon lights of mega cities are drawing them like veritable moth.  There is an urgent need for more integrated solutions like New Grammar of Life ( Such solutions would seem so austere and horrifying to the celluloid sensibilities and shallow culture youth and others today living on an energy intensive digital plane, the entrenched lobbies will never let their control over the masses go. Too much is at stake. They are not at all bothered about the mid and long term impact of such profligate living. Its almost like a Sodom and Gomorrah redux.    
Apart from the above, there are many more environmental degradation issues:
  • Millions of tons of plastic under the oceans rendering mutations in fishes and endangering species
  • Disposal of nuclear waste and submarines is reaching nightmarish proportions...rivers and oceans have been converted into radiation zones, which over time are spreading and leaving in their wake dead fish and flora
  • Energy inefficient structures, buildings, cities guzzling copious energy
  • Global garbage disposal crisis. Capitalist throwaway societies will malls spewing forth goodies for forever greedy consumers, now online amazon adding more cartoons to be disposed.
  • High co2 emission industries like steel, metals, energy, transport...which are compounding exponentially...
Capitalism is in its death throes. Negative interest rates, debt spiraling out of control in country after country. But nobody is questioning the root causes. Its lurching from side to side...veering precariously towards nether-land. But the show must go on…. Continuous innovation...excess capacity...eternal sales and discounts...companies failing...mergers...and so on...the virtuous circle goes on....
In a crazy scenario like this there is no coherent policy for saving the planet from the ravages of changing climate. There is a babel of voices. Paris 2015 may achieve some contrived consensus...which may be too little too late...we are already attuned to the unthinkable changes...accepting them numbly as the new norm...there no other option....
The hypocrisy still goes on ...getting stronger all the time...thick is the new black...most in a opiated world...still repeating like parrots...that we should be able to contain global warming to under 2 deg C by turn of century, while the likely figure could cross 3 to 4 deg C.. The truth is always juggled around for convenience. The masses must not know the truth. Daily stories of fresh new highs / lows being reached at various places. Falling upon deaf ears.
Now at the rate at which climate is will be very difficult to delay the cataclysmic impact which is forecast by NGL to happen by 2050 to 60....35 to 45 years from now. need to work out alternative scenarios. Likely scenario:
  • No more glaciers and poles...sea levels up by 3/4 meters....many major coastal cities under water...climate refugees
  • Vast tracts of arid land in tropics...agriculture severely affected....famines...climate refugees and wars and slaves
  • change of all major seasons....severe precipitation all the time...flooding...more climate refugee
  • Most severe winter storms...snow 12-15 ft high...rendering more uninhabitable areas...again climate refugees...
  • Severe pollution...killing millions....dying cities...
  • Dry major rivers..port cities..cradles of civilization...becoming history and memories...
  • precipitation all the time...flooding...more climate refugee

Indeed a surreal clifi future at hand...thin blur between fact and fiction...another 35 years of humanity before it becomes a frightened weak species (whatever survives) dominated by robots and AI....yes the surreal contours of a future stranger than scifi and clifi is close at hand...civilization is entering its most tempestuous times....a surreal movie unfurling before us day after day...with dream like vividness......

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