George Graham

Like Lemmings Running Toward a Cliff, We Ignore Climate Change

The Copenhagen calamity shows that the world is in denial. Forget about President Obama’s “non-binding” agreement. You and I know it’s not worth the paper it hasn’t even been written on yet. World leaders had to give him something to take home, so they gave him a Christmas card – with all the appropriate clichés but no plan of action.

cartoonYou and I – and any normally bright fifth grader – know the world’s climate is changing. And, while there are undoubtedly “natural” causes for this phenomenon, we know mankind is also to blame. People “need” cheap electricity and we burn coal and oil to get it. This releases pollutants that create a blanket around the Earth. And blankets make you warm. (I know there are people who claim it doesn’t work that way, but – to put it kindly – they’re mistaken.)

With George Bush gone, none of the world’s leaders deny the warming effect of carbon emissions. But they just can’t accept the fact that this will result in catastrophe – not any time soon, anyway. After all, they need cheap electricity and the only way they have of producing it is to burn coal and oil, so it must be OK to keep doing it. I know it doesn’t add up logically, but we’re talking politics, not logic.

You can understand why the leaders of China and India – and a host of smaller, poorer countries – would bury their heads in the sand when it comes to the threat of global warming. They are being shafted – big time. After centuries of lagging behind Great Britain, Europe and America, they are finally getting their chance to industrialize. It’s the ticket out of dire poverty for hundreds of millions of their people. Now, they’re being told they have to “cut back” because industrialization is clogging the Earth’s atmosphere.

So, after the West has reaped the fruits of industrialization – and fouled the atmosphere doing it – Western leaders are telling the rest of the world, sorry guys but you can’t industrialize. You have to cut back.

You might wonder why the developing countries don’t just switch to green energy. But they don’t have green energy; they have coal and oil. I know you’ve read articles about solar powered stoves in the Sahara and wind farms in America, and I know you’ve heard about electric cars and fuel produced from algae, and …

But that stuff is coming in a scattered drizzle when the world needs a flood of new technology. Ironically, while America does most of the talking, it’s China that has taken the lead in trying to develop “clean” energy. I doubt that China is primarily motivated by global warming worries; I think the Chinese are smart enough to realize that they can make a bundle if they are the first to come up with technology for mass-producing the tools of a “green revolution.”

The Copenhagen conference spotlighted a terrifying stalemate, but there may be a way forward. Suppose the developed countries really concentrated on perfecting the technology for mass-producing clean energy, and suppose they offered to build “green” (but efficient) power plants and factories in the poorer countries; perhaps that would help to end the impasse.

Of course, it would be absurd for the West to offer financial aid to China, which already has so much of America’s paper money (and IOU’s) that it hardly knows what to do with it. But the Chinese might be interested in sharing our technological innovations – assuming there’s enough creativity left in the West to produce innovations.

The problem is that sharing American technology with China would provoke intense outrage. Conservatives would be marching in the streets, with little teabags hanging from their hats, waving signs denouncing the coming of a New World Order. From what I’ve seen so far, the Obama administration isn’t likely to risk making those folks any angrier than they already are. The president’s self-confessed style is to smile and make no sudden moves.

So I am pessimistic about the prospects for finding effective solutions to the climate change crisis. Politicians will continue to wrangle while the ice caps melt and the oceans rise. But one thing is certain, if Mankind does not come up with a solution, Mother Nature will. If nothing is done to curb current trends, the rising water will eventually put out the fires of those coal and oil burning plants.

About the author

gwgraeme

I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for Jamaicans.com