As the world’s leaders gather in Paris this week to belatedly address the urgent threat of climate change, China and India are blanketed in smog so thick that it has been declared a health hazard.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are among 151 heads of state trying to find a global path to clean energy. So are President Barack Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
In a historic deal with President Obama, President Xi Jinping has promised that clean sources, including solar and wind power, will produce 20 percent of China’s total energy production in the next 15 years.
And, in a one-and-one meeting with the US president, Prime Minister Modi agreed that closer co-operation between their countries is needed in addressing the urgency of climate change .
The Vatican has released a statement appealing to the leaders of nations attending the climate change conference to find a solution to the crisis.
It seems the world is waking up at last. But if talking could solve the world’s pollution problems, they would have been solved long ago.
And action is not as easy as you and I might think.
It’s true that some parts of the developed world are increasingly embracing clean-energy technology, but developing countries insist they need to go slow on curbing carbon pollution as they struggle to rise out of poverty.
President Obama is reportedly pledging $3 billion to help poorer nations deal with this dilemma. And business leaders are putting their financial muscle behind an effort to make clean energy more affordable.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, billionaire George Soros, Saudi Prince Alaweed bin Talal, and Jack Ma of China’s Alibaba are among more than two dozen business leaders who have so far joined that global crusade.
But the climate change crusaders will have stubborn opposition.
It’s not just developing nations that face financial loss as the world struggles to reduce fossil fuel pollution. In US regions like Kentucky and West Virginia, coal mining is an essential part of the economy.
In other areas across the US, oil and gas are major job producers.
Emergence of a robust clean energy industry would create jobs in some areas, of course, but jobs in other areas would disappear. The politicians representing areas that would be adversely affected are digging in their heels.
And, even more to the point, the fortunes of billionaires like the Koch brothers are based on oil and coal. They are not going to stand idly by as clean energy eats into their profits.
In this high-stakes conflict, Republican leaders have chosen to deny that man-made pollution has significant impact on the climate. They are the political front for the fossil-fuel industry, after all, and represent voters in districts dependent on the industry.
While President Obama preaches pollution control to the rest of the world, Republicans in Congress are planning to repeal his latest climate control action – limiting carbon emissions from power plants. And some Republican leaders are traveling to Paris to register their opposition to pollution control.
Meanwhile, temperatures are climbing, the polar caps are melting, sea levels are engulfing coastal regions, and the global warming nightmare predicted by scientists draws ever closer.