Policy Paralysis on Climate Change – Why We Must Reverse the Trend

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It is time we get serious, much more serious about climate change. Three recent events led me to share my thinking on what I believe is the most serious threat posed to the planet earth:

  1. New York Times reported on May 10th  that the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii recorded a full day of CO2 reading > 400 ppm for the first time in probably the last 3 million years. Since the industrial revolution, there is a 41% increase in CO2 levels, which we can think of as an instant, blink of an eye, in geological parlance.
  2. The Economist reports that “on April 16th the European Parliament voted to reject an attempt to bolster Europe’s flagship environmental programme, the Emissions Trading System (ETS). Carbon prices, already low, plunged. The emerging network of global carbon trading and European climate policy as a whole could sink.”
  3. Publication of a report in April 2013, by Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute (Wiseman, Edwards, and Luckins) Post Carbon Pathways: Towards a Just and Resilient Post Carbon Future and Conversations with World’s Leading Climate Change Researchers, Policy makers and Activists that has some hard hitting messages for the policy makers.

It is time that we start to take the threat imposed by climate change much more seriously. In fact, the policy paralysis that exists on this topic today is downright scary and suicidal considering that once we have exhausted the system buffer (in the form of CO2 carrying capacity) then it will be too late for any action to result in a meaningful change. And, most respected and reasonable scientists are predicting that the pace of climate change is going to accelerate in future. At a time, when each and every country should be taking concrete actions to mitigate and adapt to the serious threats posed by climate change, it is hard to believe the level of apathy and sense of resignation that is prevalent today.

The Post Carbon Pathways report calls for the following actions to overcome the political roadblocks:

  • Clear understanding of the necessity and possibility of an emergency speed transition to a just and resilient post-carbon future
  • Broad recognition of the potentially enormous social and economic benefits of switching investment from fossil fuels to energy efficiency, renewable energy and carbon sequestration
  • Game changing social and technological innovation
  • Decisive leadership and skilful implementation by communities, business and government at every level of society

What is needed is not hand wringing and helplessness in the face of a complex, multi-dimensional, and a truly global problem but a paradigm shift in the way the environmental costs of emitting carbon is calculated and apportioned and how quickly we are able to create the awareness in the communities which will pave the way for decisive and inspiring leadership.

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