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Frontline Online: Is this the point of no return?
February 1st, 2013
by Lorna Howarth
The Ecologist's Lorna Howarth reports on news and action from the environmental frontline....
We need political leadership to drive an energy revolution
Greenpeace launched an important new report last week – The Point Of No Return – which states that if the corporations behind 14 of the world’s most climate-threatening energy projects continue to plough-ahead, despite growing evidence of their life-threatening impacts, then we will reach the point of no return for the climate and the possibility of retaining a life-sustaining planet.
Greenpeace are spearheading an ‘Energy Revolution’ Initiative based on the sobering fact that if global corporations and governments were to invest the same amount of resources in energy efficiency as they are investing in these 14 projects, we could save as much energy as these projects produce. How incredible is that!
The projects in question hardly need mentioning by name: they are the now infamous Tar Sands industries in Canada; the shale gas (fracking) industries in the US; the oil industries in the Arctic from Alaska through Greenland to Russia; the coal industry in China and others.
According to Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace International Executive Director, if these 14 projects go ahead we are “guaranteed a 4°C rise in global temperatures on pre-industrial levels.” Currently the temperature rise is 0.8°C and look at the repercussions: devastating droughts, floods, fires and storms.
“Science is clear on this – only fossil fuel lobbyists and climate sceptics disagree,” says Naidoo. It is estimated that there were 5 million deaths from climate-related impacts in 2013 – in 2050 it is estimated that there will be 100 million, if we don’t act now.
Greenpeace are similarly clear on the action required: invest seriously in energy efficiency policies now, so that these 14 climate-threatening projects become uneconomic and unnecessary. But we need political leadership to drive this revolution, and sadly, it is lacking.
Naidoo points out how difficult it is for parliamentarians to get an unbiased picture: in the US for example, for every one member of Congress, there are 3 fossil-fuel lobbyists baying at their door. “The United States of America has the best democracy money can buy,” says Naidoo – although like many environmentalists, he draws some hope from Obama’s impassioned inaugural speech.
“With intensive energy efficiency and renewables investment we could power 95% of planetary needs by 2050,” continues Naidoo. “So we have no need for a dangerous, toxic trade-off with the nuclear industry or the fossil-fuel industry.” The Report is timely: Obama’s inaugural speech is still ringing in our ears; the World Bank agrees that business-as-usual will bring about a 4°C rise in global temperatures; even economists like Joseph Stiglitz and PriceWaterhouseCooper are expressing concerns about the economic effects of climate change. But will global governance rise to the call? It is up to civil society to demand that they do so.
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