By JR on Monday, May 30, 2011
The true successors of Mussolini, Lenin and Pol Pot leave their predecessors in the shade: "Climate change demands we re-engineer the world economy now"
As an alarm call, the surge in emissions revealed by the International Energy Association is deafening. After the banking crisis of 2008, the cooling of the global economy had appeared to have given our wheezing, warming world pause for breath.
As GDP went into reverse, so did energy use and the pumping of planet-heating gases into the atmosphere. Attempts to agree global action went into reverse at the same time, despite the 120 heads of state who burned the midnight oil in Copenhagen in 2009.
But while the global economy has roared back to life, the UN's negotiations remain on life support, and with little hope of recovery.
Two truths emerge from this mismatch. First, the link between economic growth and carbon dioxide must be broken. The world's economy runs on energy, and while most of that power continues to comes from coal, oil and gas, global GDP and carbon emissions will be bound together in lockstep. The latest data show a near perfect correlation, and that shows how little impact, in a worldwide context, renewable and nuclear power is making.
Second, the rich industrialised world and the poor developing world must align their hopes and fears: they inhabit the same planet. All nations are united in understanding that unchecked climate change poses a grave threat in every part of the world.
Citizens in London, New York and Tokyo have grown rich from a century or more of fossil-fuelled industrialisation. They have the most wealth to lose and are, with notable exceptions, the keenest to cut carbon fast. But for those in Delhi, Rio and Beijing, where economic growth surges onwards, the improvement of living standards, from electricity to education, is even more pressing than reducing emissions.
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