of consumption without consequences is over."
So said UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon during the April 22, 2016 Climate
Change Meeting at the United Nations in New York City. For the first time, an overwhelming majority of member states -- 175
(including North Korea) -- signed the climate agreement reached in Paris at the COP21 meeting in December 2015. Each country
promised to submit its "instruments of ratification" designed to reduce carbon emissions to meet the COP21 goal
of a global temperature rise of no more than 2° Celsius (3.6° Fahrenheit) by 2020. See UN Messenger of Peace Leo DiCaprio's
CONFERENCE IN PARIS, 12/12/2015 ... A WORKABLE AGREEMENT
Not this ....
took an extra day to agree to agree, but on December 12 at the COP 21 Global Climate Conference in Paris, 195 countries as
diverse as you can get, agreed that we all have to commit to something
soon, and one of most reasonable ways to start is to take advantage of what
we already have: nature, particularly forests, since trees are one of the best absorbers of CO2, while we devise
clever technologies to capture and store the stuff that is rendering cities literally unbreathable.
CLIMATE CHANGE IS AN OPPORTUNITY
Floods, droughts, violent storms, and rapid,
random, and merciless changes in lifestyles suggest we might be more fragile than we knew. Working
from the belief that fossil fuels have changed earth’s climate significantly, COP 21 specifically addressed the astonishing
changes of the past 165 years without getting lost in scientific or political arguments over whether or not climate change
exists. They also agreed that it is everyone's responsibility to engage in reducing carbon emissions and to create adaptive
measures that work for all. http://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-the-final-paris-climate-deal
For wealthy countries like the United States, it
was a question of placing funds in the right places at the right times. Secretary of State John Kerry emphasized that researching
and developing new climate technologies is a rising tide that will float all boats, creating new jobs as well as a purposeful
sense of participation. Including businesses in the solution takes the burden off government and provides business smarts.
At the conference were reps from business, including Bill Gates, whose Breakthrough Energy Coalition is a collection of billionaire
entrepreneurs dedicated to creating clean end affordable energy. http://www.breakthroughenergycoalition.com/en/index.html.
Each of the
195 countries was coming from its own particular concerns. The Marshall Islands, the Philippines, and others in the Pacific
who are most-at-risk with measurable and scary changes underway lobbied for more stringent changes to cap the temperature
rise at 1.5o, rather than 2° Celsius. A group calling themselves the Like-Minded Group of Developing Countries
was new this year: they are countries with significant GDPs like China, India, and Saudi Arabia but which are still dealing
with establishing equitable economies at home. Even they committed to contributions for carbon reductions.
The big difference with this conference is that
whatever commitment plans countries come up with, they are not legally binding. Every five years they will be responsible
for accurate and honest reports on emissions reductions. Critics moan: It'll never work. But the thinking
behind it is that without a litigious sword hanging over their heads, countries will feel freer to experiment in inventing
new ways to reduce and capture carbon.
You Tube's choices for 10 Best Climate Change videos.
"Climate Change is an Opportunity" -- scroll through the videos for this one, especially.
Bertrand Piccard, co-developer with Andre Borschberg of Solar Impulse,
the first solar-powered plane to cross the ocean, shares his vision. The Solar Impulse II successfully crossed the
Pacific Ocean powered entirely by 17,000 photovoltaic cells spread across its 72-meter wingspan on April 22, landing
successfully in Mountain View, California. "The Pacific Ocean is done," Piccard said, before beginning the trip
across the United States with Andre Borschberg. From New
York City, powered by stored solar energy that allows for 70 km/h (43 mph), Solar Impulse will fly over the Atlantic
Ocean and on to Abu Dhabi to complete the round-the-world trip begun in March of last year. See: http://www.solarimpulse.com/
TURNING THE BATTLESHIP: IT TAKES AWHILE
It is estimated that half the world's population relies on wood and biomass for its energy. Coal,
for example, is a big bugaboo, but in some places, it's the most expedient source of energy --there's a lot of it in the ground,
and the technology has become a tradition for several generations of coal miners.
The trick is, clean coal technologies already
exist; it's only money that prevents them from being put to use while better alternative non-fossil fuel based energy is being
developed. (For the take on clean coal tech in the U.S., see http://energy.gov/fe/science-innovation/clean-coal-research)
Cars, anything with fuel-injection engines, are
equally grounded in several generations' livelihood and comfort, despite foul air. But is everyone changing to a bike?
It's complicated. Google, Apple and others are devising amazing alternatives. Tesla's Elon Musk rides the ups and downs of
producing a safe and affordable totally electric car. His recent Model 3, designed to be sleek and cost $35,000, has attracted
several hundred thousand reservations, and has inspired Musk [and, separately, GMC] to envision self-driving vans for urban
transport, currently top secret. Musk's Space X reusable rocket has successfully landed several times on a target on a ship
in the ocean. See: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-04-21/musk-s-secret-plan-to-curb-city-traffic-with-self-driving-bus
THE REAL VALUE
our individual part to reduce our energy footprint (all those things we know so well -- walk, don't eat meat, put out lights
you're not using, take navy showers, and share, share, share) has its own intrinsic value. Some will get rich devising ways
to capture and store carbon. And the person who invents the battery of all batteries will be enshrined forever. But where
the rubber meets the road, it is children where the value lies. They are most likely to suffer from asthma from polluted air,
to be swept away in floods, to be denied schooling because they must collect firewood for fuel, to be caught in epidemics.
Anything that can turn this around is worth a lot.
it is not just for the kids in the future, it's for the ones around now.
In May, 2013, an F5 tornado swept through Moore, Oklahoma, a city of about 54,000 people in the middle of
the afternoon, when kids were getting ready to go home. Parents and teachers knew the tornado drills, but this one was quick,
violent, and weird: it drove a mile-wide path through the city, then turned around and went back, leveling the hospital, more
then 1000 houses, and two schools. In the Plaza Towers Elementary School, a wall collapsed, killing seven children, sending
the survivors into a collective state of shock. The funeral director said he was in a unique position above and beyond just
burying the children. "We met with the mommies and daddies," he said, "and came up with not just a graveyard
for children, but a memorial to honor those seven souls." In several meetings with the parents who collectively
remembered their children's likes and dislikes, the community captured the children's lost innocence by illustrating their
lives in carvings on stone benches placed outside the rebuilt school.
In a small town in Ethiopia last year, farmers were forced to change their several generations' style of farming,
by switching to terraced gardens. It involved major changes in lifestyle. In a meeting to assess the new farming techniques,
the town mayor concluded it was a success because "no children died."
The big thing about COP 21 this year was that it ended well, with participants
using the word "joy," with a lot of personal energy to dive in and capture the culprit, and invite everyone else
to join in.
Pictures, top left: Beijing in a recent air pollution crisis. (Photo: Wikicommons)
Top right: Forest (Photo©Andrey Kudrjashov/Wikicommons)
Middle right: Lumberport, West Virginia, where coal takes its toll.
AMONG THE BEST REEFS in the world,
Palau and the Great Barrier Reef
are both suffering from changes in the Pacific Ocean.
Surgeon fish on Flynn Reef, in the Great Barrier
AND CLIMATE CHANGE
Twenty years ago, the buzzword
was ecotourism: leave no footprints. That's evolved into encouraging travelers to visit places that are threatened by rapidly
rising sea levels, severe drought, rainforests diminished by over-logging, or nearby overactive volcanoes. Bringing
dollars to weak economies by engaging in local hospitality enriches the area and helps travelers understand the specific problems.
Take Palau, for example, arguably the
poster child for an island that is disappearing as sea levels rise. It is one of the most vital and vigorous tourist destinations
around: the diving is spectacular, the beaches pristine. Managed by the Palau Conservation Society, it has a strict no-fishing policy, despite its 1,400 species
of fish, because its 460-mile reef depends on fish to maintain its ecological balance. Tourist dollars contribute to Palauans'
future homes, wherever they might be. Numerous companies run regular diving trips to and in Palau; some include land tours
of World War II sites. For 10-days snorkeling on Rock Island, Palau, try the Oceanic Society http://www.oceanicsociety.org/expeditions/palau-snorkeling-the-rock-islands--63
ON SOFT CORALS OF ROCK
land the environmental challenges are different for tourism. Local people who live in rainforests have created a subculture
of hotel architects who design places to stay that are both comfortable for travelers and sources of significant employment
and training for locals.
hot water and electricity, sustainable waste systems, safe drinking water respect the environment and are maintained by local folk
who train to be hotel managers, chefs specializing in local foods, and good guides to point out the wonders of their locale.
In Ecuador, for example,
one way to experience the rainforest is to stay at a remote lodge resort for 4 or 5 days where you can experience all of the
above and join bird-watching tours, nocturnal trips to see animals, river tube floats, take a cooking class, and learn how
to make chocolate from locally grown beans. Try, for example, Yachana Lodge in a nature reserve above the Napo River. High
comfort, culturally vital; 4 or 5 days, $1,200 to $1,500.
View of the
Napo River from Yachana Lodge in Ecuador.