"If you're in a bad situation, don't worry, it'll change. If you're in a good situation, don't worry, it'll change."
-- John A. Simone Jr.
The above video is from the United Nations University symposium entitled: “Innovation & Entrepreneurism in the Time of Climate Change.”
As noted in the previous post, Hansen and others spoke on inter-related elements of the implications and science surrounding global warming and climate change. Present only for the first half, my impressions are recorded below:
In general, what I found most interesting and disturbing is the panelists agreement that there is no shared understanding of the problem much less any coherence on what needs to be done.
Central to Hansen’s presentation is that there is an absence of strategy addressing climate change and how to engage it. His approach is, first, to set a limit of 350 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere. He bases this calculation on paleo-historical evidence that indicate this has been the relatively stable level of CO2 in the atmosphere during times in which the Earth’s climate has most resembled the climate we, as humans, have been enjoying for the last few thousand years. In order to realize the above limit, Hansen recommends
- Post fossil fuel thinking + behavior: Phase out emissions from coal plants and stop building more. Institute carbon taxes which are returned to people in the form benefits for reducing carbon emissions and using and developing alternatives to carbon producing technologies (a “cap-dividend” model). Create “low loss” electric grids for the dispersion of energy. His letter to Prime Minister Fukuda that outlines this strategy can be dowloaded here.
- Changes in agricultural practices (not elaborated)
- Reforestation + soil stewardship (not elaborated)
Hansen, I believe, wisely is pushing for action closer to the roots of climate change dynamics. Pushing for an end to emissions from coal burning is a powerful and very challenging goal as both China and India are revving up their infrastructures through-you guessed it-coal burning power plants.
Climate change and the human influenced dynamics responsible for it are a lot like kudzu. Topical spraying and hacking away at the edges of the plant do little to stop it from spreading. We’ve got to find the roots and stop proliferation there. In this case the roots are us. We’ve got to change or change will change us. Guaranteed.
Attended a symposium at the United Nations University in Tokyo as a prelude to the G8 summit in Hokkaido. It focused on a number of differently related topics on climate change. Featured speakers included Jim Hansen, the NASA scientist responsible for sounding the initial alarm around climate change, a thoroughly entertaining and informative Gwyn Prins from the LSE, Bill McKibben, environmentalist author, and a host of other people with different takes on reducing CO2.
Though only present for the first half, my reflections and rationale for missing the second half are below:
I passed on the second half because a large number of the presentations focused on reducing CO2 output. “Fighting” global warming or focussing on carbon emissions reduction and offsets is simply a waste of time, money and energy. Focusing on shrinking our “carbon footprints”, trading emissions and setting disconnected CO2 emissions reduction goals is, to quote the Godfather of Soul “Talkin’ loud…but we ain’t sayin’ nothin’.”
To have any meaningful effect on this issue, we’ve got to look at and change the fundamental behaviors contributing to global warming, rises in oil costs, food shortages and renewed interest in coal and nuclear energy. We also need to understand the meaning of that behavior for the long-term (100+ years) sustainability of human civilization. Less than our survival, a focus on flourishing, I believe, is in order.
The behavior I’m referring to includes individual, family, community, regional and national habits of energy consumption, corporate research, development and production, policy setting and cross-industry, cross-sector co-operation and collaboration. Underlying this behavior is a desire to live well, make money and an unhealthy penchant for short-term “green” action that hurts much more than it helps (oil palm plantation expansion into rain forests is but one example).
The current challenge we are facing is: How can we flourish (live well) while reducing demands for unhealthy energy sources like coal and oil? Linked to this challenge is the, even greater, challenge of integrating our lives with the eco-systemic dynamics that support us and take the Cradle to Cradle approach of creating 0 waste and ongoing, creative recycling.
This does not mean falling backward in some painful Luddite breakfall. It means learning to roll smoothly forward, land on our feet and co-create communities, businesses and economies that are flexible, adaptable and focused on flourishing within the eco-systems from which we emerged and in which we are inextricably embedded.
This means we become eco-centric innovators and entrepreneurs developing technologies, products and services that serve eco-logical and eco-nomic health. This is not an issue of being liberal or conservative, capitalist or socialist, hawkish or dovish, monotheistic, polytheistic or atheistic, Muslim, Wiccan, Christian, Hindi or Buddhist, “dark green”, “bright green”, brown or blue. It is about understanding our fundamental relationships with others and the world around us and intending benefit for all.
The Buddhists call it “right intention.” From right intention springs right action.
What is your intention and, more importantly, what are you doing?