The Eleventh Hour Has Come and Gone, and We Missed It

In 2008 when the Lehmann Brothers collapsed and many other American companies came clean about the extent of their disastrous investments it was believed that things would change. Barack Obama was voted into the White House largely because of his promise to change the current political and financial system.

Obama started well; he made big speeches about getting the economy back on track by investing in such projects as wind farms and other alternative energies. He criticized the corrupt practices of Wall Street and he vowed to remove the troops from Afghanistan and Iraq.

Brian Hoskins

Brian Hoskins

None of it has happened. Instead the world economy has never had a chance to catch its breath. First the Irish, then the Greeks needed massive bail outs to avoid going bankrupt. The Euro Zone seems destined to implode with debt – Spain, Portugal and Italy all are now coming cleaning about the dire straits they are in. Japan is laboring under devastating natural disasters; and the Chinese seem to be biding their time to see what their solvency can buy.

All of this means that the world and the media have lost interest in Climate Change. Only one article appeared in the UK newspaper the Guardian when the International Energy Agency reported in the first week of November 2011 that the world had lost its margin of safety. The failure to reach the reductions stipulated under the Kyoto Protocol and the failure of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in 2009 to set new and immediately actionable carbon emission limits for the world has let world leaders ignore the issue. The result is that the eleventh hour has gone by virtually unheralded. Our leaders have failed us. The earth is doomed to rising temperatures and sea levels. Mass extinction is coming; flooding is coming; the Amazon Forest is destined to become a desert.

Fatih Birol, chief economist at the International Energy Agency, said:

“The door is closing, I am very worried – if we don’t change direction now on how we use energy, we will end up beyond what scientists tell us is the minimum [for safety]. The door will be closed forever.”

The IEA identifies a ‘lock-in’ effect. Any new fossil fuel burning power plants built, any new gas guzzling factories built and any new fuel inefficient buildings put up over the next 5 years will cause irrevocable change to the climate.

If the world is to stay below 2° Celsius of warming, which is regarded as the limit of safety, then emissions must be held to no more than 450 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; the level is currently around 390ppm. But the world’s existing infrastructure is already producing 80% of that ‘carbon budget’, according to the IEA’s analysis, published on Wednesday November 9th 2011. This gives an ever-narrowing gap in which to reform the global economy on to a lower-carbon footing.

If current trends continue then by 2015 90% of the ‘carbon budget’ will be taken up. By 2017 the entire budget will be used and absolutely no room for maneuver will be available.

Most stupidly Russia, Japan and the UK are talking about getting new carbon emissions in place by 2018. It is too late by then. Their scientists know this but are powerless to influence politicians fighting economic bogeymen. The mass media is also to blame for not highlighting this turning point. While the world fights over paper with only a symbolic value that which has real value – a stable environment has been willfully ignored. Future generations will judge us poorly for this. To say the least.

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