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Climate climate change natural man made  marching towards extinction | Upload General

Climate Change Natural Man Made: Marching Towards Extinction

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by: Sharai Hoekema
climate change natural man made  marching towards extinction | Upload

Climate Change Natural Man Made: Marching Towards Extinction is the second article in a series of 6 on the topic of climate change. 

In Climate Change Natural Man Made: Causes and Facts, we took a deep-dive in the history, science and geography surrounding climate change. Now that we have gotten a basic understanding of what factors play an important role in the changing of our climate, we must look beyond the CO2. Yes, climate change is a complex issue that is never easy to discuss. Although it should be discussed frequently and fervently to avoid the ‘end of days’ so often cited by activists.

This second article looks at the playing field that we, humans, created. It will discuss the forces within the world population itself that drive or hinder any efforts to counter climate change. It will look at the different societies, differing opinions across different geographic regions. 

It will also look at groups who have a specific vested interest in the topic - like the fossil fuel industry, governments, the food and sugar industry, and lobbyists. But also at environmental groups, activists and innovators. Both sides of the board will be heard and assessed to get the answer to the most important question: who is on board to tackle climate change?

Ignoring climate change? Is it too heavy?      

The answer to the question above should be obvious. After all, who would not be on board to tackle a potentially catastrophic, mass-life-wiping-out event? Yet somehow, it has not been as straightforward. This funny thing called human psychology is really messing up what would be a clear plan moving forward. 
It looks as if we have become immune to people telling us that we have just boarded a train that is racing down an unfinished track to eventually plummet off a deadly cliff. Yes, we know there are a bunch of stations in-between, where we can get off and ensure our safety. But after the fifth call announcing this sure and imminent death, we just do not feel as alarmed anymore. 

Ignoring climate change

In the past, this inconvenient little switch in our brain was actually quite helpful. Do you think cavemen ever worried about the next month? The next year? Or even a couple of years down the road? Chances are they were more concerned with finding food and shelter for the next few nights instead. 
Survival instincts, which have always been a key element of our evolution, dictate that we look at the danger right in front of us - be it a sable tooth tiger or a taxi swerving towards us when crossing the street - and prioritise this over perhaps more significant dangers down the road. ‘We’ll cross that bridge when we get there’ has become an international motto, it seems, indicating that we leave any problem solving of pressing issues to the last possible moment.
And while it may have indeed been a good idea to run away and hide when faced with a mad woolly mammoth instead of worrying about next year’s crops, this rarely ever applies today. We actually tend to avoid situations that scare us or make us uncomfortable as much as possible. 

The truth is, we just do not like talking about ‘bad’ things. This thing called the probability bias is letting us ‘rationalise’ (or, more accurately, ‘irrationalise’) away things that we just want to avoid. We estimate the chances of it impacting us personally as too low to really care about. This leads to us being utterly helpless when it does in fact really happen. Whether it is us not being insured for floods or tornadoes (‘what are the odds of that happening to me’) or not taking action against climate change (‘it will surely last my lifetime’) - we just do not seem to care enough until it is too late.
Man with cloud above his head

According to Norwegian psychologist Per Espen Stoknes, the level of concern regarding climate change has never been lower in rich Western democracies - dropping steadily as the pile of climate science-related research actually grew larger. He blamed this on five barriers that explain this seemingly irrational behaviour: distance, dissonance, doom, denial and identity. Climate change is simply too distant (in both actual proximity and time). 

And while we know that we ought to save the polar bears and really care about these poor animals losing their habitat, we just cannot bring ourselves to really do something about it - even though we know we should. This is the dissonance that, coupled with the feeling of distance, lets us ignore the issue rather than take a stand.

What are the conditions where the transit must take place?

There is, however, a scientific way around this. Or so George Marshall thinks, specialist in climate change communications and writer of ‘Why Our Brains Are Wired To Ignore Climate Change’. His claim is that we are much more likely to accept information if we are given a certain narrative. We should feel like it matters to us personally, it should be relatable. 
Giving people a personal interest in climate change will rapidly change both their attitudes and actions. Scientific blah-blahs and statistics are just not rocking our boat.

Instead, we must get in the minds of people and find out how they are thinking. What they are thinking. We should look at the people that they like, their leaders, and get them to transmit a message that is both accurate as well as relatable to their followers.
Yes, this is already quite the job. After all, the world seems more polarised than ever before, with countries, religions, cultures, individuals, political parties and organisations occupying opposite ends of pretty much any spectrum. Opinions are seemingly becoming more extreme, often leaving little room for finding the ‘middle ground’. 

This growing difference in opinion is often strictly correlated to the role someone plays in society. The wealth gap between the poorest and the richest is growing at an alarming pace, creating the ideal habitat for unrest. Those in the upper classes are mainly looking out to protect their share, while those who are not as lucky are screaming for more. 

Weath gap graph
Inequality has increased anywhere in the world despite substantial geographical differences, with the richest 1% twice as wealthy as the poorest 50%. The results of the World Inequality Report 2018

This occurs both within as well as between countries. The rich, western countries are protecting their standard of life at all costs, even if this means exploiting other countries, natural resources or the environment at large. At the same time, developing countries are eager to obtain a similar life standard and will not hesitate to follow similar practices.

Between the 7.7 billion of us walking this planet, surely enough people should care enough to actually make a tangible difference. Right? Well, let’s break down our potential troops. Facts are that half of the world population has to make do with a daily income below $ 5.50. 

Putting aside the obvious fact that perhaps the countries that they live in will be able to get you more bang for this buck, it is still unreasonable to assume that those people are able to do more than just survive. If they are not even sure whether they have enough water to last the night, how can you expect them to care about clean drinking water? If they live in appalling conditions, how can you expect them to take a stance on climate change?

That leaves us the other half of the world population, including most of the western world. Within this group, there are some 26 people who together earn more than the bottom half I mentioned before. Surely they will have enough resources to care about the world? Well, yes, although they - and along with them, most of the western countries - claim to be more social and sustainable than ever before, the reality is that they just aren’t moving enough sand.

Let’s look at one example. Europe is battling a never-ending wave of extremist politicians, dividing their respective countries to the bone on issues like the European Union, socialism, refugees and - yes - climate change. Politicians seem more concerned with their own image and pleasing their supporters than they are with actually governing. The end result is a frightening lack of strong commitment: the voters do not care enough, which means that they do not. Vague long-term commitments and unclear timelines follow suit.

Some might look at the Paris Agreement and say that this must surely be that raised fist that we were waiting for. Yet instead of spending this kind of money on cold-hard action, the five largest publicly listed oil and gas companies have since allocated a $1 billion budget on public relations and lobbying efforts. All meant to actively control, delay or block some of the policies that might hurt them.

They are not alone. With them, companies and trade associations running the sugary food and drinks industry are spending nearly $25 million per year to lobby against similar policies; while car manufacturers are handing out a shabby $20 million per year on lobbying efforts. This is still nothing compared to the plastics industry, rallying vehemently against the plastics ban and having delayed it for several years. 

It may be clear that our current governing system is heavily influenced by corporate interests. The all-mighty big corporations have plenty of money to spend on lawyers and PR campaigns, as well as personal gifts and all-expenses-paid trips to tropical resorts for politicians. 
Big oil lobbing expenses

Lobbyists hold a great influence in Brussels and, well, pretty much anywhere else in the world. And those who do not have the money to spend - including NGO’s and corporations truly concerned about the environment - will find themselves unable to sway the political opinion. 

European Union alternative energy investments

Although, to say something positive about the European Union as well, they have gotten their renewable energy investments off in a pretty solid manner. At this time, more than 30% of electricity is generated by renewable sources, a vast increase from the 12% it was back in 2000. If this growth rate can be kept up, expectations are that the share of renewables in the total energy mix will be up to 50% by 2030. 

European Union alternative energy investments

The Netherlands: lagging

In order to meet this number, some countries will have to take a good, hard look at their current policies. Within the EU, two countries that you might not expect to be are in fact severely lagging behind. Luxembourg (6.4%) and the Netherlands (6.6%) are at the bottom of the list when it comes to consumption of energy generated by renewable sources. 

Despite several high-profile windfarm projects on the North Sea, the Netherlands is particularly far away from reaching its targets. Surprising, considering that this country will be hit hard by climate change due to the fact that a large part of the country is below sea level.

United States of America

Moving across the ocean, things aren’t all peachy either. While Europeans do not have much faith in their representatives, Americans are not feeling the love either. Evidence has pointed to Americans overwhelmingly disapproving of their Congress. 

This is mainly the result of politicians not sharing their interests and priorities - and Congress not being a true representation of society. For instance, a majority of Congress and Senate members are millionaires, despite only about 1% of Americans having this kind of money in their bank account. How can these governing bodies even aspire to be a blueprint of society, representing all Americans equally, when their interests are so obviously skewed to those of the upper classes?

United States alternative energy investments

As an example of this, even though a majority of the US population might be in favour of more renewable energy sources, this is proving to be pretty hard to realise. Throughout the first half of 2016, about 13% of electricity was generated by renewable sources - a number that should not satisfy you for a number of reasons. Despite President Trump claiming that the US has one of the ‘cleanest climates’, whatever that means, the facts are still worrying. 
US alternative energy graph

US greenhouse gas emissions

In absolute numbers, the United States is no longer the single largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world, having lost this position to China some time ago. It does, however, still rank extremely high in terms of per capita emissions. Higher than China and most other developed and industrialised countries. 

And yes, the policies that were initiated by Barack Obama to switch from coal to gas have resulted in a decline of carbon emissions; yet experts estimate that the country will not even come close to meeting the target levels of cutting emissions by 26-28% compared to the 2005 levels by 2025. The election of a certain Donald J. Trump certainly has not improved this outlook, for several reasons.

Fracking

Thanks to practice of fracking - the blasting of dense shale rock with water, sand and chemicals to release tiny bubbles of fossil fuel - the United States has revved up its gas industry. It brought along a lot of pollution and water shortages. Not to mention leaks of methane, a huge contributor to climate change.
Fracking, blue shed barren landscape
A new study of water in Texas’ Barnett Shale area reveals "incredibly alarming" levels of contamination, with fracking the prime suspect

Fossil fuel exploration

Trump has made it his mission to loosen regulations regarding National Parks and protected areas, in doing so freeing up more land for expanding both the oil and gas industries. Drilling in the pristine wilderness of Alaska has been one of his spearheads, enraging many for destroying valuable nature areas while once again increasing the reliance on fossil fuels.

Fuel efficiency standards

Another hotly debated issue championed by Trump is the loosening of regulations on the automotive industry, reducing the need for higher fuel efficiency. A big thing, as fuel efficiency in the US has historically already been much lower than in other countries. Less fuel efficient cars, vans and trucks will once again increase emissions and pollution.

International cooperation

The list of potentially climate-wrecking policies and plans as initiated by the Donald does not stop there. His decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement has, although it cannot be implemented during his term, already left a wake of destruction; with several other countries considering a withdrawal as well and fossil fuel companies and lobbyists regaining some of their power. 

Climate denial

Most will have heard the illustrious U.S. President flat out denying climate change, having called it a Chinese hoax and a Democratic plot to hurt the Republicans. It is not hard to see why such a statement of such an influential person will leave many of his followers in doubt as well. Hence, the United States boasts a much higher rate of climate change deniers than any other Western nation. 

Water

We have the cleanest water, it's crystal clean,’ or so Mr. Trump has claimed, continuously emphasising how much he values this. His actions seem to point to the contrary, though, with policies aimed at cleaning up the U.S. water supply being rolled back and opening up protected streams and wetlands to potentially damaging pesticides and pollutants. 

Air

At the same time the very same businessman-turned-president exclaimed his desire for ‘the cleanest air’, he actually rolled back Obama’s plans to cut back greenhouse gas emissions from factories and power plants. Instead, he is hoping to open up more coal power plants and stations. Safe to say this will not get him the clean air he is hoping for.

India

Moving on to one of the more developing nations in the world, India, where we unfortunately see the same pattern of the rich and corrupt few governing the many. As India has a huge population of dirt-poor people, they are likely to be hit the hardest when it comes to climate change-initiated hits to their food sources, living accommodations and income. 

Yet these people do not have a say in the matter, as the politicians deciding on climate change matters are worth millions and millions of dollars and, frankly, keep on raking in the dough by accepting huge cash donations from the ‘sponsors’ - who have a vested interest in keeping impactful measures at bay. 

India’s alternative energy investments

Besides China, India is the largest builder of renewable energy projects - mainly solar and wind, having resulted in some 75 gigawatts of solar, wind and other renewable sources having already been built and another 45 gigawatts well underway. A promising leap forward, although it has to be noted that the country still heavily relies on its coal industry - generating about 57% (2018) of the nation’s electricity needs. As the country is growing and urbanising fast, it is unlikely to assume that the share of renewables is going to increase.
India's cummulative installed power

China

At the risk of sounding repetitive, China’s parliament is very out of touch with the regular people on the street as well. The 209 richest delegates together have a net worth exceeding the annual GDP of Sweden, a fortune that has often been made through corporate investments. They do not really hold any legislative sway within the Communist country, although their preference for keeping industry ‘as is’ is pretty obvious.

China’s alternative energy investments

In 2018 alone, China connected close to 21 gigawatts of wind capacity and 44 gigawatts of solar capacity to its grid. Staggering numbers from a nation that is committed to making renewable energy work, through its energy revolution. Unfortunately, the country is also investing heavily in coal, which is still the primary source of energy - despite claims of the government that it is produced using ‘ultra-low emission technology’. 

Coal-fired power plants built in other countries

Another proven tactic of China has been to build coal-fired power plants in other countries, using equipment that is no longer permitted within China’s borders. Countries like Vietnam, Bangladesh, Egypt and Indonesia are overseeing builds of Chinese-funded and owned power plants - hardly a way of showing sustainable intent. 
Chinese build coal fired power plant
China's overseas ventures include hundreds of electric power plants that burn coal, which is a significant emitter of the carbon scientifically linked to climate change. Edward Cunningham, a specialist on China and its energy markets at Harvard University, tells NPR that China is building or planning more than 300 coal plants in places as widely spread as Turkey, Vietnam, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Egypt and the Philippines

Are we really motivated to change?

Looking at all of those countries, it might come across as if they are not really motivated to change. All governments are unanimously proclaiming that they really want to change and care about the environment, but when looking at the numbers, it does not seem to match up. Most countries still subsidise the fossil fuel industry and allow lobbyists and corporations to take their seat at the table.

Tax cuts for clean energy and production are stil minimal, while Western countries are not really eager to help the developing nations through their knowledge and expertise of clean technologies. Quite the contrary, they seem more concerned with preservering their own life standard rather than worrying about their environmental footprint across the border. 

It are often the wealthy who govern, with the poor suffering the worst consequences of their actions. The poor live in the areas that will be affected badly and are unable to prepare for the negative effects. They will be the first to lose access to land, food and energy. So while the rich are largely responsible for climate change, they will be more likely to survive it and suffer the least. 
Co2 emissions rich, poor

Scientists and politicians

We are actually looking at a battle between science and politics. While the latter is tainted by bribery, lobbying and bureaucracy, scientists are actively trying to apply their knowledge of engineering, technology and physics. But before they can do so, they first have to find a way of navigating this minefield called politics, that mainly seems to serve the self-interests of the wealthiest. 

Worrisome prognoses

Realistically, chances aren’t great of any world leader turning to a big corporation like Shell and telling them to completely change their business model or shut down altogether. And, let’s be honest, we cannot truly expect those kind of multinationals to radically change course overnight. What we can do, however, is to provide incentives to make this change more appealing. Financially attractive. Feasible, from a business point of view.

It can be done. Some countries have already successfully cut back their carbon dioxide emissions. It requires legislation, regulation, persuasion and conviction - but it can be done. Even then we will not be able to save ‘all’, but at least we can still take care of a good chunk of it. 

This will prevent a potentially disastrous butterfly effect, where poor countries will become even poorer as a result of fewer resources available to the many and where climate refugees will become a hot issue - one that, I am afraid, will not be handled well when looking at the current refugee crises in Europe and Central America. 

‘Last call’ for our politicians. The protests around the world

Perhaps what the world needs first is a change in mindset. Not of the leaders, but from the bottom up. Recent protests have shown how loud the voice of the people can be, if only they are convinced of their own right. Media has jumped on these protests, amplifying the message that enough is enough - and climate change can no longer be ignored by those in power. 
Climate protest around the world
An estimated 1.4 million young people in 123 countries skipped school on the 15th of March 2019 to demand stronger climate policies in what may be one of the largest environmental protests in history

We are entering the end-game of climate change. Either we keep on marching towards our own extinction, or we take action and hold those in power accountable. 

https://www.whatsorb.com/category/climate

Climate Change Natural Man Made: Marching Towards Extinction

Climate Change Natural Man Made: Marching Towards Extinction is the second article in a series of 6 on the topic of climate change.   In Climate Change Natural Man Made: Causes and Facts , we took a deep-dive in the history, science and geography surrounding climate change. Now that we have gotten a basic understanding of what factors play an important role in the changing of our climate, we must look beyond the CO2. Yes, climate change is a complex issue that is never easy to discuss. Although it should be discussed frequently and fervently to avoid the ‘end of days’ so often cited by activists. This second article looks at the playing field that we, humans, created. It will discuss the forces within the world population itself that drive or hinder any efforts to counter climate change. It will look at the different societies, differing opinions across different geographic regions.   It will also look at groups who have a specific vested interest in the topic - like the fossil fuel industry, governments, the food and sugar industry, and lobbyists. But also at environmental groups, activists and innovators. Both sides of the board will be heard and assessed to get the answer to the most important question: who is on board to tackle climate change? Ignoring climate change? Is it too heavy?       The answer to the question above should be obvious. After all, who would not be on board to tackle a potentially catastrophic, mass-life-wiping-out event? Yet somehow, it has not been as straightforward. This funny thing called human psychology is really messing up what would be a clear plan moving forward.   It looks as if we have become immune to people telling us that we have just boarded a train that is racing down an unfinished track to eventually plummet off a deadly cliff. Yes, we know there are a bunch of stations in-between, where we can get off and ensure our safety. But after the fifth call announcing this sure and imminent death, we just do not feel as alarmed anymore.   In the past, this inconvenient little switch in our brain was actually quite helpful. Do you think cavemen ever worried about the next month? The next year? Or even a couple of years down the road? Chances are they were more concerned with finding food and shelter for the next few nights instead.   Survival instincts, which have always been a key element of our evolution, dictate that we look at the danger right in front of us - be it a sable tooth tiger or a taxi swerving towards us when crossing the street - and prioritise this over perhaps more significant dangers down the road. ‘We’ll cross that bridge when we get there’ has become an international motto, it seems, indicating that we leave any problem solving of pressing issues to the last possible moment. And while it may have indeed been a good idea to run away and hide when faced with a mad woolly mammoth instead of worrying about next year’s crops, this rarely ever applies today. We actually tend to avoid situations that scare us or make us uncomfortable as much as possible.   The truth is, we just do not like talking about ‘bad’ things. This thing called the probability bias is letting us ‘rationalise’ (or, more accurately, ‘irrationalise’) away things that we just want to avoid. We estimate the chances of it impacting us personally as too low to really care about. This leads to us being utterly helpless when it does in fact really happen. Whether it is us not being insured for floods or tornadoes (‘what are the odds of that happening to me’) or not taking action against climate change (‘it will surely last my lifetime’) - we just do not seem to care enough until it is too late. According to Norwegian psychologist Per Espen Stoknes, the level of concern regarding climate change has never been lower in rich Western democracies - dropping steadily as the pile of climate science-related research actually grew larger. He blamed this on five barriers that explain this seemingly irrational behaviour: distance, dissonance, doom, denial and identity. Climate change is simply too distant (in both actual proximity and time).   And while we know that we ought to save the polar bears and really care about these poor animals losing their habitat, we just cannot bring ourselves to really do something about it - even though we know we should. This is the dissonance that, coupled with the feeling of distance, lets us ignore the issue rather than take a stand. What are the conditions where the transit must take place? There is, however, a scientific way around this. Or so George Marshall thinks, specialist in climate change communications and writer of ‘ Why Our Brains Are Wired To Ignore Climate Change ’. His claim is that we are much more likely to accept information if we are given a certain narrative. We should feel like it matters to us personally, it should be relatable.   Giving people a personal interest in climate change will rapidly change both their attitudes and actions. Scientific blah-blahs and statistics are just not rocking our boat. Instead, we must get in the minds of people and find out how they are thinking. What they are thinking. We should look at the people that they like, their leaders, and get them to transmit a message that is both accurate as well as relatable to their followers. Yes, this is already quite the job. After all, the world seems more polarised than ever before, with countries, religions, cultures, individuals, political parties and organisations occupying opposite ends of pretty much any spectrum. Opinions are seemingly becoming more extreme, often leaving little room for finding the ‘middle ground’.   This growing difference in opinion is often strictly correlated to the role someone plays in society. The wealth gap between the poorest and the richest is growing at an alarming pace, creating the ideal habitat for unrest. Those in the upper classes are mainly looking out to protect their share, while those who are not as lucky are screaming for more.   Inequality has increased anywhere in the world despite substantial geographical differences, with the richest 1% twice as wealthy as the poorest 50%. The results of the World Inequality Report 2018 This occurs both within as well as between countries. The rich, western countries are protecting their standard of life at all costs, even if this means exploiting other countries, natural resources or the environment at large. At the same time, developing countries are eager to obtain a similar life standard and will not hesitate to follow similar practices. Between the 7.7 billion of us walking this planet, surely enough people should care enough to actually make a tangible difference. Right? Well, let’s break down our potential troops. Facts are that half of the world population has to make do with a daily income below $ 5.50.   Putting aside the obvious fact that perhaps the countries that they live in will be able to get you more bang for this buck, it is still unreasonable to assume that those people are able to do more than just survive. If they are not even sure whether they have enough water to last the night, how can you expect them to care about clean drinking water? If they live in appalling conditions, how can you expect them to take a stance on climate change? That leaves us the other half of the world population, including most of the western world. Within this group, there are some 26 people who together earn more than the bottom half I mentioned before. Surely they will have enough resources to care about the world? Well, yes, although they - and along with them, most of the western countries - claim to be more social and sustainable than ever before, the reality is that they just aren’t moving enough sand. Let’s look at one example. Europe is battling a never-ending wave of extremist politicians, dividing their respective countries to the bone on issues like the European Union, socialism, refugees and - yes - climate change. Politicians seem more concerned with their own image and pleasing their supporters than they are with actually governing. The end result is a frightening lack of strong commitment: the voters do not care enough, which means that they do not. Vague long-term commitments and unclear timelines follow suit. Some might look at the Paris Agreement and say that this must surely be that raised fist that we were waiting for. Yet instead of spending this kind of money on cold-hard action, the five largest publicly listed oil and gas companies have since allocated a $1 billion budget on public relations and lobbying efforts. All meant to actively control, delay or block some of the policies that might hurt them. They are not alone. With them, companies and trade associations running the sugary food and drinks industry are spending nearly $25 million per year to lobby against similar policies; while car manufacturers are handing out a shabby $20 million per year on lobbying efforts. This is still nothing compared to the plastics industry, rallying vehemently against the plastics ban and having delayed it for several years.   It may be clear that our current governing system is heavily influenced by corporate interests. The all-mighty big corporations have plenty of money to spend on lawyers and PR campaigns, as well as personal gifts and all-expenses-paid trips to tropical resorts for politicians.   Lobbyists hold a great influence in Brussels and, well, pretty much anywhere else in the world. And those who do not have the money to spend - including NGO’s and corporations truly concerned about the environment - will find themselves unable to sway the political opinion.   European Union alternative energy investments Although, to say something positive about the European Union as well, they have gotten their renewable energy investments off in a pretty solid manner. At this time, more than 30% of electricity is generated by renewable sources, a vast increase from the 12% it was back in 2000. If this growth rate can be kept up, expectations are that the share of renewables in the total energy mix will be up to 50% by 2030.   The Netherlands: lagging In order to meet this number, some countries will have to take a good, hard look at their current policies. Within the EU, two countries that you might not expect to be are in fact severely lagging behind. Luxembourg (6.4%) and the Netherlands (6.6%) are at the bottom of the list when it comes to consumption of energy generated by renewable sources.   Despite several high-profile windfarm projects on the North Sea, the Netherlands is particularly far away from reaching its targets. Surprising, considering that this country will be hit hard by climate change due to the fact that a large part of the country is below sea level. United States of America Moving across the ocean, things aren’t all peachy either. While Europeans do not have much faith in their representatives, Americans are not feeling the love either. Evidence has pointed to Americans overwhelmingly disapproving of their Congress.   This is mainly the result of politicians not sharing their interests and priorities - and Congress not being a true representation of society. For instance, a majority of Congress and Senate members are millionaires, despite only about 1% of Americans having this kind of money in their bank account. How can these governing bodies even aspire to be a blueprint of society, representing all Americans equally, when their interests are so obviously skewed to those of the upper classes? United States alternative energy investments As an example of this, even though a majority of the US population might be in favour of more renewable energy sources, this is proving to be pretty hard to realise. Throughout the first half of 2016, about 13% of electricity was generated by renewable sources - a number that should not satisfy you for a number of reasons.   Despite President Trump claiming that the US has one of the ‘cleanest climates’, whatever that means, the facts are still worrying.   US greenhouse gas emissions In absolute numbers, the United States is no longer the single largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world, having lost this position to China some time ago. It does, however, still rank extremely high in terms of per capita emissions. Higher than China and most other developed and industrialised countries.   And yes, the policies that were initiated by Barack Obama to switch from coal to gas have resulted in a decline of carbon emissions; yet experts estimate that the country will not even come close to meeting the target levels of cutting emissions by 26-28% compared to the 2005 levels by 2025. The election of a certain Donald J. Trump certainly has not improved this outlook, for several reasons. Fracking Thanks to practice of fracking - the blasting of dense shale rock with water, sand and chemicals to release tiny bubbles of fossil fuel - the United States has revved up its gas industry. It brought along a lot of pollution and water shortages. Not to mention leaks of methane, a huge contributor to climate change. A new study of water in Texas’ Barnett Shale area reveals "incredibly alarming" levels of contamination, with fracking the prime suspect Fossil fuel exploration Trump has made it his mission to loosen regulations regarding National Parks and protected areas, in doing so freeing up more land for expanding both the oil and gas industries. Drilling in the pristine wilderness of Alaska has been one of his spearheads, enraging many for destroying valuable nature areas while once again increasing the reliance on fossil fuels. Fuel efficiency standards Another hotly debated issue championed by Trump is the loosening of regulations on the automotive industry, reducing the need for higher fuel efficiency. A big thing, as fuel efficiency in the US has historically already been much lower than in other countries. Less fuel efficient cars, vans and trucks will once again increase emissions and pollution. International cooperation The list of potentially climate-wrecking policies and plans as initiated by the Donald does not stop there. His decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement has, although it cannot be implemented during his term, already left a wake of destruction; with several other countries considering a withdrawal as well and fossil fuel companies and lobbyists regaining some of their power.   Climate denial Most will have heard the illustrious U.S. President flat out denying climate change , having called it a Chinese hoax and a Democratic plot to hurt the Republicans. It is not hard to see why such a statement of such an influential person will leave many of his followers in doubt as well. Hence, the United States boasts a much higher rate of climate change deniers than any other Western nation.   Water ‘ We have the cleanest water, it's crystal clean ,’ or so Mr. Trump has claimed, continuously emphasising how much he values this. His actions seem to point to the contrary, though, with policies aimed at cleaning up the U.S. water supply being rolled back and opening up protected streams and wetlands to potentially damaging pesticides and pollutants.   Air At the same time the very same businessman-turned-president exclaimed his desire for ‘the cleanest air’, he actually rolled back Obama’s plans to cut back greenhouse gas emissions from factories and power plants. Instead, he is hoping to open up more coal power plants and stations. Safe to say this will not get him the clean air he is hoping for. India Moving on to one of the more developing nations in the world, India, where we unfortunately see the same pattern of the rich and corrupt few governing the many. As India has a huge population of dirt-poor people, they are likely to be hit the hardest when it comes to climate change-initiated hits to their food sources, living accommodations and income.   Yet these people do not have a say in the matter, as the politicians deciding on climate change matters are worth millions and millions of dollars and, frankly, keep on raking in the dough by accepting huge cash donations from the ‘sponsors’ - who have a vested interest in keeping impactful measures at bay.   India’s alternative energy investments Besides China, India is the largest builder of renewable energy projects - mainly solar and wind, having resulted in some 75 gigawatts of solar, wind and other renewable sources having already been built and another 45 gigawatts well underway. A promising leap forward, although it has to be noted that the country still heavily relies on its coal industry - generating about 57% (2018) of the nation’s electricity needs.   As the country is growing and urbanising fast, it is unlikely to assume that the share of renewables is going to increase. China At the risk of sounding repetitive, China’s parliament is very out of touch with the regular people on the street as well. The 209 richest delegates together have a net worth exceeding the annual GDP of Sweden, a fortune that has often been made through corporate investments. They do not really hold any legislative sway within the Communist country, although their preference for keeping industry ‘as is’ is pretty obvious. China’s alternative energy investments In 2018 alone, China connected close to 21 gigawatts of wind capacity and 44 gigawatts of solar capacity to its grid. Staggering numbers from a nation that is committed to making renewable energy work, through its energy revolution. Unfortunately, the country is also investing heavily in coal, which is still the primary source of energy - despite claims of the government that it is produced using ‘ultra-low emission technology’.   Coal-fired power plants built in other countries Another proven tactic of China has been to build coal-fired power plants in other countries, using equipment that is no longer permitted within China’s borders. Countries like Vietnam, Bangladesh, Egypt and Indonesia are overseeing builds of Chinese-funded and owned power plants - hardly a way of showing sustainable intent.   China's overseas ventures include hundreds of electric power plants that burn coal, which is a significant emitter of the carbon scientifically linked to climate change. Edward Cunningham, a specialist on China and its energy markets at Harvard University, tells NPR that China is building or planning more than 300 coal plants in places as widely spread as Turkey, Vietnam, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Egypt and the Philippines Are we really motivated to change? Looking at all of those countries, it might come across as if they are not really motivated to change. All governments are unanimously proclaiming that they really want to change and care about the environment, but when looking at the numbers, it does not seem to match up. Most countries still subsidise the fossil fuel industry and allow lobbyists and corporations to take their seat at the table. Tax cuts for clean energy and production are stil minimal, while Western countries are not really eager to help the developing nations through their knowledge and expertise of clean technologies. Quite the contrary, they seem more concerned with preservering their own life standard rather than worrying about their environmental footprint across the border.   It are often the wealthy who govern, with the poor suffering the worst consequences of their actions. The poor live in the areas that will be affected badly and are unable to prepare for the negative effects. They will be the first to lose access to land, food and energy. So while the rich are largely responsible for climate change, they will be more likely to survive it and suffer the least.   Scientists and politicians We are actually looking at a battle between science and politics. While the latter is tainted by bribery, lobbying and bureaucracy, scientists are actively trying to apply their knowledge of engineering, technology and physics. But before they can do so, they first have to find a way of navigating this minefield called politics, that mainly seems to serve the self-interests of the wealthiest.   Worrisome prognoses Realistically, chances aren’t great of any world leader turning to a big corporation like Shell and telling them to completely change their business model or shut down altogether. And, let’s be honest, we cannot truly expect those kind of multinationals to radically change course overnight. What we can do, however, is to provide incentives to make this change more appealing. Financially attractive. Feasible, from a business point of view. It can be done. Some countries have already successfully cut back their carbon dioxide emissions. It requires legislation, regulation, persuasion and conviction - but it can be done. Even then we will not be able to save ‘all’, but at least we can still take care of a good chunk of it.   This will prevent a potentially disastrous butterfly effect, where poor countries will become even poorer as a result of fewer resources available to the many and where climate refugees will become a hot issue - one that, I am afraid, will not be handled well when looking at the current refugee crises in Europe and Central America.   ‘Last call’ for our politicians. The protests around the world Perhaps what the world needs first is a change in mindset. Not of the leaders, but from the bottom up. Recent protests have shown how loud the voice of the people can be, if only they are convinced of their own right. Media has jumped on these protests, amplifying the message that enough is enough - and climate change can no longer be ignored by those in power.   An estimated 1.4 million young people in 123 countries skipped school on the 15th of March 2019 to demand stronger climate policies in what may be one of the largest environmental protests in history We are entering the end-game of climate change. Either we keep on marching towards our own extinction, or we take action and hold those in power accountable.   https://www.whatsorb.com/category/climate
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