Year after year, the world turns it’s eyes towards the UN climate conference, and again and again final results do all but give a reasonable answer to the climate crisis. What is wrong, and how can we bring negotiations on track?

20 years ago, in 1992, the climate convention defined as its main objective the stabilization of the GHG concentrations in the atmosphere. Up till now, there is no decision on what these levels should be, and even worse, the issue is being swept of the negotiation table. Meanwhile, they rose up till 392 ppm, far above the safe upper limit  of 350 ppm as defined by respected climate scientists, like James Hanssen. The results are already clear: unprecedented arctic melting, major floods, never-seen storms, and impressive draughts.

The criteria for the blame game

One of the main reason why climate negotiations don’t advance is a never-ending blame game: most countries condition their proposed actions to commitments by others, or have reasons -like ending poverty first- to postpone climate action. They all have some criteria – reasonable or not- for passing their responsibilities to others. A serious discussion on what should be the criteria to divide the burden of the climate problem among the countries never took place. More »

20 years ago, the ecological crisis was already quite evident. Enough for world leaders to worry about it, and to call for a global “Earth Summit”.

At the time, humanity yearly consumed resources and caused pollution at a rate that Nature could regenerate in approximately one year time. But it was clear that this rate was growing. The environmental crisis was growing and the unsustainability of the (even then) current way of life was obvious.

The response of the Earth Summit in Rio (1992), was the launching of the concept of “sustainable development”. The concept was based on three “interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars”: economic development, social development, and environmental protection. The basic idea was that the three are compatible, and that there does not need to be a contradiction between economic development and protection of the environment.

Evaluating the “pilars”

20 years is quite some time to see if a proposed scheme works, so, time for an evaluation of the evolution of the three interdependent pillars:

More »

One day, some thirty years ago, as a six-year-old little girl, living in a European country, I thought it was so cold outside, and I thought it would be a “good deed” to leave the doors open, so the warmth of our central-heated house could compensate a little the too cold world outside.

My mother quickly came over, and explained to me that not only this was bad for family economics, but also it would contribute to something ‘she had read about’, which was the greenhouse effect, and that actually it could be the case that the world was warming up, which could have several negative effects…

My mother is somebody who would read about this kind of stuff, who would get informed. The mothers of my classmates hadn’t heard of climate change at that time. Well, that was understandable, the problem was only incipiently known, temperatures had risen only slightly in the last century or so, arctic ice extent was relatively stable, and no major climate disasters had happened.

How we live the climate change reality now

Now, thirty years later, even my 5-year old daughter knows about climate change, we got all used to hearing about climate disasters, and the local effects of climate change became part of the small talk of the people. We now live in a world with only half of the summer ice extent of that of the world where the 6-year old me lived.

But by now, nobody gets really shocked about climate change news anymore. At what point this little me got used to the effects of global warming? To the continuous news on more “natural disasters”, which are now proven not to be natural disasters but man-made anthropogenic-climate disasters? To the news on once again increasing green house gas emissions? To the news that once again we trespassed a climatological record? More »

Earlier than expected, a text was agreed on at the Rio+20 summit, denominated “The Future we want”. Is the future of the world now safe?

What is the need of calling for a big international conference like the RIO+20 one? If the objective is to bring world leaders together in a nice picture, adopting just any text that can give an impression that they are actually thinking about the environmental crisis, then the summit may be called a success. If, on the other hand, the objective is to really do something about the growing global crisis, then it should be measured in a different way.

Let’s see some of the key issues.

Economic growth or redistribution and respect for planetary boundaries?

It is nothing new to state that we are living in a limited world with limited recourses, and that we are at the edge of surpassing some critical tipping points for Mother Earth. To keep on growing economically in this setting is just a logical impossibility. Nevertheless, the RIO+20 text never considers these aspects of the environmental problem – in fact doesn’t make any assessment of the critical situation of nature at all- but on the contrary mentions “sustained economic growth” about 23 times, as an objective in itself, and as a solution to the multiple crisis that the world faces today.

The fact that the top 1% in the world has an ecological footprint that is a 3 to 4-digit multiplier of the footprint of the poor seems to be of no relevance at all, and redistribution of wealth is not on the agenda.

Green economy

On how this growth would be possible, without affecting the environment even further, no word is uttered. More »

When explaining a certain sensitive issue to their children, many parents start explaining the story of the birds and the bees. It seems this makes things less embarrassing and less difficult.

Well, today the world faces a very embarrassing and a very difficult issue: the green economy. And indeed, the easy way to understand it is through the birds and the bees!

The green economy is all about putting a price and selling ‘ecosystem services’. Everything Nature does for humanity has a benefit, and should be priced in order to be protected. To come back to the birds and the bees: the birds feed themselves mostly with insects, without them the world would be plagued by so many insects we could not live quietly. In fact the birds play many roles: as predators, pollinators, seed dispersers, seed predators, etc.

The bees are even more important: they assure the pollination of at least one third of all the food production. Without bees, no pollination, and no food.

So, humanity has to be very thankful to the birds and the bees. But according to the green economy promoters, this thankfulness must be expressed in monetary terms. More »

Scientists have the picture clear. James Hansen et al, in “The Case for Young People and Nature: A Path to a Healthy, Natural, Prosperous Future”,  explain us very clearly that the impact of the actual 0,8°C global warming is causing already several global warming reinforcing mechanisms, like ice melting, ocean acidification, expansion of hot dry subtropical climate belts, etc.

They warn us, with clear scientific arguments, that sustained greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations of more than 350 parts per million (ppm) will lead to very dangerous climate disruption. We now live in a world with 390 ppm.

In 1992, time when the climate convention was agreed upon, an objective was set: “The ultimate objective of this Convention is to achieve stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” At that time, the GHG concentration in the atmosphere was of 354 ppm. More »

The official package deal of Durban consisted of 4 main documents, apart of several other decisions, most of them less critical, that have been adopted:

  1. A decision on the second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol 
  2. The LCA outcome: the partial implementation of the Bali Action Plan and the Cancun Agreements
  3. A Durban Platform for Enhanced Action: the decision to work towards a new “agreed outcome with legal force, applicable to all”
  4. The green climate fund

The package was officially sold to the world as a success, but having a closer look, it’s easy to see it doesn’t do what it is suposed to do, and it does what it shouldn’t do. More »