Is climate change apocalypse real? Practice is better than preaching

Is climate change apocalypse real? Practice is better than preaching

Smoke and steam billows from Belchatow Power Station, Europe’s largest coal-fired power plant operated by PGE Group, near Belchatow, Poland November 28, 2018. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

By Arul Louis

Is the looming climate change apocalypse real? In the clearly-demarcated battle lines, the good guys are those who believe it is and the bad guys, like US President Donald Trump, are the doubters as any progressive and most of the media would affirm.

Yet it is also the good guys, the warriors against climate change, who strain the credibility of the phenomenon’s reality – and it is forthem to affirm its reality through their personal examples.

On Thursday, former US Secretary of State John Kerrypublished an op-ed in The New York Times headlined, “Forget Trump. We AllMust Act on Climate Change.” While he had suggestions for US lawmakers onforcing Trump to act, he was silent on the personal responsibilities forfighting climate change.

At the time that leaders were grappling with climate changestrategies at the United Nations conference in Katowice, Poland, he had been toIndia and danced at the wedding of a petroleum billionaire’s daughter.

On the round trip by air he would have been responsible forabout 2.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, besides other greenhouse gaseslike nitrous oxides. (For comparison, a typical car in the US puts out 4.6tonnes of carbon dioxide in a year.)

Here is a fair question: If the climate change apocalypsewas imminent, as he noted in his article, why did he undertake that journey?

It’s easy to preach about fighting climate change to thegovernment, lawmakers and countries like India and China (which are oftenhypocritically blamed for the greenhouse gas buildup by the progressives -though not this time by Kerry – and less hypocritically by the deniers).

Here’s the bottom line: An American emits nearly 15.53tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, which is nearly ten times that of anIndian’s 1.58 tonnes. (And Canada under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the highpriest of sanctimony, is not far behind Trump’s America: the per capitaemission is 15.32 tonnes.)

And countries like France have a comfortable standard ofliving with a per capita emission of 4.37 tonnes, which is less than a third ofan American’s.

So, realistically, action has to begin with appeals toindividuals to cut down their greenhouse rather than looking to governments andlawmakers – or telling developing countries to do it for them.

According to a 2016 Pew Research Center survey, 63 per centof Americans believe that lifestyle changes are needed to combat climate changeand 68 per cent of Democrats believe it is a serious problem.

Despite all that, it is easy to see why it is almostimpossible to call for lifestyle changes.

Just look at France. A violent popular uprising drovePresident Emmanuel Macron to retreat from his daring attack on climate changein the name of the Paris Treaty with an with enhanced tax on petrol.

Forget about rousing individuals or society in the climatechange war; the Democratic-run New York that riles against Trump and thedeniers is not going to enrage its citizenry by banning the 30,000 lights on aneight-kilometre strand on the city’s Christmas tree in a country that producesabout 30 per cent of its electricity from coal.

Meat diets are another glaring example of the hypocrisy. Astudy led by researchers at Linda Loma University concluded that because cattlefarming for beef is greenhouse intensive, the US can right now reach about 50to 75 per cent of its greenhouse gas reduction targets for 2020 by merelygiving up beef for legumes as a protein source.

Not only would some of the activists not speak out againstmeat-eating in their own countries, but some of their Indian counterparts wantto promote beef-eating in India.

As for Indian activists, greenhouse gas-generating trips totell the British Parliament to stop mining in India is an ego trip, but notdemanding the British do something about the 5.99 tonnes of carbon dioxide gasthat each of them generates every year – especially the politicians who put outa lot more gas, literally and figuratively – than the average Brit.

So is the situation so hopeless and the apocalypseinevitable?

The Pew survey found that 24 per cent of Indians believethat technology can solve the climate change problem – and definitely that’sthe way forward as technology is bringing down the price of green energy. AndChina and India can make the most significant contributions as they leap-frogto greener technologies – and no thanks to preaching from the activists of theindustrialised West. So can the other developing countries.

In the industrialised nations (as elsewhere), the greenbackis more powerful than greentalk: As technology advances, corporations areseeing the monetary benefits of adopting a greener way of doing business.

Meanwhile, may be the generals of climate warriors couldtone down their holier-than-thou sermons on the climate change apocalypse andinstead lead by example – and try to mobilise their armies of believers toadopt drastic lifestyle changes.

(Arul Louis, who pleads guilty to contributing to greenhousegas pollution, covers the United Nation from New York. He can be reached and followed on Twitter @arulouis)