by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
December 3, 2015
COP21: DEAD ON ARRIVAL, OR THE PLANET'S LAST CHANCE?
DUMMERSTON, Vt. --The 21st United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP21) climate change conference has begun in Paris, and it seems like a gathering that's dead on arrival.
While French Prime Minister Francois Hollande has spoken of the need for life to go on after the Nov. 13 Paris terror attacks, his government has used those attacks as a convenient excuse to prevent public rallies during COP21 and preemptively detain activists ahead of the conference. `
While the delegates from nearly 200 countries will debate what steps will need to be taken to cut carbon dioxide emissions - to within 2 degrees Celcius above pre-Industrial Revolution era temperatures - the UN says the amount of carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere has assured that earth's temperature will be at least 2.7 degrees warmer, even if emissions are cut.
2015 still has a month to go, and this year's global temperature average has already broken the previous records and will be the hottest year ever recorded.
And bizarre weather phenomena keep piling up, such as Yemen seeing in November its first two hurricanes in recorded history. Those dumped 10 years worth of rain on the desert nation in less than a week. Or Hurricane Patricia, which went from a routine Pacific storm to the most powerful tropical cyclone ever recorded, with 200 mph wins, in about 30 hours.
But the good news is that it still is possible to avert a climate catastrophe if the global economy can pivot to cleaner, greener energy.
In Robert Pollin's new book, "Greening the Global Economy," he makes the case that it is possible to bring down global emissions to the target of 20 billion tons within 20 years if most countries devote between 1.5 and 2 percent of their annual gross domestic product to investments in energy efficiency and low-emission renewable-energy sources.
To accomplish this, Pollin says, the world needs to use about 35 percent less oil, coal, and natural gas over the next two decades. But for those who think doing this would bring economic ruin, Pollin says, dramatically raising energy-efficiency standards and expanding the global supply of renewable energy would create tens of millions of new jobs - and new prosperity in millions of homes around the world.
Of course, the obstacles are huge. Pollin points out that workers and communities that depend on fossil fuels for their livelihoods will be devastated.
The huge energy companies such as ExxonMobil, Shell, and Koch Industries, and the huge state-owned companies - Saudi Arabia's Aramco, Brazil's Petrobras, and Russia's Gazprom, which control about 90 percent of the world's oil reserves - will not readily accept seeing their profits disappear.
And there is the reality that an economy based on renewable energy will cost more to run - at least in the short-term - compared to our current fossil-fuel dominated economy, largely because of the one-time infrastructure cost of a massive transition to renewables.
But the tide is slowly turning. Renewables, now at cost parity with fossil fuels, fall with each year. Smart investors such as Warren Buffett are putting more money into wind and solar energy. And a growing number of economists are recognizing that it is possible to use less energy, stabilize the climate, and still enjoy a reasonable level of economic growth.
The challenge lies in trying to get the political class to buy in; nearly all Republicans still actively deny that climate change is happening. Most Democrats haven't got the guts to go "all in" on building a green economy. And the super PACs and lobbyists representing fossil fuel interests are spending millions to enforce loyalty to their clients.
This is where ordinary people enter the equation. After watching the earth's climate change, people are less inclined to accept a future overheated planet incapable of sustaining life as we know it.
We must demand from our business and political leaders an immediate commitment to saving this planet. We have the technology. We have the brain power and muscle power. We have absolutely no excuses not to start the green revolution now - and it's not too late to begin.
AR's Chief of Correspondents, Randolph T. Holhut, holds an M.P.A. from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and has been an award-winning journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at email@example.com.