Bleaker than Ever: World Will Miss 2050 Temperature Targets

In its 2011 estimate, the International Energy Agency (IEA) reported that in 2010, the world emitted some 30.6 gigatonnes of harmful CO2 gasses into the atmosphere, thus making the target of limiting global temperature increase of 2ºC a bleak prospect.

On the one hand, emissions actually reduced in 2009, when the global economic meltdown of 2008 allowed for lower manufacturing and demand for energy. However, in 2010, as the economy recovered slowly, emissions once again increased to 5% than in the previous levels. This went against sympathetic scientists’ expectations of a ‘breathing space’ while demand for energy is low and gives policy makers more time to ‘negotiate’ and contemplate a well-positioned climate policy.

In a statement, IEA chief economist Dr Fatih Birol said that “This significant increase in CO2 emissions and the locking in of future emissions due to infrastructure investments represent a serious setback to our hopes of limiting the global rise in temperature to no more than 2ºC”.

For some time now, it has been a consensus among scientists and policy makers that the world must at all cost avoid a temperature increase of 2ºC through to 2050, if we are to avoid catastrophic and irreversible weather consequences. To achieve this goal, the world should emit no more than 5% of CO2 emissions in 2020 compared with 2000 levels, and even less after 2020. This also means that the world should not emit more than 32 gigatonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere by 2020, or rise less than the total increase in emissions from 2009-2010.

Thanks to last year’s 30.6 gigatonnes of emissions, the world is now in an even more difficult situation to meet the 32 gigatonnes limit emissions by 2020; too bad some 80% of the emissions in the next decade is now locked-in, meaning that 80% of emissions will come from presently under-construction powerplants thus adding to the predicament.

However, as with previous climate talks in the past ten years, climate talks have been hampered by the unwillingness of advanced economies to commit more for the climate than developing countries, not to mention economically struggling economies.  It all boils down to the capitalist system of business as usual and gaining geo-strategic advantage over other countries as well as baby-sitting greedy corporations.

Although scientists still are not sure what a 2ºC global rise in temperature brings, nevertheless, they are predicting mass extinctions, deforestation, desertification, more extreme weather events, as well as rise in sea level which will greatly threaten low-lying countries and thus pave the way for mass migration and conflict.

Quite predictably, imperialist powers are not busy tackling dramatic steps toward a friendlier emissions targets; tensions are actually building up as fight for new sources of resources slowly becomes the new agenda: with the melting of the Arctic, vast oil and gas reserves become economically viable to tap while new sea lanes open as well. Arctic countries including Denmark, Canada, Russia, and even the US and UK now are scrambling for control of this new exploitable expanse of the globe.

Also, efforts to forge a free-market out of CO2 emissions have failed as capitalist leaders can’t agree on how to cash in. On the one hand, developing countries and the lesser ones argue that developing a market that takes advantage of this climate danger is not the path at all to solving this unprecedented challenge; those who caused this in the first place should be the ones who should be more diligent, responsible, and empathetic.

In addition to governments, transnational corporations represent a real obstacle to any advances in green technologies; anything that presents a threat to their profits should be side-placed, if not thrown to the waste bins.

On the one hand, the economic resources needed to tackle climate change is not as gigantic as most think it is; it is just a matter of the right allocation of resources. For instance, the IEA estimates that spending US$10-$100 billion annually can help tackle 2020 emissions targets. That figure translates less than what the US military will spend in Afghanistan this  year. Even more startling, that amount is less than one-third of the combined wealth of the ten richest individuals in the US alone.

To effectively tackle global emissions, developed nations should be more serious in developing new strategies including pursuing the path to greener energy generation, rethinking of industrial and agricultural practices, as well as making transportation more efficient. It is never been more important to move away from a profit-based way of life, but more toward to a world where social needs are met, and not on excessive consumption, wanton exploitation, and business as usual.

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EU ‘quietly’ Seeking BRIC Assistance Regarding Greece Debt

Early this week, a news headline from Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal caught my attention regarding lobbying the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) to ‘quietly’ assist the EU, specifically Greece.

In seeking for the quiet assistance, in a telephone interview, The Institute of International Finance Inc. (IIF) Deputy Managing Director Hung Tran said that “If you have the extra 20 billion which we are seeking from other countries, that of course would increase the amount of debt retirement that Greece can have.” He also added that “We have been in preliminary discussions with some countries and the reaction we received is an open mind and request for more information and discussion.” the IIF represents 440 of the world’s largest banks, insurance companies and investment firms.

Basically, this allows BRIC countries to pool their resources into a new account via the IMF, which in turn would be loaned to the Greek government. The goal is to allow lower Greece’s burden by as much as $25 billion and lower the country’s debt-to-GDP ration to about 91% by 2020, assuming the world is headed on a better economic climate.

It is quite lamentable that the IMF and World Bank cannot continue to support a faltering economy such as Greece’s. As the EU financial juggernaut becomes exhausted, so as the countries that it persuaded to join this exclusive ‘club’ of supposedly advanced economies.

Just last May, when the IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was on the headlines, concerns about who should head the IMF cropped up. Despite the fact that the global economy is now concentrated in the East (BRIC), we still failed to see a BRIC leader in the IMF. Indeed, the West has a short memory, having forgotten Strauss-Kahn’s statement just a few months ago that India and China’s economy are the ones that really lifted the global economy out of the recession.

Fast forward to this day, how hypocritical is it to witness that the West is asking for assistance, albeit quietly? Why be quiet about a matter that will save the Euro zone? If the economies of Portugal and Spain crashes as well, do you really need to ask for assistance, discretely? Financial ministers from BRIC countries will be meeting with the IMF today; for now, let us standby and wait for further developments.

America Goes on to Sacrifice Economy for Influence

It has been a decade since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US; a solid ten years of rambunctious terror here and there, weakening of American leverage, influence, and leadership, as well as the rise of non-Western powers as the new leaders of the new century. At this point, it’s become tiring to mention “9/11” or colloquially known as “twin towers attack”, really.

Looking at this September 11 date from 2011, it can be interesting to figure out ‘what went wrong’ and if there is any room for improvement left for the US to do. In that ten years, we saw the sharp rise of BRIC countries, skyrocketing of energy prices, the greatest recession the capitalist world has experienced, the fall of overstaying leaders in the Middle East and Africa, and unprecedented disasters from natural calamities that further confirms that global climate change is real and thus further limits the world’s options for development.

In the months following the 9/11 attacks, the US experienced a much needed sympathy from the global community; although a small fraction of the global population saw the US as the menace, the greater population grieved and empathized with the US. But in the next few years, we saw a dramatic decline in how the world viewed the “Global War on Terror”, especially after the 2003 American invasion of Iraq: no weapons of mass destruction and the rest is history. Despite that, even in Barack Obama’s time, the promise of withdrawing from the ‘oil lands’  has not been met. The American war machine continued to rally its allies to foreign lands and as a consequence, sharply compromised its economy.

Indeed, Uncle Sam is in a really hard position these days: how do you balance global leverage with a failing economy? The more matured analysts advises the West to step aside and allow for change, than to be empire nostalgic.

But this is not the case, even after the Western recession of 2008-2009. Instead of pulling out from foreign lands, the US is taking advantage of the regime changes taking place in the Middle East and Africa. How hypocrite it is to see how the West literally embraced Gadaffi in the past but today we see him being betrayed by his ‘energy partners’. Indeed, the US not only needs to secure energy for its own consumption, but also to actually profit from it by ‘owning’ the top oil producing countries. As the Gadaffi regime ends, otherwise NATO allies like Germany have become self-critical, blaming local policies for not joining the greatest oil looting in recent memory and thus, cannot take part in the oil bounty.How many times did we actually witness how the West encroached governments? Did we really think that the US government interventions in South America during the Cold War ended there?

And then the China equation aches to be solved: What to do with China’s phenomenal rise? Everyday for at least the past decade we are bombarded with endless news about a China that is a non-responsible, economically and ecologically unsustainable country that needs to be tamed if the West is to maintain hegemony and a one-polar world. What the US cannot do by itself, it outsources, encouraging new powers to contain China. In a recent conversation with an Indian colleague, it is truly enlightening to realize that it seems that the US agenda for India is to pit it against its neighbor China. But it is more important to know that for now, India is not interested to become a US puppet.

What the West needs to do and avoid does not require hard thinking in actuality, it takes just to give up imperialism and see where the winds of change bring the world.