Recently a lot have been talked-about over the impacts of global warming caused by the developed and developing economies, and the developing economies came back with the idea of green economy to counter the allegations made against them. This piece of writing discusses about the “politics of global warming” & the “politics of green economy.”
Consequences of global warming
Human activities, especially burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas, are altering the relatively stable and livable climate of our planet. Such burning of fossil fuels, which release carbons that have previously been locked up in coal, oil and natural gas for millions of years, cause gradual rise in average global temperatures. This trend is generally referred to as global warming.
Global warming poses a number of threats: (i) the threat to human health increases by many times, (ii) ecosystem is damaged due to higher temperatures, (iv) changing weather patterns cause irreversible damage to agriculture, (iv) coastal areas are vulnerable to the lethal combination of rising sea level and increasing number of severe ocean storms that are caused by the melting of mountain-ice and polar glaciers because of the rise in global temperature.
Politics of climate change/global warming
Historically the majority of emissions can be traced back to Western developed countries. Western industrialized countries have been responsible for three quarters of global emissions released into the Earth’s atmosphere during the period 1705 – 2005. However, the global economic dominance is shifting away from western powers to the emerging eastern & southern powers like China, India, South Africa & Brazil, all of which are constantly progressing with their ever growing economies and it seems unlikely that there would be any sort of pause to this trend. Fearing isolation in terms of global economy, some of the western economies have been trying to halt the progress of these easterners & southerners in order to save their own economies.
In such a venture to halt the competitors or potential competitors, the already industrialized western countries have been strategizing many mechanisms and policies in order to achieve their objectives. Some industrialized or industrializing economies (like that of China, India, South Africa & Brazil) are disturbed, every now and then, by warnings of not polluting the environment from carbons emitted from industrial sites, and thereby attempting to shift those economies’ attention partially to such environmental issues.
The debate between the West & the rest
It is argued that the ones, who have caused the problem of global warming, should bear primary responsibility for mitigating the effects of their actions, otherwise addressed as the historic responsibility. This is based on the principle of ‘polluter pays’.
Therefore, the western industrialized economies that have emitted large quantities of carbons in the past should bear the burden proportionately. Since the emerging economies have not been equal in respect of their contributions in causing global warming, they should not be expected to bear a similar burden like the ones who has historic responsibility.
If the western industrialized economies recognize, and take action with regard to, their historic responsibility for past damage, they may find the emerging economies more interested in adopting techniques that will reduce their own carbon emissions.
The idea of utilizing the Green Energy
The renewable energies that are obtained from natural sources – such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, plants and heat – are generally addressed as green energy, in compared to the supply of oil and other hydrocarbons that are limited for all practical purposes. It is generally perceived that green energy does not leave behind harmful byproducts, such as pollution or greenhouse gasses.
Some methods of electricity production produce no or few carbon emissions – solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower. Power plants fueled by wood, agricultural crop wastes, livestock wastes, and methane collected from municipal landfills release carbon emissions but may contribute little to global climate change since they also can prevent even greater releases of both carbon and methane.
The politics of green economy
The sheer size of population and economy of China, India & the likes mean their energy decisions have massive consequences. China & India are two of the world’s top four emitters of greenhouse gases. By next two decades, with the rapid rise in energy demands of both China & India, their world share of carbon emissions is predicted to rise too.
The emitters like China & India required an idea to counter the politics of climate change/global warming, and they came up with the idea of green economy. China took the policy of “showcasing” with “visibility” its promise to make the economy more environment friendly and hence the name green economy. While it is true that so far China has shown some progress, it is just part of counterpolitics by China against the politics of climate change/global warming.
China has, in less than a decade, become the world’s largest producer and user of renewable energy technologies. The official position of the Chinese government on non-fossil fuels is to grow further the renewable energy consumption by 2030. China is also committed to a significant increase of the electricity generating capacity based on renewable sources, doubling wind and quadrupling solar by 2020.
Although a lot have been done from China’s end for accelerating the development of renewable energy/green economy, China is still continuing to consume fossil fuels and emit large quantities of carbon dioxide, contributing to the acceleration of global warming. If a deep thought is given to the issue, it would clearly appear that China is attempting to trade the idea of green economy with its high level of carbon emissions, so that the global population at large remains calm at its massive carbon emissions.
- The U.S. & the likes at one side and China & the likes at the otherside have been trying to achieve their respective objectives through the “politics of climate change/global warming” and the “politics of green economy” without taking into account the future of living species including human race.
- Whatever is done on the front of green energy in order to slow down the rate of carbon emission – will have very negligible effect so long as the central problem of fossil-fuel consumption is left unchecked.
- Green energy would never be able to replace conventional energy sources; not because of the quality of green energy, but because of the quantity it may deliver. The conventional energy sources like oil, natural gas & coal provide such scale of economic values that are unmatched by any alternatives.
- Since the conventional energy sources can deliver larger scale of production per year, per month, per day, and even per hour than that of the green energy sources, it is very likely that businesses would not choose green energy sources over conventional ones.
- Global warming is such a problem that cannot be separated from the energy problem. If the consumption of more fossil fuels to generate more energy continues, it inevitably would cause climate change that would be irreversible.
Bahauddin Foizee is an international affairs analyst, and writes on Middle Eastern, greater Asia-Pacific & European geopolitics. Also a campaigner for environmental and social awareness, Bahauddin Foizee occasionally writes on environment and refugee issues.