Typhoon Haiyan tragedy shows urgency of Warsaw climate summit

Typhoon Haiyan tragedy shows urgency of Warsaw climate summit


Typhoon Haiyan tragedy shows urgency of Warsaw climate summit

As people in the Philippines struggle with the devastation and death from the worst storm to hit land in recorded history – Typhoon Haiyan – world leaders are meeting in Warsaw, Poland, to discuss the climate crisis. “What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness. The climate crisis is madness,” Yeb Sano, lead negotiator for the Philippines, told the opening session of the UN climate summit, which runs until November 22. “We can stop this madness. Right here in Warsaw.”

[quote]The only hindrance to developing a fair, ambitious and legally binding climate plan for the world is lack of political will.[/quote]

Given the slow progress at the 18 meetings held since 1992 – when countries from around the world joined the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – it’s hard not to be pessimistic. Canada, in particular, has been repeatedly singled out among the close to 200 member countries for obstructing progress and not doing enough to address climate change at home.

Lack of political will is main challenge to tackling climate change

But as scientific evidence continues to build, and impacts – from extreme weather to melting Arctic ice – continue to worsen, with costs mounting daily, the impetus to resolve the problem is growing. We’re exhausting Earth’s finite resources and pushing global ecosystems to tipping points, beyond which addressing pollution and climate issues will become increasingly difficult and costly. The only hindrance to developing a fair, ambitious and legally binding climate plan for the world is lack of political will.

Part of the problem is that much of the world is tied to the fossil fuel economy, and the rush is on to get as much oil, coal and gas out of the ground and to market while people are still willing to pay for it and burn it up. We’re wasting precious resources in the name of quick profits, instead of putting them to better use than propelling often solo occupants in large metal vehicles, and instead of making them last while we shift to cleaner energy sources.

Solutions to climate change are real and available

But there’s cause for hope. Solutions are available. Governments just have to demonstrate courage and leadership to put us on a path to a healthier future.

For example, a recent report by energy consulting firm ECOFYS, “Feasibility of GHG emissions phase-out by mid-century”, shows it’s technically and economically feasible to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions to zero from 90 per cent of current sources with readily available technology. It shows we could phase out almost all net emissions by 2050 by innovating further. In doing so, we could likely meet the agreed-upon goal of limiting global average temperature increases to below 2 C, and we’d stand a 50 per cent chance of staying below 1.5 C by the end of the century. All of this would have the added benefit of reducing “water, air and soil pollution associated with traditional energy generation.”

The report echoes the David Suzuki Foundation’s findings regarding Canada’s potential to meet its current and forecasted demand for fuel and electricity with existing supplies of solar, wind, hydroelectric and biomass energy.

Whether or not any of this is politically feasible is another question. But the longer we delay the more difficult and expensive it will get.

Poll: climate change a top political priority for Canadians

Polling research also shows Canadians expect our government to be a constructive global citizen on climate action. A recent Leger Marketing survey sponsored by Canada 2020 and the University of Montreal found the majority of Canadians understand that human activity is contributing to climate change and believe the federal government should make addressing the issue a high priority. Of those polled, 76 per cent said Canada should sign an international treaty to limit greenhouse gas emissions, with most supporting this even if China does not sign.

The poll also found majority support for a carbon tax as one way to combat climate change, especially if the money generated is used to support renewable energy development. Although B.C. has recently stepped back from previous leadership on climate change, its carbon tax is one example among many of local governments doing more than the federal government to address climate change.

Typhoon Haiyan a wake-up call for climate summit

We and our leaders at all political levels – local, national and international – must do everything we can to confront the crisis. As Mr. Sano told delegates in Warsaw, “We cannot sit and stay helpless staring at this international climate stalemate. It is now time to take action. We need an emergency climate pathway.”

With contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington.


About Dr. David Suzuki

David Suzuki, Co-Founder of the David Suzuki Foundation, is an award-winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster. He is renowned for his radio and television programs that explain the complexities of the natural sciences in a compelling, easily understood way.

7 thoughts on “Typhoon Haiyan tragedy shows urgency of Warsaw climate summit

  1. According to The International Energy Agency, if every country that has made voluntary commitments lived up to their commitments, emissions would rise 20% from current levels by 2035,. Under this IEA scenario, oil consumption will increase to 101M barrels/day, up from the current 14M/day. As well, coal consumption would be up due to sharp increases in demand in emerging national economies.

    In response to this report, Joe Oiliver said this is great news for Canada.

    But hey, wait a minute. There are signs that some components of the world’s energy puzzle are changing for the better and ultimately the slow pokes will have no choice but to catch up – including Canada.

    In this regard, Germany’s Nov 2013 Fraunhofer ISE report revealed that energy production costs from well-located wind farms are lower than those of coal and gas plants. Production costs from large PV solar arrays are now at par with coal and by 2030 both wind and solar production costs will be lower than fossil fuels.

    Sooner or later, the rest of the world will have to catch up to Germany and other European leaders if they want to be competitive. Keeping in mind that innovation keeps on bringing down the costs of clean technologies, those countries which are heavily investing in clean tech R & D today, will have the edge in tomorrow’s green economy.

    Since Canada’s current investments in clean tech R & D is near zero, Canada’s future competitiveness is compromised as the world migrates from energy as a natural resource commodity to energy as a clean technology commodity.

    As for emerging economies, Canada risks falling behind them as well.

    First, the World Bank is not waiting for the rest of the world to catch up. In July 2013, the World Bank announced that nearly all of its energy investments from here on would be in clean energy projects. It far less costly and far quicker to set up a clean energy micro-grid in an isolated community than develop expensive infrastructures to distribute fossil fuel derived energy from centralized facilities.

    Second, some of the best conditions for renewable energy development exists among those parts of the undeveloped world which don’t have any electricity, including the sub-Sahara. “Within 6 hours deserts receive more energy from the sun than humankind consumes within a year”, Dr. Gerhard Knies, DESERTEC Foundation.

  2. “Lack of political will…” it’s not the lack of will it the opposite, the drive and will to extract all resources possible, especially fossil fuels in the flagrant assault on our atmosphere and oceans for mainly profit.

    This is effectively greed driven madness. A whole society willfully blind and beeping lead by extremism there does not seem to be any breaks that will hold this juganut back till the wall is hit. and that is looking sooner than later.

  3. Is it time to stop the global military weaponizing of our weather
    and put these criminals behind bars?
    Or shall we just give them more taxes, to create more suffering and evil.

  4. ……and the politicans talk and talk and talk…….
    Until it affects them directly and disasterously they will just talk.
    Unfortunately, we keep electing them.
    So who do we blame?
    The politicians for doing nothing?
    Or ourselves for electing the same politicians that do nothing but talk…..

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