The world is hurting. The third world is hurting more. The impacts of climate change are devastating.
Frequent, prolonged and severe droughts are wiping out human and livestock populations. Loss of species and habitats have become commonplace. Violent conflicts over dwindling resources are escalating. Rivers are drying. Lakes are shrinking. Farmers are recording unimaginable loses and food insecurity is worsening.
Children are forced out of school. Women have to cover several kilometers in search for water and food. Some never make it back to their families. Populations are displaced. Destitute climate refugees are crammed in squalid camps.
Fathers leave their rural homes in search for better life in urban areas. When the expected life proves elusive, they turn into beggars along the streets or worse, thugs in the city. The unlucky never make it back to their families. Bullet riddled bodies dumped in city morgues lie unclaimed by oblivious family members.
The situation is getting worse. The world is becoming hotter and hotter.
NOAA and NASA analysis of global temperatures from 1880 to 2015 revealed a grim trend: 2015 was the hottest year on record, followed by 2014, and of the hottest years on record, 15 out of 16 have come since 2001.
Human activities, led by burning of fossil fuels, are behind the catastrophe.
Most of energy used worldwide come from fossil fuel (oil, coal, and natural gas) combustion. Fossil fuels contain high percentages of carbon. Burning them leads to production of carbon dioxide (CO2) – the leading cause of global warming.
Based on 2010 global emissions data, 65% of CO2 emitted to the atmosphere came from burning fossil fuels.
By burning fossil fuels, we pump up to 30 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere each year. However, in 2015, it is estimated that we pumped 39.8 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels (778 million tonnes or 2.3% more than the previous year).
This level is rising. At 402.25 parts per million (ppm), atmospheric CO2 is at its highest level in 15 to 20 million years. The recent increase of 100 ppm has taken just 120 years. A natural change of 100ppm normally takes 5,000 to 20,000 years.
This build up has had a huge influence on global warming trend.
Though the developed countries emit majority of the greenhouse gases (GHGs) especially CO2, it is the poorest countries with the lowest CO2 emissions that face the grimmest consequences of the fossil fuel-induced climate change.
To save us from the peril, UNFCCC came along – to clean up the mess through climate negotiations and consensus building to cut emissions of GHGs.
We are paying for someone’s iniquities dearly with our lives and livelihoods. The iniquities committed by wealthy individuals minting billions of dollars from fossil fuels while affecting lives of millions of people.
Just when we thought hope was nigh, the perpetrators of climate genocide, joined with billions of dollars, sending delegates and bankrolling scientists, skeptics and policymakers to sabotage talks and sway decisions in their favour.
ExxonMobil have knowingly misrepresented scientific facts regarding global climate change and its impacts to mislead the public.
Engie, Électricité de France (EDF), Suez Environnement and the bank BNP Paribas that collectively own more than 46 coal-fired power plants around the world and much more investment in oil and shale were embroiled in scandalous sponsorship deals during COP 21.
The suffering third world is eagerly waiting for solution yet involving the fossil fuel industry in climate negotiations has proven futile due to vested interests and commercial gains. The industry is holding the planet at ransom, depriving the underprivileged of hope.
Even the Paris agreement that has been heralded as a key step towards a clean energy future has loopholes with words such as ‘balance out’. Balancing out emissions with sequestration simply means paying to pollute. Forests sequester carbon. Unfortunately, deforestation and unsustainable land use practices have led to emission of more CO2.
What shall we do?
We don’t need fossil fuels. There are cleaner energy sources: solar energy, hydroelectricity, wind energy, wave power, geothermal energy, biofuel and tidal power.
The good news is these options are affordable and available over wide geographical areas unlike non-renewable sources.
So, how can we stop the fossil fuel industry from influencing climate policy? In my opinion, there is only one way:
To kick them out of the UNFCCC negotiations!
This may seem a little farfetched but it has been done before; to the once-upon-a-time mighty tobacco industry! And it worked!
The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control was adopted after locking companies with ‘commercial and vested interests’ in the tobacco industry out of influencing health policy due to ‘irreconcilable conflicts’ between the companies’ interests and public health.
The treaty that aims to protect the public from the harmful effects of tobacco is considered one of the most widely adopted treaties in the history of the United Nations.
We want the same action for fossil fuel companies.
It is clear that their interests and human welfare are incompatible. People are dying and, as a matter of moral principle, you cannot negotiate to continue killing for profit.
Currently, non-state actors are not restricted to participate in climate talks. The fossil fuel industry therefore has access to influence negotiations.
But we are running out of time to tackle rising GHG emissions. To keep temperatures from rising by more than 1.5°C, more than half the world’s fossil fuel reserves must be closed.
As the world prepares to gather in Marrakech for COP22 we must say NO to fossil fuel industry participation in climate negotiations!
We can do this by initiating and signing petitions, writing letters and op-eds, holding demonstrations, sensitizing our communities on the impact of fossil fuels and so on.
Let us act now and save the world from burning! Renewable energy is the better option.