The causes of climate change
21st February 2021 | Commercial Energy
We are told that 2030 is a significant year for global sustainability targets. What could we really achieve comprehensively from now until then, especially with climate change dominating so many discussions and proposals? Several United Nations agreements use 2030 for their timeframe, including the Sustainable Development Goals, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Paris Agreement for tackling human-caused climate change, and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development. Aside from the oddity of having separate agreements with separate approaches from separate agencies to achieve similar goals, climate change is often explicitly separated as a topic. Yet is brings little that is new to the overall and fundamental challenges causing our sustainability troubles.
Consider what would happen if tomorrow we magically reached exactly zero greenhouse gas emissions. Overfishing would continue unabated through what is termed illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, often in protected areas such as Antarctic waters. Demands from faraway markets would still devastate nearshore marine habitats and undermine local practices serving local needs.
Deforestation would also continue. Examples are illegal logging in protected areas of Borneo and slashing-and-burning through the Amazon’s rainforest, often to plant products for supermarket shelves appealing to affluent populations. Environmental exploitation and ruination did not begin with, and is not confined to, climate change.
A similar ethos persists for human exploitation. No matter how awful the harm, human trafficking, organ harvesting, child marriage, child labour, female genital mutilation, and arms deals would not end with greenhouse gas emissions.
If we solved human-caused climate change, then humanity – or, more to the point, certain sectors of humanity – would nonetheless display horrible results in wrecking people and ecosystems. It comes from a value favouring immediate exploitation of any resource without worrying about long-term costs. It sits alongside the value of choosing to live out of balance with the natural environment from local to global scales.
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