WorldWeWant Campaign Calls For Climate Action

What kind of world do we want? Do we want one where we are more likely to see wildfires and tropical storms? That’s the question we all need to ask ourselves. The sane answer is that we want a world where greenhouse gas emissions stay below the 2 degree Celsius increase that climate scientists say is necessary to avoid the worst climate change impacts.

In mid-October, the Climate Action Network launched the #WorldWeWant Campaign on Climate Impacts. The campaign highlights the consequences of climate inaction, calls on governments to deliver radical climate commitments, and highlights the voices of affected communities. Part of the campaign includes short films from communities around the world. The campaign posts the films with the #WorldWeWant hashtag. There are over 20 stories sourced through the campaign’s national, regional, and international members in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, the United States, Uganda, Costa Rica, Morocco, Tunisia, Mozambique, Niger, Sudan, Tunisia, Russia, Tajikistan, the Philippines, and Cambodia.

The year of climate action 

2020 is the year when all countries are expected to submit their national climate action plans to reduce emissions to put the world on a 1.5 degrees Celsius pathway. Only 13 countries submitted updated national climate plans to date, which represents only 3.6 percent of global emissions. December 12 marks the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement

The campaign calls on governments to submit updated national climate plans by the end of this year. It also calls on global financing institutions and developed countries to shift their financial investments from fossil fuels and support developing countries in investing in plans and policies that protect people from climate change impacts. The campaign also calls on governments to listen to the science and better prepare for extreme weather events, and to create a just and sustainable recovery that puts health and safety first while investing in resilience building and nature, and to abandon a fossil fuel growth model. 

What you can do

With a new administration taking office in January, we must make our voices heard about climate change. There are several easy ways to do so. One of those is through getting involved with the World We Want campaign. There are three ways you can get involved. You can become an influencer and help spread the word through social media, join the Policy Strategy Group and be a part of the team, or engage with the UN. 

You can also send an email message to the World Bank through the Big Shift campaign. The campaign calls on the World Bank to end direct and indirect financing for all fossil fuels, rapidly scale up investment in energy access. The campaign also calls on the World Bank to help lead a just transition by aligning all its lending and operations with a 1.5 C pathway, work with its peers to announce a joint multilateral development banks framework on alignment with 1.5 C by the end of 2020, and work on developing a high ambition coalition at the Finance in Common summit for ending fossil fuel financing from all public finance institutions. 

Photo by Eelco Böhtlingk on Unsplash

The Move to Keep Fossil Fuels In the Ground

The covid-19 pandemic failed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. According to the World Meteorological Organization, global carbon emissions continue to increase. Perhaps one of the reasons is that most of the world’s electricity still comes from fossil fuels. And fossil fuel exploration and extraction continues despite the pandemic.

Fossil fuels are the main cause of climate change. Coal, oil, and gas comprise nearly 80 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions since the industrial revolution. The world is on track to produce more than twice as many fossil fuels by 2030 than is consistent with limiting the rise in global temperature to below 1.5 degrees Celsius. The world’s fossil fuel reserves contain enough carbon to push the world beyond the 1.5C goal. 

Phasing-out existing stockpiles and the production of fossil fuels is in line with the 1.5C goal. The Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty calls for the phasing out of both stockpiles and production. A treaty would put the supply-side of fossil fuels in center focus by creating an international agreement to deal with greenhouse gas emissions at source. A treaty would help keep large amounts of fossil fuels in the ground. 

Why a treaty is necessary

The latest UN Environment Program report on the emissions gap found that nationally determined contributions of emissions imply a temperature rise of three degrees Celsius by 2100. If the emissions gas is not closed by 2030, the goal of staying below two degrees Celsius is out of reach. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) latest findings calls for a reduction of carbon emissions by 45 percent by 2030 and for investments in fossil fuel extraction and power generation to decrease by up to $.85 trillion by 2050. 

The global demand for oil, gas, and coal is growing. Fossil fuels comprise 81 percent of energy use, according to the International Energy Agency. Fossil fuel use will increase for decades, the IEA projects. However, to keep warming below two degrees Celsius, 80 percent of fossil fuel reserves should not be burned, according to a report by Carbon Tracker. 

Some countries have policies in place to phase out fossil fuels

Although international treaties neglect supply-side solutions, countries are moving to keep fossil fuels in the ground. New Zealand, France, Belize, and Costa Rica have moratoriums on oil exploration in place. France, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and Uruguay have moratoriums on hydraulic fracturing (fracking). The UK, Spain, and China have set timetables for phasing out existing fossil fuels. Several other countries committed to divesting from fossil fuels. Norway’s sovereign wealth fund divested from coal stocks. Ireland’s Parliament voted to require its sovereign wealth fund to divest from fossil fuel stocks.

The Powering Past Coal Alliance launched in November 2017 as a coalition of national and sub-national governments, businesses, and organizations to advance the transition from coal to clean energy. Over 25 nations are part of the Alliance. These nations have pledged to phase out coal-fired power generation. To be a member of the Alliance, nations must make public declarations they will not build new, unabated coal-fired power stations and will phase out existing ones.

Phasing out subsidies

Fossil fuel subsidies occur in all stages of fossil fuel production. The Production Gap report by the UNEP looked at production plans in 10 key countries. Seven of the countries (China, the United States, Russia, India, Australia, Indonesia, and Canada) are top fossil fuel producers. Three are significant producers with strong climate goals (Germany, Norway, and the UK). What the report found out is that the production of fossil fuels in nearly every national plan exceeds the 2030 levels projected by the IEA. Subsidy reform is a tool governments can use to help make their fossil fuel plans line up with climate goals. 

The will to act

The world is already experiencing climate change impacts. The 2020 hurricane season so far has had 30 named tropical storms and forced forecasters to use the Greek letters of the alphabet. That breaks the record set in 2005 when there were 28 named storms. Hurricanes are not the only climate change impacts this year. California has experienced a record number of devastating wildfires, with 4.1 million acres and counting burned in 2020. 

Do countries have the will to act to keep fossil fuels in the ground so the world can keep warming to the 1.5C goal? Only time will tell

Photo by WORKSITE Ltd. on Unsplash

The Ecocide and Potential Genocide Armenians Face

While the U.S. and other countries issue messages of support but no aid, Armenians face ecocide and the potential for another genocide in their ancestral lands, lands they were forced to leave on November 15, 2020. 

Azerbaijan, with the aid of Turkey, attacked the autonomous region of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) on September 27. For 44 days, civilian populations in Artsakh, an ancient Armenian region, faced constant bombardment from cluster munitions. Azerbaijan dropped white phosphorus on the forests of Artsakh, as video evidence shows.

In the Caucuses, history impacts present-day life. In 1918, the country of Azerbaijan came into being after the Russian empire fell. The country consists of lands stolen from Armenians, Georgians, and Iranians. The name of the country comes from a region in Iran. From 1918 to 1921, Azerbaijan was an independent country. Stalin gave control of Artsakh to Azerbaijan in 1921. That same year, Armenians in Artsakh faced massacres by Azeris, and 35,000 Armenians died. This occurred just a few years after 1.5 million Armenians died during the Armenian genocide, perpetrated by the Turks. The Azeris are a Turkic people. 

Turkey and Azerbaijan: A tale of two dictators

Turkey supplied Azerbaijan with arms, including the drones used to drop cluster munitions on civilians and white phosphorus on forests. Turkey also sent thousands of mercenaries to Artsakh, mercenaries Turkey paid to fight Armenians. While Armenia is a democracy, Freedom House grades Turkey as 32 out of 100 on its Global Freedom Scores and labels it not free. President Recep Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) has ruled Turkey since 2002. A 2016 attempted coup caused Erdogan to crack down on opposition while constitutional changes in 2017 further concentrated his power. 

Azerbaijan has been ruled by the Aliyev family since gaining independence from the Soviet Union in the early 90s. Ilham Aliyev has served as president since 2003. In recent years, the Aliyev regime cracked down on civil liberties. In 2017, President Aliyev appointed his wife, Mehriban Aliyeva as vice president, a position created with little to no public consultation or parliamentary debate. Freedom House grades Azerbaijan a 10 and labels the country not free.

Ecocide and potential genocide

Within both Artsakh and Armenia lie primeval forests which contain biodiversity unseen in the rest of the Caucasus region. The forests contain 6,000 plant species, 153 mammal species, 400 bird species. The Foundation for the Preservation of Wildlife and Cultural Assets (FPWC) established the Caucasus Wildlife Refuge (CWR) in 2010. Extending from the Azerbaijan border to Artsakh through two provinces of Armenia (Ararat and Vayots Dzor provinces), it is about 74,131 acres. Critically endangered species such as the Persian leopard and the Armenian mouflon are spotted there. Only about eight to 13 individuals of the Persian leopard remain in the region. Some of the oldest juniper forests remaining in Armenia are located in the CWR.

The white phosphorus Turkish drones dropped on Artsakh amount to ecocide. The Artsakh Human Rights Ombudsman noted on November 3 that 4485 acres of forest area in Artsakh had burned “but fires continue in various areas and there is a tendency for rapid growth.” The Ombudsman characterized the fires as an “environmental catastrophe, which undermines the environmental security in the region and contains long-term dangerous consequences for the life and health of the people of Artsakh.”

In early November, 50 non-governmental organizations in Armenia issued a joint statement about the use of white phosphorus weapons by Azerbaijan in Artsakh. The statement noted that the use of white phosphorus violates international humanitarian law, principles of customary law, the Geneva Convention, the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Technique, plus provisions of UN conventions and documents. The statement pointed out that the use of white phosphorus threatens the region’s biodiversity, which is recognized as one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. 

While white phosphorus causes forests and other vegetation to burn, it is also toxic.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) characterizes white phosphorus as “extremely toxic to humans.” It can cause severe effects on the kidneys, liver, cardiovascular system, and central nervous system. 

War crimes

There is something else the organizations noted in their statement. During the recent war, Azerbaijan committed documented war crimes, including “beheadings of Armenian soldiers, the killing of civilians in a city square wrapped in Armenian flags, deliberate attacks on civilian infrastructures – residential buildings, churches, food markets, schools, and maternity hospitals.

The war crimes echo the Armenian genocide when the Turkish government killed Armenian men throughout Western Armenia (present day Eastern Armenia) and deported the remaining population, marching them to the Syrian desert without food or water. The author of this article is descended from people who fled the genocide.

The Armenian organizations sent the statement to 77 environmental organizations such as Greenpeace, and environmentalists like Greta Thunberg. There has been total silence from the organizations and individuals who received the statement. Silence is something Armenians all over the world expect when they face attacks from Turkic people, as history proves. 

On November 9, the news of an agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan stunned Armenians all over the world. The reason for the collective shock is that Armenia agreed to hand over parts of Artsakh to Azerbaijan. What that means is that Armenian lands will be handed over to the very people that caused ecocide within the region’s forests. What remains of Artsakh will be surrounded by Azeris. If history serves as a prophet, massacres of Armenians will take place.

What you can do

The non-profit organization, Armenian National Congress of America (ANCA) urges the Trump administration to re-engage in the Minsk Group process, which brokered the agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and re-negotiate the treaty. Armenia signed the agreement without the participation of two of the three chairs of the Minsk Group (Russia and the U.S.). Only one chair (Russia) participated. 

There is something you can do. You can sign up to receive action alerts from the Armenian National Congress of America (ANCA) where you will be instructed to email or tweet to your elected officials. Stand with Armenians in condemning the attacks by Turkey and Azerbaijan and convince them that there are non-Armenians who care. 

Image courtesy of ArmenPress News

The Climate of Our Moral Character

Our moral character should not be run by fossil fuel. How we chose to model the energy economy of the future says much of who we are now.

Energy, capital, and human well-being

The growing climate activism among the world’s youth opens a fresh debate on the moral character of a civilization that would foreclose the future in a last gasp effort to preserve, as Donald Trump sees it, the “wealth underneath our feet.” American wealth, Trump says, is “based on energy” and that he won’t “jeopardize that for dreams and windmills.”

To have a substantive discussion about wealth, dreams, windmills, and morality, we have to go beyond anything Trump says or does, of course. Especially when the discussion revolves around morality. And so we shall.

I will give Mr. Trump this, however: energy is wealth. Certainly in the capitalistic, transactional sense, there is wealth in energy, but limiting our worldview, as Trump does, to the simple equation of wealth accumulation in terms of capital transfer is, as Greta Thunberg so eloquently said at the UN last week, a fantasy of unlimited growth. It is, many argue, an immoral fantasy. One in which most of us live.

We all want energy, in this simple sense, to power the machinery of modern life. Without question, humanity has flourished from the “wealth beneath our feet.” As such, there is an argument for the moral good of pulling up the trapped sunlight in ever more sophisticated methods of extraction. This makes some of us uncomfortable. How can we consider a fossil fuel economy a “good” thing, when we see the environmental destruction, social injustice, unrestrained greed, and existential climate crises that come with it?

I suggest that the “good” we derive from access to fossil energy is not a moral grounding for humanity. Moral good derives from it, just as a moral wrong. Fossil fuel extraction is a method, a tactic, technology. It is not a basis upon which to hang any moral argument. It is amoral. Just like our president.

Moral energy

In order to consider issues of energy and morality, we must think past our current age, even past the totality of human history. Throughout the world, most of us underpin our moral sense in some form of religious ideation. We apply an abstract notion of “God” as an external moral force guiding our behavior.

Indeed, we are a storytelling species, framing our perception of consciousness and reality on personal and social narratives. In one form or another, this is arguably inevitable. Not having a story is not having a life.

The problem with pinning the ultimate nature of morality on any particular myth is that we pin our allegiance, and thus our humanity, on the story, not the underlying principle the story intends to illustrate. We learn to hate those who don’t know or don’t believe in our story. Or at least dismiss them as deluded.

What if morality is rooted in biology?

Evolution, biology, and moral character

Writing in New Scientist, neurophilosopher Patricia Churchland argues against the common notion that our self-interested survival precludes altruism. In Deliver us from evil: How biology, not religion, made humans moral,” Churchland says that it is through the evolution of our mammalian brains and our unrivaled ability of learning and abstraction that we find our moral ground. The plasticity of our brain and flexibility in our social interactions necessitates innate selflessness. Without it, we would never survive. We would have never come to be.

This is generally true of all mammals and even birds to some degree. Care for the other — kin, kith, and beyond. But no other species has climbed so high or developed such complex social interaction as Homo sapiens.

All this is enormously oversimplified, of course. It seems like war, cruelty, dishonesty, gluttony, egocentrism, violence, and greed are all part of the human package. Ages of philosophers have posited the reasons why. It will be on the minds of philosophers when the last breath of humanity flickers out, sooner or later.

If it is essentially the ability of selfless adaptation and learning from which our morality arises, we can then take agency and responsibility, not just for ourselves (though certainly that’s where it must start), not just for the greedy accumulation of wealth, not just to fearfully cling to dogma, but for a better world of our making.

Fossil fuels entrench us in a Faustian bargain. It has corrupted the human spirit even as we have thrived in its heat. It is the cognitive dissonance that isolates us from our moral grounding.

We act morally when learn and adapt to the world around us and in a manner that the moral climate of our character transcends the generations. It is here that we risk losing ourselves entirely. 

COP23 Wraps : The Long Journey Continues, Nobody Said It Was Easy

Fight another day

The first COP climate conference of the Trump presidency wrapped up last week. True to form, the final gavel fell in the “wee hours” of Saturday morning.

Lacking the excitement of COP21 two years ago, COP23 is nonetheless one more step in the long road of transforming into reality the global aspiration expressed in Paris.

That reality is by no means assured. Despite the political upheaval of the past year, we survive to fight another day.

Life in the Anthropocene

A race to where?

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Community Capital: Economic Development With a Sense of Place

It’s the economy, stupid.

In 1992, political strategist James Carville coined his catchy admonition ostensibly to keep his staff on message, arguably helping pave the way to Bill Clinton’s presidency.

Carville’s “snowclone” phrase has since been bent and contorted into service across a wide swath of issues.

It’s time to bring the expression home.

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Looking for Tomorrow: Reasons for Hope in a Troubled World

A corrupted creation myth

Corrupted information tells the wrong story

The scientific debate whether we call our geologic epoch the Anthropocene is yet to be settled.

What is less debatable is the planetary-scale impact of human activity. As we posit throughout PlanetWatch, we live in the Age of Man. Our presence is felt in every corner of the Earth. Dominion over the Earth, what was once we imagined, an ageless myth, is our reality. We reap the benefits for a time.

Continue reading “Looking for Tomorrow: Reasons for Hope in a Troubled World”