ecostory 31-2007
How nature could jolt humanity out of the equation
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Letter published in the Financial Times 14 February 2007

From Mr Helmut E. Lubbers.


Sir Samuel Brittan's "old-fashioned anti-pollution and environmental grounds and good sense" (February 9) are indeed sufficient motivation for trying to deal with climate change and other increasing ecological problems.

Apart from the discount rate debate, Sir Nicholas Stern is wrong in assuming that money and/or technology could deal with the effects of climate change. The Kyoto protocol's mechanisms produce a net increase in greenhouse gas emissions because they compare scenarios that produce slightly less emissions with business as usual scenarios. Carbon neutrality, zero carbon and carbon offsets can safely be denounced as scams that provide nothing more than a good conscience.

"Climate change" is good for business and economic growth. Precisely here lies the huge problem, since few opinion-leaders seem to understand that "growth" does not simply mean economic activity and employment. Economic growth means economic expansion, an increase in resource use and pollution. On a planet where humanity has already exceeded the carrying capacity, however, economic growth is a suicidal policy.

Old-fashioned logic and common sense tell us that finite resources will undeniably run out. It really doesn't matter whether this will happen tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. Historically, one or two or four generations is nothing, compared with the 4,000 generations that humanity has lived sustainably. Some people even write that they have no credible evidence of any of the environmental problems we are facing, including a finite planet. While humanity and per capita consumption continue to increase, the earth is becoming relatively smaller, more crowded and more depleted.

Imagine the combination of the effects of climate change with oil and gas shortages after oil has peaked and other environmental problems, such as soil erosion, biodiversity disruption and a scarcity of potable water. Present infrastructure and manufacturing could come to a complete standstill. Chaos and war over the last resources would probably ensue.

What are our present wars other than resource wars - over land, oil, water, food? Should we really continue to grow until nature stops us and possibly jolts us out of its equation altogether?

So, while climate change is important, we are still discussing at the margins as long as we quibble about discount rates and fake solutions and believe we can continue to grow in a finite world.

Helmut E. Lubbers
PS: 5 April 2007
The UK concept paper on "Energy, Security and Climate" for an open debate by the Security Council on 17.4.07 describes prtty unpleasant scenarios that could await us because of climate change and resource depletion.
If these leaders at the Security Council would also start to see that growth and expansion are the core cause for all our environmental and security problems. Maybe we could then develop the appropriate policies, starting with the abolition of the economic growth ideology.
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