Saturday, April 3, 2010

Climate Change: The Failure of Reaching the Consensus

NOWHERE TO HIDE. Thanks to human's deeds now it is just a matter of time before increasing global temperature and thawing ices cause animals, like this Polar Bear, to be left with almost no place to live.

During the Copenhagen Summit, no common ground was established and the end result of the conference was a shocking loss for all environmentalists. The expectations from the summit is to see whether if countries leaders who set their foot at Copenhagen can assemble specific numbers of carbon emission cut or anything necessary to solve the climate change problem. In such predictable end, the output from the conference turned into zilch, which left many people wonder: if there was no tangible outcome generated from the summit itself, then why wasting time being at Copenhagen anyway?

Few were surprised when those conferences in Copenhagen –as well as at Kyoto or Bali– failed to deliver a solid way out from the climate change issue. Thanks to mankind deeds now the earth is getting sicker. The doomsday’s sign is becoming clearer as global temperature is becoming hotter, yet human beings –who are considered as the most responsible party for the whole problem–stand still and do almost nothing to evade the looming catastrophe.

Also, efforts from countries all over the world were always considered courteousness and there was actually no such thing as tangible actions from them to cure mother earth. World leaders who attended such conferences (which were deemed by them as integrated efforts to fix the climate change problem) walked away from the conferences with huge expectations on their shoulders yet did almost nothing at home. We must accept a bitter fact that so-called integrated endeavour from countries all over the world to fix the situation, in fact, is still yet to be defined.

Indeed, there is still clash of interests among both parties involved. On one hand, environmentalists argue that finding a way out from the hotter-than-ever earth is necessary before the situation becoming any worse in the long run. The ending of the story of our earth and all human beings, of course, will be scary if that happens. But the policymakers, especially those who currently run countries with booming industries like China, still observes things in the short-run as they think that strict regulations, as carbon emission limitation, will disrupt their industries and eventually hamper the massive surge of their economic growth.

This is the decade which will be best remembered by the story of how developing countries are dominating the world’s economy. Economy in China and India are growing at unprecedented rate, and if the condition remains unchanged, it is only a matter of time before they take over the lead from developed countries like United States and United Kingdom. The rise of China –and other developing countries as well– comes with a predictable repercussion: as the economy surges, so does the carbon emission which it generates from their booming industries. It is, indeed, an absolutely distressing fact for the environmentalists.

When great power is not always followed by great responsibility

When the economy of United States grew rapid in the mid-90s (thanks to the scrumptious blend of economic policies from Bill Clinton and Alan Greenspan), the country drew many criticisms from all over the world for the massive pollution it generated as well as its ignorance in the environmental issues. By the end of 2000, United States generated 24% of the world emission, making them the world’s largest polluter at that time.

Most of the questions pointed to United States’ government simply were why it can be so unaware of the environmental problem amid the fact that it has more than enough power to help reducing the emission which it produced. Many can understand if developing countries, who have insufficient funds to apply environmental-friendly technologies to reduce carbon emission, was lagging behind on the effort of tackling the environmental issue. But people wondered why it can occur in United States, a well-developed country which was deemed as one of the economic superpowers during that period.

Yet what happens today is China, not United States, who is actually making headlines on newspapers like Wall Street Journal or Financial Times. Today’s generation are the beholders of how China is pushing very hard to overtake United States as the new economic superpower: its economy is growing with a seemingly unstoppable rate, and it seems only economic overheating can stop its economy from growing as even the financial woes of 2008 could not curb it.

But as China’s economy grows, so does its carbon emission –or to put it in a better way: its ignorance to the environmental issue. According to Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, in 2007 the soaring economy of the Chinese saw their carbon dioxide pollution to swell to the level of 24%, while United States is trailing behind at the second place with the level of 22%, two percent adrift behind the new champion.

In various matters like the olympics and the economy China has been breathing on United States’ neck for years and ready to overtake it any time, but in terms of carbon emission production currently China has become the new leader in the pack, successfully overtaking the US in 2005. Massive growth of economy in China yields not only rising GDP but also an increase in carbon emission production, which lately has been deemed as responsible for environmentalists’ resentment towards the country. India, according to the Energy Information Administration, is also predicted to have significant growth rate of carbon emission over the next 20 years. According to the Energy Information Administration's Emissions of Greenhouse Gases in the United States 2004, carbon emissions are expected to surge in Asia over the next 20 years, and based on the same report, the emerging markets will have the largest growth rate of carbon emission over the same period of time.

Environmentalists vs. Industrialists: The clash of the convoluted interests

Source: Energy International Agency

This 2007 data shown clearly that China, India, South Korea, and Australia (countries that are involved in the ASEAN free trade treaty) can become vulnerable preys for environmentalists’ condemnation as they go well within the environmentalists’ shooting range because of their carbon emission numbers. In addition, the ASEAN free trade treaty will intensify their trade activities as well as their industries further –and thanks to the ASEAN’s zero-tariff policy as well, those countries will see their industries rising to an unforeseen level and it is very likely they will be more ignorant towards the carbon emission which they generate.

Led by BRIC Countries: Brazil, Russia, India and China, the economies of emerging markets will be growing significantly which is indicated by their staggering number of GDP growth. So, if there is question asking whether economies activities are the major cause of carbon emission or not, the answer will be mostly yes since it means the use of fuel for production activities and the consumption of products which are the major sources of carbon emission.

And f the original purpose of the installment of the Kyoto Protocol was to reduce the global carbon emission, then we can say that it fails to fulfill the initial expectation. Based on our present situation we can see that –irrespective of the limitation from Kyoto Protocol– the world has seen a rise in carbon emission numbers, which are not only driven by developed countries such as United States and European Countries but also emerging economies like China and India, who have seen a considerable increase in the global emission they produce.

The problem of climate change is trapped in a difficult deadlock and therefore we might well ask whether there is a key or not to break this lingering standstill. Looking at how the world progresses at the moment, it is clear that so far we simply have not done anything. The major difficulties in overcoming this unsolved issue is that many countries, especially developing countries with massive growth like China, fear that the limitation of gas emission will decrease industries’ efficiency and eventually engender a slower economic growth.

Today, environmentalists are like cats on the hot bricks –and what was shown by our carbon emission number we have at the moment may make their blood runs even colder. The earth currently is in a terrible health and the signs of doomsday caused by global warming are becoming more apparent. As if as An Inconvenient Truth movie with its various signs of imminent armageddon are not enough, the cumulative number of world emission continues to surge for years and, unfortunately, it shows no sign of stopping for years to come.

This article was part of the 20-page paper presented at Young Economists' Convention 2010 in De La Salle University, Manila, Philippines. The paper, titling "The Integration of ASEAN and Taking Advantage of the ASEAN Free Trade in Tackling Climate Change", was the first-prize winner in the competition.


ephy said...

nice article sat :)

LRQA said...

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