Our leaders are useless

by Ginosar  


It is clear that the majority of international leaders are not willing to risk their positions and cut global warming gases in their countries. Every one expects the others to start. Are they unable to grasp the danger? Verbally they say the right things, especially European leaders, but the reality is that no progress of any significance occurred to date.

The USA is a very sad example of a weak, ignorant Administration, self serving Congress, misleading media, poor public understanding, determined right wing forces that rather sink the country than allow national progress, and weak and uncoordinated environmental movement.

Cutting Greenhouse emission is no complex science, but it is very hard politically. Powerful, wealthy corporations control the political process in most, if not all Democratic countries. What is basically required is rapid increase in energy prices to reduce waste and consumption and shift some generation to low polluting technologies. Reduce demand is the most crucial aspect since alternative energies are highly capital intensive and would take decades to make any impact. And time is not on our side. We are already in the danger zone with clear damage to much of the global environment: melting sea ice and glaciers, sea rise, severe storms, dying forests, increase ocean acidity and temperature, less absorption of carbon dioxide, severe reduction of ocean plankton - the basic element of the ocean food chain. All of these are here now, real and increasing in severity.

Also needed are national energy efficiency laws that would reduce energy demand rapidly. This will drive wide use of conservation and energy efficiency. This will allow phasing out of old coal plants, the largest CO2 emitters in most countries, and the conversion of remaining coal plants to natural gas thus cutting emissions per kWh by half.

These are basic starting points, easily achieved technically, but there is no political will from the US Administration nor Congress. And the Senate is especially weak and in denial on GW. Or in almost any other country. In the US the powerful political influence of the coal industry is strong through a small number of coal dominated states with very little population. This is a different subject but just bear in mind that our political system that gives immense power to small population states in the Senate is hindering any national progress and reduce our ability to fight global warming, the most crucial task we are facing globally.

The rush to subsidize green technologies is wasteful and diverts our attention from the real problem - continuous emission of greenhouse gases. Spending billions for alternative energies are business decisions, delightful to the industry and environmentalists but are so insignificant it would not reduce the damage to the globe by any amount for years to come.

The reasons, seems to me, is that the international leadership of well off countries does not believe that global warming is a serious problem. James Hansen just demonstrated it during his visit to Norway. He believed that that so called Green country, would be willing to listen to reason and on a recent visit there sent a letter to the Norway prime minister suggesting that Norway stop work on its Canadian Tar Sand facilities. Norway is the major owner of this most polluting non-conventional source of fossil fuel. Tar Sands emit the highest amount of CO2 per gallon of fossil fuel since the extraction process is highly energy intensive.

Here is what Dr. Hansen wrote:

"The glib response of Norway's Prime Minister is that we are 'future pessimists'. Clever engineers, he says, will solve the problem, perhaps with carbon capture. Meanwhile it is o.k. to develop tar sands and go after the last drop of oil in the Arctic. This is nonsense of course. Even if they use nuclear power to squeeze the oil from tar sands, the CO2 will come out of tailpipes. Also, the environmental destruction in Canada would never be allowed by Norwegians in Norway."

The way this prime minister think is dangerous and may indicate why no government yet started real reduction in greenhouse after some 20 years of global discussions. They may all think the same: we have a way out of GW; it is not so serious after all.

It is important to note:

This PM calls environmental realists, like Dr. Hansen, and Dr. John Holdren, and many hundreds of climate scientists who know full well the danger we are already in: "future pessimists." It is clear that the PM and the people around him in this pseudo "Green" country do not grasp at all that we are already inside the danger zone and we have very short time to act to reduce some of the more severe damages expected from the rapidly growing global warming.

A relatively small number of national leaders are determining the future sustainability of our world. Their courage, ability and willingness to accept scientific facts determine our future. Don't over estimate them. They are capable to project their image well, but that may be just surface thin. They are normal human being and not the great figures we want to believe in. Leaders have huge egos, which often drive them to think they are wiser and smarter than their advisers. Leaders need more than normal courage to accept the seriousness of the damage to our globe. It is easier for them to escape reality by dismissing amply proven scientific facts.

Dismissing GW as done in Norway may be one of the key obstacles to action. The inability to grasp the seriousness of the situation and the willingness to embrace any unsubstantiated excuse to allow inaction is a way out from the political and even emotional difficulty of facing GW.

The question to each of us is how to add our voice to the struggle. Personal participation in the political process is paramount- write letters make phone calls, donate money. Participate. Be outraged, bind with other activists is a beginning. Start raising your voice, talk to your friends, even if it is inconvenient. Don't be passive expecting the leaders to "save" us.

To read Dr. Hansen original notes:

My experience in Norway, including a letter to the Prime Minister, the government response, Sophie Prize remarks, and chance encounter with a war hero have been posted to my website.

Jim Hansen

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