Papua New Guinea: The Ocean Is Coming
Human caused global heating is profoundly a matter of justice and equity (and of course survival). The Chicago Tribune reports on rising seas inundating the island of Malasiga in Papua New Guinea (a country near and dear to my heart as I lived there for many years). Despite there not being a “power line or factory or air conditioner within a day's walk of this village of 400 people” this and other PNG islands and coastal lands are being swamped as salt water inundates villages and farms. It is the poor and/or indigenous peoples by necessity living more closely with nature – including the more publicized plight of Tuvalu's [search] battle with rising seas – that will suffer most from the fossil fuel intensive consumptive and polluting lifestyles of the overdeveloped rich countries. Many are making the case that displaced residents of New Orleans are the first modern large scale climate change refugees [more].
The disingenuous, even evil, position of the United States' refusal to set mandatory caps on its carbon emission is a mockery when 15 percent of the world's population living in high-income countries releases more than 75% of global greenhouse gases (4% in the U.S. emitting 25%). Comfortable and complacent American's will not stop driving SUVs and living in sprawling McMansions so a peasant in Bangladesh (who emits 5% of what an average American does) can have a chance to meet their basic needs before also eventually limiting their emissions. This is outrageous. It is reasonable that the rich cut emissions before the poor as Kyoto set out. It is called equity and justice, something that few American policy-makers grasp in a greedy society that has institutionalized the pursuit of ever greater and more wasteful consumption as a way of life.
This said, emerging economies such as China has reached the point where they deservedly require mandatory emission caps as well. And speaking frankly, Papua New Guinea shares some responsibility for their plight as unregulated and illegal logging of ancient rainforests by Malaysian “robber baron” loggers is the sort of land conversion that is second only to fossil fuel use in carbon release into the atmosphere. What is clear is that while President Bush continues to refer to uncertainties regarding whether global heating is natural or human caused, the crisis has commenced and climate change refugees are a fact of life.
No one is safe and secure from extreme weather exacerbated or caused by climate change. In a just, equitable international system; the rich would pay first and more in terms of carbon caps and carbon taxes for past emissions and would lead the way towards de-carbonizing the global economy. There is no hope for the human race unless both the U.S. and China aggressively do so soon. Time is short and we must move past gimmicks like hybrid cars and compact fluorescent light bulbs that while important and valid, are nonetheless inadequate to address core underlying causes of Gaia's, the Earth systems', demise. Human population must be cut, all remaining natural habitats protected and restored, and consumption reduced by the rich for the benefit of the poor.
Can these measures adequate to save the Earth be achieved through the system or are we talking about a revolution?