Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Addressing Climate Change in the Global Village

Climate Change is generally referring to the global climatic condition which is now affected and unstable due to an increasing level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere resulting in Global Warming and triggering extreme and unstable weather patterns. Burning of "fossil fuels" such as coal, oil and gas which contains carbon is a major sponsor of climate change. Burning them releases carbon dioxide gas. Since the early 1800s, when people began burning large amounts of coal and oil, the amount of carbon dioxide in the earth's atmosphere has increased by nearly 30%, and average global temperature appears to have risen between 1° and 2°F.
An important role of Carbon dioxide gas is trapping solar heat in the atmosphere, partly in the same way as glass traps solar heat in a sunroom or a greenhouse. For this reason, carbon dioxide is often called a "greenhouse gas." As more carbon dioxide is added to the atmosphere, solar heat has more trouble getting out. The result is that, everything else stayed unchanged, the average temperature of the atmosphere has increased.
These have further aggravated, sea levels rising, natural disasters, crops diseases and pestilences and food security concerns are few examples. These are huge challenges impacting global politics, economics, industries, science, technology, and social patterns and cross cutting across the developed, industrial and the underdeveloped countries.

There is scientific consensus that Global Warming and Climate Change are global phenomenon; however the mitigations remain a challenge because it is not a pure scientific issue, but a scientific issue resulting from main streams factors such as political, economical and social decisions and human behavioural patterns and thus consequently having a major effect on these factors. To address Global Warming and Climate Change would require a total overhauling from all these factors which is adding the complex icing on the already complex scientific problem. This remains a huge challenge for the global community.

The developed countries, especially the Europeans are driving global campaigns on approaches to mitigate Global Warming and Climate Change while on the other end China and India are hungry for more raw materials for their huge and growing industries. The developing countries especially those who are vested with reserves of raw materials like Papua New Guinea are sandwiched in the middle of this two worlds whether to continue in exporting raw materials or stop. For instance the PNG’s timber exports is now challenged to stop logging and engage in a new and fast developing industry – Carbon Trade through what is called “Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD)” a mechanism devised for rainforest countries through the Rainforest Alliance which the PNG government is leading.

Carbon Trade is about buying and selling carbon credits. The emitter pays for the credits created by another through reduction schemes and systems. There are many talks and discussions around carbon trade and its benefits in PNG, however not much attention is given on Global Warming and Climate Change – the underlying issue. For instance the Government established the office of Climate Change, Carbon Trade and Sustainable Development. This newly established office advertised 67 new positions, of which 64 were designated for carbon trade and only 3 positions for climate change. In essence it means that the major function of this office will be focused on carbon trade which is in fact a market based climate change mitigation mechanism, in simple terms, focus is on where “money” is. Market based mechanisms refers to taxes, levies, penalties and payments for emissions produced.

Now this brings on another question – will market based mechanisms effective enough to mitigate climate change?
Yes market based mechanisms can contribute to that effect but can not be successful alone if other approaches such as industries cutting down emissions and changing social behaviours of the people are not seriously considered. These are more moral and ethical issues. Nevertheless, it is a general practice for industries and business to include all their production costs on their products mark up and the consumers ended up paying for the all costs in prices of goods and services. There will be a sharp increase in the cost of goods and services and place like PNG will feel the heat of rising costs.

One important fact people must know is that, the current status of the global climate is a result of impacts over time and it will not be an over night experience for mitigation results to take effect. That means the effects of climate change and global warming such as extreme weather patterns will continue until the equilibrium is reached. How prepared are we as a country to handle climate change induced disasters such as in the Oro floods, Land slides in Simbu and the sinking Carteret Islands remains a huge challenge.

A friend recently attended a faith based conference on Climate Change in Nashville U.S.A hosted by the Climate Change guru and former U.S vice president, Al Gore. This friend of mine described the conference to be scientific and technical. However, the experts recommendations include, clean energy, alternative source of transport, organic food sources etc. My friend told the conference participants and experts that 90 percent of Papua New Guineans do not own cars and therefore use public transport or walk, the Bougainvillians are already using coconut oil to run vehicles and more than 80 percent of our population depend on their land for survival thus eat organic food. This shocked many of those participants and climate experts who gave him a look as if he was an alien from a different planet.

While facing the tide of the new industries developing from economizing environmental services and the efforts to mitigate Climate Change and Global Warming, we need to;
Understand what the underlying issue is.
Analyse how it is affecting or will affect us.
Analyse what opportunities that are evolving as a result of the issue and how best we can benefit from the opportunities without compromising the efforts to address the issue
Understand that the West does not have all the answers in the world, in fact their model of development and economic growth have contributed to the global climatic catastrophe.
Understand that moral and ethical issues have an important role in Climate Change and Global Warming mitigation and not only market based mechanisms.
Climate Change has clearly defined the world as a “Global Village” in its cross cutting effects, therefore with the huge challenges facing the global village, the model communities need to take the lead in showing the way

Reafforestation escalating in the Highlands of PNG

50 years ago, the highlands villages were enclosed by pristine forests. Today most of these areas are covered by grasslands (kunai). There are many contributing factors to that, but the most evident is the high population growth experienced in the highlands in the last 50 years.

Quite recently, there has been an escalation in Reafforestation in the highlands region. Communities and individual families are embarking on major reafforestation drive and huge amounts of grasslands have been reafforested. Consequently, tree seedlings are becoming an emerging enterprise as not many people are keen to do nurseries. Two years ago, a casuarinas seedling was selling for 50 toea in Mt. Hagen, now it has gone up to K2.00.

Whilst admiring the initiatives taken by the highlanders, what is the motivating factor? Why a sudden shift of the mindset? It seems that, the promises of carbon trade have settled in well in the highlands region – Money speaks.

I do not want to discredit the whole exercise as I also believe in reforestation and reafforestation exercises because of the many benefits, however my concern is, will money truly come to the highlands as promised by the carbon trade maniacs? PNG does not have a policy framework for carbon trade, and the global community is yet to decide whether or not to include the REDD initiatives for carbon trading.

On the global perspective, by now people should understand that money is not the solution to the global climate crisis; it is the moral values that count most. Simple things like respecting your neighbour, caring for others, taking just enough, changing your lifestyle, and putting the people and the planet before profits matters if anybody is serious at all.
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