12 Approaches to Global Warming

EDITORIAL, 1 September 2008

#22 | Johan Galtung

here is much talk about global warming, and rightly so.But, we need concrete ideas about moving from talk to action, possiblywith two concerns lurking in the back of the mind:
*  What is thehuman-generated percentage, as opposed to giant cosmic processes; andwhere is the good laboratory simulation?
*  How much of this is promotion of nuclear as opposed to carbon-basedenergy; in Japan they now link Al Gore to nuclear lobbies?

Buteven with low human-generated percentages, and ulterior motives,urgency commands action.  The awareness has been there since RachelCarson, Limits to Growth and Stockholm 1972, and among poor people allover for ages.  Running downhill, we must reverse and solve, not”sustain” or “mitigate”.  Thermically non-polluting technologies–usingwater-falls and tidal water; solar and wind-based; hydro- andgeo-thermal, bio-mass and nuclear energy–are not “emerging”, they havebeen with us for a long time.  A huge variety of energy conversionprofiles, tailored to the local natural endowments, is today withinreach.

Of course, research isalways needed.  But today’s research priority is not to rediscoveralternative technologies–which they, like everything else, will besubject to re-re-search and deepening goes without saying.  What isneeded now is research into what is holding it up.  The rather obvioushypothesis is the (in)vested interest in oil, and its enormousinfra-structure for production, transportation and end consumption. But exactly how do these forces operate?  Is there a peak-revenue fromwhich they will be less resistant to change?  Is the condition thatthey co-opt the new technologies?  When BP changed from British toBeyond Petroleum does this only mean that they, nobody else, would bein energy command, as opposed to Exxon, living a life in denial ofglobal warming?  Two ways of stifling change?

Let us look at twelve approaches for constructive ideas:

[1]  Like for other toxic drugs, the producer, transporter and consumerof oil are all responsible for any negative impact.  In an economiccycle Nature-Extraction-Production-Transportation-Consumption all linkscontribute, and according to the principle “the polluter pays” allcycle links should pay for the damage.

[2]  As an example, Norway is high on all three, making the country theworst in the world per capita.  As a consumer Norway produces 11 tonsCO2 per capita per year–as against the USA 20, China 4, India 2 andAfrica less.  But, Norway’s role in the oil cycle places Norway at 130tons CO2 per (Norwegian) capita per year.  The extraction is lesspolluting, but like for other drugs the product is the problem, not theproduction process.

[3]  The more the polluter pollutes, the more the polluter has to pay,for instance to compensate for massive suffering in low-lying countriesand islands, in the Pacific, Bangladesh and coastal areas, includingacceptable relocation.  Fortunately Norway has an oil fund, now calledthe Norwegian Pension Fund (abroad) that could serve as a contributionto compensation, together with compensation from other massivepolluters; not disregarding local, state, regional and globalsolidarity funds.

[4]  There is no way to pollution reduction, reduction is the way.Planting forests to convert CO2 into oxygen reduces pollution, but notemissions.  The general approach must be to reduce the emission, usingnon-carbon based energy conversion.

[5]  Phase out the quota approach.  Quotas do not reduce thermicpollution; as little as a smoker with quotas from non-smokers is savedfrom dying, or victims from a torturist country that buys “quotas” fromnon-torture countries.  The quota approach is by and large anintellectual mistake, and a political disaster.

[6]  Reduction of transportation pollution is top priority.  Inaddition to minimizing the transportation distance through localization(see below) this includes:

* Massive change from transportation to communication (IT, SKYPE, SMS),for corporate, governmental meetings, conferences etc.; quicker thantransport, already on the way;

* Dense nets of collective means of transportation, on the way;

* For land transport: trains, not trucks unless solar-powered;

* For sea transport: lower speed, possibly submarines to avoid wave andwind resistance, natural gas, possibly nuclear powered;

* For air transport: air ships, new approaches to helium.

[7]  As a rule countries or communities of countries must become energyself-sufficient to reduce oil-motivated interventions and wars, afactor in many of the 243 US military interventions, and politicalmanipulation, a factor in Russian energy policy.

[8]  Joint global warming projects, like USA and Iran on oilexport-import reduction and carbon free substitution, could be a majorapproach to conflict transformation and conciliation.

[9]  Other major social evils, like slavery and colonialism, were notreduced by multilateral agreements or quotas, but by countries assumingleadership, showing the way for others.  Singapore is interesting,China and parts of Africa may become.

[10]  Energy equality is indispensable for reduction of global warming;countries with energy deficits will try to catch up by whatever means;calling for high diversity in energy profiles.

[11]  Civil society leadership has been there all the time, withcountless ordinary people saving and handling waste; the problem hasbeen state and corporate actors.  Massive boycotts/girlcotts to steerenergy profiles will be key parts of future politics.

[12]  In this whole process, alternatives (mainly web-based) have to befound to the corporate media; they are generally parts of the problemrather than of its solution.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 1 September 2008.

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