Our sinking boat – plugging the hole

“I’m a journalist, not an environmentalist”

That’s how Ross Gelbspan started his talk today here at GreenFestival to endear himself to us as an impartial ambassador of the facts. Gelbspan is driven by a desire to uncover the coverup, to debunk “campaigns to privatize truth,” and industry campaigns to “capitalize on uncertainty.”

I tried to “live-blog” this, but it didn’t pan out. So this is my attempt to summarize his excellent talk with heavy reliance on notes taken during the presentation.

Gelbspan paints a dramatic picture by talking about climate change as an issue of human rights and environmental justice. Entire island nations are going under, and asthma is rising in our cities. This is about human survival, not the absence of trees to hug.

With one degree of warming, the oceans are heating, the tundras are thawing, and glaciers are melting. This manifests itself most obviously in dramatic weather events. The 1990’s were the hottest decade in this millennium. Here’s a summary of what happened last year alone:• S. Austrialia had the worst draught year in history• March – heaviest snowstorm in century – 5 feet fell in Denver in just days• 384 tornadoes in one week in US midwest• Heatwave in Europe left 30,000 dead• 5 feet of rain feel in southern haiti in 7 days last May• Monsoons this summer leave 30 million homeless in South AsiaThese are significant events?particularly for our economy. Look at the impact on the insurance industry alone:? In the 1980’s, the insurance industry lost $2 bill/year as a result of climate-related events.? In the 1990’s, the insurance industry lost $12 billion/year due to massive weather events.Within this decade, some estimate that overall losses will increase to 350 billion.Good or bad news? Climate change is now being treated a national security threat?no longer as a weather issue. Politically, this climate crisis does not bode well for democracy. Autocracy thrives during food shortages, and there’s every reason to expect that disaster relief personnel will be militarized.So, what do we do? Gelbspan outlines three SOLUTION STRATEGIES:1. Changing energy subsidy policies ? $200 billion in industrial world currently subsidizing fossil fuels, so let’s put some of that toward clean energy resources2. Create large fund to transfer energy technologies to developing countries (ie. tax on international currency transactions)3. Mandatory fossil fuel efficiency standard ? every country begins to increase own fossil fuel efficiency by 5%/year. Produce 5% year with same amount of fuel. Through first few years, achieved through efficiency (reducing waste). Then later achieved through new technologiesAmazingly, the US is one of the only countries in the world still debating about whether or not climate change is real, while the rest of the world is figuring out what to DO about it. We’re experiencing “corruption disguised as conservatism” here in the U.S.”Big oil and big coal are witholding from us a huge surge in economic growth,” Gelbspan explains. Every dollar of investment in energy in poor or developing countries creates more jobs than any other sector.”We are all in the same boat,” one Latin American ambassador tells Gelbspan, “and there’s no way only half the boat will sink.” Good point.

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