Gallery H
What Are Our Priorities?
Page 2
Page 3

A Trillion Dollars To Cap Emissions


By James Donahue


A comprehensive study by PricewaterhouseCoopers has laid bare the damage to our planet by the world-wide industrial revolution that began 200 years ago in Europe and the United States and continues expanding to this day in China, India and Latin American nations in South America.


The report suggests an overall estimated cost of $1 trillion to cap the greenhouse gasses that most scientists now agree is a major cause, if not the cause of global warming. The report also warns that the volume of these toxic gas emissions will double by 2050 unless rich countries agree to take “significant” policy steps to cut energy use.


To the average guy on the street, a trillion dollar price tag is an incomprehensible figure. But in the contemporary world of big spending, when you consider that the United States deficit is rushing toward a figure of $9 trillion, this is not an unreasonable amount to pay to stop a primary pollutant that is killing our planet and threatening our existence.


Yet the politics behind this story also explains the great world dilemma that we all face. The United States, for example, which remains the primary polluter, had a political party in office that refused to even participate in the Kyoto Protocol, which called for just rolling back emissions to 1990 levels. The argument was that the protocol put an unfair financial burden on U.S. industry. Industries in developing nations like China and India, countries not required to adhere to Kyoto standards, not only can avoid the cost of cleaning their stacks and auto emissions, but they would have had the advantage of low-cost labor and thus can mass produce products for the world market at a lower cost that U.S. industry.


China alone is involved in an industrial building boom that is sucking up the world’s supplies of iron, concrete and other raw materials at such a rate that the cost of these materials has skyrocketed. One report noted that at the rate China is growing, that nation alone will need a second Earth to meet its needs for natural resources within the next twenty years.


Some analysts note that our world already is so overpopulated, and using up world resources at such a fast rate, that we already lack the basic needs that include food, water and housing to meet the needs of everybody.


The danger in this is that this is a world of divided nations. Each nation is a people struggling to compete in a growing global market, and at the same time competing for a share of declining resources. And because of our carelessness (best defined as greed and lust for financial gain), we have polluted our land, air and waters, thus making it harder to produce the food needed to feed us all, and find the amount of potable drinking water necessary to provide for everybody. Our forests are disappearing, our soil is falling to desertification, our weather is changing from moderate to extreme and our seas are dying.


The PwC study is just one more warning that something must be done and done NOW if we wish to survive as a human race. Our stubbornness and inability to change for political, greedy and religious reasons has got to be curbed or we will go extinct. And we don’t have years to decide on what to do or just how to do it.


John Hawksworth, the chief economist at PwC, notes that the $1 trillion bill is equivalent to a year’s output in the Canadian economy and less than half the total stock of debt that has been built up by Britain’s households. And he says it is less than the cost in terms of environmental catastrophe and loss of life that could happen if temperatures and sea levels continue to rise.


“It is implicit from our findings that a trillion dollars certainly is a cost worth incurring,” he said.


The big question is: just who is going to pay this cost and how will all of the nations on the planet come to an agreement of such magnitude? The PwC report was presented to the G8 environment ministers during a closed-door meeting in Mexico two years ago. The prospects of this organization, representing only the selected major world industrialized countries, finding a workable solution have probably improved now that President Obama is in office, but we don’t hear of much progress to date.


One way for sharing the cost would be through sharp increases in the price of global energy consumption and a tax on carbon emissions. In this way the rich nations that are doing the most to cause the problem must take the more drastic action to reduce their environmental impact.


Getting every country to agree to such a plan, however, at a time when we are faced with a global financial crisis and most nations are on the verge of going to war over religious differences, water rights and other dwindling resources, is not realistic. What is desperately needed is a radical change to a socialistic system, which appears to be a dirty word used by big business interests to fight the Obama push to provide national health care.


We argue that if nations could put down their arms, cancel out their religious differences and join in a single new spiritual movement that puts the Earth first, this entire matter could be resolved almost overnight. What is needed is a united world government, with everyone sharing the remaining resources and working in unison to preserve our planet while we find a way to fix it or escape what lies in our future.