Tom Fletcher’s recent New Year’s rant on “Climate: for 2019, wishful thinking replaces evidence” (Morning Star, Jan. 2, 2019) includes a grab bag of information that works mostly on cherry picking, innuendo, and lack of context.
Three examples highlight this, comments on the Congo, the 2008 global recessions, and a comparison to China.
First, the Congo: Fletcher indicates that the Congo is “noted mostly for corruption, civil war and lawless mining.” No context is provided. The Belgian Congo as it was formerly known was a privately held colony of the Belgian King Leopold established in 1885. At the time it was brutalized as were many European colonies for resource extraction. After independence in 1960 the democratically elected leader, Patrice Lumumba, was assassinated in a U.S. CIA inspired plot. Since then the Congo has been served by corrupt officials subject to World Bank and International Monetary Funds “structural adjustment programs”, commonly known as austerity, leading to more European/western resource extraction. The “lawless mining” is due in large part to Canadian mining companies operating in the region, using warlords and corrupt officials to enable their setup and mineral extraction – the civil war has much to do with this, using both mercenaries and outside armies to keep the resource extraction going.
Next, China: apparently Canada’s carbon output is such that “annual emissions…amount to a few days worth of China’s output.” However, China has 40 times Canada’s population, while Canada has twice the per capita carbon output (World Bank, 2014). China’s economy has recently raised over 600 million people out of poverty based on the World Bank’s definition of poverty as being US$1.25 per day. As China’s economy stabilizes, and as China is currently a world leader in searching for ‘green’ energy and environmental systems, it will continue to better Canada on a per capita basis. As for the “few days”, it calculates to being about 24 days, varying according to a source. In other words, individual Canadians should feel no pride in Fletcher’s out of context, cherry picked, and incorrect Chinese statistic.
Finally though, Fletcher – rather than simply dumping out a bunch of out of context information – actually hints at the solution to global warming when he says “The only time they [emissions] dipped was in a deep worldwide recession that began in late 2008.” During a recession, there is much less spending, much less consumerism, less travel, less transportation of goods, fewer air miles. It is an indictment of our society’s desire for more stuff, more growth, more energy consumption.
The real solution to global warming – and all environmental problems – will only come when society as a whole is willing to adopt a more minimalistic lifestyle using far less carbon-based energy and eliminates the corporate mantra of consumerism and continual growth. On that basis, I do not see much hope for controlling our carbon output as most people are unwilling to change their corporate created desires for more stuff.