We urgently need to shift to more spiritual, sustainable and ecological plans
By V. Appanah
Climate Change is without any doubt the most dangerous threat facing the world. Several speeches at the United Nations this week highlighted that we are sleepwalking into a precipice. I summarize below ten key points from the Chapter entitled ‘Climate Change – An Economic and Spiritual Perspective’ from my book ‘Building Spiritual Strengths’ for the benefit of policy makers and readers, and conclude on our present plight.
- The latest UN report ‘United in Science’ coordinated by the World Meteorological Organization argues that policies to reduce emissions must triple to meet the 2C target and increase fivefold to keep heating to within 1.5C, if the world is to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement.
- The real and only solution is ‘Simple Living and High Thinking’, as popularized in the 1960s by the founder of ISKCON. This message has been repeated by the Pope who warned that climate change and unsustainable development will turn ‘the planet into a huge pile of rubble, deserts and refuse’ (The Guardian – 7 July 2018). Maulana Wahidin repeated that ‘simple living and high thinking are interdependent’ in an article in Times of India
- UNCTAD in its 2019 report ‘The Role of Science, Technology and Innovation in Promoting Renewable Energy’ highlighted that renewable energy accounted for just 10% of primary energy consumption in 2018. It is useful to add that electric cars represent only around 0.05 of the global car fleet based on a report by The Economist in 2016. Solar energy is being increasingly used but is still a drop in the ocean and well below potential.
- 90% of the earth’s land areas could be degraded by 2050 according to a report by the Institute of Public Policy Research published this year.
- The IMF’s recently updated report on global fossil-fuel subsidies concludes that in 2017 the world subsidized fossil fuels by $5.2 trillion, equal to roughly 6.5 percent of global GDP – thereby contributing towards wasteful lifestyles, preventing change and maintaining the grip of old fossil-based firms on policies (R. Meyer in The Atlantic, 9 May 2019). This is a grotesque contradiction which benefits even those who do not expect subsidies.
- Our strategy and planning are both fundamentally wrong. We need a new economic model based on ‘Spirituality and Responsible Economics’ where ecological principles predominate if we seriously want to tackle global warming and survive.
- We are spending $ 8 bn yearly to preserve and restore biodiversity while experts argue that we need $ 200 to $ 300 bn yearly to save the planet (Le Monde, 8 May 2019).
- A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce our impact on planet earth according to J. Poore (Journal of Science, June 2018). We may start with reducing meat consumption. This is wishful thinking as it is expected to increase significantly.
- The worldwide trend is to maintain low taxes, unsustainable consumption, naughty habits, resource depletion and deforestation and delay deep and much needed changes. Unsustainable lifestyles and increased population to 9 bn soon will clearly lead to disaster. Under these conditions, eco-anxiety is on the rise.
There are credible solutions and well-researched reports by scientists but we are all interested in the short-term, with a little attention now and then to sustainable solutions. Broadly it is business as usual. Former French President Jacques Chirac said in 2002 that the ‘house is on fire’. 17 years later, we have evolved incrementally. The UN reports are sound but swiftly forgotten. The $100 bn promised to developing countries as part of the 2015 Paris Agreement is not being honored or, should we say, is being ignored.
The planet was a gift from the Lord. There is growing inequality in the world, with around half of the population living on less than $ 5.50 daily according to the World Bank, with no prospect of major changes soon. The catch-up by developing countries is a dream, with the majority stuck in the middle – income trap. ‘Nearly 30% of the population in Africa and in LDC’s may remain in extreme poverty by 2030’ UNCTAD report quoted above.
The OECD in a landmark report this year ‘The Squeezed Middle Class’ warned that ‘today the middle class looks increasingly like a boat on rocky waters’. The working class is facing an even more difficult situation with the rise of the ‘precariat’, those who have jobs but cannot make ends meet. The plight of the unemployed is heartbreaking with global unemployment as high as 190 m. We urgently need to shift to more spiritual, sustainable and ecological plans.
* Published in print edition on 27 September 2019