By FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER JOSE DE VENECIA JR.
(Speech delivered at the ICAPP Special Workshop on Green Cities in Seoul, Republic of Korea on October 28-November 2, 2018.)
On behalf of the ICAPP Standing Committee, we are pleased to add our welcome to those already expressed here for all the participants and guests at this special workshop.
We commend the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), led by its Council Chairman, the highly-regarded former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, its Director General Frank Rijsberman, the ICAPP Parliamentarians Union in the Korean National Assembly, our ICAPP Co-Chairman and able South Korean National Security Adviser Chung Eui-yong, and the ICAPP Secretariat, headed by Secretary General Park Ro-byug, Seoul’s able former ambassador in Moscow, for co-hosting this conference.
We welcome and support the establishment of the MOU between the ICAPP and the GGGI as a framework of cooperation.
A new record in global warming
Let me note that our home-planet Earth has already passed an ominous ecological milestone:
In May, 2013, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached its highest concentration since the Pliocene age.
On the geologic timescale, the Pliocene runs back 5.3 million years ago—when there were jungles in what is now north Canada.
We may expect ocean levels to rise and extreme weather to become routine.
We’re also coming to realize the warming of the earth and the rising of the seas are the work, not of an uncaring Providence, but of ourselves—perhaps in all our human arrogance and heedlessness.
And yet we know that man had not been licensed to inflict all that he wills on the rest of Creation.
To the contrary, as Genesis tells the Biblical story:
“The Lord God took the man He had created from the dust of the ground and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”
It is long past the time we must return to the doctrine of humankind as steward of the Earth.
Yes, our planet Earth and humankind are now victims of climate change or environmental degradation.
Floods, droughts, tornadoes in man’s future
We certainly will need all the solidarity and sense of purpose we can raise—since global warming is the most potentially catastrophic of the dangers threatening humankind.
Since the late nineteenth century, there has been a marked rise in the average temperature of the atmosphere and the oceans, because of the increasing concentration of ‘greenhouse’ gases that trap the sun’s warmth.
Already our peoples are experiencing more frequent occurrences of extreme weather: heat waves, droughts, heavy rainfall; deadly tornadoes and snowstorms caused by shifting temperature regimes.
Already rising water temperatures have disturbed the food chain in the Pacific—causing the dramatic decline of creatures crucial to the survival of species.
Food production, the first casualty of global warming
If governments’ promises to fight climate change are not met, our planet could expect mean temperatures 4.0 degrees Celsius (7.2 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels as early as the 2060’s.
And the immediate impact may be on food production. Already the global community is having difficulty meeting the food demands of a growing and increasingly wealthy population eating more meat. Climate change threatens to put prosperity out of reach of millions still kept down by poverty and to roll back decades of development.
More aggressive concerted action by the key states is necessary. Ironically, rising living standards in the emerging countries make them reluctant to accept restraints on their initial taste of prosperity, which will radically increase their people’s demand for electric power and the burning of fossil fuels.
What the global community needs to do together
What does the global community need to do together?
First, it must step up efforts to reduce ‘greenhouse’ effects and emissions from powerhouses and other industrial energy sources.
Then it needs to cut down the use of polluting coal—which is right now the prime energy provider for large economies like America and China. In the United States, economic and political conservatives not only reject higher-cost energy alternatives to coal. There are those who still cast doubt on the science of global warming.
The international community had agreed to complete a binding agreement for greenhouse gases for all countries—by 2015.
But, so far, our need for a binding agreement has been frustrated by self-pleading on the part of some of the powers.
The common fear is that environmental strictures will slow down economic growth.
The management teacher, Peter Drucker, advocates that, to mitigate the pollution of the atmosphere, global civil society needs to summon a degree of moral anger—and undertake a concerted effort on the scale and intensity of the civic campaigns that—through history—have abolished slavery; outlawed piracy on the high seas; established the International Red Cross; and more recently banished smoking.
The international community must set more rigorous—tougher—standards against which to measure—and penalize—carbon emissions.
(To be continued)