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Observations of an Expat: Climate Change Outliers

Observations of an Expat: Climate Change Outliers

Every country has to agree to concerted measures to reduce carbon emissions in order to keep global temperature rises down to 1.5 degree centigrade. It is a classic case of a chain being only as strong as its weakest link.

By Tom Arms

COP-26 in Glasgow has been organized because of the general recognition that international cooperation on an unprecedented scale is required to prevent the Earth which we all inhabit from alternately sinking beneath the waves or burning to a crisp.

Every country has to agree to concerted measures to reduce carbon emissions in order to keep global temperature rises down to 1.5 degree centigrade. It is a classic case of a chain being only as strong as its weakest link.

The need for action was highlighted this week by a report from the UN Environment Program that commitments agreed so far would result in temperature rises of 2.7 degrees centigrade. This would spell disaster for almost every inhabitant of this planet.

Any country which fails in Glasgow to agree to go along with measures to combat climate change threatens the lives and livelihoods of everyone else – Especially if they are major economies. There are four such outliers—China, India, Australia and, despite the efforts of President Joe Biden, the US.

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison initially refused to attend the Glasgow summit – His excuse? He didn’t want to self-isolate when he returned to Canberra. He has reluctantly agreed to make the trip but the pugnacious Australian has emphasized that he will be arguing that Australia is a special case.

Its economy is heavily dependent on coal mining and exports. Australia produces some of the world’s finest highest quality anthracite coal that commands premium prices on world markets. Coal represents ten percent of Australia’s GDP and 29 percent of its exports. Morrison refuses to stop mining and exporting coal.

China continues to burn it – With the result that it’s the world’s biggest carbon emitter—27 percent of the global total. China is also the world’s biggest producer of coal. Half of the world’s 7.7 billion tons of coal mined last year came from China which employs 4 million people in the industry. China continues to build coal-fired electricity plants—24 so far this year.

But at the same time it is investing heavily in solar energy, is a world leader in tree planting and produces half of the world’s electric cars. None of which, according to climatologists, is enough if the world has any chance of reducing global temperature rises to 1.5 percent by the end of the century.

But there is a political problem. The government needs to deliver on its promise to lift all of the Chinese people out of poverty. It cannot do that without economic growth and industrialization and that cannot be achieved without energy.

President Xi Jinping will be conspicuous by his absence in Glasgow.

The same poverty trap problem is faced by India which is nipping at Chinese economic heels. India is another major coal producer—600 million tons a year and 3.6 million coal-related jobs. The Indians have refused to set any targets for lowering carbon emissions. Instead they have tied emission levels to economic growth. And as the economy is growing emission levels will inevitably.

The good news is that India, like China, is heavily into tree planting and investing in solar energy. But it needs to spend more on the solar front and, like the rest of the developing world, wants the money to come from the developed world which has so far consistently missed its pledges on climate change aid.

While India and China are trying to improve living standards, America is working hard to maintain them. The US economy is built on the back of fossil fuels—coal, gas and oil. Cars, heating, industries, air conditioning… they all produce vast quantities of energy and emit greenhouse gases.

The biggest emitters are cars—29 percent of the nation’s total. But post war America is built on super highways criss-crossing the continent to carry people and goods vast distances. Changing that will require a major change in lifestyle which will be difficult to sell to a public wedded to the benefits of the American dream.

Joe Biden—unlike his predecessor—is a supporter of climate change policies. But his core climate program has been blocked by Republican senators and Democratic Senator Joe Mancin from the coal producing state of West Virginia. The result is that Biden will arrive in Glasgow with little more than good intentions and fine words. More is needed.

World View - Observations of an ExpatWorld Review

  • This year the world seems to be suffering from a pandemic of coups – Myanmar, Guinea, Mali, Chad Ethiopia (although technically it is a civil war) and now Sudan. There were also attempted coups in Madagascar and the Central African Republic. It is not surprising. The combined forces of covid-19, Jihadism and long-standing ethnic divisions are taking their toll and the first victims are almost always the poorest countries. Sudan is a prime example. The per capita income is just under $4,000 a year. It ranks 181 out of 225 countries in the wealth stakes. In Sudan’s case neither covid nor Jihadism appears to have played a direct role in the military power grab, although both contributed to general dissatisfaction. It seems, however the prime driver was good old fashioned greed coupled with fear and a hunger for power. For the past two years the country had been in a political transitional period following the removal of Omar al-Bashiri. The military was gradually returning control to civilians, in particular to Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. But according to the military, problems arose when competing civilian politicians tried to develop individual power bases within the army, thus raising the specter of civil war. Their argument carries little weight with either Washington or Brussels, both of whom have cut off aid to Sudan. The Western capitals are concerned about Sudanese developments because of the danger of the civil war in neighboring Ethiopia spreading into a destabilized Sudan and the combined problems of the two countries destabilizing the upper reaches of the Nile River basin and the Horn of Africa.
  • It is the two Bs in Britain this week: Budget and Brexit. Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak told the nation it was marching towards the sunlit uplands under his economic guidance. Then the respected Institute of Fiscal Studies reported that thanks to the chancellor’s guidance Britain is digging itself deeper into a financial slough of despond. On Brexit, the problems over fishing rights in the English Channel and the Northern Ireland Protocol are coming to a head. The French ambassador in London was summoned to the Foreign Office to hear a protest about French threats to ban British trawlers from French ports and block energy supplies. At the same time, continuing disputes over the Northern Ireland Protocol are reported to be pushing PM Boris Johnson and Brexit negotiator Lord Frost closer to imposing Article 16. Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron are meeting this weekend in the margins of the Rome G20 summit, but neither side appears to be in a compromise mood. Macron is especially concerned about voters in the Channel ports with presidential elections only six months away.
  • The Pentagon is worried about a new Chinese hypersonic missile, and defence experts fear the development could usher in a new space-based arms race. Beijing does not have near as many warheads and delivery systems as the US, and its latest offering indicates that it is focusing on quality rather than quantity. A key element in America’s nuclear strategy is its anti-ballistic missile (ABM) system. Protection from a first-strike capability gives it a devastating retaliatory advantage. That is why George W. Bush pulled out of the ABM Treaty with Moscow in 2002. According to news reports, China has developed the capability to circumvent ABM systems by firing a hypersonic missile into space, well beyond the reach of America’s global radar systems. The missile then orbits the Earth undetected until ground Chinese control decides to bring it down on the target. The acronym for this missile is FOBS or Forward Orbital Base Systems. The only time the ABM system can detect a FOBS is when the missile is launched and when it re-enters the atmosphere seconds away from hitting the target. According to the Financial Times, the Chinese have tested two such hypersonic missiles. They both orbited the Earth twice and one landed within 24 kilometers of its target. Beijing has denied that the missile has any defensive purposes. Washington at first denied any knowledge of the tests, but has since confirmed both the tests and their concern.
  • A benevolent dictatorship is probably the best form of government. Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman appear to be proving that the problem is that such a dictatorship rarely remains benevolent, if, in the case of Saudi Arabia, it every truly was. First there was the gruesome murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Now one of Riyadh’s top former intelligence officials, Saad al-Jabri, has gone on American television to claim that MBS is a “psychopath” who plotted to kill the late King Abdullah with a poison ring. Furthermore, that the Saudi leader plotted to murder him and is holding his children hostage to keep him silent. The Saudis, of course, deny everything. But there is no doubting the credentials of al-Jabri. The producers at CBS’s 60 Minutes thoroughly checked him out with the CIA and State Department before giving him air time – Which raises the question of whether or not the interviews signify a shift in American policy towards the Saudis.
  • There is no doubt now that Russia is weaponizing its energy resources, and the current number one target is Europe’s poorest country—Moldova. Gazprom, Russia’s energy monopoly has threatened to cut off gas supplies unless the Moldovans cough up $709 million in back payments and agree a new contract from December of $790 per 1,000 cubic meters of natural gas – But why Moldova? For the same reason that Moscow has cut off gas to Ukraine on three separate past occasions. It wants to force these countries back into the Russian sphere of influence by encouraging pro-Russian breakaway states in both nations. In the case of Moldova, Russia supports the pro-Russian but unrecognized breakaway state of Transnistra which runs along a narrow strip between the Dniester River and the Moldovan-Ukrainian border. In 1992 a brief war was fought between Moldovan and Transnistran forces with the Russians backing the Transnistrans. It ended with a ceasefire which has ever since been uneasily monitored by Russia, Transnistra and Moldova. In response, successive Moldovan administrations have moved closer to the EU. This has only angered Moscow and increased its determination to continue its support for Transnistra.

[author title=”Tom Arms” image=”https://sindhcourier.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Tom-Arms-Journalist-Sindh-Courier.jpg”]Tom Arms is foreign editor of Liberal Democrat Voice. His recently published book “America Made in Britain” is available on Amazon or direct from the publisher—Amberley Books.[/author]