By the middle of the twentieth century, man had become so technologically powerful that his actions began to inﬂuence the planet as a whole. But to control the consequences of a thoughtless pursuit of excessive material well-being turned out to be higher than his intellectual and spiritual capabilities. One of the results of such human activities is EaTth’s climate change.
In recent years, there has been a process of continuous accumulation of heat by the Earth system. At least 90% of the accumulation of heat occurs in the ocean. But the term global warming is usually used to refer to the increase in annual average air temperature at the surface of land and ocean. Global observations of meteorologists on the surface temperature of the land and ocean for the period 1880-2012. indicate climate warming at 0.85 ° C.
Fig. 1. Change in the global temperature of the Earth according to NASA
According to UN experts, increasing temperatures on the surface of the Earth have already led to significant changes in the condition of the Planet.
- The average rate of global mean sea level increase amounted to 3.2 mm / year in 1993–2010.
- The average rate of the ice sheet reduction around the world, with the exception of glaciers on the periphery of ice sheets, in 1993-2009 amounted to 275 Gt / year.
- The average global sea level during the period from 1901 to 2010 increased by 0.19 m.
- Based on UN estimates, by 2050, about 1 billion people living in the least developed countries will leave their homes due to floods and droughts. The number of people forced to leave their homes as a result of natural disasters exceeds the number of those who flees to escape from the armed conflicts.
UN experts with a probability of more than 99% predict that the current trends in climate change will continue at least until the end of the 21st century. With a smooth development of the situation, this will lead to a change in the nature of the precipitation distribution, an increase in seasonal temperature fluctuations, an increase in the average annual surface temperature of the planet to 6 ° C, an increase in the sea level to 0.5 m, a slowdown in the thermohaline circulation of acidification of the oceans and other negative side effects.
But the climate is fundamentally poorly amenable to accurate long-term forecasts. And no one can guarantee that development will not go according to a more tragic scenario than scientists suppose today. The reports of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change state that most of the change in the average global temperature of the planet is caused by an increase in the concentration of greenhouse gases due to human activities.
In 2010, this conclusion was officially confirmed by 11 science academies of the main industrial countries, including Russia. The main increase in the radiation forcing of the atmosphere on climate is given by three long-lived greenhouse gases — carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitric oxide (N2O) — they provide 88% of growth over 1750 year. They account for approximately 96% of the radiation exposure on the atmosphere due to long-lived greenhouse gases.
Fig. 2. Change in the concentration and emission of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere.
Despite the fact that since the mid-twentieth century man-made have been considered the main cause of global warming and the abundance of international solutions (including UN documents, the European Parliament, etc.). Еhe amount of anthropogenic greenhouse gases emissions in the world continues to grow. Total anthropogenic greenhouse gases emissions between 2000 and 2010 increased by 10 billion tons of CO2 eq. per year, reached 49 billion tons of CO2 eq. and continue to grow.
The greatest concern is the level of CO2 in the atmosphere, which reached 400 ppm. At this level, one should already expect an increase in the average global temperature of the Planet by about 20 grad. С, which is on the verge of permissible. But the concentration of CO2 continues to grow at a rate of about 4 ppm per year, since its input signiﬁcantly exceeds the rate of its removal due to natural processes. The lifetime of CO2 in the atmosphere (reduction to 37% of the initial value) for 50% of emissions is about 100 years^; for 20% of emissions, the lifetime in the atmosphere is more than a thousand years.
This means that a small reduction in emissions will not stabilize the CO2 concentration, but only reduce its rate of growth in subsequent decades. A 10% reduction in emissions will lead to a 10% decrease in the concentration growth rate, and a 30% reduction by 30%. Even a complete cessation of greenhouse gases emissions will only lead to a slow decrease in its concentration in the atmosphere over the 21st century by approximately 40 ppm. Accordingly, the temperature of the atmosphere will change.
The total emissions in the USA for 1960–2013 amounted to 255 billion tons of CO2 equivalent, in China — 157 billion tons of CO2 equivalent, in Russia — 94 billion tons of CO2 equivalent. Russia ranks 3rd in the world in terms of greenhouse gases emissions. But the contribution of various sources differs signiﬁcantly from the global average. According to Rosstat in Russia, the main source of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere is road transport (42%), which is almost four times more than the world average. It is followed by the oil and gas industry — 11%.The main conclusion from the analysis of climate change trends: human-made intervention has brought the global ecological system to the brink of sustainability.
How did humanity allow such a situation? A person is generally not inclined to analyze the global situation, and if he exists in miserable conditions and is put on the brink of survival, then he is not even interested in possible impending catastrophes such as nuclear war or global environmental disaster. Worse, they do not understand what is happening and do not want to think about the consequences of their actions, most of the politicians, experts, religious and public ﬁgures, big businessmen. Therefore, in this situation, both the managing elites and the majority of citizens are to blame.
Changing the situation is impossible without overcoming the root vices of the existing civilization:
- thoughtless and «plant» — survival of most of humanity^;
- parasitism of developed countries in relation to the outside world^;
- parasitism of national elites in relation to their own citizens^;
- parasitism of people in relation to future generations^;
- clash of interests of national development of individual states.
The discussion that unfolded after the publication in 1972 of the report of the Club of Rome «Limits of Growth» debunked the myth of limitless economic growth as a means of solving all the problems of mankind. It helped to attract people’s attention to serious brewing problems associated with the destruction of the harmony of Man — Nature relations.
The key to solving the climate problem is changing human behavior. His activity should proceed
from the position that the Earth is a closed system (material exchange with the outside world is negligible), and its ability to meet growing human needs is not unlimited. However, most people deﬁne the success of their life as an increase in the amount of goods they consume: an increase in wages, living space, food consumption … The states also evaluate their activities in the same way: an increase in coal and steel production, mining, sown areas, etc. Economists, politicians, and sociologists speak the same language. The economic development of society is deﬁned, ﬁrst of all, as expanded reproduction: the growth of consumption and productive forces, labor resources, education, science, culture… But the problem is that people confuse «enough for life» and «unlimited». Too often, people are guided in their behavior not by the mind and logic, but by feelings, though not the best ones envy, greed, ambition.
Most of the managing elites bear special responsibility for the situation, who, declaring in words the need to take into account the long-term consequences of actions, are ready in practice to introduce some restrictions only if it does not concern their personal interests. There are several reasons for such deafness of the elites.
- The complexity of the modern global system, the speed of change, the growth of chaos and absurdity have exceeded the ability of most people to understand what is happening and evaluate the future. We are talking not only about ordinary citizens, but also about most of the scientiﬁc elite, about those who are at the head of states and make decisions and those who are behind the vowels of power — international big business.
- The imperfection of the mechanisms for the formation of governing elites from a narrow circle of people with a speciﬁc mentality, putting their current selﬁsh interests not only above the interests of others, but also their promising interests, including those of their own children.
- The tradition and inertia of human consciousness.
- Intentional misrepresentation of information by managing elites interested in the possibility of manipulating the world community for selﬁsh purposes.
- The development of the economy in a parasitic scenario. Most of the major fortunes are not derived from labor. The most successful are exchange speculators, intermediaries, and the criminal business serving them (show business, biased media, corrupt politicians and bureaucracy, elite services, etc.).
- The elite’s self-conﬁdence that ﬁnancial opportunities will allow them to ﬁnd a solution that is personally acceptable for themselves in any situation.
Therefore, the key is to create a mechanism for the formation of new governing elites, to create legitimate mechanisms for adjusting the composition and behavior of elites in the event of its mistakes or abuse. And the most likely mechanism for creating a new government is to improve the mechanisms of political and economic democracy.
The second no less serious problem is the need to change the basic principles of the economy. The goal in the economy cannot be proﬁt, the formal growth of economic activity and consumption. Primitive economic growth has signiﬁcant negative side effects and is disastrous for the environment. Development should be based on a strategic value system, and not vice versa, when momentary ﬁnancial problems impose a strategic choice.
The situation requires an urgent change in the strategy of mankind, its technological, economic and ideological policies. Attention should be shifted from the economic activity of man and personal well-being to Nature as a whole, which implies a global revision of the worldview, including the religious one. The new strategy should include a change in the goal-setting and meaning of human activities and, as a consequence, a change in the goals of science and industry. The need for change also applies to opposition organizations, often acting only to meet the immediate needs of a person within the framework of traditional thinking.
To resolve this contradiction, it is necessary to remove restrictions on the search for ways of economic development from the side of traditions, dogmas and ideologies left over from the Cold War, as well as from the time of domination of governing structures.
Equally important is the elimination of the decisive inﬂuence on state and international environmental policies of ﬁnancial institutions and large businesses.
Probably the most promising is the construction of an economic system based on a synthesis of the ideas of the Green Economy, the Economics of the Sustainable Future, the Resource-Oriented Economy, the Ecological Economy, and the «Environmental Economics», «Ecosocialism» and others close to them.
But most of the proposals are eco-socialists, green economists, etc. have two drawbacks.
- They do not have implementation technology, since they assume the leading role of power in the absence of effective mechanisms for creating the controlling elite and its control.
- The authors of these concepts suggest the possibility of solving the problem without fundamentally changing the economic system, i. e. by redistributing ﬁnancial ﬂows within the framework of a consumer economy.
The main problem hindering a change in the situation is that decision-makers are aware of the imminent risks, but they neglect them to achieve selﬁsh, short-term goals. Almost all decisions proceed from the position that economic activity should be carried out within a framework that does not change the parameters of the global economic system. People see the solution of environmental problems in the ever-deﬁning world of money that is familiar to them. The formulation of the problem and methods for solving it, as a rule, is carried out in terms of the market — the necessary ﬁnancing and ﬁnancial damage.
This leads to three consequences:
- To the primitivization of the problem — «ﬁnance is the missing piece of the green growth puzzle».
- By substituting the strategic goal — «to stop the degradation of Nature» by the opportunistic goal — «to prevent ﬁnancial losses due to climate change»^;
- The possibility of large-scale speculation on the topic: what is more proﬁtable — to take measures to stop global warming under the inﬂuence of technogenic factors or to develop technologies that weaken the impact of climate change on humans.
Financial programs, even with an increase in volume, will not solve the problem of harmonizing the relationship between man and Nature. No funding can return thousands of species of organisms extinct as a result of destabilization of the global ecosystem and stop the further extinction of endangered species. In 2009, 21% of all known mammals, 30% of all known species of amphibians, 12% of all known species of birds, 28% of reptiles, 37% of freshwater ﬁsh, 70% of plants, and 35% of invertebrates were classiﬁed as endangered species. Corals move toward an increased risk of extinction at the fastest pace, while amphibians are, on average, the most threatened group. A value of 1.0 implies a low level of extinction threat (that is, it is not expected that the species will die out in the near future). The index value is 0 for extinct species. The constant value of the index over time suggests that the risk of the disappearance of the group is constant.
The disadvantage of most options for a «green economy» is the position that positive results can be achieved without changing the mentality and strategic goal-setting in human activity.
The new economic system should focus on key moments:
- abandonment of the economy of consumption^;
- orientation not only of economy and technology, but also of the whole lifestyle of mankind to minimize the consumption of natural resources and minimize pressure on Nature, rejection of «pseudo-needs», starting with weapons and ending with drugs, including luxury goods, alcohol and nicotine^;
- reduction of the social stratiﬁcation of the world community not only due to the growth of economic growth and the corresponding increase in consumption of the poorest part of the population, but also the restriction of consumption of the richest part of the population.
Social stratiﬁcation is unacceptable and dangerous for the global ecological system^; today it has exceeded all permissible limits. According to Credit Suisse Research Institute
- 10% of the richest people in the world own 86% of the world’s wealth, and 1% of the richest people own 48% of the world’s wealth. By 2016, this ﬁgure will increase to 50% ^;
- The USA, having 5% of the world population, possess 30% of the world’s wealth^;
- 110 russian billionaires account for 35% of household wealth:
- 1% of the richest Russians own 71% of all the wealth of Russian households. In the USA, this value is 37% of all wealth, in Europe — 32%, in Japan — 17%.
It is this layer of super-rich people that provides excessive consumption of goods and services, the main share of consumption of «garbage» and prestigious goods and the main share of food losses (food loss is 1/3 of its production, which could feed 900 million hungry people) .
Therefore, the liquidation of the decisive inﬂuence on the state environmental policy of ﬁnancial institutions and large businesses can not do.
Science comes to the ﬁrst place when changing the path of development — from technocivilization exploiting Nature to a society of harmony between man and the Earth:
- Science should indicate the best way to create a harmonious global ecological, socio-economic system of the Earth.
- Science should develop a strategy for new environmental management, taking into account the limited bearing capacity of the Planet, and considering the person and the ecosphere as components of the global system, and not as primitive renewable and non-renewable resources for economic processes.
- Science should introduce a new system for assessing the effectiveness of human business activity, taking into account damage to the planet and the long-term consequences and risks of ongoing economic activities.
The world community is able to create a like-minded society that can defend the strategy of new environmental management and achieve changes in the principles of economic activity from the authorities and large businesses, and from people — the rejection of excess consumption.
A certain optimism is inspired by the activities of the UN, which formulated the concept of «Sustainable Development», as a reaction of the world community to crisis phenomena in the biosphere, economy, and the international relations. This concept, unlike numerous international documents, in its plan does not separate people, but unites them, regardless of country, nationality and religion. It puts people above these differences, considering everyone who lives now and will live in the future, as citizens of the planet Earth, belonging to the same earth civilization. At the same time, the UN demands that humanity be recognized, it is entering a new era and the old model of socio-economic development has lost its effectiveness. Today, all the problems of managing the global ecological system are tied into one global tangle and the answer to them must also be global — even the major powers will not be able to cope with them alone. Moreover, humanity has very little time to change the situation. According to optimistic scenarios — one generation, according to pessimistic ones — we have already passed the point of no return.
translated by Katrin Braschnik