Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace

FOSSIL FUEL: THE MOST DANGEROUS ADDICTION

Posted by strattof on July 18, 2011

Addiction, noun: Self-destructive behaviour that one is in denial aboutthe most apt of words to describe our relationship with fossil fuels.

For over a quarter of a century, the vast majority of independent scientists have been warning about the catastrophic consequences of burning fossil fuels. Still, we continue to burn them in ever increasing amounts, spewing ever greater quantities of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere.  

Now we are finding that the damage caused by this fossil fuel use is even worse than was expected. 

A MAJOR PLANETARY CATASTROPHE”

In a report released earlier this month, the United Nations warned that “humanity is on the verge of breaching planetary sustainability” and that a comprehensive global energy transition is urgently needed in order to avert a major planetary catastrophe.”

Titled The World Economic and Social Survey 2011: The Great Green Technological Transformation, the report lets us know us that “business as usual is not an option”:

Even if we stop global engines of growth now, the depletion and pollution of our natural environment would still continue because of existing consumption patterns and production methods. Hence there is an urgent need to find new development pathways which would ensure environmental sustainability and reverse ecological destruction, while managing to provide, now and in the future, a decent livelihood for all humankind.

SOME FACTS AND FIGURES

According to the UN report:

  • 90% of today’s energy is generated through brown (as opposed to green) technologies that utilize fossil fuels.
  • This type of energy production is responsible for about 60% of CO2 emissions.
  • The frequency of natural disasters has quintupled over the past 40 years. Most of this increase is related to climate change, itself a result of increasing quantities of CO2 in the atmosphere.
  • To avert a total catastrophe, the use of fossil fuels will need to drop by 80% within the next 40 years and a transition made to green technologies.   
  • The transition will cost about $1.9 trillion a year for investments in green technologies. At least $1.1 trillion of that will need to be made in developing countries to meet increasing food and energy demands.  

IS SUCH AN ENERGY TRANSFORMATION POSSIBLE?  

$1.9 TRILLION! THAT’S A LOT OF MONEY!! To put the figure in perspective, we might recall that the US alone has spent over $3 trillion making wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while Canada has spent $22+ million in Afghanistan. Both Canada and the US are among the top 10 CO2 emitters in the world. We would do better to spend our money on environmental sustainability than on death and destruction.

“A COMPREHENSIVE GLOBAL ENERGY TRANSITION”

Here are some of the report’s recommendations on what countries can do to achieve a transition to green technologies:

  • Fulfill their Kyoto commitments.
  • Invest in energy efficiency.
  • Invest in renewable energy technologies, such as bio mass, wind, and solar power.
  • Promote sustainable agriculture both at home and abroad.

A BETTER FUTURE TO DO LIST FOR SASKATCHEWAN

  • Develop a sustainable economy by investing in renewable forms of energy, such as bio mass, wind, and solar.
  • Replace the boom and bust cycle of the fossil fuel industry by creating green economy jobs.
  • Start conserving energy and living for our needs, instead of the created wants of the consumer culture.
  • Lobby the federal government to get rid of its annual subsidy of approximately $1 billion to the tar sands industry. Tar sands oil extraction emits 3-5 times more CO2 than regular oil. The Alberta tar sands are the single biggest contributor to the growth of Canada’s CO2 emissions. Tar sands extraction also contaminates huge amounts of another finite resource, water.
  • Let Premier Brad Wall know you don’t want tar sands development in Saskatchewan.
  • Buy local, eat fresh. Transporting food thousands of miles is insane! We get less energy out of the food than the amount used to produce and transport it. In the summer, shop at the Farmers Market: Wednesday and Saturday 9:30 am–1:30 pm, at City Hall.
  • Learn lessons in sustainability from First Nations traditions. We need to live in balance with nature.
  • Create an economy based on local needs and cooperation. Governed by corporate greed, our current economy distributes wealth unequally and creates a violent culture where women and children and the poor bear the brunt the violence.

Rather than viewing growth and sustainability as competing goals on a collision course, we must see them as complementary and mutually supportive imperatives. This becomes possible when we embrace a low-carbon, resource-efficient, pro-poor economic model.” —UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

RESOURCES TO HELP US CHANGE OUR VALUES

  • The World Economic and Social Survey 2011: The Great Green Technological Transformation, a UN report on global energy transformation: To find it online, google “world economic and social survey 2011.”
  • Blind Spot, a documentary film about the current oil and energy crisis, available in DVD at the Regina Public Library.
  • To the Last Drop, Part 1, a You Tube video about a small Canadian town facing the consequences of being the first to witness the impact of the tar sands project: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDDb1iTw6pQ
  • To the Last Drop, Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQrWZzBOCoc
  • Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent, a book by Andrew Nikiforuk, available at the Regina Public Library.
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