There goes Cassandra again. While everybody’s celebrating the climate deal struck in Paris following COP21, some people just can’t help but wonder how the world’s going to limit temperature rise to 1.5ºC.
Consider this: a 1ºC rise in temperature has already been locked in. Hong Kongers should know: we’re in line for the warmest Christmas for years. It would take a lot of effort to limit future rise to just 0.5ºC, for all kinds of reasons. For starters, proposals to build new coal-fired power plants have been approved everywhere, with China and India accounting for 76% of the new capacities. According to the World Resources Institute, the 1,199 proposed new coal-fired plants have a total installed capacity of 1,401,278 MW.
For another, nobody’s saying anything about keeping fossil fuel reserves in the ground. The share price of oil companies depend on how much they have in reserve as well as how much they extract and sell, and neither they nor their shareholders are prepared to let their holdings drop in value by committing to keeping reserves in the ground. Despite recent trends by some institutional investors to divest their holdings in oil-related stocks, there are still too many pension funds and others with substantial holdings in oil companies. Is somebody going to launch a business in helping them ditch oil stocks and rebuild their portfolios?
Then there’s meat. You’ve heard about the carbon emissions associated with meat, particularly beef, but as developing economies mature, they’re demanding more and more meat in their diet. Such is the demand that an American meat producer plans to spend hundreds of millions on promoting its products in China.
Finally, can world leaders really commit to combating climate change without taking the slightest look at the current economic model? They’re still anxious about economic growth and thinks every country should encourage consumption as an economic driver. Sorry but planet Earth simply doesn’t have the resources or resilience to sustain the level of consumption pursued by an ever-increasing number of humans.