The Rio+20 Earth Summit will be held June 20-22 in Brazil. I will be posting occasionally on preparations for the meeting between now and then. It is natural to ask on the eve of the summit how the humans are doing so far in the race to preserve a habitable Earth. The Washingon Post reported on the meeting preparations in Rio Earth summit nears as scientists warn planet faces grave threats—
As thousands of people prepare to convene in Brazil this month for the Rio+20 Earth Summit, scientists and environmentalists alike are sending a sharp message: The planet is in dire straits.
On Wednesday, the United Nations Environment Program issued a report showing that the world has made significant progress on only four of the 90 most important environmental objectives agreed on through the U.N. process.
Gains have come in eliminating ozone-depleting substances, phasing out lead in gasoline, increasing access to water supplies and encouraging research into marine pollutants. In most other categories — including protecting plant and animal species, curbing marine pollution and conserving water supplies — humanity is falling short.
“If current trends continue, if current patterns of production and consumption of natural resources prevail and cannot be reversed and ‘decoupled,’ then governments will preside over unprecedented levels of damage and degradation,” UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said in a statement.
That doesn't sound good! Having been on the planet for almost six decades now, I have seen these save-the-Earth meetings come and I have seen them go. The routine goes something like this:
- At the meeting's conclusion, participants pledge to try harder to achieve the noble goals which have been laid on the table but not agreed upon in any binding sense.
- Nothing much happens for a prolonged period of time.
- In the immediate run-up to the next meeting, dire warnings are issued—if we don't act now, humankind is toast.
- Representatives of the Earth's nations large and small meet to set new goals.
- At the meeting's conclusion, participants pledge to try harder to achieve the noble goals which have been laid on the table but not agreed upon in any binding sense...
And so on. The goals are laudable, but in so far as they are impossible for humans to achieve, as I have often made clear on this blog, they will never be acted upon and hence no large nation (e.g. China) or otherwise important nation (e.g. Saudi Arabia) is serious about meeting them. Here's one such goal.
On Tuesday, the World Bank issued a report outlining how it will work to foster economic development that conserves natural resources and limits pollution even as it provides transportation, energy and food to a growing population. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has unveiled an initiative called Sustainable Energy for All, which is likely to become a focus of discussions at Rio along with a push to eliminate fossil-fuel subsidies.
Ban’s proposal aims to double energy efficiency and double renewable sources in the global energy mix by 2030 while providing reliable lighting and heating to the more than 1.3 billion who still lack it.
As noted, and for reasons too numerous to list here, we are forced to conclude that the Ban-Ki-moon-man's goals—doubling energy efficiency (???) and doubling energy from renewable sources while providing lighting and heat to the more than 1.3 billion people who still lack it—will happen when pigs can fly. Environmentalists are bitter.
“As things currently stand, we are facing two likely scenarios — an agreement so weak it is meaningless, or complete collapse,” Jim Leape, director general of the World Wildlife Fund, said in a statement Tuesday. “Neither of these options would give the world what it needs.”
“When they gather in Rio, governments must restrain the flow of weasel words that is threatening to emasculate any agreement,” Leape added.
Welcome to Planet Earth, Mr. Leape. Try to remember that the Earth and solar system are 4.55 billion years old. At the very last moment in that very, very long history, in less than the blink of an eye some 200,000 years ago, Homo sapiens arose in Africa, spread out from there, and conquered the entire world. Subsequently, they have used and abused this remarkable planet in any way they saw fit in accordance with their Nature and capabilities.
And in much less than the blink of an eye, they will be gone.
Bonus Video — "I want to swim in clean oceans!"