Criticism of global
in the last half century
About Human Activity on Earth between 1972-2022
The situation of the planet, after the 1972 Stockholm Conference, bears little resemblance to what the Swedish capital projected for the future of the Earth 50 years ago. For this reason, it seemed opportune to contrast those idealistic principles, proclamations and thoughts, emanating from the First Earth Summit, with the reality that we have today. We have accompanied this work with our constructive criticism, without leaving the positive facts in the inkwell.
We recommend its reading, due to the didactic-educational intention with which it was written, to teachers, secondary and higher education students, and the general public.
Finally, we want to express that educational programs should include climate issues among their priorities.
Table of contents
I. The years before the Stockholm Conference (1950-1972)
Times of mixed feelings
- The 1950s, the beginning of acceleration and damage to the environment
- The climate pioneers before Stockholm
II. The Sotckholm Conference 1972
First Earth Summit or United Nations Conference on the Human Environment
- Sweden’s concern
- What does the Stockholm Declaration tell us?
- The First Proclamation of the Stockholm Declaration
- The Stockholm Declaration and its comparison with the Declaration of Human Rights
- The precise words of Maurice Strong spoken 50 years ago, unknown to most
III. The post Stockholm balance
An open book that allows us to see with extreme clarity the actions of Homo sapiens in the last 50 years
- The conclusion of UNEP, the UN Environment Program
- Why didn’t they take advantage of these 50 years?
- Sample of human activities after Stockholm 1972
- The Brundtland Report of 1987, originating from the concept of “Sustainable Development”
IV. Rio 92, the Second Earth Summit
What Rio left us to be able to face the 22nd century
- The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development
- The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
- The creation of the COP, annual climate conferences.
- Convention to combat desertification.
- Convention on Biological Diversity.
- Agenda 21 to promote sustainable development
- A special aside for COPs
- Why are COPs annual?
- What have been the most important COPs?
V. The 30 years after Rio 92 (1992-2022)
A long time for the little that has been achieved
- The Third Earth Summit, Johannesburg 2002
- The Fourth Earth Summit Rio+20, of the United Nations 2012
- The bankruptcy of the Kyoto Protocol, Copenhagen 2009
- The problem of the “SOFT LAW” of the Paris Agreement
VI. The Paris Agreement (2015)
- A universal agreement to fight climate change
- The global temperature limitation
- Criticism of the Paris Agreement
VII. Assessment 50 years later
- The positive facts of these 50 years
- The Negative Facts: Environmental Deconstruction Underway
- The nine limits of the planet. Flagrant demonstration of violations of the laws of nature
- A separate for jungles and forests
- The deforestation countdown
VIII. Artificial intelligence and the fight against climate change
- Can artificial intelligence AI solve the environmental problem?
The job of the environmentalist is one of the most rewarding and at the same time most thankless that exists. Rewarding for the passion and hope that we always have to stop environmental deterioration. Yes, –passion and hope– are the two motivations that force us to continue, since both are too intense to abandon ship in the middle of the ocean. Ungrateful, due to the frustration produced by unfulfilled promises at climate summits, the little interest in the subject by the majority, including professionals, lawyers and other learned people. Nor do the media, with certain exceptions, give it the relevance that the climate issue deserves, placing it in small spaces behind sports, entertainment and politics.
Far from giving up, we decided to undertake the task of analyzing and redefining the key events that occurred in this half century between Stockholm 1972 and this year 2022. We have taken this time segment, as we could have chosen another, but we consider that these fifty years have very special characteristics, ideal to carry out our work.
In the first place, we refer to the symbolic connotation of the First Earth Summit, as it is an iconic, massive, original and original meetings of its kind, the perfect starting point in which the human spirit manifested itself, through an authentic desire to respect the environment. Secondly, we contrast it with the 50 years post-Stockholm, a period in which humans ignored the wise recommendations of the First Earth Summit and have devastated everything the planet has to offer.
One of our goals is to show that in 50 years, they are nothing compared to the Earth’s geological chronology, since in comparative terms it should not even reach a thousandth of a second on that scale. In that short period we have been able to derail the biological, physical and chemical balance of the Earth, an issue that we will see in detail when we review the theory of the nine limits of the planet.
The characteristics that these fifty years present to us are unique and unrepeatable, at least in the short term, and allow us to approach with considerable precision the “most recent” performance of our species compared to the others, our companions aboard this blue balloon in which, whether we like it or not, we all travel together.
We know that the spirit of Stockholm did not resonate with the great majority, either because they did not pay attention or because they did not understand the message generated in Sweden. Probably the media did not give it the attention it deserved to the detriment of the diffusion that the event demanded. Even more serious, a good part of those who have the big decisions in their hands took the path against Stockholm and have continued to walk against the arrow, after the period 1972-2022 had elapsed.
To end these brief words, we must conclude that the past half century is a harsh wake-up call to the humans who inhabit this friendly planet. It would be a new mistake, perhaps irreversible, to let the opportunity pass and not redefine the attitude of our species towards Mother Earth.
Before finishing, we want to announce that we make this work available to teachers, professors and students so that they can read it, discuss it, analyze it, disseminate it and draw new conclusions, with the desire to help build a new relationship between human beings and the environment. ambient. We must do our utmost to make this wish come true.
Sandor Alejandro Gerendas-Kiss
I. The years before the Stockholm Conference (1950-1972)
The 1950s, times of mixed feelings
Beginnings of acceleration and damage to the environment
The 1950s were times of mixed feelings. World War II had just ended. The smell of gunpowder had not disappeared when the reconstruction of Europe and Japan began. People, although they did not forget their dead, began to live life in the hope that peace and well-being would last. That vision of a better world caused many to start having children. The “baby boom” was immediate and the world population doubled in just forty years, a growth never seen in the history of mankind. From three billion inhabitants in 1960, the population grew to six billion in 2000 and continued to grow. We calculate that before the end of this year 2022 the world population will reach 8 billion inhabitants. See WorldOmeter a real time demographic meter.
As if that were not enough, the needs multiplied more than the people. The consumer society, characterized by cheaper products, new advertising and the massification of television, put pressure on the resources available on the planet. Cars and planes expanded like mushrooms, emitting jets of CO2 into the atmosphere. Timber forests began to be deforested in a hostile way to satisfy the markets for construction, furniture and paper. The huge spaces cleared in rainforest would be used for extensive agriculture and livestock and urbanization. As a consequence, populations of flora and fauna began to lose their habitats at an alarming rate. Air, soil and water were polluted and degraded. Cities have become overcrowded and polluted megacities, where pollution makes it hard to breathe, and water scarcity is a serious and ever-increasing problem. (Taken from our article “From Kyoto to Paris, history of two climate agreements”).
The great majority did not realize that this mixture of things was projecting dangerously into the future. They did not think that in less than fifty years it would land as a perfect storm. Those who have the power in their hands did not take the corrective measures in time. Now the situation is much more difficult, if not impossible to reverse. That is why there is more and more talk of “adaptation”.
Once the perfect storm or environmental storm has arrived, the signs of which are evident, still in 2022 there are climate deniers who are still clinging to the exploration, extraction and financing of oil and gas. They continue to deforest rainforests and look over their shoulders as if the problem of heat waves, mega wildfires, droughts, flash floods, catastrophic landslides, melting glaciers and arctic ice were not with them.
Decisions on urgent issues at climate meetings were put off year after year under the complacent gaze of big polluters. At one of these summits, after a new postponement, a rumor spread that one of the representatives, behind the scenes, said: “the Paris Agreement is dead”, while he was rubbing his hands.
The environmental storm has had the effects of an atomic bomb dropped on the planet, which has changed in half a century more than nature itself in millions of years. Despite this, few have given it due importance. The idea that in the end science and technology will fix everything and life will continue to prevail in the human unconscious.
This disrespect for the laws of nature, carried out continuously in this half century, revealed the lack of maturity of Homo sapiens on crucial issues such as biological balance. Also the belief prevails that we can live without the need for the biodiversity that existed on Earth for hundreds of millions of years before our arrival.
This error or omission, which emerges with clarity in the last half century, has caused Mother Earth to prepare an expensive bill that we have already begun to pay. And it is that she has never allowed one of her species to get too far ahead of the others. The case of Homo sapiens is similar to a race like that of the cyclist who accelerates to escape from the group, believing that he is going to win, but more often than not loses due to fatigue, a product of the effort.
If we don’t rectify and start to act, it will happen to us like the cyclist who escaped from the peloton, and we will lose the tremendous opportunity that Mother Earth has given us. No species can escape the laws of nature without paying the consequences.
The climate pioneers before Stockholm
As far back as 1824, Jean-Baptista Joseph claimed that the Earth maintained a temperate climate because the atmosphere retains heat as if it were under glass. In this way the advanced French physicist discovered the greenhouse effect.
Seven decades later, when automobiles still looked like horse-drawn carriages, but without horses, Svante Arrhenius, a Swedish scientist and visionary, proclaimed that fossil fuels could accelerate global warming by establishing a relationship between atmospheric CO2 concentrations and temperature. His observations were forgotten for half a century when interest in climate and environmental issues was revived by the scientific community.
In the early 1950s, Gilbert Norman Plass (1920-2004), a Canadian physicist, after his calculations on solar and infrared radiation, concluded that CO2 emissions affect climate and climate change.
Roger Revelle (1909-1991), American scientist, born in Austria, co-author in 1957 of an article with Hans Suess, American chemist and nuclear physicist, in which they suggested that gas emissions from human activities could create a “greenhouse effect”, which would cause global warming over time.
In these times the press and sspecialized publications began to talk about the climate issue. American Scientist, published a series of articles in 1956, including one aimed at the general public. In 1957, The Hammond Times, describing Revelle’s research, mentioned the terms “global warming” and “climate change” and warned about the effects of large-scale CO2 use. His warnings fell into oblivion for a long time.
It is probable that this awakening of the scientific world due to climatic issues was what led Sweden to go to the UN and propose holding a conference in order to find a solution to the problems of the human environment. The idea was accepted, and it was agreed that Stockholm would host the Conference.
For this reason, this period between 1950 and 1972, which we could call the pre-Stockholm period, was decisive for the beginning of the debates on the climatic-environmental issue.
II. The Stockholm Conference 1972
First Earth Summit or United Nations Conference on the Human Environment
Stockholm meant an unprecedented opportunity to make a first assessment of the effects of human activity on the environment through a global vision. “It was the origin of the first attempts to build common basic criteria to face the task of preserving and improving the human environment.” (UN)
Between June 5 and 16, 1972, the “First Earth Summit” was held in the Swedish capital, so called because it was the first world conference to “make the environment an important issue.”
Four years earlier, Sweden had gone to the UN to express its concern. The Swedes’ concern was expressed in this paragraph:
“That man-made changes in the natural environment had become an urgent problem for both developed and developing countries, and that these problems could only be solved through international cooperation”.
It was at this time that the Nordic country proposed to convene a conference, under the auspices of the UN, in order to seek a solution to the problems of the human environment. The idea was accepted, and it was agreed that Stockholm would host the Conference.
Thus, we arrive at June 5, 1972, the day the lights were turned on inside the rooms where the first discussions on the human environment and the climate were held. 113 countries, 19 intergovernmental organizations and more than 400 non-governmental organizations attended the event. An excellent turnout for such early times.
The Conference established a working group and three commissions that drew up the six main themes of the program on the “natural environment”, the main objective of the call:
- Planning and management of human settlements from the point of view of the quality of the environment.
- Educational, informative, social and cultural aspects related to the quality of the environment.
- Management of natural resources and their relations with the environment.
- Development and medium.
- Definition of polluting agents of vast international importance and fight against them.
- Institutional consequences at the international level of the proposals for action.
The Conference documents were based on a large number of reports, presented by governments, non-governmental, and intergovernmental organizations, including 86 national reports on environmental problems. The meeting approved 109 recommendations for action at the international level.
On June 16, 1972, after reviewing and discussing the reports of the main committees and the Working Group, the Conference approved by acclamation the “Declaration on the Human Environment.”
The Stockholm Declaration is a document consisting of a preamble, seven introductory proclamations and 26 principles. However, the Declaration is officially non-binding, that is, it is not mandatory. We will find this “non-binding” phrase in almost all climate conventions, declarations or agreements throughout the 50 years since the Stockholm Conference, and especially in COPs, Conferences of the Parties, annual climate meetings, such as can be read in our “Brief History of COPs”.
This stone in the shoe, the so-called “Soft Law” in climate agreements, which we will see in detail later, has been one of the main obstacles to protecting the environment and then in the fight against climate change. The argument used by the governments of the different countries is national sovereignty, which they protect by rejecting interference in the internal affairs of their countries.
It must also be said that the majority has ignored the advice and statements of the Stockholm Declaration. Neither those who command nor those who are commanded. The firsts one because most of them do not agree with such advice, and the seconds because most of them are not even aware of it.
The good thing is that the spirit of the Declaration is still there, with its 7 Proclamations and 26 Principles, written with the genius of women and men of that time, so permanent that 20 years later it was incorporated into Rio 92, the “Second Summit of the Land”. Today, after half a century, it remains valid and continues to be compared with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The bad thing is that time passes, and the planet is still waiting for the fulfillment of the Proclamations and Principles established in Stockholm 50 years ago.
The First Proclamation of the Stockholm Declaration
“Man is both the work and the creator of the environment that surrounds him, which gives him material sustenance and gives him the opportunity to develop intellectually, morally, socially and spiritually. In the long and tortuous evolution of the human species on this planet, which has reached a stage where, thanks to the rapid acceleration of science and technology, man has acquired the power to transform, in innumerable ways and on a vast scale. unprecedented, when it surrounds him. Both aspects of the human environment, the natural and the artificial, are essential to the well-being of man and to the enjoyment of fundamental human rights, including the right to life itself.”
What does the Stockholm Declaration tell us?
The United Nations Conference on the Human Environment was the first world conference to make the environment a major issue. The Stockholm Declaration consists of a preamble comprising seven introductory proclamations and 26 principles. Stockholm was an important fact:
“It brought environmental issues to the forefront of international concerns and marked the beginning of a dialogue between industrialized and developing countries on the link between economic growth, air, water and ocean pollution, and the well-being of people from all over the world.”
Learn more: The complete text Stockholm Declaration proclaims and principles
The plan of the Declaration and its three general types of action
a) Global Human Environment Assessment Program (Global Watch).
b) Huma environment management activities.
c) Auxiliary international measures for national and international assessment and management action.
These general types of action were expanded to 109 recommendations.
One of the main results of the Stockholm Conference was the creation of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
Maurice Strong, Secretary General of the Stockholm Conference, after the conclusion of the event, conveyed precisely and in a few words the spirit that prevailed during the Summit:
“The realization that man had reached one of those fundamental points in his history, where his activities are the main determinants of his own future.”
Short but deep reflection that today, after 50 years, is still valid and it should be analyzed and explained in educational settings.
III. The post Stockholm balance
The past half century is like an open book, which allows us to see with extreme clarity the actions of Homo sapiens in that period and the little attention that has been given to the letter and spirit of the Stockholm Declaration. This figurative book that we propose is framed in a short period, which allows us to appreciate what we have done and what we have not done in climate-environmental matters in these fifty years. From this point of view, a posteriori analysis becomes relatively easy and useful. This period is so short that, for example, Peter and Monica, who are now 65 years old, were 15 years old when the Stockholm proclamations were being drafted.
What happened to the Earth’s climatic-environmental system has happened during the life of Pedro and Mónica, perhaps they did not perceive it as a destruction that happened before their eyes. They were unaware of the depredation of tens of thousands of flora and fauna habitats. Neither of the innumerable rivers that flowed mightily when they were children, which today are nothing more than thin polluted streams, semi-dry and almost imperceptible.
All of us who currently live on the planet, in one way or another, suffer the consequences of what we have done to the Earth in just two generations. Yes, in just two generations. This is a wake-up call for us to become aware of the seriousness and urgency of the situation and face the next half century (2022-2072), as summoned to fix what we have messed up, while possible.
Many pages of our imaginary book are still blank, and it is urgent to fill them, so that it stops being a metaphor and becomes a real book, a kind of “Earth user manual”. We propose it as a free, collaborative encyclopedia, made and supervised by several people, so that it can be used for various purposes, including so that the climatic-environmental situation is documented for posterity, on the one hand, and on the other, to serve as a guide to repair the most pressing damage.
The conclusion of UNEP, the UN Environment Program
In the period studied, the environmental setback has been so great that the damage may be irreversible. It is not in vain that there is already talk of “adaptation”, since returning to the status of 1972 is impossible. Those that have made progress, and with firm steps and without rest, are the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere, the increase in temperature, the deterioration of air quality, the degradation of the soil and the oceans, the scarcity and contamination of waters from rivers and lakes, just to name the main problems. We do not say it, it is expressed with dramatic realism by the main support of the UN for the environment.
“Now, 50 years after the Stockholm meeting, the world is facing the three planetary crises that threaten its future: climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste…”.
In our words, humanity has wasted this precious half century. 50 years have slipped out of our hands, and they will never come back. In this first half century after Stockholm, much of the damage done to the environment could have been avoided.
The second half century after Stockholm has just begun. It is a good opportunity to begin to rectify. It’s time to pick up the pace to make up for lost time. If we don’t, maybe there won’t be another chance.
Let’s look at our previous example, but now in reverse. Yes, Elizabeth and Julius, who are 15 years old today, will be 65 in 2072. If they fall asleep and don’t lift their heads out of the water to realize what is happening in the world, we will all have lost the fight against climate change. We are all Elizabeth and Julius. Think about this and draw your own conclusions. All the young people are Elizabeth and Julius.
While we were preparing this analysis, July 2022, we were reading the news: “Brazil sees record Amazon deforestation in first half of 2022” CNN. It is unusual that, at the end of the first quarter of this 21st century, the depredation continues and breaks down new records. The great jungle of South America and the world have no substitute, if we allow it to be lost, perhaps we too will be lost.
Why didn’t they take advantage of these 50 years?
On the one hand, because there is too much interest from those who strive to preserve the status quo, and on the other, there is a lack of interest from the great majority to find out about the situation of the planet. They both prefer to stay in their comfort zone. Not all of them, but most of them are in “their business”, both those of the status quo and those of the great majority continue with their activities, as if the laws of ecology, that is, the laws of Mother Earth, could not affect them. Of course, those in the first group bear the greatest responsibility.
Sample of human activities after Stockholm 1972
The lights had not gone out in Stockholm when predatory activity on the part by some humans escalated to levels unknown in the world, revealing a contempt for the words of science, environmentalists, and other fighters for the Earth. In 50 years, the ferocity of a minority predatory sector came to light. Just look at the main damage done to the planet. The sampler that we place below is a clear demonstration of the little effect that Stockholm had in the following half century:
The indiscriminate and illegal logging of Borneo’s forests
What has happened on the third largest island in the world, the lung of Southeast Asia, was a disastrous case of mega deforestation between 1970 and 2000+. After the great depletion, the empty spaces were filled with the planting of oil palm. The orangutan, which only lives in Borneo and Sumatra, and had a large population, has been decimated by human predators, and put them in danger. Learn “Why is the orangutan in danger?” Orangutan.org.
Aggressive deforestation and the Amazon rainforest
In the largest tropical rain forest on the planet, the green lung of the world, the intensification of deforestation took hold in the 1970’s, and its illegal and uncontrolled deforestation has continued to this day. Much of the forest is in danger and may even disappear in the next half century if its destruction continues at the same rate, according to experts. Trees are felled illegally, at dizzying speeds by terrifying machinery, ironically called “tree harvesters”, putting life in South America and the entire planet at serious risk.
Deforestation in Africa
According to the FAO, “Africa recorded the highest annual rate of net forest loss between 2010-2020”, with 3.9 million hectares, about a third of the deforested area worldwide. The timber industry is one of the greatest threats to the still intact areas of the forests, to the detriment of the people and animals that inhabit them.
Excessive use of fossil fuels
In this half century, greenhouse gas emissions have increased exponentially, caused mainly by automobile traffic, aviation, heavy industries and light manufacturing. The increase in global temperature has not been long in coming, as has its consequence, climate change. As we write this, the production of old oil fields is maintained open, and new concessions and financing are granted to carry out explorations in order to open new oil fields.
In 68 percent it has vertebrate population decreased Worldwide
In just 40 years “The size of the populations of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles has suffered, on average, an alarming drop of 68% since 1970”, according to the Living Planet Report of the World Wide Fund for Nature. WWF, Oct 30, 2018.
The degradation of the oceans
Another problem is the degradation and pollution of the oceans, which has worsened dramatically during the period studied. The decline in marine biodiversity is serious. Overfishing of marine species has reached alarming volumes. Many fish cannot reproduce as fast as they are caught. Waste pollution and oil spills are also worth mentioning. Plastic pollution is so serious that objects made of this material have been found even in the depths of marine trenches, thousands of kilometers from the surface. The acidification of the waters due to warming results in a decrease in carbonate ions, necessary for the formation of skeletons and shells of species such as crabs, lobsters, clams, oysters, putting these species at risk of extinction.
Mass whitening from Australia’s Great Barrier Reef
The largest reef system on the planet deserves a special section. The Great Barrier Reef , which is more than 2,300 kilometers long, is undergoing massive bleaching due to rising sea temperatures. The barrier is home to some 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 types of molluscs. More than two hundred species of birds visit it to spend the night, place their nests and reproduce. Thousands of fish come to feed and spawn under the shelter of the great reef. If the barrier were to disappear, it would mean a catastrophe that would affect a large part of the marine biodiversity and the coastal towns that live from fishing.
A mathematical truth
Regarding greenhouse gas emissions and the increase in global temperature, there are two fundamental, measurable and indisputable facts, such as increases in PPM, parts per million of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere and, as a consequence, the rise in global temperature. The numbers speak for themselves. The increase in PPM, which in 1750, in the midst of the Industrial Revolution, was 280 PPM. In 1972, the year of the Stockholm Conference, they were at 330 PPM. In 1992, the year of the Rio Summit, they stood at 360 PPM and today they have exceeded 415 PPM, an increase of almost 50% since the first measurement. Note that between Stockholm and today the increase has been somewhat greater than 25%. This is why the global temperature has broken its record 17 times in just this 21st century.
Scarcity and contamination of water
Water scarcity is a natural phenomenon, “but also a phenomenon induced by human beings” (Unesco). The water issue is one of the main problems of the 21st century, which many countries on five continents are facing. During the 20th century, water consumption doubled above the rate of population growth, and although it is not possible to speak of global water scarcity, regions with chronic levels of water shortage are on the rise. That is the one of the most challenge for humanity. It is important to be aware of the causes of water scarcity because they are varied and some of them can be solved without too much difficulty. Water scarcity affects about 2.8 billion people in the world for at least one month each year. More than 1.3 billion people do not have access to clean water.
Air pollution in cities
Cities are “ one of the biggest contributors to climate change”, according to UN Habitat. We know that increasing car traffic, coupled with factories that do not control their emissions, turn the air in cities around the world into clouds of smog. The levels of polluting particles exceed in many cases the safety limit for human health, according to the WHO. Air pollution today is a global environmental problem. Atmospheric pollution consists of the presence of materials or forms of energy in the air that can pose a risk, damage or nuisance of varying severity to living beings. Among the direct consequences of air pollution is the development of diseases and conditions in humans and other species.
Soil degradation “is defined as a change in the soil health status resulting in a diminished capacity of the ecosystem to provide goods and services for its beneficiaries” according FAO. The physical degradation of soils is mainly due to their intensive and extensive use. This causes the increase of erosion processes, produced by water and wind. Another damage is the use of heavy machinery for the construction of roads, cities and other civil works, which eliminate the layers of microfauna and microflora necessary for plant life. The chemical degradation of soils is fundamentally due to the use of unnatural fertilizers, the introduction of phytosanitary agents and the excessive use of pesticides. All these methods produce the extinction of the organic matter necessary to carry out the processes that intervene in the formation of humus, essential for the proper growth of plants.
The desertification of the planet
The UN has defined desertification as “land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas. It is mainly caused by human activity and climatic variations. Desertification is due to the vulnerability of dryland ecosystems, which cover a third of the planet’s surface, to overexploitation and inappropriate land use. Poverty, political instability, deforestation, overgrazing and poor irrigation practices negatively affect soil productivity.”
The forest fires
Scientists have confirmed that the main cause of mega vegetation fires is increased global warming. The warmer air produces drought which makes trees and other plants burn easily. Since the hostile deforestation of the great forests of the Earth began in the 1970s, the humidity in their areas of influence has been reduced, the rains arrive later, the summers are longer, and the environment is warmer than in previous times. These are common causes that are observed in most of the mega fires recorded in the rainforest and forests of the world. For more information, see our article The ABCs of Wildfires: Australia, Brazil, and California.
The melting of the glaciers
The Arctic is warming twice as fast as anywhere else on Earth, and sea ice is shrinking by more than 10% every 10 years. As this ice melts, more dark patches of ocean begin to emerge, removing the effect that previously cooled the poles, increasing air temperatures, and in turn, disrupting normal ocean current patterns, according to WWF.
The danger of CO2 escapes from permafrost
Permafrost soils are cold deserts, with very low humidity and little rainfall. They occupy huge territories, especially in the north of the planet, such as Alaska, Canada and Russia. Permafrost is one of the largest deposits of organic carbon on the planet. It is estimated that under its soil there could be twice the amount of this ancient carbon than exists in the atmosphere. With global warming in progress, there is a risk that the permafrost layer will thaw, and carbon will be transformed into CO2, due to the action of microbes that remain there for thousands of years and released into the atmosphere. Related article: “Arctic permafrost is thawing fast. That affects us all.” National Geographic
Even the sand is in danger of extinction
Sand is today the most demanded natural resource in the world, after water and ahead of fossil fuels. Sand has become a valued commodity, essential for modern civilizations. “Our society is literally built on sand”, admits Pascal Peduzzi, head of the Global Change and Vulnerability Unit of the United Nations Environment Program and author of the Arena Report (2014). Related article: “The devastating business of sand trafficking” Diario El País.
The Brundtland Report of 1987 and the origin of the concept “Sustainable Development”
The Brundtland Report is a document prepared by some countries, addressed to the UN in 1987, fifteen years after Stockholm. The commission was headed by Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, Prime Minister of Norway. In this report, which was initially called “Our Common Future”, the term “sustainable development” was used for the first time, whose motto is “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations”. The text has the purpose of “analyzing, criticizing and rethinking the policies of globalizing economic development, recognizing that the current social progress is being carried out at a high environmental cost.”
Sustainable development is a concept in which it is urged to take into consideration the use of natural resources and, simultaneously, consider the social impact that includes specific points such as health and occupational safety, which allows the population a sufficient income to satisfy your needs. The Brundtland Report implies an important change regarding the idea of sustainability, mainly ecological, and a framework that emphasizes the economic and social context of development. This report has become a foundational reference for sustainable development.
“The report of the commission in repeated chapters refers to the need for birth control of the population, making a clear practical application of what Michel Foucault called biopolitics, since in the spirit of the commission the relationship between population and limited food resources. Wikipedia.
IV. Rio 92, the Second Earth Summit
Between the Stockholm and Rio conferences, 20 years passed, too long a time between the First and the Second Earth Summit, during which there was little progress in climate-environmental matters, compared to the wide range of environmental damage that began after Stockholm 1972, as we have just watch.
We can name two relevant events of those two decades: the Bruntland Report itself (1987) and the creation of the IPCC (1988), founded by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
The IPCC, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is a United Nations organization whose mission is “to provide the world with an objective and scientific opinion on climate change, its natural, political and economic impacts and risks, and the possible response options”. IPCC reports cover “scientific, technical, and socioeconomic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis for human-induced climate change risk, its potential impacts, and options for adaptation and mitigation.” Thousands of scientists and other experts contribute voluntarily, writing reports, to be reviewed by representatives of all governments.
The contributions of Rio 92
The Rio Summit was a fundamental meeting, more important than most people think. There, the foundations were laid for the fight against climate change and facing the threats that hang over life on Earth, with a view to the 21st century. In Rio, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was established, and it was agreed to create the COP, the Conference of the Parties, as its supreme body. For those who want to delve into environmental issues, global warming, climate change, etc., it is essential to obtain information on the 1992 Rio Summit. More information in our Summary and conclusions of the Rio Summit.
The Second Earth Summit was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, between June 3 and 14, 1992. The meeting was organized by the UN, with Maurice Strong its secretary general, who had already been secretary of the Conference of Stockholm 1972. It was attended by 172 countries, including 108 heads of state and government, as well as 400 representatives of non-governmental organizations. On the other hand, some 17,000 people attended the NGO Forum, held in parallel to the Summit.
Among the objectives of the Rio Declaration, we can consider: the creation of a new form of cooperation between States, sectors and people; address issues related to environmental protection and sustainable economic development; the harmony of the environment and cooperation between countries to protect, preserve and restore the conditions of the Earth.
Rio would be the mother of subsequent climate conferences, conventions and declarations; forest principles; fight against desertification; biological diversity conventions; Agenda 21 or global climate action to promote sustainable development. But it must also be said that most of these agreements, once again, do not have a binding nature, that is, a legal framework was not created that would force the countries to comply with the agreements. In part, it was because after 30 years of Rio, most of the goals have not been achieved.
The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development
It is made up of 27 principles and is basically a reaffirmation of the 26 principles of the Stockholm Declaration. In Rio, the lines of action for what should be done in the 21st century in environmental matters were established, through six key documents, with a view to crossing the threshold of the 20th century, with the help of these important documents.
The six documents issued from Rio 92
- United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
The UNFCCC is the main UN body for the fight against climate change. It was adopted in New York on May 9, 1992, and opened for signature on June 4, 1992, at the Rio Summit that year. It entered into force on March 21, 1994.
- The creation of the COP, annual climate conferences
It was agreed to create the COP, Conference of the Parties, as the supreme body of the UNFCCC. The COP is an association of countries and parties that meets once a year to deal with different issues regarding the Earth’s environmental problems.
- Declaration of principles relating to forests
Although it is a document that lacks binding legal force, “it fundamentally provides that all countries, especially developed countries, must strive to green the Earth through reforestation and forest conservation; that States have the right to develop their forests in accordance with their socio-economic needs, and that financial resources specifically intended to establish forest conservation programs should be provided to developing countries with a view to promoting an economic and social policy of substitution”.
- Convention to combat desertification
In Rio, advances were made on how to deal with the problem, which for a long time has been taking on alarming characteristics in many places on Earth. The Convention entered into force on December 26, 1996. A new comprehensive approach was presented on it. The extensive document consists of 6 parts, 40 articles and dozens of sections and numerals.
- Convention on Biological Diversity
It is a legally binding international treaty with three main objectives: “the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources. Its general objective is to promote measures that lead to a sustainable future”.
- Agenda 21 to promote sustainable development
The Agenda 21, “it is a detailed list of issues that have the attention, organized chronologically. The “21” refers to the 21st century… the Agenda 21 places a special emphasis on the participation of children. In its chapter 25 it says:
“Children will not only inherit the responsibility of caring for the Earth, but, in many developing countries, they constitute almost half of the population. Furthermore, children in developing and industrialized countries alike are highly vulnerable to the effects of environmental degradation. They are also very conscious supporters of the idea of caring for the environment. It is necessary that the specific interests of children be fully considered in the process of participation related to the environment and development, in order to safeguard the continuity in the future of any measures that are taken to improve the environment.”
More about the UNFCCC
The UNFCCC or United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change “is a universal convention of principles that recognizes the existence of climate change due to human activity and attributes the main responsibility to fight against this phenomenon to industrialized countries.”
“Achieve stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, at a level that prevents dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system and in a time frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, ensuring that production of food is not threatened, allowing economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.
The Framework Convention induces, among other things, to strengthen public awareness on a global scale about the problems related to climate change. Among its objectives is the need to stabilize GHG concentrations in the atmosphere, in order to prevent risks to the climate system.
- The concentration levels of GHG that are considered dangerous anthropogenic interference in the climate system are not determined, thus recognizing that at that time there was no scientific certainty about what should be understood by non-hazardous levels.
- The fact that climate change is already inevitable is suggested, therefore, not only preventive actions must be addressed, but also adaptation to the new climatic conditions.
A special aside for the COP
The COP, Conferences of the Parties, was created as the supreme body of the UNFCCC. They are the most important global climate summits that have been held every year since 1995 in a different city, although countries can repeat. The COP is made up of 196 countries plus the European Union, for a total of 197 Parties.
Why are COPs annual?
Between the first and second summits of the Earth, 20 years passed, as we have already seen. In view of the rapid progress of global warming and climate change, it was thought necessary to hold a climate conference every year, with the presumption of advancing more quickly and effectively in the fight against climate change.
The COP was born under the premise of strengthening public awareness on a global scale about the problems related to climate change and adopting the necessary decisions to achieve the objectives of the fight against climate change. Environmental experts, ministers, heads of state, non-governmental organizations and more recently civil society and the private sector participate in these meetings. In recent years, emphasis has been placed on the participation of young people, creating a space and special events for them.
So far, 26 COP climate summits have been held. The only year in which there was no COP was in 2020 due to the COVID 19 pandemic. It was COP 26, Glasgow 2020, that was the first conference to be postponed, finally held at the end of 2021.
The history of the COPs teaches us that these meetings, in general, are a compendium of good resolutions, ideas, promises, protocols and agreements that have fallen by the wayside. In many crucial meetings, where everything seemed to go with the wind in favor, on the last night what had been built by the parties for two weeks was demolished. Recommended article, our Brief History of COPs.
António Guterres, Secretary General of the UN, after finishing the COP26, in 2021, had very harsh expressions:
“Unfortunately, the collective political will was not enough to overcome some deep contradictions… Our fragile planet is hanging by a thread. We are still knocking on the door of climate catastrophe”. He reiterated: “it is time to go into emergency mode, or our chance of reaching net zero will itself be zero.”
What have been the most important COPs?
1995 COP1, Berlin. The first COP Conference was born, from which the Berlin Mandate emerged, a kind of catalog of commitments of good intentions, but quite indefinite, since it allowed countries to choose the initiatives adjusted to their particular needs.
1997 COP3, Kyoto. It met in the Japanese city and after intense negotiations the famous Kyoto Protocol came to light, which until then, together with the Montreal Protocol of 1987 for the protection of the ozone layer, was emerging as one of the two most important documents and hopeful of humanity to regulate anthropogenic activities, capable of recovering the global environment. (Later on we expand the information on what happened with the Kyoto Protocol, in Copenhagen, 2009).
2014 COP20, Lima. In the Peruvian capital there were great expectations and preparations for Paris 2015. The most outstanding thing was that the United States and China announced a joint commitment to reduce GHG emissions for the first time in history, essential so that the global temperature does not exceed 2°C (subsequently corrected to 1.5°C, on the recommendation of IPCC scientists). The UN considered that the objective was to reduce emissions between 40% and 70% by 2050, and to 0% by the end of the century. The agreement, finally ratified, is a contract that brought positions closer to Paris 2015.
2015 COP21, the year of the Paris Agreement
The Paris Agreement is an ambitious global document to fight Climate Change, negotiated within the framework of COP21. It was adopted by 197 countries, in Paris, on December 15, 2015, and its signing officially began on April 22, 2016, Earth Day. Its application would begin in 2020. The Paris Agreement contemplates the limitation of global temperature to 1.5°C. (See the Paris Agreement below).
2020 Climate Ambition Summit
This year, for the first time in a quarter of a century, due to the COVID19 pandemic, that year’s COP was not held. COP26 was postponed for the following year. Instead, a tele-distance meeting called The Climate Ambition Summit was held, UN. 71 countries presented reinforced climate plans, including all the Member States of the European Union. Argentina, Barbados, Canada, Colombia, Iceland and Peru also assumed greater commitments to reduce their GHG emissions and work towards adaptation to climate change.
2021 COP26, Glasgow. After a long wait, the COP26 could finally be held. Under the slogan “Uniting the world to tackle climate change”, COP26 was held between October 31 and November 12, 2021. The event was in Glasgow, the largest city in Scotland, one of the four countries in the United Kingdom. Alok Sharma was the chairman of the summit. The main objective of COP26 was “to keep alive 1.5 degrees with respect to the pre-industrial era”. For more details, see The Glasgow Climate Pact UN.
V. The 30 years after Rio 92 (1992-2022)
The Third Earth Summit, Johannesburg 2002
Ten years after Rio 92, the Third Earth Summit was organized in Johannesburg, the largest city in South Africa. 180 governments met there, between August 26 and September 7, 2002. In this call, efforts were made to promote sustainable development and improve the situation of people living in poverty. Second, to reverse the degradation of the global environment, “which has accelerated to levels never seen before”. In South Africa, commitments and associations were established to achieve results in the short term.
The Fourth Earth Summit, Rio+20
The Rio+20 meeting, Fourth Earth Summit, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, was held between June 20 and 22, 2012, within the framework of the 40th anniversary of the Stockholm Conference and the 20th anniversary of Rio 92. This fact was what determined the venue for the conference and gave it the name of Rio+20. The summit aimed to “secure a renewed political commitment to sustainable development, assess the progress made so far and the gaps that still exist in the implementation of the outcomes of the key meetings on sustainable development, as well as address new challenges”.
The failure of the Kyoto Protocol, Copenhagen 2009
In Kyoto, binding targets for GHG emissions were established for 37 industrialized countries. However, two of the largest emitters, the United States and China, did not ratify the document. It was agreed that the Kyoto Protocol would enter into force in 2008, and its expiration date was pre-marked for 2012, establishing that developed countries should reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 5% in those five years compared to at the 1990 level.
At COP15, Copenhagen 2008, an immense hope was encrypted, it was believed that the Danish capital would have the privilege of giving the good news to the world, through the announcement of a new protocol for the reduction of GHG emissions, that is, “the conclusion of a legally binding agreement on climate, valid for the whole world, to be applied from 2012”, as stated in its central objective. In quantifiable terms, it meant reducing CO2 emissions to less than 50% by 2050 compared to 1990.
But the joy did not last long. With three weeks to go before the start of the conference, a meeting was held in Thailand, in which China and the United States decided that the Copenhagen agreements would not be binding. So the fate of the Summit was cast before it began. It was bad news and little hope of saving it was buried last night, when the presidents of China, the United States, India, Brazil and South Africa, without the presence of European representatives or other countries, held a meeting behind closed doors and in just three pages they drafted a non-binding agreement that was not even put to a vote. Finally, it was only exposed to the “knowledge” of the attendees, along with the promise that at the beginning of 2010 they would work on a political platform, the basis for building binding legal commitments at COP16.
The critics did not wait. The summit was described as a failure by many governments and environmental organizations. Herman Van Rumpuy, President of the European Council, in a confidential cable to US diplomacy, leaked by WikiLeaks, dated January 4, 2010, had very harsh expressions:
“Copenhagen was an incredible disaster (…) multilateral summits will not work”, and described the meeting as “Nightmare on Elm Street II” and released the devastating phrase: “who wants to see this horror movie again?”
VI. The Paris Agreement
A universal agreement to fight climate change
The Paris Agreement was negotiated in the framework of COP21. It was adopted by 197 countries in Paris on December 15, 2015. Its signing officially began on April 22, 2016, Earth Day. Its application began in 2020. “It is a powerful document, accepted by almost all the nations of the planet, an important strength, since for now there is no other agreement that surpasses it”. So, we must all hold fast to the flag of the Paris Agreement and follow its mandates. We can do this in a variety of ways, but the most important is to put pressure on our leaders to work hard to put their nations into action according to the letter and spirit of the Paris Agreement.
The global temperature limitation
Through the Paris Agreement, the limitation of the world temperature to 1.5ºC is contemplated, through the reduction of GHG emissions, caused by the emissions of fossil fuels, mainly oil, gas and coal, causing global warming, climate change and its consequences. These include rising sea levels, floods, landslides, hurricanes, tornadoes, forest fires and other catastrophic phenomena, capable of endangering many species on Earth, including Homo sapiens.
The Paris Agreement, with its goals to reduce temperature and greenhouse gas emissions, is an inducer of countries, cities, industries, universities and people. With them, significant growth is being achieved in the production of cars and transportation systems powered by clean energy, an accelerated manufacture of photovoltaic solar panels and wind generators to supply clean electricity to millions of people in the world. For last we leave green hydrogen, the fuel called to be the star of the energy transition that will leave oil alone for the history books.
The strength of the Paris Agreement
It is also its role of raising awareness in the world, reinforcing what was initiated by the Kyoto Protocol, on the main environmental issues. The agreement signed in the French capital in 2015, added to the constant work of the UN and that of other environmental entities that fight against climate change, have made the eyes and ears of many people focus on issues such as global warming, climate change, greenhouse gas emissions and their consequences such as extreme heat waves, the melting of ice and glaciers, rising sea levels, air, water and soil pollution, the damage caused by plastics, the use of coal for electricity generation, water scarcity, deforestation of forests and forest fires caused by drought and excessive heat.
Criticism of the Paris Agreement
Climate ambition is the fundamental guideline of the Paris Agreement to reach the goal of limiting the temperature to 1.5°C by the end of the century. Therefore, the global objective of the Paris Agreement is subordinated to the sum of the national ambitions of the 197 parties. This, in theory, should be enough to stop the global warming of the planet and prevent climate change from becoming uncontrollable. For this, according to our conclusions, three important difficulties must be overcome:
- First difficulty: the ambiguity of the word “ambition”.
- Second difficulty: the quantification and verification of the state of ambition of each of the parties.
- Third difficulty: the non-binding nature of the Paris Agreement.
This third difficulty, regarding the non-binding nature of the Paris Agreement, means that the document lacks the force of law capable of forcing the countries that hold vital resources to comply with the climate agreements contained in said document.
In practice, this means that when it comes to putting pressure on a Brazil, for example, which contains in its territory a large part of the Amazon, the largest tropical rain forest on Earth, crossed by the Amazon River, the longest and mightiest in the world, with vital importance for South America and the planet, the government in power wields sovereignty and categorically rejects “interference”, one of its favorite flags to be able to continue the plundering of the jungle.
This also happens with the extraction of oil, either by traditional methods or through fracking, in which authorities such as the UN lack the power to intervene. The governments of these countries also appeal to national sovereignty and continue to violate climate agreements.
This is because the Paris Agreement is based on “soft law”, like we have already said.
Dr. César Nava Escudero explains in the extended document: “The Paris Agreement. Predominance of soft law in the climate regime”. (PDF)
Summary of the academic work of Dr. Nava:
For some time now international environmental treaties, especially those related to the climate regime, have incorporated soft law texts i.e. norms in a non-binding written form. The 2015 Paris Agreement constitutes an example of the latter. This article seeks to examine, through a brief analysis of the soft contents of the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, some of the most relevant norms of the Paris Agreement in order to provide evidence that on securing agreement on climate issues States resort to the use of non-binding norms. This common practice proves that, at least in legal terms, the Paris Agreement is not an exceptional treaty as conceitedly described.
Cesar Nava Escudero. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
December 2016. Boletín mexicano de derecho comparado / Instituto de Investigaciones Jurídicas, UNAM 49(147):99-135. DOI:10.22201/iij.24484873e.2016.147.10641
Retrieve from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/311795385_The_Paris_Agreement_The_predominance_of_Soft_Law_in_the_Climate_Regime
VII. Balance 50 years after Stockholm
We are now in the year 2022, half a century has passed since the First Earth Summit. We have just reviewed what happened in this short period. The balance at first glance is not flattering. However, not everything is lost, as will be seen below. For this part of our analysis we have proposed to rescue the construction activities that are being carried out right now.
The positive facts of these 50 years
If the numerous meetings, summits, and climate conferences, initiated in Stockholm, achieved positive effects, it was in the induction to reduce GHG. Those who are not aware of these issues will surely feel astonishment and disbelief at what has been said. This is part of the problem. To clear up doubts, we explain:
Today the news frequently tells us about the progress of renewable and infinite energies, free of CO2 or other GHG emissions. They are free of CO2 or other GHG emissions. This means that in a relatively near future we could begin to see a stop in the increase in global temperature, which in this 21st century alone has broken its records 17 times.
It is a public fact the progress that has been made in the fight against fossil fuels, through the force that renewable, green, or clean energies are taking, through solar energy, wind energy, electromobility and green hydrogen. These four technologies have taken a momentum that is already very difficult to stop.
Currently 13% of the energies used in the world are renewable, according to the Statistical Review of World Energy 2022, BP (British Petroleum). This is good news, since 13% of energies are no longer GHG emitters, which means that the energy transition process is in full swing. Due to the momentum that renewable energies have taken, it is predictable that they will grow until they completely replace fossil fuels, faster than many imagine.
If we also consider that by 2035 the European Community, the United Kingdom and other nations have announced that they will ban the manufacture of transport with internal combustion engines, and the rest of the countries will do the same by 2050, then in a matter of 10 to 30 years we will be able to see the reduction of GHG.
Windmills for power generation by transforming wind energy into electrical energy have been in operation for a long time and their production is increasing.
The first modern wind turbines originated in Denmark in the 1980s, just ten years after Stockholm. Would it have been due to the influence of the First Earth Summit?
Here are the five leading countries in wind energy:
1.- China 655.6 TW/H/ 2.- United States 383.6 TW/H/
3.- Germany 117.7 TW/H/ 4.- Brazil 72.3 TW/ 5.- India 68.11 TW/H/
(1 TW/H) 1 TW, terawatt hour or terawatt hour = 1,000,000,000,000 watts/hour, that is, one billion watts per hour by the Spanish system and one trillion by the British system. This is where the term “tera” comes from. Data from CNN Money
A photovoltaic solar panel is made up of numerous cells or small cells, usually made of crystalline silicon. One part has extra electrons and the other lacks. When sunlight, made up of photons, strikes the photovoltaic panel, a flow of electrical current is created between the layers.
In 1982, Kyocera Corp first manufactured polysilicon in large quantities for solar cells using the now-industry-standard casting method. See: Timeline of solar cell. Wikipedia
These are the five leading solar energy countries:
1.- China 327 TW/H/ 2.- United States 165.4 TW/H/
3.- Japan 86.3 TW/H/ 4.- India 68.3 TW/ 5.- Germany 49.0 TW/H/
(1 TW/H = 1 Tera Watt per hour = 1,000,000,000,000 watts/hour, i.e. one trillion watts per hour). Data from CNN Money.
The silent and decarbonized electric transport will be welcomed by cities that suffer from air pollution such as Monterrey, Guadalajara and the Federal District (Mexico), Cochabamba (Bolivia), Santiago (Chile), Lima (Peru), Bogotá and Medellín (Colombia), Montevideo (Uruguay), San Salvador (El Salvador), are the ten cities with the most polluted air in Latin America. In all of them, the contamination levels are above the World Health Organization (WHO) standard, according to the most recent report by CleanAirInstitute.org.
The ten cities with the most polluted air in the world are, in this order:
Hotan , China
Jaunpur , India
Noida , India
Peshawar , Pakistan
Bagpat , India
Data provided by IQAir.com, a site specialized in monitoring air quality in almost every city in the world.
Green Hydrogen, H2V
Everything indicates that H2V will play a very important role in the energy transition and the fight against climate change. It will be a fundamental factor in the decarbonization of the planet and will play a major role in replacing oil, gas and coal. H2V is called to replace GHG emitters, and progressively curb the increase in the Earth’s temperature, which, as we already said, in the last 22 years alone has broken its record 17 times. On the other hand, in view of the insecurity arising from the war, Europe has decided to accelerate the energy transition and for this its fundamental commitment is H2V.
The role of H2V is very important, almost essential since it is used mainly in those cases in which solar and wind energy do not have enough power to move heavy industries with high energy consumption. Instead, H2V is ideal for powering heavy industries such as electrical industry, steel, chemicals, cement factories, large construction sites, aviation, and shipping. As we have said in our article “Good climate news”.
The race movement to Zero
On June 5, 2020, World Environment Day, the UN made official “Race to Zero”. It is a global campaign to mobilize the leadership and support of banks, companies, cities, regions and investors “for a healthy, resilient and carbon-neutral recovery that creates jobs, unlocks inclusive and sustainable growth and reduces the risk of future shocks,” according to the UNFCCC.
The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, during the Summit for Climate Ambition, in 2020 said:
“The actors of the real economy are matching this ambition with 23 regions, 524 cities, 1,397 companies, 569 universities and 76 investors who are now joining the “Race to Zero”, a more pragmatic and transparent approach to achieving net zero emissions.”
The net-zero emissions alliance encourages parties to the Paris Agreement “to commit to the same ambition – as those in the Alliance for Climate Ambition – and which now cover almost 70% of GDP, according to the latest analysis. Companies participating in the “Race to Zero” campaign have combined annual revenues of $9.81 billion, with new partners such as Arup, BT Pension, GlaxoSmithKline, KPMG International Limited, Primark, and Sony,” Guterres said.
Another piece of good news is the approval of a bill that will result in a mega US investment to curb global warming and reduce the demand for fossil fuels. The Investment will be close to $400 billion over 10 years in tax credits aimed at moving consumers to electric vehicles and pushing electric companies towards renewable energy sources such as wind or solar energy… “The bill includes the largest expenditures ever made by the federal government to slow global warming and to reduce demand for the fossil fuels that are primarily responsible for causing climate change. It would invest nearly $400 billion over 10 years in tax credits aimed at steering consumers to electric vehicles and prodding electric utilities toward renewable energy sources like wind or solar power. Energy experts said the measure would help the United States to cut greenhouse gas emissions about 40 percent below 2005 levels by the end of this decade…”. New York Time (07-08-2022)
The negative facts: environmental deconstruction continues
It is true that the obstacles to a successful conclusion of the energy transition exist, especially from those who try to anchor themselves in the past and dodge the changes, but do not realize that they have no chance of winning the fight against progress. History teaches us that many times it has been tried to stop the great changes, but in the end they have always prevailed.
Just as the energy transition is on the right track, we cannot say the same about the deforestation of the world’s main forests, where the standard-bearer is the long-suffering Amazon. There is also no significant progress in curbing the degradation of the Earth’s five oceans. Both forests and oceans are the lungs of the world, nothing less than the two main carbon sinks on the planet, the regulators of CO2 on Earth.
The Nine Limits of the planet. The demonstration of violations of the laws of nature
Scientists Johan Rockström from Sweden and Will Steffen from the United States pooled a series of data obtained by researchers in different countries and times. With this material, between 2009 and 2015, together with scientists from The Stockholm Resilience Center, they drew up “a list with the nine planetary boundaries that it would be very dangerous to cross, something that has already occurred in the case of four of them”.
These are the four limits crossed
- The climate change
- Loss of biosphere integrity
- Land system change
- Alteration of biogeochemical fluxes (in which the phosphorus and nitrogen cycles play an essential role)
The alteration of vegetation cover refers mainly to the deforestation of and rainforests.
Biogeochemical flows are related to the movement of nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, sulfur, phosphorus, potassium, carbon and other elements between living beings and the environment through a series of processes. “In the biosphere, organic matter is limited so that its recycling is a key point in maintaining life on Earth; otherwise, the nutrients would be depleted, and life would disappear.” Wikipedia
Nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizers, when discharged by runoff into lakes and oceans, cause eutrophication, the excessive growth of algae. Algae can deplete oxygen from the water and create a dead zone. For more see our answer on What are oligotrophication and eutrophication of lakes ?
The other five boundaries of the planet:
- Stratospheric ozone depletion
- Freshwater consumption
- Ocean acidification
- Atmospheric aerosol loading
- Novel entities. Chemical pollution
According to the report of the nine limits of the planet, “since the Second World War these limits have exploded in such a way that some have called it the time of the great acceleration, the 1950’s. Others even speak of hyper acceleration, started in the 1970s”. All these trends have been described as unsustainable.
This single information of the nine limits is a clear demonstration of the poor management of the environment by humans, as we have described throughout this work.
In just half a century we have destroyed much of the environment. It took only 50 years to bring the Earth from environmental peace to climate emergency. What is unusual is that most of the damage has occurred after the Stockholm Conference. For example, the alteration of the vegetation cover, represented largely by rainforests and forests, has already crossed its limit. Its consequences are obvious.
A special separate for tropical rainforest and forests
In our opinion, the issue of rain forests deserves extremely urgent attention, especially those of the Amazon, Borneo and Congo type. The latter, the Congo forest, “is classified as a priority conservation ecoregion, according to the Global 200 list published by WWF… and is the second largest tropical forest in the world, covering 700,000 km² in six countries” Wikipedia.
We make this call because tropical rain forests are connected to at least ten phenomena that are already out of control. We refer to the consequences of the hostile deforestation that the jungles are suffering.
If illegal deforestation is not stopped and the existing legality is not reviewed, despite advances in renewable energy, we can expect climate chaos or environmental catastrophe, some of whose effects are already with us. We are talking about prolonged droughts, extreme water shortages, larger and more frequent wildfires, heat waves with record temperatures, longer summers, air pollution caused by burning, which is often intentional in order to clean the plant debris after deforestation.
The effects of all this can reach distant areas, for example in the case of the Amazon they can reach Chile and Argentina to the south, and Central America to the north and perhaps even Mexico.
The rainforest of Borneo was depleted in a hostile way. There is scientific evidence that the island, the third largest on the planet, has already suffered local climate change. We explain this in the article How Borneo already had its own climate change made by human hands.
The deforestation countdown
This hypothesis, presented in the form of a diagram, is our contribution to the fight against climate change. It is impossible to ignore the interconnection of deforestation with the main climatic-environmental factors. The diagram is a quick way to appreciate how deforestation influences these factors. The cycle that starts and ends at 12 o’clock represents a year, then repeats another year and so on. Over time, the entire forest and its adjacent areas undergo significant climatic changes.
VIII. Artificial intelligence and the fight against climate change
At the moment we do not want to delve into the scope that this technology will have, because futurology is not the subject or intention of this article. We will only say that there is no doubt that in a short time the world as we know it is going to change drastically. Sustained changes are glimpsed, through machines that execute instructions from those who handle them or from themselves, at dizzying speeds, some already among us. We can only rely on preliminary information, and take it very carefully, because little is known yet where all this will go. For now we are going to put on the table a single question:
Can artificial intelligence AI solve the environmental problem?
A recent study by David Rolnick and others on how to combat climate change using artificial intelligence (AI) “provides up to 13 areas where machine learning could be applied, including energy production, CO2 removal, education, solar geoengineering and finance. Within these sectors, possibilities include more energy-efficient buildings, the creation of new low-carbon materials, better monitoring of deforestation, and greener transportation. However, Rolnick indicates that the idea is still in its infancy.” According to National Geographics
Once again, it is necessary to repeat it is unusual that in just 50 years human beings have done so much damage to the environment of our planet. In contrast, sequoias, those giant California trees, live 1,000 years. These 10 centuries represent 20 times the period studied.
It took us just half a century to challenge our Mother Earth, in such a way that the environment is about to jump. If we do not take drastic measures with respect to deforestation, the degradation of the oceans, the desertification of the soil, if we do not put into practice as soon as possible the concepts issued in Stockholm, Rio and Paris. If we fail to return the climate, the alteration of vegetation cover, the extinction of species and the alteration of biogeochemical fluxes to their natural limits, we will also have crossed the limits that the Earth allows us. If we fail to return, we may not be able to continue telling our story.
But this should not happen, for that we are Homo sapiens. The Homo predators are just a small minority but with immense power that they use against our planet. We cannot let them prevail.
Sandor Alejandro Gerendas-Kiss
Director-Founder of SGK-PLANET