Things We Already Knew But Are Being Told Yet Again: US Domestic Inaction on Climate Stymies International Action & Resource Overconsumption Means We're Going To Need Another Planet by 2050


photo: blakeimeson/Creative Commons

Sorry about the exceedingly long headline (appallingly long by accepted standards of blogging brevity) but it somehow seems an appropriate when two of the weightier stories making their way around today are items that we have been told repeatedly over the past couple of years, but as no one seems to be heeding them, get retold on what seems like a semi-annual basis. First are statements from UN climate chief Christiana Figueres, coming via Huffington Post. She's called the US domestic gridlocked inaction on climate change a "very serious handbrake" on global efforts to take meaningful action on global warming.

Referring to the failure of Congress to enact any sort of price on carbon or emission reduction agreement, Figueres went on to say, "I don't think it's a permanent state of affairs that the world will be able to live with."

On the genuine technological capacity of the US to lead on clean energy, Figueres noted diplomatically that there's a "very remarkable dissonance" between that potential and the "political incapacity" to realize that potential.

Despite rhetoric to the contrary at the past two year's climate negotiations from the US that it is a leader here, Figueres is entirely right. In an admittedly complicated and convoluted situation, Congress and the US is a veritable landslide covering the road forward, blocking the sort of progress on both preventing climate change and adapting to the current and future effects that citizens of the US and around the world consistently say they want.

And then there's the looming specter of resource overconsumption.

Each year the day where we collectively going into ecological overshoot, the day where humans resource consumption starts exceeding the ability of the planet to perpetually regenerate those resources, moves forward a few days or weeks. In 2007 it was in October; in 2010 it was in the third week of August.

A new report from the UNEP shows the trend: If current rates of consumption continue, by 2050 humanity will consume three times the amount of resources it does today. As UNEP says, this "represents an unsustainable future in terms of both resource use and emissions, probably exceeding all possible measures of available resources and assessment of limits to the capacity to absorb impacts."

Which is a slightly wordier and academic way of saying we will all be eating ourselves out of house and home. In fact, as the quote indicates, business as usual physically can't happen. Some collapse will occur prior to that point.

This is all stuff we've covered before, so just read the Science Daily summary.

But I'll leave you with one of the UNEP-noted reasons for optimism here:

The certainty that resource shortages will eventually preclude business as usual ensures that any country 'ahead of the game' by investing in innovation 'will clearly reap the benefits when pressures mount for others to change rapidly'.

In other words: Prepare now for coming resource shortages and both you and your nation will have a serious advantages over those places that don't prepare. That may not sound hopeful, but at least to me is in that there is something you can do. Transition Towns anyone?

More on Resource Consumption, Climate Change:
Growing Consumer Consumption a Bigger Problem Than Growing Population: Fred Pearce
GOP Votes to Deny Existence of Climate Change

Tags: Congress | Global Climate Change | United Nations | United States

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