Cut carbon footprints

EDITORIAL FROM BANGKOK POST

Thailand is not only facing paralysing political heat right now. In the hottest month of April, the country is also suffocated by polluting haze from open burning and forest fires while dry earth cracks from protracted droughts in various parts of the country.

After the disastrous floods in 2011, this year’s heat wave in Thailand is part of the extreme weather cycles that are gripping the world due to its failure to curb greenhouse gases.

Last week, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) delivered a report based on 12,000 scientific studies to warn the world that the worst is yet to come.

Climate change, says the report, is not only about the rise of sea levels and extreme weather. It is not only about ice caps melting and fiercer storms, more ravaging floods, cruel droughts and acidic seas. A warmer planet also breeds diseases, affects food supplies, diminishes water sources, and intensifies mass migration to flee hunger and poverty.

It is not hard to foresee more political instability, violence — even wars — ahead when peoples and countries are fiercely fighting over dwindling natural resources.

“It’s not just polar bears, coral reefs and the rain forest under threat. It is us,” said Kaisa Kosonen, from Greenpeace International. He is correct. So is the IPPC’s dire warnings that global warming calamities will be irreversible if the world still refuses to shape up.

As with its last report in 2007, the IPPC reiterates that climate change is predominantly caused by human activities and the only way to ease its disastrous impacts is to substantially reduce green house gas emissions.

The 2007 report had spurred the world community into action. Seven years later, the energy from world governments to cut their countries’ carbon footprints has fizzled out. As rich and poor countries keep squabbling over who should cut greenhouse gases more, the world is getting hotter and the nightmarish scenario getting ever closer.

To turn things around, we must not only push our governments more actively for policy change, but we must also change our own lifestyles and consumption patterns to cut our own carbon footprints individually.

In Thailand, that means we should not allow the political turmoil to blind us from the real threats of global warming. No matter who wins the current power grab, no matter which side people take in our colour-coded politics, we must make sure that development and economic policies from ”our side” take into account the efforts to reduce the greenhouse gases.

This means saying no to all policies which destroy the green cover, maritime ecology and food security such as the construction of big dams, coal-fired power plants, and overfishing. Policy support for public transport must precede support for private cars. There should be incentives for “green” energy sources, buildings and houses, down to better infrastructure for bicycle use, and technological support for work-at-home arrangements and online services to reduce the use of fossil fuel from commuting.

It also means getting organised to withdraw support from companies that refuse to change their production methods that destroy the environment. Since much of the greenhouse gases come from modern lifestyles, each individual must also change daily life habits to slash carbon footprints.

People can no longer wait for their governments to save the world. Through a chain of natural disasters in the past decade, it has also been proven that governments are often too slow and too inefficient to offer quick rescue. It is clear. We must take things in our hands to save the world, and ourselves.

 

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