Poor people need food, not more climate talks
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - June 7, 2019 - 12:00am

Earth activists may scorn Foreign Sec. Teddy Locsin barring more air travels to international climate change talks. But he makes a case for just signing any radical proposals at home. For one, flights burn added fossil fuels aboard the jumbo and at the airport. Besides, anything that can be said has been said about climactic catastrophe. Proof perhaps is a recent UN consultant’s report that a million animal and 200,000 plant species are facing extinction. It is a consolidation of 15,000 studies worldwide on global warming and habitat ruin. Foreseen is the end of a third of sea mammals, a third of sharks, a third of corals, and 40 percent of amphibians.

The UN has had 25 annual gatherings on climate change since 1995. They are called Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Framework Convention on the global threat. Held in various world capitals, COPs 1 to 25 brought together heads of state, legislators, scientists, industrialists, and social workers. Regular attendees must have earned hundreds of thousands of frequent-flier miles. Starting 2005 the COPs also coincided with the “Conference of the Parties Serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol” (CMP). So there have been CMPs 1 to 15. And added starting 2016 were conferences for meetings on actions (CMAs), numbering four so far. They sound like meetings to set more meetings, weary environmentalists have rued.

Yet no marked consensus has been achieved. Island and seaside countries have cried about rising ocean temperatures and waters wiping them out. Fishermen have reported of thinning catches, and farmers of successive crop failures. Scientists have suggested ways to reverse the fall. All to no avail. Wars are erupting due to droughts.

The UN talks seem futile, noted President Rody Duterte at the Nikkei Conference on the Future of Asia in Tokyo last week. Facing the Pacific, the Philippines is first to be hit by super typhoons spurred by global warming, he said. Lives and property are lost forever. Yet others don’t care; it’s every country to itself. No mechanism legally binds state-parties to cooperate. World powers are the first to break accords. Duterte recounted that the UN secretary general had asked for support for a second stronger pact to combat climate change. He saw no point in it. America has not signed the first treaty, China got out of it, and Russia is unhappy with its membership. Plus, there’s the imminent peril of sudden death by nuclear war overtaking slow death from climate disaster. Duterte is not the first leader of a developing state to complain.

Since 1990 rich countries have blamed on poor ones half of the world’s greenhouse gases. That year the US-based World Research Institute calculated the carbon dioxides produced by each country as bases for negotiated international curbs. Supposedly Asians were among the worst contributors because they eat rice and keep animals. Rice paddies exude methane that makes rice grow. Cattle fart methane that punches holes in the ozone layer. Those supposedly are as much the cause of polar icecap melting, heat waves and bitter colds as factory fumes in the rich world.

The WRI figures have been rebutted several times over. CO2 recalculations take into account poor countries’ “sinks” – such as forests and grasslands – that if preserved can absorb pollutants. The oceans, owned by humankind, also are sinks. Prominent among the critiques was 1991’s “Global Warming in an Unequal World: A Case of Environmental Colonialism.” The authors, Indian conservationists Sunita Narain and Anil Agarwal, differentiated emissions of the poor, like subsistence paddy rice and livestock, from emissions of the rich, say, cars. They showed that industrial America’s net annual contribution to world emissions was 27.4 percent, not the mere 17 percent that WRI claimed. Rice eating and cattle raising China and India, despite huge populations, pitch in much less. China’s net emission was only 0.57 percent and India’s only 0.013 percent, from WRI’s accusing 6.4 and 3.9 percent respectively.

The poor have a right to their staple food and changing diets. Asians, Africans and South Americans are eating more meat because of increased family incomes. Livestock technologies, new roads, and freer trade also have brought down prices of beef, pork, mutton, and poultry. Half the world’s pork is consumed in China. India’s appetite for milk, cheese and butter has more than quadrupled in recent years. There are presently 28 billion chicken, raised mostly in poor countries, compared to 500 million house sparrows (maya) worldwide. Four-fifths of developing countries’ agricultural lands are devoted to cattle pastures and feeds. Those are making poor Asians, Africans and South Americans taller and healthier.

The rich countries may complain that those are bad for the planet. But so are their unbridled mining of fossil fuels and factory pollution. If they want cooperation to save the earth, they must also respect the entitlements of the poor to food and a better life. There’s little or no chance of that happening soon, though.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

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