Thursday, November 15, 2012

Talking About Climate Change

Talking, and talking, about climate change.
By accident today I attended a panel discussion about climate change in the Universidad Central (I was looking for a bicycle week event). The panel talk was a preliminary to the upcoming international conference 'Cities and Climate Change' organized by Bogotá's City Hall, the French Embassy and others.

'Are we really facing Climate Change?'
A question I thot was answered long ago.
At today's event, I was surprised by the lack of consensus from the experts that humans are causing climate change. It's my understanding, after all, that there's an overwhelming consensus amongst scientists (at least those not on the oil and coal companies' payroll) that human-generated carbon dioxide, methane and other gases are changing the planet's climate.

Colombia, of course, is already feeling the impacts of climate change, with the melting of its glaciers and shifting weather patterns. And sea level rise could devastate Colombia's Caribbean islands and coastal cities.

Sure, Colombians per capita generate much less global warming emissions than do residents of the United States and many other developed countries - and even much less than neighbor Venezuela.

At last year's climate summit in Durban, South Africa, Pres. Santos said "We are one of the nations which do not emit carbon" (a dubious claim) "but we are one of the most vulnerable to climate change."

Bogotanos contributing to climate change.
But the wealthiest Colombians, who drive big cars and vacation in Florida and Europe, are doing their best to gobble just as many natural resources and pump out as much pollution as do citizens of rich-nations.

And, with increasing car ownership and consumerism in general, Colombia is going in the wrong direction.
Even more important, probably, is Colombia's role as a producer of fossil fuels, such as oil and coal, which now compose most of the country's exports.

The frustrating aspect of all of this is that the solutions are obvious: reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But implementing real measures, such as carbon taxes - requires a political will which few countries have. In fact, the public discussion here is about how to lower the price of gasoline, which will only mean more consumption and pollution.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours