Sunday, April 6, 2014

Obama Has Taken Climate Change off the Agenda


In a strong rebuttal to the recent so-called ‘Climate-gate,’ ‘Glacier-gate’ and ‘Amazon-gate’ controversies currently surrounding the UN’s beleaguered Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, visionary economist and principal architect of the incipient Third Industrial Revolution, Professor Jeremy Rifkin  gave a candid and highly insightful interview to the ECSSR website on the sidelines of its 15th Annual Conference.

During the interview to Dr Adil Rasheed of the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research on February 19, 2010, the Founder and President of the Foundation on Economic Trends spoke extensively on various plans and mechanism for bringing about a global and people-oriented Third Industrial Revolution to save the world from the triple threat of global financial crisis, energy crisis and climate change. He was also critical of the lack of political will in the Obama Administration to confront the threat of global warming. Following are excerpts from the interview:

Q. There has been a lot controversy recently over global warming and that CO2 emissions are the main agent of climate change. We have heard of ‘Climate gate’ controversy, the Himalayan
Professor Jeremy Rifkin
glacier issue, ‘Amazon-gate’ etc. Many commentators allege that Western powers need a new industrial revolution to reverse the economic power shift to Asia and this is why they are promoting an energy revolution. How do you respond to such views?

Answer: This ‘Climate-gate’ is a little nothing. All this has nothing to do with Western powers. Can 2,500 scientists and 125 countries around the world all be part of a conspiracy? I doubt it. If you look at the Third Assessment Report of the UN panel in 2001 and compare it with the fourth assessment report in 2007, it’s pretty frightening. In the 2007 report, what hit us was that we had all gotten it wrong for 30 years. We had underestimated the speed (of climate change) because of the feedback loop. It is extremely difficult to model the feedback loops. We found out it (climate change) is moving so much quicker than we had previously thought. In 2001, the models projected that the glaciers would melt sometime in the 22nd century. The 2007 report are showing that we would have something upwards of 60 percent melt by mid-century, much earlier than we earlier expected.

Q. But this very UN panel, the IPCC, itself accepted that its 2035 deadline for the meltdown of Himalayan glaciers is erroneous.

Answer: No, I am not talking about the Himalayas. I mean across the globe if you look at the mountain ranges, in the Andes and the Alps, we are seeing it happen much faster than we projected in 2001. The Gulf of Mexico is another case in point. In 2001, the speculation was that we would see more heightened hurricane activity in the area around the 22nd century. By 2007— with Katrina, Rita, Gustav, Ike—we saw the intensity of hurricanes double in 20 years. Similarly, the Arctic has been the big shock. In the third report they said open waters may appear in the summers of the 22nd century. By the time of the fourth report we had open waters for three summers in a row. We haven’t seen that in three million years. This isn’t a small blip. Human beings have been around for 175,000 years. There have not been open waters in the Arctic for three million years. And they are saying that this is just a natural change. No it isn’t. Another example is the permafrost situation in Siberia. They had mentioned it in the fourth report, but now that the studies are in they are scaring the hell out of us. What is under the Siberian frost is a ticking time bomb. It’s all the organic deposit of pre-Ice Age. Siberia was once teeming grassland full of animal and plant life. When the temperature of the earth shifts, it shifts dramatically and there are tipping points and the frost in Siberia has now started melting big time. There is more carbon there then all the rain forests in the world and all the CO2 is coming up. In fact, near the sea and lake beds we don’t just have carbon but methane that is 22 times more potent. About a year-and-a-half ago this was first reported in Royal Academy of Sciences and Nature, 12 months later the acceleration is six times faster than we had then projected. This is just one time bomb. And they say this is a business conspiracy. No, it isn’t. The businesses have fought this all the way, especially the energy companies, the utilities companies. And now all of a sudden this is a business conspiracy?! No, I know the companies that are moving toward the Third Industrial Revolution because I put them together. They have finally come to it because there are business opportunities there, the construction companies, the real estate companies, IT companies and some of the utility and logistic companies have made the shift because they see the old ways of businesses are not working, margins are going down and they understand these are new opportunities. In fact, it is good that they are taking advantage of the new business opportunities.

Q. How would the new clean energy-based industrial revolution produce businesses and jobs for communities?

Answer: One of the things we built in to this business model is that we placed conditions on companies to be part of the network so that they could go in and do master plans. The first condition is that all businesses must stay local. So we have Q-Cells for example (the world's largest manufacturer of photovoltaic cells for solar energy), they can go to San Antonio (Texas) and Rome, but they would have to help train local companies, they can even invest in them but eventually all the local companies would stay and do the production. The second condition is that people would control the energy, for which we brought the great cooperatives into this. We have the International Cooperative Association (ICA) pass a resolution to this effect. We are going to set up energy cooperatives in cities. We are already doing it in Rome. We would have energy cooperatives, like housing cooperatives and retail cooperatives, so that people control their own energy and then sell it back to the grid. They would not own and operate the grid, the utility companies would do that but this is the way to democratize energy. So, we see this both as a social market model for the 21st century and I am very clear that the end-goal is to bring power to the people.

Q.  Could you further elaborate on this new cooperatives-based business model?

Answer: The reason why these big companies go into the network that I have set up is that they can have no Plan B. If they go in by themselves, for example, they cannot get a whole city, or a whole region. It was very strange for them to think of working with cooperatives first. Now they understand. Philips or Schneider for example, can now get mass adoption through shared savings agreements with energy cooperatives. These are new business models that bring together market and social model. I am a firm believer in the European idea as you have to balance the market with the social model. Let me clarify here that I am a firm believer in the market and I teach in the oldest business school in the world. I believe in the market as an entrepreneurial engine for risk-taking and for personal creativity, but I also realize that if you completely deregulate the market as we did from Reagan to Bush to Clinton to Bush you end up with a very nasty winner-take-all situation because the market cannot regulate itself and goes wild. That is why you need a strong social model in place, civil society and government, so that the fruits of entrepreneurialism are broadly distributed.

Q. How close we are to supplanting financial innovation with innovation in clean energy industry and how quickly can this new industrial revolution come in and save the world economy?

Answer: I say the technology is there. The four pillars infrastructure for third industrial revolution makes common sense. Every business in the city, in the country and the world says it can be done. But can it be done in time? We have a lot of old interests that are against it. There are a lot of centralized business and political interests…old thinking. The challenge is mainly generational. But we don’t have a lot of time. The window is very narrow here. We need to have a game plan involving the whole human race in Third Industrial Revolution within the next 10 years because it really takes 30 years to roll it out. As for the industrialized countries, they would have to move toward the Third Industrial Revolution say in the next five years.

Q. How much time we have left to reverse climate change?

Answer: We are not going to reverse it, we can slow it down. If our chief climatologist id right, then our young generation is in trouble. But we are going the wrong way, for Copenhagen was a disaster. Nobody seems to want to get back on track. Even the US is not dealing with climate change and Obama has taken it off the agenda.

Q. But the new US budget has made allocations for research and development in clean energy?

Answer:  In the State of the Union address, it was all about nuclear power, coal capture and sequestration, offshore oil and gas drilling and they are still talking renewables, but that is to give something to everyone. It is still the old system with a little bit of the new. I think the EU has to step to the floor here and be a lot tougher.

Q. But will this new industrial revolution be highly capital intensive and create jobs? Will the developing world be at a disadvantage?

Answer: Yes, it is labor intensive. In the next 40 years we would need to build a large energy infrastructure. We would have to put in renewable energies, turn every building into a power plant, have to set up hydrogen storage across countries, reconvert the entire power and transmission lines, set up a new auto industry and set up a new logistics chain. This would be labor intensive. It would create millions of jobs as the infrastructure for the Third Industrial Revolution would be laid down. Once it is done though, we would have to think of creating more jobs in civil society because more jobs will be done by intelligent technology. Developing countries could also be at a particular advantage if they go for early adoption. They would not depend on energy imports but would have their own local energies. There can be solar panels on every home in developing countries if we could only bring their prices down. In fact, there could be re-globalization from the bottom up. You see, geopolitics is a creature of the fossil-fuel era. A lot of people have died to secure coal, oil and gas and uranium. I don’t have to tell you how much exploitation people of this part of the world have suffered at the hands of people from other parts in their bid to colonize the region for bad ends. So if we could get to the idea that all renewable energies would be local, why should it be such a big stretch. But this would require trillions of dollars in commitment, not $50 billion. It would also require a change in the human race and the human heart. We have to see ourselves as one family. That is going to be difficult.;ECSSR_COOKIE=4QpST1DMywQkQgv5PlwTvhtyjxd5SQmQMv2W05y2wWvChP7yK62P!707032369!-1153648602?_nfpb=true&lang=en&_nfls=false&_pageLabel=P12800666901383799889645&ftId=%2FFeatureTopic%2FECSSR%2FFeatureTopic_1221.xml&_event=viewFeaturedTopic&ftRegion=%2FRegions%2FRegion_0019.xml

No comments:

Post a Comment