Through the columns of your esteemed newspaper I would like to bring to the notice of all Belizeans, the total disregard shown towards climate change. The Belizean public is addicted to carbon products for its energy needs and despite overwhelming evidence that man-made carbon dioxide (CO2) is a credible threat to everyone, we lack the will to act.
Like many other low-lying coastal nations, Belize is vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Its geographical location leaves the country exposed to the threat of rising sea levels and increasing incidence and intensity of tropical storms. Belize’s economic dependence on natural resources heightens its vulnerability to rising temperatures and the resulting impacts on agricultural productivity, fisheries ecosystems, and other economic sectors.
The CO2 emissions (metric tons per capita) in Belize were reported at 1.32 in 2008, according to the World Bank. Carbon dioxide emissions are those stemming from the burning of fossil fuels and the manufacture of cement. They include carbon dioxide produced during consumption of solid, liquid, and gas fuels and gas flaring.
We are quick to place blame for this quagmire, but perhaps it is time to look in the mirror. There is finger pointing enough for everyone, from conflicting media reports, paralysis of our political system and corporate greed from the carbon industry. But is it really about them or is it about us, immobilized by a simple lack of effort to check out the facts?
It is true that some of our media just don’t understand the worldwide carbon industry, the eventual cost of its products both environmentally and to our bank accounts, and admittedly this lack of knowledge can create a listless public.
As for politicians, it is an uncomfortable reality that their will to act seems more connected to the latest opinion poll than new data from climate scientists. And the carbon industry, well, those corporations are created to produce profits and that is simply why they exist. This is all reason enough to point at them. Isn’t it?
But wait, a short internet search reveals that 97 percent of climate scientists know that global warming is caused by our consumption of carbon products and they are in agreement that this has disastrous consequences for our planet. Showing a little initiative, almost anyone can ferret out the truth about climate science and global warming.
How hard is it to take responsibility for doing a little research? Oil and gas companies are not required to disclose the source and amounts of water used in production, nor disclose how and where that water is disposed. Digging a little deeper, we find that farmers, cities and industries will soon all be competing for the same water. But, who has deeper pockets?
In the past few months, I learnt that the world atmospheric CO2 level has reached almost 400 parts per million, a level that climate scientists say has not been reached for more than 3 million years. When it did, scientists say the ocean level was 16 to 131 feet higher than today and they are projecting an increase of 1 to 13 feet by the end of this century depending on how fast glaciers melt. New reports recently released say the average temperature will increase an average of 7.2 degrees F by the year 2100. The last time it was that hot on earth they say it was 14 million years ago.
Last month New York City responded with a bold $20 billion proposal to protect its coastline. In Belize we are still bickering about the causes of climate change.
Climate scientists explain that CO2 is not like other greenhouse gases that dissipate over time. A short internet search shows that it stays around for centuries, creating acidic oceans that destroy reefs and marine life, causes worldwide melting of permafrost releasing billions of tons of methane and CO2, and intensifies hurricanes and floods to areas like Belize City. Again, this information is also widely available.
There really aren’t any excuses for a public failure to act on this problem. Research the arguments. Follow the money. If a billion-dollar corporation is making a huge effort to discredit a few scientists who are allegedly “after grant money for research,” then it is pretty obvious you might want to listen to what those scientists are trying to tell you.
So, who should we blame for this crisis? We are heavily dependent on carbon products for our every day needs, like transportation and maintaining a temperate work and home life. Right now “new renewables” like small hydro, biomass, solar, bio fuels, wind and geothermal just aren’t sufficient to cut our use of carbon products and maintain the lifestyle we need.
And that brings me back to our collective failure to understand climate science and our ineffective efforts to act on this problem. The information is out there and there are solutions, but we cannot afford lethargy of will to deal with climate change. Who to blame? Look in the mirror.
(Signed) Naballah Chi
National Climate Change Office
Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries & Sustainable Development