After the Fiscal Cliff, let’s focus on the Climate Cliff

Stock exchanges can be happy: In the latest possible moment (actually, even a bit later), the embarrassing US Fiscal Cliff negotiations came to the anticipated successful and positive ending with a lot of compromise (and a deferral of the problem, as if negotiators would have studies Austrian grand coalition politics).

So, as we’ve found a solution to the Fiscal Cliff issue only within several months, it is now time to put at least the same emphasis on the Climate Cliff or Carbon Cliff – and this is not only a US issue as we’ve been waiting for real solutions to the climate crisis for years now.

In the meantime, catastrophies such as hurricane Sandy or Typhoon Bopha reminded us at the end of last year that we’ve already gone over the cliff with regards to several climate change issues. Billions of people in the world’s poorest countries are fighting for their lives in the face of rising sea levels and increasing droughts, floods, hurricanes and other catastrophies and they often have to migrate because of this.

The facts are well known: Ten of the eleven hottest years on earth were recorded in the past eleven yearsn, the planet is on its way to an average temperature increase of 4 degrees Celsius within this century and the Arctic ice saw a record melting last September. Moreover, the draft of the IPCC report to be released in the course of this year states taht the last three decades were the warmest period in the past 800 years and that a substantial part of climate change can’t be reversed within human tiemframes.

The biggest threat was outlined by Bill McKibben in his widely recognized Rolling Stone article “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math” this summer: We can emit 565 gigatons of CO2 until the middle of this century in order to reach the 2 degree goal with a high probability. But the problem is that the fossil fuel industry’s existing oil, coal and gas reserves amount to 2,795 gigatons of CO2 which is five times the maximum amount.

In the light of today’s shareholder value and profit maximization, we can expect that energy companies, investors and governments will aim at turning these fossil reserves into money, whatever the cost to society, the climate and the environment may be. This was highlighted by the recent news on a possible oil catastrophy after a Shell oil ship ran aground in Alaska.

Despite knowing that 80% of these fossil reserves should stay buried under the surface there is no political action on an international level: Instead, the last UN climate change summit in Doha again only yielded disappointing results, the US are on their way to become an energy-independent, fossil fuel superpower thanks to its shale gas boom and subsidies for fossil fuels are increasing at a higher rate than subsidies for renewables.

So, our actions in this area, whether it’s about political or civil engagement, our contributions to an energy revolution in our homes and regions or small changes towards a more sustainable and purposeful lifestyle, are of utmost importance. “Many small people who in many small places do many small things can alter the face of the world” – this is not only my personal motto but also the way how our society must face this biggest challenge of our generation.

Posted on January 3, 2013 in Climate Change

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About the Author

Andreas Lindinger is a Vienna-based business consultant, sustainability expert and urban thinker passionate about livable cities, sustainable transportation, renewable energy and civic engagement. Andreas offers a transdisciplinary business, finance and sustainability background, industry expertise in energy, mobility and environmental consulting and broad international experience gained in Vienna, Vancouver, Berlin and Dublin. Make sure to also check out and to follow @lindinger on Twitter.

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