"Ah, mon cher, we are odd, wretched creatures, and if we merely look back over our lives, there's no lack of occasions to amaze and horrify ourselves."

- Albert Camus as Jean-Baptiste Clamence, 'The Fall'

Friday, May 14, 2010

$4.25 billion pledged for fight against climate change. Is it sufficient?

A Reuters article from Wednesday, 12 May 2010 stated that donor countries had pledged a sum of $4.25 billion towards combating the phenomenon of global climate change. This has been the largest amount ever pledged since 1991, the year of inception of the Global Environment Facility which, according to the article is "the world's largest public green fund that helps developing countries tackle climate change".

The largest amount since 1991. No doubt, $4.25 bln is a lot, but the question here is whether it's really enough.

The argument could, of course, be made that it is a beginning. But if $4.25 bln is, I quote, "a 52 percent increase in new resources for the facility", then can you imagine the paltry amount that must have been dedicated to remedying climate change before the Copenhagen Summit? To quote from the article again, "The GEF has been replenished four times since its inception in 1991 starting with $2.02 billion in 1994, $2.75 billion in 1998, $2.92 billion in 2002 and $3.13 billion in 2006."

The latter part of the article discusses how "this initial support will be increased to $100 billion a year by 2020, in particular by introducing new and innovative sources of funding." A hundred billion dollars a year, ten years from now. Let's put that figure into perspective.

According to the document 'The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11' by Amy Belasco, Specialist in U.S. Defense Policy and Budget, "The FY2010 war request totals $139 billion including $130 billion for DOD for both wars...If the Administration’s FY2010 war request is enacted, total war-related funding would reach $1.08 trillion, including $748 billion for Iraq, $300 billion for Afghanistan, $29 billion for enhanced security, and $5 billion that cannot be allocated."

So we're talking about an incremental increase in funding for the Global Environment Facility till it reaches $100 billion in 2020. And in 2010, a whole decade before that proposed target, the United States of America's war-related expenses is expected to amount to $1.08 trillion. That's one, followed by 12 zeros. 1,000,000,000,000.

If this is America's projected military expenditure in 2010, can you imagine what the world's total military expenditure would be this year? How many more zeros would you have to add? And if this mind-boggling figure is from this year, can you then imagine what the world's military expenses might be, ten years from now, in 2020? Someone please remind me again, how much the Global Environment Facility is expected to receive from donor nations in 2020.

The disasters we make ourselves are the ones we spend all our money on, trying to avert their onset. In doing so, we often cause the onset of certain natural disasters and then we complain about it.

Isn't it ironic, the way we spend trillions on destruction in the name of defense and offense, but spend less than a fraction of that on conservation and protection of the environment that sustains life on this planet?

So why should we be concerned? Because while pollution and damage caused to the environment might be a local phenomenon from place to place, the effects of such damage are experienced globally. It doesn't matter whether you live in a posh hi-rise apartment in New York City or a slum in an Indian or Pakistani city. We're all seated in a broken roller coaster carriage that can go off the rails at any time. We're all in for the ride. And unless we do something soon, it's not going to be a pleasant one at all.