Science and China holds the key to stopping the climate change clock, not politicians or activists

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As the planet looks towards the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties often abbreviated as COP26, in Glasgow, for answers to the global climate crisis, let me bust every environmentalist’s bubble – this summit will fail!

The summit is a culmination of half a decade of interlinked failures by the global community led by UN Environment to save the planet.

When the United Nations proposed an environment agency in 1972, its mandate was simple – to solve the global environmental problems. The first conference to set up the agency was done in Stockholm, Sweden, from 5th to 16th June. In a similar replica to what has become the modern symbol for reducing carbon emissions today, Maurice Strong, the Conference Secretary-General led a bicycle parade along the canals where the conference took place.

Mr. Strong has been quoted as writing about an incident that happened during this parade where a young protester blocked and yelled at the party saying, “If you really believe in what you are saying, you should get off your bicycle and take this old recycled one! You don’t believe in recycling!”

As typical of United Nations technocrats, politicians, and even activists today, Mr. Strong shouted to the young man that he believed in recycling and that he was entirely made of recycled materials, which was enough to shut up the young man and let the parade continue.

Maurice Strong went ahead to become the man to set up this new environment agency that would be known as the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and served in the capacity of Executive Director for three years.

Today, modern-day Mr. Strongs, politicians, and activists will tell you that they know about climate change but have failed to stop the clock on climate change and will gather in Glasgow in November 2021.

You may see COP26 delegates in a rather bizarre spectacle of riding bikes, despite the stack evidence that because economies have to run and people have to travel, you cannot have enough people biking to work to stop climate change. You may also see activists blocking delegates to some key event, even after the damage they all – politicians and activists – would have done to our remarkable planet by burning fossils by flying to Glasgow! How scandalous?

For perspective, this is not the first time the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties, will gather. The conferences began in Berlin, Germany, in 1995, and was dubbed COP1, and Glasgow will be the 26th, thus COP26.

Next year it will be fifty years since this whole charade to save the planet began with Mr. Strong. And after these many years of geopolitical struggles and half-baked ideas to find solutions to these problems and spending tons of money from member states, the world now faces a global environmental existential threat from climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.

It is estimated that UNEP or UN Environment as Erik Solheim, the organization’s 6th Executive Director liked to call it because he was allergic to acronyms, has spent over almost 50 billion US Dollars to fight these problems. During this time, this global lead agency on the environment has failed to provide leadership, deliver science and develop solutions sufficient enough to stop the clock and save our remarkable planet.

UN Environment now hosts several secretariats of multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) and conventions and research bodies, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

But as data from a real-time worldometer developed and run by a team of international researchers can show, these efforts have largely failed to stop the clock.

This is why COP26 will fail! It will fail just like the Paris Agreement of 2015 has failed to stop the clock. In Paris at COP21, UN Members States only agreed on the science behind climate change but failed to come up with plans to stop the clock, with the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) they are required to submit remaining non-binding. These NDCs show the targets each country is prepared to make, plans for the same, and nothing more. That is why there have been growing calls for countries to show more ambition in their targets. Richer countries have also failed to disperse to low-income countries the 100 billion USD they pledged for mitigation and adaptation programs.

Gordon Brown, Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and many others think it’s all about the money. Even if the 100 billion USD was dispersed by the rich countries to low-income countries per year, I do not see how that could be enough to stop the clock. IPCC has warned that 2.4 trillion USD is needed annually in the energy sector alone for the next decade to be able to slow down the clock. Current estimates show only about half a billion is spent, mostly in developed countries with a huge chunk of this only going to installing solar plants.

That’s why I’m now more convinced than ever that the UN Environment, politicians, and activists will not solve this problem.

Climate Change Protesters. Image by Leonhard S from Pixabay

I mention activists because their activities are increasingly becoming misplaced. Just a couple of months ago, Extinction Rebellion organized a blockade in London involving tens of thousands of people and lasting several weeks. Their messaging to politicians is simply misplaced and they fail to realize that it is no longer in the hands of politicians to solve this problem. Simply put, no amount of climate strikes of any nature will solve this problem.

Of this problem, Former Prime Minister of United Kingdom, Gordon Brown, while quoting J.F Kennedy has stated, “every man and woman lives under a sword of Damocles hanging by the slenderest of threads.”

That sword could be forests. The world has lost over 4 million hectares of forests this year alone. What this means is that for all the tree planting projects and what Greta Thunberg calls ‘nice speeches’ being undertaken by well-meaning people, the loss is still more.

Another example, it does seem that all the CO2 emissions reduction schemes being undertaken globally, again many well-meaning, like the coastal defense systems being undertaken in Kenya to regrow mangroves, all have failed to slow down the clock. Of course, these emissions come from fossil burning mostly. But when you look at everything in totality, the planet seems clueless about what would happen if we switched off fossils completely.

Dambisa Moyo, a great daughter of Africa from Zambia, recently wrote an article on green finance in the Financial Times in which she argued that if we switched off fossils, about 1 billion persons will become ‘energy poor’. People who cook with kerosene for example or use it for lighting.

I have been looking at the live worldometer clock for several days, a lot with children and youths. While many are more concerned about the shocking statistics of deaths caused by smoking, suicides, money spent on illegal drugs, deaths caused by abortions, and deaths of children under the ages of five years, some are deeply conscious of the data on soil erosion, energy consumption, fossil fuels left, toxic chemicals pumped into the air, and deaths caused by water-related diseases. But nothing is more shocking than to learn that close to 10 million hectares of land has been lost to desertification this year alone and this is likely to double in 2022, fifty years after UN Environment was formed.

Sounds like we may already have crossed the Rubicon on stopping climate change. That’s why I’m now more convinced that science and China hold the key to solving this crisis and are our only hope. I do not see how politicians and activists can do it.

I mention China as a possible solution first because they have almost a quarter of the global population. If China can abandon the fossil as they say they would in a decade or so, the emissions from cars will drastically reduce and because of China’s growing influence in developing countries and their aptitude for ‘cheap’ technologies, this will help these countries. Developing countries have unique problems. They can’t afford expensive technologies. China seems to have understood this and that’s why mobile telephony technology has not left African populations far much behind.

One area of possible intervention is solar energy. When you look at the climate change clock, it is obvious to see why this may be a solution. If science can improve and its battery component and make the technology ‘cheap’ and widely available to the developing world, then the millions of schools across the African continent could reduce their reliance on wood products to prepare meals for the children. Now imagine what such green technologies could mean for small and medium enterprises on the continent?

China holds the key for another not-so-good reason. China is not a democracy and the government still has some control over its people, control enough to stop humans’ destructive actions on the planet. They have this thing called social credit.  One is rewarded points for good behavior and deducted points for bad behavior. For example, if you do some voluntary work such as planting a tree you are added points and if you dispose of waste improperly by the roadside you are deducted points. These points can be crucial in many life-changing situations such as renting an apartment, buying a plane ticket, or finding a school for your child. If you have a bad score, you may be disadvantaged.

The United States of America has a similar system that is tied to the Credit Card. But American and European media have chosen to scandalize the Chinese model. With cameras everywhere and face recognition technology improving, the world’s most populous country may unknowingly help stop the clock to the joy of the world and at the scorning of the people who champion ‘rights’. Already China has indicated that they will stop relying on fossil fuels completely for their cars by 2035. And that might just be the beginning of the solution to the global challenges on the climate.

Boris Johnson, the current Prime Minister of United Kingdom, thinks the problem lies simply in ‘coal, cars and trees’.

Obviously, it looks like afforestation has failed as a possible solution. Even if we triple efforts, I don’t see how we can afforest 10 million hectares in a year even if the rich countries provide the funds for the so-called mitigation and adaptation projects as advanced in the 2015 Paris Agreement. Afforestation no doubt has to continue. But I don’t think we can do it fast enough to make the change. Besides the trees themselves have to grow and this takes years. And we are ever cutting down more for our use.

That’s why I feel like science and China might be our only hope. And here is the radical idea, how about a social credit system that has climate change as its base? Why would the government give you a student loan, if you can not prove that you are living sustainably?

I hate to sound like the devil’s advocate. But am not alone. If you listen to politicians carefully you will notice how hopeless they feel about the situation.

Tick tock tick tock…

Mr. John Kerry, a previous US Presidential candidate and currently the US Presidential Envoy for Climate, has recently stated, ‘Even if we did everything we promised to do in Paris, Earth temperature would still increase to about 3.7 degrees.’

Tick tock tick tock…

The Queen of England was recently caught on a live stream showing frustrations about leaders who talk but don’t do much about climate change.

Tick tock tick tock…

But I hope, if you are one of the thousands of ‘environmentalists’ who will fly to Glasgow for COP26 for another show, burning fossils and adding to your carbon footprint, I hope, I have burst your bubble! I hope, a social credit would balance your actions. Then your efforts could be largely useless.

NB: This article is a call for better. It is not meant to portray anyone in a bad light. Maurice Strong is one man I would like to highlight. His contributions to the global good are well documented. His legacy speaks for itself.


Betterman Simidi Musasia

Founder & Patron, Former CEO, Clean Up Kenya

Betterman is a sustainable public sanitation advocate and a pollution control evangelist. In 2015, after becoming extremely tired of seeing all the trash in Kenyan neighborhoods and hearing the authorities fake promises to clear the mess, he sold his trucking business to establish Clean Up Kenya. Today, the organization is a leading national sustainable public sanitation advocacy brand. In September 2020, he stepped down as Clean Up Kenya Chief Executive Officer and currently serves as Founder and Patron.