In February 2014, US Secretary of State John Kerry described those who do not accept that human activity causes global warming as “shoddy scientists” and “extreme ideologues”. He argued that it made no sense for some nations to act to stem climate change while others did nothing.
“Think about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. It doesn’t keep us safe if the United States secures its nuclear arsenal while other countries fail to prevent theirs from falling into the hands of terrorists. The bottom line is this: it is the same thing with climate change. In a sense, climate change can now be considered another weapon of mass destruction, perhaps even the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction,” he had said in Jakarta.
United States is part of seven major advanced economies that form G7 – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom.
Ironically, according to a report released by Oxfam International, coal plants in the G7 countries are on track to cost the world 450 billion dollars a year by the end of the century and reduce crops by millions of tonnes as they fuel the pace of climate change.
The report titled Let Them Eat Coal further states that if G7 coal plants were a country, it would be the fifth biggest emitter in the world. They continue to burn coal, world’s largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, at unsustainable rates and in a manner that is driving planetary destruction on a massive scale.
Wonder how Kerry would respond to Oxfam’s suggestion that each existing or new coal power station in the world should be seen “as a weapon of climate destruction – fueling ruinous weather patterns, devastating harvests, driving food price rises and ultimately leaving more people facing hunger. With these climate impacts falling disproportionately on the most vulnerable and least food-secure people, the burning of coal is further exacerbating inequality. Without urgent action, climate change could put back the fight against hunger by several decades.”
Endorsing the report, Professor Olivier de Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, said, “Climate disruptions are already affecting many poor communities in the global South, and coal-fired power stations are contributing, every day, to make this worse. They increasingly look like weapons of destruction aimed at those who suffer the impacts of changing rainfall patterns as well as of extreme weather events.”
Oxfam estimates that coal emissions fueled by G7-sponsored or financed projects will be responsible for total climate change-related costs in Africa of approximately $43 billion per year by the 2080s and $84 billion per year by the end of the century. Those figures, says the international aid group, represent sixty times what G7 countries give Africa in agricultural and rural development aid and more than three times what G7 countries give Africa in total bilateral aid.
“The G7’s coal habit is racking up costs for Africa and other developing regions. It’s time G7 leaders wake up to the hunger their own energy systems are causing to the world’s poorest people on the frontline of climate change. The G7 leaders must stop using emissions growth in developing countries as an excuse for inaction and begin leading the world away from fossil fuels by starting with their own addiction to coal,” said Celine Charveriat, Oxfam International’s director of advocacy and campaigns.
At the 2009 Climate Change Conference held in Copenhagen, all countries agreed to prevent warming of more than 2°C to avoid runaway climate change. 5 of the G7 countries – France, Germany, Italy, Japan and United Kingdom – have been burning more coal, and the world is now heading for an increase in global warming by 4°C, adds the report.
The G7 countries are the major consumers of coal, and therefore Oxfam is calling on the G7 leaders meeting in Germany on June 7 and 8 to shift from coal to renewable energy sources, which offer a safer and cost effective alternative.