Aussie startup founded over a whiskey in the garage
Solar engineers Chris McGrath and Eden Tehan founded the business in 2013. They came up with the idea over a bottle of whiskey. With an aim to accelerate the planet’s transition to fast, easy, low-cost clean solar energy. The way it can and should be. From a team of 30 employees last year, they now employ 137 people.
The name 5B represents the 5 billion years of sunshine Earth has left, and motivates them to strive for the simplest, most effective ways to leverage this resource.
“As individuals how we can add most to the challenge of climate change in front of us.”
Chris McGrath, Co-founder 5B
How it works
5B’s finely tuned ecosystem allows its solution to be produced anywhere in the world, at scale, with a network of channel, assembly, and deployment partners. They use technology to make the process of producing and developing solar easy and low cost.
They classify themselves as the ‘Maverick’s’ (a reference toTop Gun) of our time and the leaders of the renewable revolution.
The iconic technology of the‘Maverick’solar solution is the fastest, easiest and simplest way to deploy ground-mounted solar. 5B has redefined the engineering, and construction of solar farms. They use the ‘Maverick’ to transform to supply and delivering chain of building solar farms to make it easier, faster, and cheaper.
Their approach combines modular design, prefabrication, and rapid deployment. This streamlines engineering & procurement and transferring cost, time & risk from the construction site to the factory. 5B makes the process simpler by using modular prefabricated blocks, pre-wired, minimal site preparation, suitable for most ground and soil types, minimal ground penetration and no trenching needed.
They’re the fastest deployment on the market.
Sun Cable Project
5B has joined forces with theSun Cable Project. This project will be the world’s largest solar farm in the world on completion. It will be able to power whole cities with renewable energy. It is in a remote location in the Northern parts of Australia. By conventional means, this process would take thousands of people in a camp in the middle of nowhere to complete.
However, with 5B they will use a highly trained workforce in a factory in Darwin, then a fleet of autonomous vehicles will help to make the rollout efficient and seamless. They will use about 100 people as opposed to thousands. They will be rolling out approximately 180 ‘Maverick’s’ per day, which equates to about one per 5 minutes.
This project will be a lighthouse for 5B to showcase their capabilities and leadership in this industry. And, with predictions the cost of solar will continue to go down, Australia could be on track to become a renewable energy exporting leader.
“The advantage in Australia is the price of solar will keep going down and that will give us an advantage over other countries. “
Energy expert, and Ticker Climate co-host, Scott Hamilton
Breaking global markets
5B is also expanding internationally, breaking into markets in Chile, the United States, and India. They want to drive growth into these markets to build their ecosystem of partners right around the world. They also have a factory in Vietnam ramping up.
Eventually, 5B wants to implement a system so seamless that you can buy a solar farm online and have it delivered the next week.
Bushfire prone locations need solar
Right now disastrous fires are wreaking havoc across the world. The United States and Turkey, are the most recent to fall victim to the frightening blazes. Some of the challenges local towns and communities in remote locations face are the risk of bushfires & storms that end in extended blackouts.
The solution for these towns, communities, and businesses is solar. In Australia, 5B recently worked on a project named ‘resilient energy’ in partnership with Tesla and the co-founder of software companyAtlassian,Mike Cannon-Brookes.
The project aimed at getting power back to bushfire-affected communities. The purpose is to use renewable energy to make the communities and power systems more resilient, relying less on power lines that are likely to be damaged during a fire.
“Power lines cause fires…We want communities and power systems to be more resilient.”
Holly is an anchor and reporter at Ticker. She’s experienced in live reporting, and has previously covered the Covid-19 pandemic on-location. She’s passionate about telling stories in business, climate and health.
Here in Ireland, the heatwave, which hit over 30C, saw Met Eireann issue itsfirst ever orange alert for high temperatures. The media has struggled with reporting these weather events while giving due weight to climate change.
In the Irish media, national broadcaster RTE has come under public scrutiny for its failure to mention climate change when reporting on extreme weather events. Prominent Irish climate scientists and activists made their dissatisfaction known.
The charity, Irish Doctors for the Environment, wrote anopen letter to RTEexpressing the organisation’s “deep disappointment” with the broadcaster’s coverage of extreme weather events.
“To report on these record-breaking weather events without mentioning climate change is as egregious as reporting on the unprecedented spike in ICU admissions last April without mentioning a global pandemic,” the letter said.
Director of the DCU Centre for Climate and Society David Robbins wrote inThe Irish Times: “Climate will become the taken-for-granted context of all news reporting, the ways jobs and the economy are now.”
There are several ways that journalists can report weather events in the context of climate change.
Climatologist Michael Mann said that he believes part of the problem is that there are too few environmental and science journalists on staff. “This often forces other reporters to cover climate-related topics and they’re less well equipped to sort out legitimate science from agenda driven anti-science. But even the best-trained journalists can fall victim to this framing, owing to the fractious and confusing nature of the public discourse on climate change.
“Often the issues are more on the editorial side than the journalistic side. One solution is to schedule regular roundtable discussions where leading scientists and science communicators conduct background discussions with editorial boards, complementing the one-on-ones between scientists and journalists.”
Carlos Rocha, associate professor of environmental change at Trinity explained that when reporting on weather, if you want to educate people about climate, the best thing to do is to demonstrate how the weather has changed over time.
Making the contrast between then and now, Rocha believes, is the best way to highlight how climate change is influencing these extreme weather events.
“Putting weather into a historical context is educating about climate change,” Rocha said. “Climate is manifested in the underlying trend of damages…
“Have [reporters] compared the current situation with historical data? So, for example, when you say it’s very hot, what does that mean? Can we say, how hot has it been in the past and where the current temperature is situated? Can we look at the graphs, seeing the highest temperatures in Dublin over the past 20 years, and where ours is at the moment?”
For John Gibbons, Public Relations Officer at An Taisce, the most important thing journalists should know is that the climate has already shifted.
“We’re now at 1.2C above pre-industrial levels. That’s the biggest change in 10,000 years,” Gibbons said.
“So, when you’re doing a weather story, you’re doing it in the context of a climate that has already changed. I think a lot of reporters forget this, then you get these questions like, ‘Is it climate change?’ every weather event is influenced by the background climatic conditions.”
When looking at weather events, Gibbons argues, “we need to understand that what we’re seeing is a rapidly changing weather system.”
Another thing journalists can do when reporting weather stories is to explain why an extreme weather event happens.
“A warmer atmosphere holds a lot more water,” Rocha explained. “It’s just physics. That water will come down and there’s lots more of it. As soon as conditions are right, the whole thing will just come down.
“This is why we have extreme rain events and we have really large flooding events because drainage systems can’t cope with the amount of water features in such a short time.”
Another consideration when seeking to give a climate change context to a story is to remember that people have been observing these changes in their lives. From farmers noticing the signs of spring earlier, to people saying ‘it’s warm for winter’, to more jellyfish in Irish waters – the signs of a warming world are already here.
“Every reporter and it doesn’t matter what your beat is, will have to get up to speed with climate change. I think it’s important to have that because climate is spilling over into every other area. We need that climate literacy in news rooms so that they’re asking the right question,” Gibbons said.
Gibbons compares climate coverage to GAA coverage. It isn’t good enough to report every match, or every weather event, you have to cover the whole season. In other words, more context is required.
I asked Mann what a media organisation with good climate change coverage looks like. Mann replied: “For climate change to no longer be treated as a niche issue but incorporated into coverage about extreme weather disasters, sociopolitics, the economy, conflict, national security, food, agriculture, and everything else. The climate crisis now pervades all sectors of our civilization and should be covered that way.”
“I’ve often seen this on television where broadcasters say, ‘This is a once-in-a-lifetime event.’ That might be so but can we compare?” Rocha said, again emphasising that it is important to give historical context to weather stories.
More flooding, more heatwaves, more forest fires are all being predicted by climate scientists as the planet heats up. “This is simple physics at a planetary level,” Rocha said.
“Unfortunately it’s happening and it’s happening sooner than we had expected at this level, which means that we don’t fully understand the system, but it’s running away from us.”
A new study found a less than 1 percent probability that a growing imbalance between the amount of energy Earth absorbs and what it emits out occurred naturally.
By Denise Chow
For decades, Earth’s energy system has been out of whack.
Stability in Earth’s climate hinges on a delicate balance between the amount of energy the planet absorbs from the sun and the amount of energy Earth emits back into space. But that equilibrium has been thrown off in recent years — and the imbalance is growing, according to a paper published Wednesday in thejournal Nature Communications.
The changes to Earth’s energy system have major ramifications for the planet’s future climate and humanity’s understanding of climate change. The Princeton University researchers behind the paper found thatthere’s a less than 1 percent probability that the changes occurred naturally.
The findings undercut a key argument used by people who do not believe human activity is responsible for the bulk of climate change to explain trends in global warming, demonstrating that the planet’s energy imbalance cannot be explained just by Earth’s own natural variations.
The research also offers important insights into how greenhouse gas emissions and other consequences of human-caused climate change are upsetting the planet’s equilibrium and driving global warming, sea-level rise and extreme weather events.
“With more and more changes to the planet, we’ve created this imbalance where we have surplus energy in the system,” said Shiv Priyam Raghuraman, a graduate student in atmospheric and oceanic sciences at Princeton and lead author of the study. “That surplus manifests as different symptoms.”
Emissions of carbon dioxide,methaneand other greenhouse gases from human activities trap heat in the atmosphere, meaning the planet absorbs infrared radiation that would normally be released into space. Melting sea ice, changing cloud cover and differences in the concentration of tiny atmospheric particles called aerosols — all of which are affected by climate change — also mean Earth is reflecting less of the sun’s radiation back into the cosmos.
“There isn’t this equilibrium between energy coming in from the sun and energy going out,” Raghuraman said. “The question is: Are these natural planetary variations, or is it us?”
The researchers used satellite observations from 2001 to 2020 to determine that Earth’s energy imbalance is growing. They then used a series of climate models to simulate the effects on Earth’s energy system if human-caused climate change was taken out of the equation.
The scientists found that natural fluctuations alone could not explain the trend observed over the 20-year period.
“It was almost impossible — a less than 1 percent probability — that such a large increase in the imbalance was from Earth’s own oscillations and variations,” Raghuraman said.
The study focused on cause and effect, but Raghuraman said the findings have critical societal and policy implications.
Oceans store approximately 90 percent of the planet’s excess heat, which causes rising seas and can trigger hurricane formation and other extreme weather events. The remaining heat is taken up by the atmosphere and land, which increases global surface temperatures and contributes to melting snow and ice.
If Earth’s energy imbalance continues to grow, consequences that are already being felt today will likely be exacerbated, said Norman Loeb, a physical scientist at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, who was not involved with the study.
“We’re going to see temperatures rise, sea levels rise, more snow and ice melting,” Loeb said. “Everything you see in the news —forest fires, droughts — those just get worse if you add more heat.”
Loeb led a joint study by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that found Earth’s energy imbalance approximately doubled from 2005 to 2019. The paper was published last month in thejournal Geophysical Research Letters.
Loeb said the Princeton study confirms what was outlined in his own research, which used 14 years of observations from satellite sensors and an array of instruments in the ocean. He added that human activities, or what’s known as anthropogenic forcing, are undeniably having an effect but some natural variation is likely also at play. For instance, some planetary oscillations can operate on cycles that last multiple decades, which can make it tricky to tease out the fingerprints of climate change.
“Anthropogenic forcing is there for sure,” he said, “but the ocean is a key player in climate and it operates on much slower time scales. Ideally, you really want to be able to have these types of measurements over 50 years or more.”
Something isvery wrong.Not just wrong in a usual way, but wrong in a weird, off-the-charts way. These are “extreme events” which scientists have long feared. But they’ve even shocked scientists withhow suddenly extreme and frequent they are.
Don’t take it from me.
“The far north of Europe also sweltered in record-breaking June heat, and cities in India, Pakistan and Libya have endured unusually high temperatures in recent weeks. Suburbs of Tokyo have been drenched in the heaviest rainfall since measurements began and a usual month’s worth of July rain fell on London in a day. Events that were once in 100 years are becoming commonplace. Freak weather is increasingly normal.”
Then Daniel Swain, a climate scientists,says something that sounds particularly ominous. “This is not a localised freak event, it is definitely part of a coherent global pattern.” Think about that for a moment. He’s right. None of these weird, devastating “extreme events” are unconnected. London and Germany flooded and California baked and Canada burned and Washington, DC got hotter than Lahoreat exactly the same time.
They’re part of a pattern.
So what pattern is it?
It’snotjust what even scientists expected from “climate change,”better called global overheating.You can find tons of evidence of scientists being literally shocked. “This is such an exceptional event thatwe can’t rule out the possibilitythat we’re experiencing heat extremes today that we only expected to come at higher levels of global warming.” “The obvious acceleration of the breakdown of our stable climate simply confirms that — when it comes to the climate emergency —we are in deep, deep shit.”
The pattern we’re seeing now is something new, something that exceeds even the worst expectations of science, something that’s genuinely shocking and disturbing in fresh ways.
I’d put it like this, in the form of a question.
What if this is the beginning of runaway global warming?It seems worth asking.
Again,don’t take it from me. “Some experts fear the recent jolts indicate the climate system may have crossed a dangerous threshold. Instead of smoothly rising temperatures and steadily increasing extremes, they are examining whether the trend may be increasingly ‘nonlinear.’”
Let me translate that. It appears as if we’vebrokensomething. Something really, really fundamental.And without that something, as a limiting factor, the planet is now beginning to heat much, much faster than expected, in severe, ominous, and devastating ways.
You can think about that another way, if you like. A tipping point was hit. Earlier than expected. A point at which the system races to an entirely different equilbrium, a new place of balance. Hence, the vicious speed and sudden fury with which the climate appears to be transforming. Positive feedback sets in — system changes reinforce themselves — and bang! Game over.
What might some of those tipping points and broken systems be? There are plenty of candidates.The ocean currents which circulate cool water and disperse the heat of water warmed by the sun — there’s plenty of evidence alreadythey’re being affected badly.The melting of the polar ice caps — which again is obvious to see, and has a double hit, because ice reflects heat, but earth absorbs it. The monsoon which much of the world relies on for water and coolness. The permafrost, whichtraps methane and other greenhouse gases. The boreal zones — like in Canada — essentiallydying off as forests. The lungs of the earth,the Amazon.
Those are just some of the planet’s major ecosystems. And the really alarming thing is that many of them have just hit tipping points, or are getting awfully close to them.
The Amazon’s the first one to hit a tipping point which we know of and can call one: it emits more carbon than it takes in, crippled, battered, left for dead. Bang. That’s one crucial planetary ecosystemdead. Did anyone much notice or even care? Did you? Are you just clueless, the way our institutions want you?
Then there’s the melting of ice sheets, whether in the Arctic, Antarctic, Greenland.Their disintegration has been swift and severe — faster, again, than predicted. Have theyalreadyhit a tipping point?
How about the ocean currents? There’s plenty of evidence, too, they’re slowing down, changing in strange ways unseen for millions of years.Tipping point?
I could go on.
The problem is this. Science can only really confirm these tipping pointsafter they happen.
That’s not to say science isn’t valuable.It’s invaluable, because it lets us predict that these systems are fragile andshouldn’t be messed with at all.
If you don’t know when you’re going to push a system past a tipping point — a nonlinear feedback point beyond which it races to a new equilibrium, but that one might, well, destroy your civilisation and life…then you should probablystop doing what you’re doing immediately, and try to preserve the system from any further perturbation.
In other words, we should have tried to attain much, much more ambitious targets, decades ago. Not just a reduction in carbon emissions, butzero carbon. Instead of idiot billionaires going to Mars, that should have been our generation’s moonshot. Or even finding ways to restore the ice sheets. Or revivify the great forests, like the Amazon.
They’re so vast nobody knows how to do them — nobody even has a clue. If I say to you, hey,how do we bring an ice sheet back to life?You’ll give me a blank stare. Elon Musk can’t tell me. Jeff Bezos can’t tell me. So why do weworship these fools as geniuses, at least plenty of us? We have literally no idea how to fix these problems — and that is what we have to try to do, because science can only confirm the worst for us, after it happens.
We need to concentrate what dwindling resources we have left as a civilization, as societies, on fixing problemswe have no idea how to fix yet. Anyone know how to stop, say, Germany from flooding? Not just deal with the damage of the floods — butprevent the flood? Anyone know how toreverse a planetary tipping point?
Nobody does. And we had better try to find out, fast.We need to invest trillions upon trillions in this stuff, in the most radical way imaginable — think what “zero carbon” really means.Or else.
Or else? Well, take a look around. We’re beingboiled alive. We’re being drowned. Burned. Our civilisation is literally beginning to go up in flames, flood, drought, and plague. And it looks a whole lot likethis isjust the beginning.
If I think back, even in my own life,it didn’t used to be like this. Washington DC and New York City weren’t remotely as hot as Lahore or New Delhi. And Lahore and New Delhi, in turn, weren’t nearly as hot astheyare now. Canada wasn’t going up in flames. Europe wasn’t flooding.
That’s not “anecdotal evidence,” that’sreality. The climate really was vastly different, on a level you can now notice every day.The seasons were different. The days and nights were different. The storms were different. The rain and wind was different. It didn’t used to be like this — and it got “like this” way too fast, way faster than anyone much expected, except those once dismissed as “pessimists” and “alarmists.” But it looks likethey were right. The planet appears to be overheating faster and harder than anyone much thought possible. So fast that you and I canliterally now feel itover the tiny, infinitesimal geological scale of one human lifetime. Shudder.
Let me say it again, because I think this point really matters. The planet appears to be overheating so fast, so rapidly, so suddenly, that you and I can feel itin our own lifetimes.That’sincrediblyfast. It’s why climate scientists are shocked. Usually, the climate changes in relatively slow ways — maybe fast forit, but compared to a human lifetimes, eons. Thousands of years, even millions.
The climate does not change within decades unlesssomething fundamental is broken. It doesn’t change so swiftly and severely that you and I can talk about how different the seasons were just a decade or two ago — or even a few years ago — unless something has gone deeply wrong, in the most basic planetary systems. We should not be able to feel climate change as rapidly and severely as we are — within the span of a single human lifetime — unless something truly mega-catastrophic is happening.
Think about today’s young people. Even they’ll talk about the summers being cooler. About storms and floods being less frequent. About winters being colder. The extremes of weather being way, way less extreme. They’rekids. They’re not just innocent and cute and nice — they’ve only been alive for twenty or thirty years or less. That’s how fast our planet appears to be overheating. That’s incredibly, shockingly, ominously fast.
We should be incredibly worried. It isnot normal. Even within the pretty catastrophic range of “normal” for climate scenarios.We’re beyond even that abnormal normal. We’re rapidly, severely outpacingour very own worst predictionsfor planetary climate catastrophe. So fast, so hard, that you can feel it in your memory. That you remember: it didn’t used to be like this. Just a few short years ago. Within the mayfly span of a single human lifetime. And it seems to be accelerating every year, overheating, warming, how searingly hot it is, even in what used to be some of the coldest places or times on earth, in your life, in our world.
That’s really, really bad.It shouldn’t be happening like this, “climate change.”It’s too fast, too severe, too weird, too sudden, accelerating too hard, spinning out of control. It’sway beyond us now, shocking us every season, hitting us much, much harder than most of us ever thought it could or would, catastrophic discontinuity exploding off the axes of the graphs we used to confidently show each other to prove how intelligent we were.I can barely go outside today.You?
Climate inaction was never really about denial. Rich countries just thought poorer countries would bear the brunt of the crisis.
By Naomi Klein
Many people herethink they are safe from climate change, the journalist from a German newspaper explained to me. They don’t see it as an immediate threat, like Covid-19. They see the Greens as scolds who want to take away their cheap holidays. “What do you have to say to them?”
The question came via video call in late June, and I was, at that very moment, pickled in my non-air-conditioned home, gripped by a heatwave that would, before the week was done, kill about500 peoplein British Columbia, Canada, and cook perhapsa billionmarine creatures on scorching shorelines. Over the years, I have faced many such “why should I care” questions, and I usually try to reach for some kind of moral argument about our responsibility to fellow humans even when we aren’t immediately impacted. But because I was far too hot and angry for high-mindedness, what I had to say instead was “Give it a minute.”
What I meant was that when it comes to making a political calculus about what people will and will not accept by way of climate policy, it’s never wise to count out the Earth as a key actor. Our planet has a way of inserting itself into these calculations, rapidly changing the views of those who imagined themselves to be safe.
That has certainly been the case in Germany ahead of federal elections coming up in September. In June, the Green Party was sliding in the polls, under heavyattackas killjoys for carbon-pricing plans that would threaten beloved vacations in Mallorca (in response to the backlash, the party backed off those tough policies). Less than a month later, the political landscape looks very different. German officials expect the death toll fromJuly’s floods to climb to well over 200 people, with many more injured and core infrastructure swept away. Climate change is now at the center of the German election debate, and the Greens are underattackfrom the climate left for going soft.
When I published “This Changes Everything” way back in 2014, I included a quote from Sivan Kartha, senior scientist with the Stockholm Environment Institute: “What’s politically realistic today may have very little to do with what’s politically realistic after another few Hurricane Katrinas and another few Superstorm Sandys and another few Typhoon Bophas hit us.”
Sure enough, we have experienced another few of those storms, and then a few more. Recent flooding in Henan, China, is being described as the heaviest in 1,000 years, displacing some200,000people. It’s a good bet that it won’t be another thousand years before this kind of disaster strikes again. And then there is the fire and smoke, summer aftersuffocating summer. California. Oregon. British Columbia. Siberia. Little wonder, then, that a new Economist/YouGov pollfindsthat for the first time since it began the survey in 2009, U.S. respondents now rank climate change as their second most important political issue — topped only by health care. Climate even beat out “the economy,” while crime, gun control, abortion, and education all trailed far behind.
Forget everything you think you know about climate change. It’s not about carbon – it’s about capitalism. The good news is that we can seize this existential crisis to transform our failed economic system and build something radically better.
In her most provocative book yet, Naomi Klein, author of the global bestsellersThe Shock DoctrineandNo Logo, tackles the most profound threat humanity has ever faced: the war our economic model is waging against life on earth.
This kind of issue ranking is, of course, absurd. The fact that anyone thinks the stability of the planetary systems that support all life can be pried apart from “the economy” or “health” — or much of anything at all — is a symptom of the mechanistic hubris that got us into this mess. If our climate collapses, so does everything else, and that should be the beginning of all discussions on the topic. Still, the poll reflects the reality that something dramatic is changing in public perception: a dropping away of the fantasy of safety in the wealthier parts of the world, as well as the beginnings of cracks in the faith that money and technology will find solutions just in the nick of time.
Climate inaction in the rich world was never really about denial. Belgians and Germans knew climate change was real; they just thought poorer countries would bear the brunt of it. And up until recently, they were right. A few years ago, a well-known meteorologist in Belgium told me that her biggest challenge in communicating the urgency of the climate crisis was that her viewers actively looked forward to having a warmer climate, which they imagined as something closer to the Burgundy region of France. Similarly, Oregon and Washington state, just a couple of years ago, were coping with skyrocketing housing costs as throngs of Californiansmoved north. Many believed the predictions that the Pacific Northwest would be a big climate winner, with somemappingsuggesting that the region would be protected from the drought, heat waves, and fires that were tormenting the southwestern U.S. — while a little more heat and a little less rain would make Washington’s and Oregon’s chilly, wet climates more like California in its glory days. It seemed not just safer but, to many flush with tech cash, also like a smart real estate move.
Well, it turns out that a planet going haywire doesn’t behave in linear ways that are easy for real estate agents orultrarich doomsday preppersto predict. Yes, a warmer world means California’s temperatures become more like Mexico’s, and Oregon’s a little more like California’s. But it’s also true that everywhere turns upside down. The Pacific Northwest isn’t adapted to the kind of heat that is commonplace in Southern California and Nevada, and the lack of air conditioning is the least of it. Salmon — our region’skeystone species— need cool water to survive, and young salmon grow up in bodies of fresh water that this summer havewarmed uplike hot tubs. Scientists fear that many of the young fish will not make it.
If salmon populations collapse, that will trigger a cascade of loss reaching well beyond the commercial fishery. These animals are sacred to every Indigenous culture in the region; they are critical food to iconic (and vulnerable) marine mammals including orcas and Steller sea lions; and they are integral to the health of temperate rainforests, not only to the bears and eagles who feed on them but also to the carbon-sequestering trees they fertilize.
As for the idea that Californians should move north to escape fire, that dream has obviously gone up in flames. Last summer, deadly wildfires forced evacuations just east of Portland, Oregon, and as I write, smoke from the state’sBootleg fireis contributing to the plume that blotted out the sun as far away as New York City. So, no, Oregon is not safe. New York is not safe. Germany is not safe. Nowhere that imagined itself safe is safe.
That was the message from a coalition of nations on the front lines of climate disruption. Responding to the German floods, the Climate Vulnerable Forum issued a statement,signedby Mohamed Nasheed, former president of the Maldives.
On behalf of the climate vulnerable countries I would like to express solidarity and offer my support and prayers to the people of Germany as they suffer the impacts of these catastrophic floods. While not all are affected equally, this tragic event is a reminder that in the climate emergency no-one is safe, whether they live on a small island nation like mine or a developed Western European state.
The subtext, of course, was that safety has long been a distant dream for people living in low-lying islands like the Maldives, and that record-breaking heat and floods have been stealing lives, from Pakistan to Mozambique to Haiti, for a good whilenow. Moreover, if rich countries like Germany and the U.S. had heeded the calls coming from countries like the Maldives (whose government held a desperateunderwater cabinet meetingin 2009 in an attempt to raise the alarm about sea level rise ahead of a United Nations climate summit), much of the pain now locked in might have been avoided. The truth is that our planet and its people have sounded a symphony of alarms in past decades; the powerful simply chose not to heed them.
Rising sea level will be tomorrow’s global economic and humanitarian crisis–if we don’t start adapting now. Around the world, rising sea level threatens coastal communities. It is unstoppable, requiring bold planning to avoid catastrophe. Though often seen as an environmental issue, it’s more about our security and economy–and the impacts on our homes and communities. In his previous book, the bestselling High Tide on Main Street: Rising Sea Level and the Coming Coastal Crisis, renowned oceanographer John Englander clearly explained the science. In Moving to Higher Ground: Rising Sea Level and the Path Forward, he updates the latest scientific information and presents a visionary outlook for what we need to do–showing the world how to survive, and even thrive, for ourselves and future generations. Englander explains: -Why sea level will rise regardless of efforts to reduce CO2 emissions -How high the sea could rise in the coming decades and the effects on assets and infrastructure -What you need to know to prepare and adapt for long-term sea level rise and short term flooding events -Why rising sea level and the massive adaptation required could be the greatest economic engine of this century
Why? It comes back to those stories so many of us in the rich world have been telling ourselves about our relative safety. That when the climate crisis hit, it would be others (read: Black, brown, Indigenous, foreign) who would bear the risks. And if that turned out to be a bad bet, and the crisis came to our communities, then we would simply move somewhere more protected. To Oregon or British Columbia or the Great Lakes or maybe, if things get really dire, Alaska or the Yukon. In other words, we would do precisely what North American, European, and Australian governments ruthlessly punish and vilify migrants on our borders (including climate migrants) for doing: attempting to get to safety. As water scientist Peter Gleick recentlywrote, we are seeing the emergence of “two classes of refugees: those with the freedom and financial resources to try, for a while at least, to flee from growing threats in advance, and those who will be left behind to suffer the consequences in the form of illness, death and destruction.”
In this summer of fires and floods, it appears to be dawning on many that even this sinister form of climate apartheid is likely an illusion for all but the ultrarich. As Nasheed said, and as the New York Times echoed in an ominousheadlineoverlaid on a photograph of a burning building: “No one is safe.” We are all trapped in this crisis — whether under that relentless pall of smoke, or in a heat that hits like a physical wall, or under rains and winds that will not stop. Even in the United States, built on the foundational lie of the frontier, the climate crisis can no longer be fobbed off on some faraway place or to some far-off future time. We are fresh out of “out theres” — whether spatially or temporally.
Except, of course, for Jeff Bezos, the man who just in case we missed his cartoonish pluri-planetary frontier fantasy, wore acowboy hatand boots for the joyride and came back gushing about how he had seen the future, and it was toxic space dumps. “We need to take all heavy industry, all polluting industry, and move it into space and keep Earth as this beautiful gem of a planet that it is,” hesaidmoments after touchdown.
This, right there, is the crux of our crisis: the persistent fantasy, despite all reason and evidence, that there are no hard limits to capital’s capacity to keep turning life into profit, that there will always be a new frontier to keep the lucrative game going. As Justine Calmawrotein The Verge, “Sticking unwanted stuff in a place that’s seemingly out of sight, out of mind is a tired idea. It’s the same old mindset that has dumped industrial waste on colonized peoples and neighborhoods of color for centuries.” And it’s the same old mindset that convinced residents of Germany and the United States that climate breakdown wasn’t an urgent crisis — until it broke all over them.
If it were only Bezos who thought like this, we could ground him, tax him, and be done with it. But he is only the crassest manifestation of a logic that pervades our ruling class: from Sen. Ted Cruzjettingoff to the five-star Ritz-Carlton in Cancún, Mexico, while Texas froze to Peter Thiel planning his luxury bunker inNew Zealand. And so long as the rich and powerful continue to believe that there is an “out there” to absorb their messes, they are going to fiercely protect the business-as-usual machine that will keep the rest of usburning down here.
Economics has been dominated by Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a measure of success. But ecological economics measures welfare and sustainability instead.
Neoclassical economic approaches have considered progress as a concept that is equivalent to economic growth, which is measured by the increase of the gross domestic product (GDP).
I want to engage in a discussion of the main critiques that have been presented to show the limitations of GDP as a sole measure for progress and wellbeing.
Firstly, progress will be defined from the perspective of Pareto Optimality and the subsequent indicators that have been constructed to account for different factors and externalities, such as environmental degradation and social inequality.
Afterwards, a brief description and proposition of the ecological economics perspective will be introduced as an alternative that considers the intertwining of the economic system and other biophysical systems in the measurement of wellbeing and economic development.
Thirdly, the “Buen Vivir” approach will contribute as de-colonial perspective, to decouple social wellbeing and sustainability form economic growth and progress. Finally, conclusions will be drawn.
The idea of progress has been historically associated with the concept of advance, which can range from the material and physical to the spiritual matters(Nisbet, 1980).
Moreover, the idea of advance entails a vision of history as an ongoing path of improvement, which has been modified over the course of time by poets, philosophers, and economists, presenting a collection of worldviews and conceptions.
As certain values grow in importance in our society, such as social and environmental justice, equity, and community self-determination, GDP can be questioned as a sole indicator for progress.
For philosopher G.W.F Hegel, history advanced in terms of the development of the spirit seen from a dialectical point of view(G.W.F Hegel, 1977; Nisbet, 1980, p. 25).
In the case of Adam Smith, progress was a byproduct of the “invisible hand’s” actions that assured both stability of the economic system and progress(Smith, 1776).
Later, marginalist economists proposed the Pareto Optimality, as a mechanism of improvement, or progress, in order to attain the most efficient market allocation of resources (Buchanan, 1962).
Such allocation can, however, be problematic if there is a risk of a high unequal distribution of resources or income, which can affect the possibility to improve society’s level of wellbeing.
If progress is “defined as an improvement in the well-being of human beings”(Sulkowski, 2016, p. 2), it becomes thus useful to add a conception like wellbeing, as a means to evaluate the notion of GDP in terms of its power to measure progress.That is, by also acknowledging the different conceptions on wellbeing that exist.
The branch of welfare economics provided one of the definitions on wellbeing when it acknowledged the importance of measuring material welfare through the work of economists like Marshall, Hicks, Pigou, Edgeworth, and Pareto, who included the concepts of wellbeing, utility, and social welfare in the economics analysis(Myrdal, 2017, pp. 208–210).
Likewise, there are other measurements of wellbeing that come from pluralist or de-colonial approaches which enrich the debate on development and progress.
The principle of Pareto Optimality and efficiency was taken by marginalist economists as a ground principle for measuring social welfare or wellbeing.
For welfare economists, As Pigou affirms, “…the one obvious instrument of measurement available in social life is money. Hence, the range of our inquiry becomes restricted to that part of social welfare that can be brought directly or indirectly into relation with the measuring-rod of money. This part of welfare may be called economic welfare.”(Pigou, 1920, p. 11).
On the one hand, this principle can be found in national policies and institutions, such as the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research which measures wellbeing through the economic performance of society(Syrquin, 2016, p. 582).
On the other hand, welfare improvements can enter in contradiction with political interests, as some governments have boosted GDP in order to increase their likelihood for the current ruling party to be voted again in the next election, assuming voters to be short-sighted and responsive to GDP measures (Alt & Lassen, 2006).
Additionally, GDP measurements do not necessarily measure wellbeing. For instance, if one measures the increase of GDP between the decades of 1950 and 1960, it can be seen how GDP increased but subjective well-being remained constant (Stiglitz et al., 2010, pp.21-22).
Under welfare economics’ concept of wellbeing, progress is made in the context of a Pareto improvement in situations of inefficiency, that is, in a scenario of inefficient allocation of resources(Hausman et al., 2016).
Yet, a highly unequal distribution of income in a society can occur as a consequence of a Pareto improvement. As a result, measurements of societal welfare were proposed, such as the Social Welfare Function, based on an ordinal utilitarian conception(Myrdal, 2017).
The function however does not consider the values, wants and desires of the individuals, that depend on the social and historical context (quote here).
In other words, it does not consider that there can be different interpretations of welfare, such that a low welfare scenario in a certain society, can be regarded as a high welfare scenario in a different one, when taking concepts like sustainability and social justice into account.
The earth’s interlocking resources – the global system of nature in which we all live – probably cannot support present rates of economic and population growth much beyond the year 2100, if that long, even with advanced technology.
When attempting to include environmental factors, indicators like the Sustainable Economic Welfare (ISEW) and the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) were designed to deduct the effect of environmental pollution and natural depletion.
The divergence between the GDP and ISEW or GPI means that GDP by itself is limited as an indicator for well-being and progress nowadays. Another indicator, the HDI (Human Development Index), was additionally formulated by including education and life expectancy along with GDP, to measure changes in well-being (quote here).
Nordhaus and Tobin’s Sustainable Measure of Economic Welfare (SMEW) were created to deduct private consumption and monetary estimations of non-positive welfare factors to correct elements that were not considered by GDP.
The main critique is that these indicators do not set a clear limit on growth, which means that it can go beyond the ecological system’s capacity.
In turn, indicators like Osberg and Sharpe’s Index of Economic Wellbeing were developed, to include measures of consumption, wealth flows, protection against social risks, and costs of CO2 emissions per capita(Stiglitz et al., 2010).
Although GDP has not been dropped out in these indicators, it has acquired a much less important position than it previously had.
In conclusion, GDP has been developed as an element to measure wellbeing and progress in a society, supported on assumptions on the mechanisms by which wellbeing can be achieved.
One of the main assumptions come from neoclassical economics’ Pareto Optimality, which strives for an overall efficiency, that may as well lead to a scenario of high inequality or high environmental degradation.
This in turn, may introduce a trade-off between efficiency and other values like equity, sustainability, or justice.
If efficiency is chosen to be more important other values, then GDP can be a good indicator for progress, but if other values are more important, then GDP’s usefulness to measure progress becomes problematic.
Ecological economics principles and critique of economic growth perspective
Ecological economics argues that neoclassical economics lacks a correct conceptualization of nature and other systems, which in turn develops an endless growth perspective that causes a situation of welfare reduction (Faber, 2008, p.2).
Most importantly, ecological economics modifies the efficiency principle when it introduces the economic system within a complex network of macro systems, which are underpinned by other principles, like ecological ones (Spash, 2012).
This view contrasts with the traditional neoclassical view, which is based on marginalist perspectives of utility, profit maximization and production optimization, performed in a closed economics system that is reduced to homes and firms (Mankiw, 2011), without including nature as an additional agent.
For ecological economics, the natural processes of waste management, resource cycles, energy cycles (ALIER & JUSMET, 2000, pp. 22–74) and biosphere boundaries (Røpke, 2020) have to be included as a grounding principle for the understanding of the economic system(Røpke, 2004).
For that reason, it is argued that GDP measures possess an incorrect inclusion of negative externalities, which are external distortions of the market’s equilibrium and efficiency.
Economics is broken. It has failed to predict, let alone prevent, financial crises that have shaken the foundations of our societies. Its outdated theories have permitted a world in which extreme poverty persists while the wealth of the super-rich grows year on year. And its blind spots have led to policies that are degrading the living world on a scale that threatens all of our futures.
Furthermore, this proposes a different view on economic growth, as the economic system is to be studied as a part of global ecological system that not only restricts the possibilities of endless growth, but also affects the notion of well-being that was previously associated with growth (Røpke, 2020, p.8).
As Herman Daly (1991) pointed out, the full costs of growth are not included in the marginalist or neoclassical conception, which makes it an incomplete measure.
By applying a marginalist logic, Daly argues: “Growth in GNP should cease when decreasing marginal benefits become equal to increasing marginal costs”(Daly, 1991, p. 99).
A new guiding principle for growth is proposed, which is based on a steady-state economy conception where the GDP-based assumption of “more is better” is replaced by “enough is best”, by proposing a limit to the growth path (ibid., p.6).
As a response to this, an indicator called the green GDP tried to give value to environmental inputs and outputs into the economic system. Although, in the case of outputs, the measurement becomes more speculative, bringing again the question of its usefulness. In the words of Stiglitz et al. (2010):
Valuing environmental inputs into the economic system is the (relatively) easier step. Since these inputs are incorporated into products that are sold in the marketplace, it is possible (in principle) to use direct means to assign a value for them based on market principles.
In contrast, as pollution emissions are outputs; there is no direct way to assign a value to them. All the indirect methods of valuation will depend to some extent on ‘what if’ scenarios.
Thus, translating valuations of degradation into adjustments to macro-economic aggregates takes us beyond the realm ofex-post accountinginto a much more hypothetical situation.
The very speculative nature of this sort of accounting explains the great discomfort and strong resistance among many accountants to this practice.(Stiglitz et al., 2010, p. 22)
The framework of ecological economics additionally contributed to the wellbeing conceptualization, as Faber(2008) summarizes, with the inclusion of the concepts of nature, justice, and time based on thermodynamical rules.
As a result, mainstream economic theories can be limited in measuring wellbeing by not including a definition of justice in their measurements.
Although welfare economists have strived for a value-neutral theory, Streeten (1955) shows that their alleged neutrality hides the ethical and political stance that unavoidably underpins neoclassical and welfare economics assumptions.
Myrdal (1955) complimented this argument by explaining that separating between scientific economics and political valuations, hides the intrinsic value judgement that welfare economists exercise whenever they give their opinion on “what ought to be”, which is in other words, what the Pareto Principle aims to show.
Given that neoclassical economics regards nature as a subsystem and as a means to achieve a steady economic growth (Faber, 2008, p.2), it presents limits to the inclusion of externalities coming from other systems.
In a scenario of internalization of externalities such as an introduction of Emission Trading Schemes (ETS), a reduction of environmental pollution can be fostered, which would initially point to an improvement of social welfare.
Nevertheless, evidence states that the outcomes of such policies have not been enough to revert climate change policies(Posner, Eric; Weisbach, 2010, p. 59),because economic growth has been set to be more important than attaining the lowest level of pollution.
For that reason, ecological economics advocates for the inclusion of a deeper principle of sustainability transitions in the measurement of wellbeing and economic progress.
This means, including biophysical foundations, the origins of capitalist relationships, property relations for distribution, dependence of markets on governments and governance challenges in the economics design.
The purpose of this is to holistically encompass environment and justice challenges with a more central role of distributional institutions and governance(Røpke, 2020).
In conclusion, ecological economics presents a complimentary view to welfare economics arguments, displaying a new set of variables and principles that welfare economics and sole GDP measurements have left aside.
Particularly, as environmental issues are seen as intertwined with social and economic problems, more holistic indicators are needed, in order to include hidden costs and important values, that are directly related to what well-being and progress are defined by individuals.
A focus on other targets different to economic growth becomes also relevant to make this transition to other indicators possible.
Buen Viviras an indigenous and postcolonial critique to GDP
The concept of Buen Vivir, which means ‘good life’ in Spanish, is also known by other names as “Sumak Kawsay” or “Sumaq Qumaña” and represents a collective of world visions and philosophies of life based on ancestral wisdom, indigenous practices and globalization critics that have one notion in common.
The attainment of a good life based on the pillars of the human being, the community, and Mother Nature.
The principle of cohabitation is drawn as a fundamental concept(Gudynas, 2011), which means that economic development or progress can only be achieved if communities and human beings live in harmony with Mother Earth.
This perspective rejects economic growth as a measurement of progress and promotes a set of principles that eliminate GDP as a guiding concept, similar to A-growth perspectives (Van den Bergh, 2011).
Moreover, the philosophy draws a direct statement against the market economy, which is seen as a cause of the fragmentation between the relationships between human beings and nature(Radcliffe, 2012), with physical and ecological implications.
To support the argument, the A-growth critique of GDP de-growth perspectives may become useful, as it shows that even if GDP is controlled, it fosters environmental degradation in the short run by having a combination of less output with more inputs and use of energy and resources (van den Bergh, 2011, p.2).
Thereby, a structural change is proposed in which the needs and decisions on the levels of output are based on a new production system, that is delinked from market-based relationships that are based solely on the material requirements of a good life.
A first response to the principles of Buen Vivir comes from the evaluation of its implementation in the countries of Ecuador and Bolivia, where many academics like Gudynas (2011) and Acosta(Acosta, 2013; Acosta et al., 2012) objected that the objective of harmony was not respected in the context of National policies.
Moreover, cohabitation with Mother Earth was not evidenced when large scale mining and the amazon forest degradation was fostered, while several capitalist practices and structures of power remained unchanged, like Agrarian elites and concentration of means of production in few hands.
Finally, in the State practices, the de-colonial principles of ethnical pluralism and linguistic diversity underwent several contradictions by coexisting with the rooted market-based practices(Ranta, 2018).
In Ecuador, Buen Vivir was included as a guiding principle for the Development Plan of president Rafael Correa between 2013 and 2017, having previously influenced the constitution of the country in 2008.
An excerpt says the following: ‘‘We…Hereby decide to build a new form of public coexistence, in diversity and in harmony with nature, to achieve the good way of living, the sumak kawsay’’(Republic of Ecuador, 2008, p. 8).
In practice, GDP was not abandoned as a public policy measurement, although well-being was no longer seen a uniquely tied to GDP but also tied to cultural pluralism and linguistic diversity.
In the words of Radcliffe (2012) new principles were added such as “… amplifying collective rights, strengthening intercultural education, and recognizing Spanish, Kichwa and Shuar as official languages” (Radcliffe, 2012, p.244).
The practical example of Ecuador and Bolivia underpins the reason why Waldmüller (2014), Radcliffe (2012) and Ranta (2018) identified several structural contradictions, which support the claim that if GDP measures are not questioned as a guiding policy, they may clash with other principles that are important to other worldviews.
In practice, market based inequalities and postcolonial hierarchies were not fully addressed, evidencing a continuation in the cultural, political, social and epistemological oppression of the indigenous ways of life and ancestral practices (Radcliffe, 2012, p.246).
If wellbeing is to be conceived from a relational and ontological perspective associated to the emancipation of indigenous understanding of life(Waldmüller, 2014, p. 8), a new worldview needs to be adopted.
Nevertheless, Buen Vivir constitutes an important theoretical critique of GDP by presenting the values of pluralism, ontological-relational concept of the human being and the three-pillar harmony for a measurement of social welfare and individual wellbeing.
Regarding what a good life can be, some economists have formulated indicators alongside GDP, to include the need for more leisure (Van den Bergh, 2011, p.884), fewer working hours (Kallis, 2010. P876) and a safe environment in its measurement.
However, such indicators obliterate one of the pillars from Buen Vivir philosophy, which is the community.
That is, the definition of what a good life is, cannot be arbitrarily determined by the amount of leisure time, working hours or safe environment, but by the level of connection between all the human beings living in a place-based community and their spiritual connection to nature.
As a final argument, Buen Vivir can provide several alternatives to GDP, that include practical measures of the harmonical relationship between human beings, the community and nature.
Some comprehensive indicators, in terms of environmental and community matters, have attempted to propose a subjective measure that accounts for the ratio of the people involved in environmental practices in the whole community and their level involvement(Pallaroso et al., 2016).
Moreover, some authors have proposed a combined measurement of green zone access, estimation of waste and pollution produced per person, average land property, level of food sovereignty and environmental viability(Herrero, 2011; Sempere et al., 2010).
This could represent a possibility of reconciliating the Buen Vivir worldview and the government’s public policy framework. Most importantly, including the population in the formulation of the indicators must a guiding principle if a Buen Vivir conception is to be followed.
In conclusion, Buen Vivir as an alternative, de-colonial, and pluralist perspective, shows the limitations of GDP as a measurement for progress, by considering the pluralist elements of a good life.
Firstly, the principles of harmony between human beings, the community and nature indicate that an increase of GDP does not necessarily foster a development of the three pillars.
Moreover, even if output production is left aside, consumption can still be harmful to progress if it is not respectful of the three pillars harmony.
Although indicators can attempt to include pluralist principles, the relational and ontological nature of indigenous knowledge is not really quantifiable, which means that a different worldview to the western one, is required to understand it.
I have discussed the limits of measurement from GDP as the best indicator for progress and wellbeing.For a delimited discussion, a conceptualization of the definition of progress was presented, such that it was linked to the indicators of well-being and economic welfare, engaging in the underpinnings of such concepts from neoclassical economics, welfare economics, ecological economics and Buen Vivir.
The first part presented the core assumptions that underlie GDP growth as a measurement for progress and efficiency, which is the Pareto Optimality principle.
If wellbeing improvement is tantamount to progress, Pareto efficiency principles become the core assumptions supporting the neoclassical belief in GDP. In that case, it was shown that as the Pareto efficiency does not account for situations of inequality or environmental degradation,(Stiglitz et al., 2010; van den Bergh, 2011).
Such limitations have led to the creation of new indicators like the ISEW, HDI, GPI and others, which have included new variables and externalities for the measurement of welfare an ultimately for progress.
However, as values like justice, equity and sustainability have become more relevant to wellbeing, indicators that include GDP as a central measurement have started to become limited.
A second argument consisted of presenting the ecological economics conception of the intertwining of the economic and ecological systems to assess the notion of endless growth that underpins the belief in GDP’s relevance.
Ecological economics pointed out the lack of a holistic view in the GDP, which means that it has a limited measurement of negative externalities and environmental impacts that can be detrimental to measure welfare and progress (Alt & Lassen, 2006; Daly, 1991; Røpke, 2020).
Although environmental economics has tried to include this, the belief on endless growth and lack of understanding of the economic system limits, questions the validity of GDP as a main indicator for welfare.
Buen Vivir provided a third argument from a decolonial and indigenous perspective to understand that economic growth can be directly associated to detriments in human, social and nature’s wellbeing.
This happens, as a decrease of wellbeing occurs in if there is a break in the ancestral harmonization of Human Beings, the Community and mother nature(Acosta, 2013; Gudynas, 2011).
For this conception, GDP is not only harmful for progress but also needs to be eliminated as a societal target, as it is associated with fragmentating market relationships that cause a brokage of the harmony between human beings and nature.
In conclusion, given that progress has been linked to the improvement of wellbeing in society, GDP as a measurement can be proven to be either a contributing or damaging factor.
This would depend on the core assumptions on the concept, be it the Pareto Optimality, the intertwining of the economics and ecological systems or the harmony of human beings and nature.
Nevertheless, as certain values grow in importance in our society, such as social and environmental justice, equity, and community self-determination, GDP can be questioned as a sole indicator for progress.
Moreover, if the measurement of wellbeing is defined by a community’s own priorities, then, as it happens in indigenous communities, GDP will lose its value to determine what progress is, while pluralist worldview will lead the way to an open and ongoing debate on the concept.
David Caicedo Sarralde is a masters student of politics, economics and philosophy at Hamburg University and has published in peer-reviewed journals on the topics of political economy, indigenous studies, and development.
1.Acosta, A. (2013).El Buen Vivir. Sumak Kawsay, una oportunidad para imaginar otros mundos.Icaria Editorial.
Acosta, A., González, J., Arkonada, K., & Prada, R. (2012).Un Estado, muchos pueblos La construcción de la plurinacionalidad en Bolivia y Ecuadoritle. Icaria Editorial.
ALIER, J. M., & JUSMET, J. R. (2000).Ecological Economics and Environmental Policy(spanish ed).Fondo de Cultura Económica.
Nisbet, R. (1980).The idea of progress. Transaction Publishers.
Pallaroso, A., Alexander, F., Casanova, P., & Pucará, C. (2016). La Medición Del Buen Vivir Rural. Estudio De Caso En El Cantón Pucará, Provincia De Azuay, Ecuador.Revista Venezolana de Análisis de Coyuntura,XXII(1), 111–134.
Mellett, who holds a PhD in environmental governance, believes Ireland must act to prevent the impact of climate change.
Vice Admiral Mark Mellet
CLIMATE CHANGE IS the biggest threat to Ireland, the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces has said.
Vice Admiral Mark Mellett, who has served as the leader of Ireland’s military for six years and has a PhD in environmental and ecosystem governance, believes that climate breakdown is already creating conflict and destabilisation across the globe.
“There’s no doubt there’s a growing sense that we’re physically experiencing the impact of climate breakdown,” he said.
Mellett noted that the Defence Forces have increasingly been responding to incidents related to the climate crisis as extreme weather events become more frequent.
“A large piece of the Killarney National Park burned down in the middle of April – that is unprecedented.
“We’ve had helicopters fighting fires in Howth for the last week or so. We saw what happened in Germany, we saw what happened over the weekend in the UK, flash flooding cars being washed down the street – this is an existential threat to survival.
“We’re putting that in a Defence Forces context and we have to be prepared for more extreme weather events.”
Mellett, speaking to The Journal at the Naval Base in Haulbowline, Co Cork, said that the Defence Forces has a dual role of providing defence for the country and also ‘as an insurance policy [to help] the State’s ability to absorb shocks, like we’ve been doing for the last 500 days with the pandemic response’.
Mellett gave the example of the increased desertification of sub-Saharan Africa which has driven people from the land. The Army Ranger Wing – Irish special forces – are on the ground dealing with extremist groups in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.
Mellett says that the current violence in West Africa will cause an increase in refugees and migrants leaving the area to enter Europe and in turn this could cause destablisation and disharmony among EU member states.
He said that Ireland has a “false sense of security” and the State needs to position itself to deal with the problems caused by climate change.
“When Ireland talks about a multilateral framework, it’s not out of a sense of idealism.
“It’s actually a real practical experience that if countries like Ireland don’t play a role in terms of safe and secure environments, who will?”
The UN’s IPCC has said that global warming has caused an increase in the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events.
The world has already warmed by about 1 degree Celsius since pre-industrial times due to human activity, and the UN IPCC has warned that this is likely to pass 1.5C between 2030 and 2052 if the increase continues at the current rate.
It is not only temperature that has changed: there have also been changes in rainfall, declines in snow and ice, and increases in sea-level as the oceans heat up.
Mellett, who is due to retire from the Defence Forces in two months’ time, said Ireland is set to become a world leader in renewable energy with Cork Harbour set to play host to the construction of a giant windfarm off the south coast.
Are UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in the Doldrums Due to the Corona Virus? |
Inter Press Service
A Somali resident sells meat at a market in Hudur, where food shortages continue to cause suffering. Meanwhile, between 720 and 811 million people in the world faced hunger in 2020 – some 161 million more than for 2019 – the UN Secretary-General said July 12; “new, tragic data”, which indicates the world is “tremendously off track” to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. Credit: UN Photo/Tobin Jones
By Jan Servaesand Muhammad Jameel Yusha’u
BRUSSELS, Belgium / JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, Jul 30 2021 (IPS)– A short answer to this question is yes, but it is obvious and predictable failure was visible for some time. This debate started before 2015, the year in which the Sustainable Development Goals (or SDGs) were adopted as successors to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agreed in 2000. The 8 MDGs were expanded to 17 massive goals and 169 targets.
Using projections from international organizations such as the World Bank, the OECD and the WHO, the British Overseas Development Institute (ODI) already quantified in 2015 how much the world would need to accelerate current trends to achieve the SDGs by 2030.
The targets were given a ‘grade’, based on the expected progress. An ‘A’ rating meant that current progress is sufficient to meet the target, ‘B’, ‘C’, ‘D’ and ‘E’ numbers need to go up a notch. An “F” number indicates that the world is going in the wrong direction.
None of the 17 SDGs was rated A. Only three SDGs, — SDG1 (no poverty), SDG8 (economic growth and decent jobs) and SDG15 (biodiversity) — were rated B. SDG 3 (health for all), 4 (quality education), 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions), 17 (partnerships for the goals), 2 (no hunger), 6 (water and sanitation), 7 (energy), 5 (gender) and 9 (industrialization) all received an average C grade. SDGs 10 (inequality), 11 (cities), 12 (waste), 13 (climate change) and 14 (oceans) were all unsatisfactory.
In other words, only 3 of the 17 SDGs were on track to achieve a reasonably acceptable outcome by 2030. This score was developed in 2015, long before COVID-19 hit.
With the devastating effect of COVID-19 on nearly every sector of the global economy, it is clear that achieving the SDGs by 2030 is virtually impossible. Moreover, addressing development goals by nation states is more difficult than was recognized by the authors of the 2030 Agenda for Development.
For example, a study by Lin and Monga (2017) concluded that between 1950 and 2008, only 28 countries managed to reduce their gap with the United States by 10 percent or more. That is a period of 58 years, while the 2030 agenda must be realized within 15 years. Of the 28 countries listed by Lin and Monga, only 12 were non-European or non-oil economies.
According to Lin and Monga, the challenge of renewing developing countries’ economies is inseparable from some of the intellectual and policy errors imposed by the Washington consensus in the 1970s to 1990s, the years described as the lost decade for developing countries.
Banerjee and Duflo (2019), who shared the 2019 Nobel Prize in Economics for their work on poverty alleviation, in fact emphasized how economists designing development policies are out of touch with the realities of ordinary people.
In a more recent analysis, published in the authoritative World Development, Moyer and Hedden (2020) also question how feasible the SDGs are under the current circumstances. They highlight difficulties for some SDG indicators (access to safe sanitation, high school completion, and underweight children) that will not be resolved without a significant shift in domestic and international aid policies and prioritization.
In addition, Moyer and Hedden cite 28 particularly vulnerable countries that are not expected to meet any of the nine human development targets. These most vulnerable countries should be able to count on international aid and therefore financial support.
In our view, the realization of the 2030 agenda can only be achieved on the basis of three factors.
The first is financing. The critical question that is posed in various forums about the SDGs invariably ends with the question: who is going to fund it? Where will the money come from? How can low- and middle-income countries generate sufficient resources to finance the 2030 development agenda.
Although each country has its own priorities, paying the bills for the SDGs remains a delicate matter. The Asia-Europe Foundation calculated (2020: 6) that “the total investment costs to achieve the SDGs by 2030 are between USD 5 and USD 7 trillion per year at the global level and between a total of USD 3.3 and USD 4.5 trillion per year in developing countries.
This implies an average investment need of USD 2.5 trillion per year in developing countries. To better understand the real financial needs of the SDGs, these countries should prepare their own estimates, at least for their priority objectives”.
A significant effort must be made through the private sector and philanthropists. While governments and ordinary people have been hit hard by the health and economic impact of COVID-19, in a way it has been good news for billionaires, many of whom have seen their wealth grow astronomically.
A report from the Washington-based Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) shows that US billionaires have seen their wealth grow by $1 trillion between March and November 2020. Amazon’s owner Jeff Bezos’ net worth increased 61 percent between March and November 2020, from $113 billion to $182.4 billion.
The report added that just three years ago, there was not a single multi-billionaire, that is, a person with a net worth of more than $100 billion. Since November 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are now at least 5 multi-billionaires; namely Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Bernard Arnault, president of Louis Vuitton; Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft; Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook; and Elon Musk of Tesla (Huffington Post 2020).
These billionaires, along with the more than 2,000 billionaires from around the world, are wealthy enough to help make substantial progress in some of the SDGs.
The second important factor that can help achieve the SDGs is political will. Many countries have drawn up ambitious national development plans that look great on paper. How many of those plans end up being realized?
When one sees that the fortunes of a country have been successfully changed through the effective implementation of national plans, one cannot separate such achievements from the strong political will of the leaders. The example of China speaks for itself.
The crucial question to be asked is whether that political will is there. UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, responded to a mid-term review of the Sustainable Development Goals (UN 2020): “It is inevitable that one crucial ingredient is still missing. Political will. Without political will, neither the public opinion, nor the stakeholders take sufficient action”. This is where the challenge to achieve the SDGs lies, i.e. a real political will.
The third factor is the need for robust communication for development and social change, so that political will can be conveyed to all stakeholders. Leaders who inspire change do so with the communication tools available in their time.
While the digital age disrupts social systems and drives transformation at a scale and pace unparalleled in history, the SDGs remain quite silent on the subject. Indeed, today digital technologies determine what we read and consume, how we vote and how we interact with each other and the world around us.
Many risks and uncertainties are emerging, including threats to individual rights, social justice and democracy, all amplified by ‘the digital divide’ – the differential speed of internet penetration and access to digital technologies around the world.
None of the SDGs can be achieved unless people are able to communicate their dreams, concerns and needs – locally, nationally, regionally, globally. We therefore propose to supplement the list with SDG 18: Communication for all.
Communications for social change in the era of COVID-19 must also consider the challenge of misinformation when initiating communication strategies. Therefore, the communication strategies of the World Bank, UNICEF or WHO are not comprehensive enough.
First, they failed to take into account the challenges of infodemics and fake news in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. The second shortcoming is that the strategies contain little scientific communication to make the public aware of how health professionals make decisions and advise the public about its safety. Disinformation is a critical factor that exacerbates the challenges that communication for development and social change must address.
For all these reasons, the UN and the rest of the international community need to be realistic and review the 2030 Agenda for Development by shifting the timeline from 2030 to 2050.
The SDGs should be prioritized with SDG1 on the eradication of extreme poverty as the main objective for the next 10 years. Eradicating extreme poverty is likely to have implications for other SDGs, in particular SDGs 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.
Efforts to eradicate extreme poverty should not be based on slogans, but should be supported by governments, funding agencies, donors and philanthropists are seen as the best chance to save humanity. The intellectual errors and policies imposed on low- and middle-income countries, which plunge them further into the abyss of underdevelopment, must be avoided.
Serious thought should be accorded to the post COVID19 world due to the impact of the lockdown on the global economy. Some governments, multinational institutions and private sector are hastening to institutionalize remote work before the pandemic ends.
As an interim major, working from home has contributed significantly in reducing the impact of the pandemic, but what is the impact of working from home on the future of work in a post-COVID-19 World?
Will the closure of offices, firms and other businesses for remote work accelerate or reduce the chances of achieving the SDGs? Is there sufficient data to back the policy decisions on a permanent remote work culture? How does this affect the employability of low and unskilled workers?
These are questions that policy makers must think through. The SDGs are meant to promote social inclusion and reduce inequality, not to save money and increase profitability.
Setting the timeline for the achievement of the SDGs to 2050 will allow sufficient time to re-evaluate progress made so far, complete missing objectives, such as SDG 18 on communication for all, and bridge the lost ground of the SDGs.
It will also give the global community ample time to strategize on how to deal with the potential rise of right-wing, populist and nationalist governments such as Bolsonaro, Duterte or Trump’s, which may impose limits on the SDGs through their disdain for multilateralism. And plans must also be made in advance to mitigate the next disasters that could impair the achievement of the SDGs.
Jan Servaeswas UNESCO-Chair in Communication for Sustainable Social Change at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He taught ‘international communication’ and ‘communication for sustainable social change’ in Australia, Belgium, China, Hong Kong, the US, Netherlands and Thailand, in addition to short-term projects at about 120 universities in 55 countries.
Muhammad Jameel Yusha’uis an international development expert and former journalist with the BBC World Service, London. He was the Managing Editor of Africa Policy Journal at Harvard Kennedy School, USA and one-time Senior Lecturer in Media and Politics at Northumbria University, UK; he has taught Mass Communications at Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria.
This text is based on Muhammad Jameel Yusha’u & Jan Servaes (eds.). The Palgrave Handbook of International Communication and Sustainable Development, Palgrave MacMillan, 2021, ISBN 978-3-030-69769-3,https://www.palgrave.com/gp/book/9783030697693
The warnings of scientists are no longer about some far off glaciers melting – the warming planet is creating havoc right before our eyes, says Pilita Clark.
LONDON: In just over a week, if all goes as planned, a colossal report on the state of the global climate will emerge from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
This is the sixth analysis of its kind in 31 years and, like the other five, it will be a sweeping scientific assessment of how and why the planet is warming. Yet this report will be different.
It will arrive as the impact of a shifting climate seems brutally apparent, not just on remote Himalayan glaciers or Arctic sea ice, but right in front of frightened human eyes.
In the past four weeks alone, wildfires virtually burnt a Canadian village off the map after it shattered the national record with heat of 49.6 degrees Celcius. Floodwaters tore through German towns like a tsunami, tossing cars like corks.
Terrified Chinese subway passengers stood in chest-high water as nearly a year’s worth of rain fell in three days.
Much of this was predicted. Scientists have warned for years that a warming climate will lead to more weather extremes.
Yet the frequency and severity of these events raise unsettling questions: could we be entering a period of non-linear climate change, where temperatures and extreme events do not increase smoothly as expected but instead come suddenly, more often and perhaps more powerfully? And if we are, how would we know?
The short answer is that scientists are divided about whether a more dangerous phase of non-linear change has begun. “I don’t think it’s correct to conclude that’s what we’re seeing, though I have seen people arguing this,” says Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University.
“It’s not so much that climate change itself is proceeding faster than expected — the warming is right in line with model predictions from decades ago. Rather, it’s the fact that some of the impacts are greater than scientists predicted.”
One of the most striking effects came at the end of June as a prolonged heatwave scorched western parts of Canada and the US Pacific Northwest. Records that had stood for decades were smashed by as much as 5 degrees Celcius.
“That’s just sort of staggering,” says Brian Hoskins, chair of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London. “For many years I’ve said that the projections from the climate models are what we get if we’re lucky, because their behaviour is very smooth. If you take the output from models, then that heatwave should not have happened.”
Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, a climate researcher at the Dutch national weather service, says the record North American heat has “shaken the confidence of a lot of climate researchers”. “It means that the assumption that we had about how heatwaves react to a gradual increase in global warming may not be correct,” he says.
Van Oldenborgh co-leads the World Weather Attribution group of scientists who concluded this month that the North American heatwave would have been “virtually impossible” without human-caused climate change.
He and colleagues are now planning wider research that will look at whether there is any evidence to suggest the climate is in fact starting to change globally in a non-linear way. Could it be, for instance, that changes in the jet stream or the migration of drought zones are triggering shifts we do not yet understand?
This work is notable, considering the role of the scientific phenomenon that researchers such as Harvard historian Naomi Oreskes have called ESLD — Erring on the Side of Least Drama. Climate scientists have been relentlessly accused of fear-mongering and alarmism.
But as Oreskes and her colleagues wrote in a 2012 paper, “core scientific values of objectivity, rationality and dispassion” have led to conservative projections about the impact of climate change, even in IPCC assessments.
This has not stopped the study of exceedingly dramatic concepts such as “tipping points” or thresholds that, once crossed, lead to drastic changes such as the loss of the West Antarctic ice sheet or Amazon rainforest. Indeed, a leaked draft of the new IPCC report suggests it may cover such shifts in more detail than past assessments have.
Despite, or perhaps because, these scenarios are so bleak, some of the scientists focusing on them have begun to offer more hopeful ideas.
The logic of a tipping point means it could also set off the irreversible advance of electric cars, renewables and other decarbonising measures, says Tim Lenton, director of the Global Systems Institute at the University of Exeter: “That’s the glimmer of hope.”
In July 2021, however, it still feels distinctly remote.
Listen to climate scientist Benjamin Horton break down how climate change is destabilising oceans, and what that means for us:
Life-saving aid to families on the brink of famine is being cut off in several countries by fighting and blockades, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP) said in a new report issued on Friday. |
Of grave concern are 23 ‘hunger hotspots’ which over the next four months are expected to face an acute level of food insecurity due to the combined economic repercussions ofCOVID-19, the climate crisis and fighting.
“Families that rely on humanitarian assistance to surviveare hanging by a thread. When we cannot reach them, that thread is cut, and the consequences are nothing short of catastrophic,” warned David Beasley,WFPExecutive Director.
Bureaucratic obstacles and a lack of funding also hamper the agencies’ efforts to provide emergency food assistance and enable farmers to plant at scale and at the right time.
“The vast majority of those on the verge are farmers. Alongside food assistance,we must do all we can to help them resume food production themselves,” saidFAODirector-General QU Dongyu.
“So far, support to agriculture as key means of preventing widespread famine remains largely overlooked by donors. Without such support to agriculture, humanitarian needs will keep skyrocketing,” he added.
The 23 hotspots identified are Afghanistan, Angola, Central Africa Republic, Central Sahel, Chad, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, El Salvador together with Honduras, Guatemala, Haiti, Kenya, Lebanon, Madagascar, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sierra Leone together with Liberia, Somalia, South Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Yemen.
FAO and WFP have warned that 41 million people were already at risk of falling into famine. 2020 saw 155 million people facing acute food insecurity at crisis or worse levels in 55 countries, according to the Global Report on Food Crises.
This is an increase of more than 20 million from 2019, and the trend is only expected to worsen this year.
The report highlights that conflict, climate extremes and economic shocks, often related to the economic fallout of COVID-19, are likely to remain primary drivers of acute food insecurity for the August-November period this year.
Transboundary threats are also an aggravating factor in some regions. In particular, desert locust infestations in the Horn of Africa and African migratory locust swarms in Southern Africa.
Communities cut off
Humanitarian access constraints are another severe aggravating factor, increasing the risk of famine.
Countries currently facing the most significant obstacles preventing aid from reaching them include Afghanistan, Ethiopia, the Central African Republic, Mali, Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.
“The road to zero Hunger isn’t paved with conflict, checkpoints and red tape.Humanitarian access isn’t some abstract concept.
“It means authorities approving paperwork in time so that food can be moved swiftly, it means checkpoints allow trucks to pass and reach their destination, it means humanitarian responders are not targeted, so they are able to carry out their life- and livelihood-saving work,” said Mr. Beasley.
‘Highest alert’ hotspots
Ethiopia and Madagascar are the world’s newest “highest alert” hunger hotspots according to the report. Ethiopia faces a devastating food emergency linked to ongoing conflict in the Tigray region.
Reaching those desperately in need remains an enormous challenge, with 401,000 people expected to face catastrophic conditions by September.
This is the highest number in one country since the 2011 famine in Somalia. Meanwhile, in southern Madagascar, 28,000 people are expected to be pushed into famine-like conditions by the end of the year.
This is due to the worst drought in 40 years, combined with rising food prices, sandstorms, and pests affecting staple crops.
The new highest alerts issued for Ethiopia and Madagascar add to South Sudan, Yemen, and northern Nigeria, which remain among the acute food insecurity hotspots of greatest global concern.
In a few areas, some of these countries are already experiencing famine conditions and significant numbers of people are at risk of falling into famine.
In Afghanistan, where acute food insecurity is becoming increasingly critical due to ongoing drought, there is rising conflict-driven displacement as well as high food prices and widespread unemployment fuelled by COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the already precarious situation in Haiti is expected to get worse as the country faces likely lower staple crop production due to lack of, or irregular, rainfall. It is also reeling from worsening political instability and food price inflation, and the impacts of COVID-19-related restrictions.
The report warns that humanitarian action is urgently needed to prevent hunger, famine and death in all 23 hotspots.
It provides country-specific recommendations covering both shorter-term emergency responses, as well as anticipatory actions to protect rural livelihoods and increase agricultural production, so at-risk communities can better withstand future shocks.