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Friday, 27 September 2019

Climate Change Is Real

Image result for climate change meme

Polarising views regarding the recent speech that Greta Thunberg gave at the United Nation's meeting have surfaced and are spreading wildly on social media.
One side praised her for determination and bravery, and admire her for pushing world leaders to act on climate change.

Another side said her speech was too cringy, that she was hypocritical, amongst much other criticism.
I figure I could give my 2-cent view on this whole thing (environment and her speech) since this is what this blog is about (although this is not a finance post, this is a platform for betterment).

PS: this is a long post, I'll try and break it down into headers you can follow.
But, let's start with a video of her speech:

Let's get some facts straightened out before we continue
1. Climate change is real, most of it comes from our man-made activities.
2. Climate change can cause serious damage to biodiversity (animals and plants), increase number of natural calamity, cause extreme weathers, and more.
3. The richest countries produced the most greenhouse emissions, the poorest countries suffer the most consequences from it

Greta's UN Speech
Most of the netizens found her speech cringy - honestly, so do I.
Was she overly melodrama? - Yes
Was her tone and expression overkill? - Yes
Was it necessary? - No
Does it matter? - NO

Why are people fixated on her tone, the cringe, the melodrama, instead of the content of what she's saying?
Focus on the content: the world leaders need to get their act together so that there's a sustainable future to speak of.

Paris Climate Agreement
The Earth's temperature is set to rise several degrees if we continue our current path.
Doesn't sound like much but if you read enough on the science behind rising temperature, you'll know it is actually quite a lot (refer to Fact 2)

In fact, we have gone way past the stage of reversing the effect of climate change.
If you read the Paris Climate Agreement, the world leaders and scientists aren't even talking reversing the effect of climate change. 
They gave up reversing it, they're just going "let's try and contain the temperature rise to 2 degree Celsius".

Xiaxue's IG on Greta's Speech
Xiaxue commented that Greta sees things too one-dimensional and views the world too simply.
Not going to deny, but Xiaxue's right, to hope to get the world leaders to act for climate only is too one-dimensional (more on it below), and Greta does view the world too simply.

But, let's just give credit to Greta for trying to get her "prevent global warming" message out on a global stage to world leaders instead of posting another beach photo on a social media platform to a pool of netizens (I'm guilty of this too btw :P).

And why are we mocking her simple world view? 
Would Greta be mocked if she was 61 instead of 16?

When we were kids, we all had wild dreams - to save lives, to fight crime, to be ironman, etc.
Our parents, relatives, adults around us didn't go "not possible la, face reality, hard to be them ok!"
Nope, they went "if you study hard, work hard, you can be any of the ones you choose to be".

Suddenly when it comes to "I wish to prevent global warming", the reply becomes "you see things too one-dimensional and too simple, it is much more complex than that, etc...".

What's the difference? You cannot choose something that's much bigger than yourself?
Well, her choice of "career" is saving lives, not in the "vaccine creation" way, but in ensuring the adverse effect of climate change never hit us (which is kinda like a vaccine)

Then there's a second post on straws, killing oneself to save Earth, and time left before the end of the world.
Not going to deny that not using straws are going to help much, but at this stage, every bit counts.

For a budding 5000-followers micro-influencer, losing 10 or 20 followers isn't going to matter much, but every one follower counts towards a larger audience.

On the time left before climate change ends our world, the timeframe given is almost always never spot-on.
World's going to end in 2012, and here we are in 2019.

Here's the thing, scientists are split on the exact time period, might not even be this century.
Doesn't mean we are not going to do anything until we know the exact end date.
Like you know you are going to retire, you just don't know it's before or after you are 65 years old.
Doesn't mean you stop working because you don't know the exact date you can retire.

We don't know the exact date the ice cap will melt, but we do know it will melt finish, and when it does, that's going to create a lot of problems.

On killing oneself, may I refer you to the below part where I talk about the misconception people have on climate change actions?

FB Post from Critical Spectator
So this post compared our current times to our history of wars, famine, civil unrest, pandemics etc.
We are so much more fortunate now than we are in the past, where most of the world don't experience any of the above problems.

And yet Greta is complaining that her dreams were stolen by the inaction of world leaders towards climate change when so much had already been done to ensure the betterment of mankind.

Nice history recap in the article except, maybe if besides reading history, the author also read the biographies of those who were involved in these wars etc, he/she might get a better picture.

We have a stop button for wars - armistice, surrenders, etc. And if you stop a war, it stops. Period.
In fact, after wars, we had institutions set up, meetings, and discussions held by world leaders to prevent war (UN), famine (UN), civil unrest (UN), pandemics (WHO) from occurring again because we know the devasting effect any of these have on our societies.

The problem with this model is, we act (or start to act) only after we've been hit.
We didn't have a UN to prevent wars, famine, civil unrest until after we had them, realised they were bad and decided to do something about it.
We didn't have WHO until we had pandemics spreading like wildfire, then realised we needed to get something done about it.
We as a whole, as a society, are reactive instead of proactive when it comes to solving problems.

I think it’s easier to be blindsided by history than to face the future
If we look back at what the kids of the past wished, they also wished for no wars, even campaigned for it not much dissimilar to Greta albeit with a smaller platform because there were no social media then.

And probably the adults in the room probably dissed them off too, stating war has always been the way because the adults then weren’t forward-looking enough to solve the problem before any war begins - and after it ended realise they needed to stop wars before they happen, hence UN.

Looking back at history, many would agree wars and diseases were preventable or casualties could be minimised to lowest.
The same can be said for climate change, if enough people die, we’ll have adults in the future saying “climate change could have been prevented etc”.

We just have not reached that stage yet (where enough people died), and just saying, if we ever reached that stage, we better hope Elon Musk colonised Mars or Jeff Bezos colonised the Moon, and the tickets there are cheap.
Because it is not like wars where an armistice can end it, nor like pandemics where vaccines can be created really fast. In climate change, if it is here, it is here.

Rich People's Game
If I don’t have a roof to sleep, food to eat, water to drink, I also won’t care about climate change.
It just so happen that those who have the above 3 are contributing to climate change the most.
Yes, refer to Fact 3.
So Greta can only choose the UN platform (where the most carbon emission contributors gather) to get them to get their act together.

People's Misconception of Going Green
I have spoken to many people about going green.
I've tried going green - I tried to use less plastic, use reusable food containers for takeout, use bottles/tumbler for takeaway drinks, take more public transport, etc.

Nonetheless, I still use plastic - the candies I eat are wrapped in a wrapper, the ice cream I eat still comes in a plastic container, the food delivery I ordered came in plastic bags, and I still fly around and travel.

People seem to think that if someone is going green,
they must do the following:
1. Use ZERO plastic (no disposables, no plastic bags, etc)
2. Don't fly or travel
3. Don't eat meat
4. Generate minimum waste
You are either environmentally-friendly or not environmentally-friendly, you can't be in between.

Not going to deny, there are those who do live their lives that way, but most environmentalists don't.
Think of it as a spectrum.
On one end, it's the person that uses only disposable items, drives diesel cars, meat-only, and generates tonnes of wastage - 10 tissues to clean 1 mouth. Let's say this is 0 marks.
On the other end, it's the person that uses zero plastic, flies when necessary, vegan, generates waste that fits inside a jar. Let's say this is 100 marks (full marks).

Most of us are in between, we use plastic, eat meat, travels, and generates a decent amount of waste, but we also use cups and plates (at home), take public transport, and turn off lights when not in use.

The goal here is to be as close as we can to the full marks, or a nice 70 marks would work too.
Most of us probably fail - I don't have a matrix for this but if you do food takeout daily (food or drinks, especially coffee and lunch) you probably failed.

Think about it, 1 plastic container, 1 plastic bag, 1 plastic spoon and fork, 1 plastic cup (paper cups are actually just as bad as plastic - surprised?), all used and thrown after about 1 hour of use.
If you go to work 200/365 days, you generated 200 sets of the above combination. That's a lot.

But, we can always improve to a pass.
1. Bring your own food container to put takeaway food (can save $0.20 container money).
2. Bring your own bottle to put takeaway drinks.
3. Turn your air-con to fan mode after a couple of hours
4. Sleep early (if you don't use lights at night, you don't create emissions :P)

Yup, I know, I heard people say "but if I wash it, it wastes water. Isn't it just as bad?"
We have NEWater plant, we have developed ways to clean water so that they can be reused.
I haven't heard we have developed anything to biodegrade plastic harmlessly or reuse disposable plastics.

We have gotten used to our lives that we cannot revert back already.
It is almost impossible now to work without air-conditioning or to expect us to not travel as the world gets more interconnected.
But what we can do, is to use renewable and sustainable alternatives.
Use renewable energy instead of coal, generate less waste, push for greener materials in buildings, push for more energy-efficient transportation, etc.

Why Political Actions are Required
Policies need to change to incentivise or disincentivise certain actions.
Traffic rules and fines are created and enforced to ensure accidents don't happen like before these rules came into place.
Our government gave out subsidies to students so that they can afford education, an education that would give them a chance to succeed in life.
The same can and has to be done for the environment, but the political will to do so does not exist.

Why Political Will to Act is Low? - because welcome to the real world
In the US, oil companies pay huge lobby money to politicians to ensure their business are protected. And politicians need the money to ensure they get elected (how else would their election campaigns and political party funded?).

Clean renewable energy, green companies etc, on the other hand, are budding industries, they don't have money to lobby politicians to side them.
These companies need government subsidies or private funding to ensure they can get their product to the market.
Nevermind competition against the old oil & gas companies, it would be nice if it was a fair competition - but it's not.

So without the voters pushing their politicians to act, how else would green companies be able to compete and provide their solutions to us?
To compel matters future, oil & gas companies hire many employees - think millions of employees.

Support green companies and put the oil & gas companies out of business.
The repercussions:
  • As a politician, I lose my corporate sponsors (lobby money)
  • My voters will be out of jobs. Voters are not going to be voting for me in the next election
A politician is a career in the US.
It's not a part-time thing like Singapore.
Imagine, you doing the right thing and the result is you lose your job.
Sounds good if it's the right thing to do, but let's face it.
Who's going to really risk their career to do the right thing - takes a huge amount of guts that most of us don't have.

But, voters can change this.
You can vote to protect your politician if he/she did the right thing.
Except if he/she caused you to lose your (oil & gas) job, you probably aren't going to give him/her your vote.

In Singapore, this is the same.
Our Jurong Island refineries employee thousands of Singaporeans.
While we do not produce much of the greenhouse emission, we refine oil for other countries to use. We in a way "produced" these emissions.

Do we have a choice to shut these refineries down? - Yes
At what cost?
1. Tens of thousands of Singaporeans will lose their job
2. We might get a Hong Lim protest to get the jobs back
3. The government sure ain't going to be elected in the next GE
4. Job loss creates a social disruption in many different ways


I've said my piece.
Action or no action is up to you.

Appreciate if you could share this article with more people to let them know that if we want to see less of Greta on stage making a cringy statement, then we need to get our act together, prevent climate change, reduce waste, and make the world a better place.
Thank you for reading.

Remember to offer your opinions. If you don't put your two cents in, how can you expect to get change?

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  1. interesting write up, if you ever have time you can look up David Wallace Wells.

  2. humans are selfish in nature, there is no such thing as true altruism. If there is, they are the super minorities that will never be able to influence the mass. We are in the path of self destruction, at the cost of future generations who we currently do not feel the pain. humans are slaves, we need to be whacked to work.