|By John Savageau||
|December 16, 2009 08:00 AM EST||
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger says “world policymakers do not have to choose between a clean environment and economic growth.” Schwarzenegger believes people worried about climate change should pay more attention to companies, universities and “ordinary folks” and not put so much emphasis on a multinational consensus. (AP)
If you listen to the entrepreneurs and innovators in Silicon Valley, they would tend to agree with Governor Schwarzenegger. Green tech is becoming a big business, and, at least in California, you cannot discuss any new technology or construction project without at least some acknowledgement of environmental impact. Damn the politics, the investment community and innovator community is laying some serious right brain on developing environmentally friendly products and technology.
If you listen to the Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leadership podcast series about half the speakers in the series focus on environmental opportunities and responsibilities. And the politics of green rarely find their way into the discussion. People inherently want to be responsible global citizens, developing a future that is both profitable, as well as friendly to the future of our planet.
The Politics of Copenhagen
As of Tuesday, United Nations negotiators have failed to agree on the financial aid that the US, Japan and other developed nations will give to the developing world to cope with climate change, Bloomberg reports, referring to a draft document. “The Copenhagen climate conference is in the grip of a serious deadlock,” the Guardian concludes in a feature.(COPS15)
The developing world believes wealthier nations are responsible and accountable for bearing the cost of reducing carbon emissions. In fact, the African delegation to COPS 15 walked out for a brief period to protest the reluctance of wealthier nations to accept financial burdens to assist African nations.
They may have a point. Africa generates a fraction of the carbon emissions spewed into the atmosphere by the United States, Europe, Russia, India, and China. If you do believe in the global warming and other environmental impacts of carbon emissions, then Africa may indeed be on a climate “death row” created by the wealthy nations. The UK publication “The Mirror” provided a couple interesting statistics just related to the Copenhagen Conference:
The Copenhagen climate talks will generate carbon emissions equivalent to the annual output of 660,000 Ethiopians or 2,300 Americans, Denmark revealed yesterday. Despite efforts to limit the impact of the conference , delegates, journalists, activists from almost 200 countries have gathered creating 46,200 tonnes of carbon dioxide.
The climate has stimulated considerable debate on both the merits and demerits of climate change theory. One publication might offer the fact Vikings farmed in Greenland in ancient times, reinforcing global warming is a natural cycle the planet goes through every couple hundred years. Al Gore will argue the polar ice cap will be gone within a decade. Sarah Palin mocks the entire discussion, advising us that we should concentrate on drilling for more oil off the coast of California.
At the end of the day, it is becoming very clear the ultimate agenda of climate change discussion comes back to money. Money to advance economies, money to pay for building an environmentally friendly world, money to go towards more immediate problems – such as clean water, HIV, and malaria.
Most Scientists Agree the Planet is in Trouble
It is hard to ignore the fact glaciers are shrinking, water levels are rising, storms in the pacific and other locations are becoming more violent, and desertification is encroaching further into the grasslands and forested areas than ever before. Politicians and industrialists may argue that a rise of one or two degrees (cel) in ocean temperatures is not a big problem. “Who cares,… it’s just a couple degrees.”
Scientists are concerned with the short, mid, and long term impacts of global warming. Less water in the continental interiors means less food. Less food means more competition for food and other life sustaining resources.
Like the Internet, Innovation will Occur, in Spite of the Politicians
During the late 1980s and early 1990s the Internet grew fast. Like Facebook and Twitter, it is hard to keep a good idea suppressed for too long. While the government supported initial development of Internet technologies, it was ultimately the universities and innovators who built the world’s network-of-networks – in spite of governments spending most of their time worrying about telephone and cable deregulation. When they woke up from the hangover of the national monopoly telecom carrier meltdown, the Internet was already making the old telephony network irrelevant.
So let the politicians debate. It is good, because if nothing else, it does add visibility and awareness to the topic. Regardless of the pros or cons of the debate, over the past couple years every American has been exposed to the topic of energy and environmental awareness. We are all forming opinions, and we all have some level of basis for discussion. And we all know it is better to use good discipline in our energy consumption. All baby steps, but good baby steps towards individual accountability in protecting our environment (and saving money!).
Copenhagen will conclude their summit on Friday. The debate will continue. Innovators will keep their sleeves rolled up, and with luck will continue to develop better ideas and visions of a greener future.
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