THIS WORLD of OURS – February 2010


By Bob Harwood

A New Global Dynamic


A January Letter to the Editor suggested that “in his idealistic internationalism Harwood seems oblivious to the real world of national politics”. I do not consider the Copenhagen Climate Conference an utter failure. I deem it a modest step forward in a daunting task as 192 nations seek consensus on distributing responsibility for salvaging the habitat we shareand convey, or sell, to domestic constituencies commitments made.

Three major groups emerged,- (1) developed nations historically responsible for global warming and by far the heaviest per capita carbon emitters, (2) developing nations with much lower per capita emissions whose total emissions are now rising rapidly, and (3) poor and threatened nations needing technologies and substantial assistance to cope with looming disaster. President Obama must now work with a dysfunctional Congress operating under archaic rules. Canada’s minority government no longer speaks for the nation on this issue.

Provincial leaders weren’t “undermining Canada’s position” at Copenhagen. Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia, with 75% of the country’s population, were simply demanding more aggressive action. Canada’s multiple Fossil of the Day awards were for the only nation to renege on its Kyoto ratificationas Harper from oil sands Alberta did on becoming Prime Minister.

Admittedly, Copenhagen’s accomplishments were expressed in general terms: A rise in global temperature must not exceed 2 degrees. Poor and threatened nations must be helped to cope with global warming. Measurement of each country’s performance to commitments must be objective. I don’t deem Europe sidelined as China and America wrestled to extract reciprocal concessions. Europe’s per capita emission are already half those of North America!

Copenhagen confirms there is no way all nations can sit down as equals to achieve consensus on complex issues. There will always be power structures within. The UN is not invalidated but it too must adapt. Five nations have a Veto Power that all too often has paralyzed action on vital issues. Now a powerful new voice has emerged in the four BASIC developing countries and for the first time the world’s poorest nations are also being heard.

A new UN power dynamic must better reflect two cornerstones of democracy, representation by population and avoidance of obscene economic disparities. America represents less than 5% of humanity, four of the five veto powers a total of less than 9%. The BASIC four developing nations represent 40%. Obscenely, one billion people go to bed hungry every night while in the First World obesity has become the looming, life-shortening health issue. Commitments to meager UN Millennium Development Goals, already well behind schedule, must be met by 2015.

Tasks await one and all. We must also recognize that earth’s vast oceans are being destroyed far more rapidly than our own environment—with a huge impact on global warming. We must utilize abundant environmentally sound alternatives to power economies of the future as surely as fossil fuels and cheap oil ushered in the Industrial Revolution and the present era. America, where self serving short term perspectives brought the global economy to the brink of disaster must address a dysfunctional system in which short term constituency level interests dominate Congress.

China, which saw the most rapid transition to an open economy in human history, must make like progress on human rights. Canada with five parties must eventually embrace proportional representation to more fairly represent Canadians as a whole. And all nations must move toward the EU model where 27 nations subordinate parochial short term interests that a continent might war no more and a more equitable society be achieved for all. In a restructured United Nations may we yet envisage the day when “the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe, and the kindly earth shall slumber, lapped in universal law.” Tennyson, 1842.

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