New Era Dawning as Climate Change Threat Looms

“Our climate is warming at an alarming and unprecedented rate and we have an urgent duty to respond,” read a line in the Marrakech Action Proclamation for Climate and Sustainable Development.

The climate change summit, one of a series of conferences held in the framework of the United Nations Framework convention on climate, was the twenty-second session of the conference of the parties. It was held in Marrakech, Morocco this past November.

Climate change is high on political agendas in governments like the U.K. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has come into effect and it is approaching universal membership. And investors are pulling the plug on some traditional energy projects worldwide. Putting denialism aside, henceforth, the fossil fuel industry faces attrition of its moral ground while the case for renewable energy keeps on gaining momentum amidst a ferocious climate change debate.

It was just recently that the first industrial revolution, on the back of the discovery of a fossil fuel, spelled an end to the energy constraints of societies of past millennia. The British, discovering surface coal in abundance and its accessibility proving utilitarian, made the earliest transition to fossil fuels. Supplies of firewood, predominantly used for cooking and heating purposes, were dwindling in the early seventeenth century.

From Glasgow to Birmingham, all process industries of the time depended increasingly on coal. This transition from biomass to fossil fuel consigned mankind to a fate of existential dependence on cheap forms of fossil fuels for an epoch, up until the present twenty first century.

Now, the lifeline of the global economy, the fossil fuel industry has, by producing the most abundant and inexpensive energy in the world – from the perspective of total cost of production – made every other industry more productive. Since commercial oil drilling was first launched in Pennsylvania and global export of petroleum started the total amount of oil that had moved over water increased each year. For the past hundred years or so there have been immense amounts of seaborne cargo.

The transport pipelines and avenues for the distribution of crude oil, natural gas and other refined products have become monstrous labyrinths. They lace through millions and millions of kilometers worldwide. If the natural gas pipelines in the U.S alone, were laid end to end, they would reach from the earth to the moon and back twice.

Oil can be shockingly “big” that disrupting it could yet prove technologically non-viable. Oil’s “bigness” is most unmistakably felt in a given economy when fluctuations in its price end up setting off recessions and economic booms – that is without even waxing lyrical over the prominence and geopolitical influence oil revenues afford oil producing states like Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Russia.

With oil’s profitability at an all-time low and a bankruptcy epidemic hitting oil companies worldwide, the centrality of oil in the global power equation, however, seems to be coming to an end. The birth of a new world order appears to be on the horizon as the “tyrannical” order established by the oil industry is threatening to crumble. Extreme weather conditions and a host of other problems, have environmentalists rallying up to build a compelling moral case against fossil fuels. Viewed with a lot of hostility by the public, the non-renewable energy industry is accused by many to be “Public Enemy Number One to the survival of our planetary civilization.”

It is claimed, that the petroleum-centric global energy industry is destroying our planet, by increasing environmental hazards and exhausting environmental resources through the use of hydrocarbons and other resources at an unsustainably accelerated pace.

Furthermore, the fossil fuels industry itself has capitulated to the moral case against non-renewable energy, admitting that hydrocarbons are a necessary means to a renewable future. The industry is also forced to acknowledge that the environmental footprint left by fossil fuels can only be made to approach zero through suspension of new hydrocarbon explorations and the slowing down of existing oil and gas developments.

It has become common for fossil fuel companies to publicly endorse renewable energy as the energy of the future. By sanctioning greenhouse gas emissions as a fundamental benchmark of environmental health, they are also taking on board the fact that they are causing disastrous levels of global warming.

To maintain what scientists describe as a ‘safe operating space’ for human survival, it is imperative to transition away from fossil fuels. A further 2 centigrade warming of the planet can unleash dangerous and irrevocable changes to the earth’s climate. Keeping our climate safe by jumping on to the wagon of the clean energy revolution, however, is only half of the solution. Cutting CO2 emissions would not stop the climate from continuing to warm up for many centuries to come.

Reducing the greenhouse effect can only be achieved by removing from the atmosphere the millions of tons of carbon that has been accumulating for a century.

Today’s fossil fuel establishment remain skeptical to the potential of clean energy in catering perfectly to the energy needs of the world. Climate change is poised to wreak irreversible damage to our oceans and dry land and the uneconomic nature of fossil fuels is becoming more and more obvious by the day – a profound transformation of our global economy appears to be on the cards as a sweeping decentralization of energy production is primed to seize our planet in a perfect storm.


Published on Dec 27,2016 [ Vol 17 ,No 869]



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