On Climate Change and the Risk of Inertia

File photo of Forest Fires in UK.

Recently, in some informal discussions on the subject of global warming and Climate Change I was surprised to learn that there are sceptics and naysayers who are not convinced that we have a problem at hand and who feel that all the talks on global warming is just a refined game or a clever scheme that being foisted upon an unsuspecting world by someone or some elite group to tax carbon emissions for the benefit of certain quarters!  For some people to take such a view was not only astonishing but very disconcerting.

Probably, this person was one of those hard-core conspiracy theorists who saw a global conspiracy or an invisible hand in every dimensions of life, including for instance the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and other emerging health issues that are besetting the world like a wave of calamities. Or he was burying his head in the sand all these while in the face of a perfect storm of global warming that has been lashing at virtually every corner of the world. Especially, in the both of the North and South Poles which have seen uncharacteristic and record changes in temperatures.

It can be frustrating and disappointing to come across such viewpoints where people just choose to ignore the obvious, the tell-tale signs, and clear evidence, of rising and record temperatures which have led to widespread outbreaks of forest fires come the summer season. The intensity is increasing over time, as indicated by records of the highest temperature readings over the years. See the profile of rising maximum temperatures in the picture of thermometers accompanying this article.

The Rising Temperatures.

This experience of coming across certain people still ignoring what was going on got me wondering, and asking, about what the heck was going on, and in particular, had me reflecting on the concept of inertia and how it may be relevant in the current circumstances we have found ourselves in.

In particular, I wanted to explore whether the fundamental principle of inertia is applicable, and if so, relevant to the understanding of the risk involved in ignoring this principle in the context of the current discussions, debates and frantic global actions being taken to combat and mitigate the effects of the Climate Change phenomenon. Issues and angles that are relevant, I would think.

To recall, and recap some of fundamental concepts of physics that we first learnt or read about in school, the law of inertia itself is one of those fundamental principles in classical physics that are still used today, and which describes the motion of objects and how they are affected by the applied forces on them. Not surprisingly, the English word ‘inertia’ itself comes from the Latin word, ‘inners’ meaning idle, or sluggish.  The explanation of the concept is captured in Newton’s First Law of Motion and explained as follows: “An object at rest will stay at rest, and an object in motion will stay in motion unless acted on by a net external force.” 

In other words, Newton was explaining through his ‘First Law of Motion’ that the power or tendency to stop, rest or not progress, is a law of physics or in other words, a fundamental natural law. Unless an external force is applied to keep something in motion, the countervailing force is to slow things down towards a standstill condition towards a standstill condition. That is the way things are. That is the natural law of physics and, in a figurative sense, relevant to the issue being discussed here and to be deliberated upon below.

In the context of the world’s debate and pursuit of actions to fight global warming, it is instructive to note that it has taken the United Nations (UN) and the international community many generations to reach the current point of progress. In other words, the progress is rather slow and very gradual. It is obvious that the force of inertia is present.

An inherent risk in this noble agenda to fight global warming is that if the momentum is allowed to slack further, the risk of inertia and backwardation becomes very real indeed. In this fight, progress will be slow and uncertain. But persist we must. If not, before we know it, the window of opportunity to take meaningful and effective actions would have evaporated and will be gone forever. The heat would have literally and figuratively taken its toll once we have reached the inflection point of no return.

Views and opinions of people regarding the non-existence of the global warming phenomenon is already a huge counterweight to getting progress on what is critically needed, namely for concrete actions to be taken on climate change. Adding on to that is the selfish and ulterior profiteering motives of unethical business enterprises and certain global corporations, who ignore the effect from greenhouse gas emissions that flows from their activities, thereby adding fuel to the power of inertia which could stop the world on its tract as world temperatures create havoc on the world’s environment and ecosystem.

The 1972 United Nations Conference on the Environment in Stockholm was the first world conference to make the environment a major issue.  It became known as the ‘First Earth Summit’ and was held in Stockholm, Sweden from 5 to 16 June 1972. At that conference, the UN adopted a declaration that sets out principles for the preservation and enhancement of the human environment and called for an action plan containing recommendations for international environmental action. In a sense, the concern for the wellbeing of planet Earth and her inhabitants came to the fore at this conference and the worry over the environment was finally acknowledged at the highest platform for human discussion, namely at the United Nations where all member nations congregate and discuss world affairs.

Walking A Tightrope of Climate Change.

The latest in the series of ‘Conference of Parties’, or COP, was held in 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland and was hosted by the UK in partnership with Italy. It was the 26th meeting in the series (COP26). No meetings were held before that in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  By the way, COP stands for the ‘conference of the parties’ who have signed the United Nations Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC), which is an international treaty that commits each signing nation to the objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

COP26, the most recent meeting was seen and believed to be the world’s best last chance to get runaway climate change under control and most experts believed that COP26 had a unique ingredient in terms of the urgency to take action, thereby reflecting the concern over the diminishing window of opportunity to progress the commitments under the 2015 Paris Agreement towards achieving the agreed goal of keeping global warming to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5°C. 

The Paris Agreement of 2015 (COP26) was a defining moment because it was the first time ever, that something truly momentous happened, where every country agreed to work together on some hard targets to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees and to aim for 1.5 degrees, in order for the world to adapt to the impacts of a changing climate and to make money available to deliver on these aims. To achieve consensus is very heartening for the world but as the saying goes -the proof of the pudding is in the eating, it is in the actual actions taken by everyone and every nation that will count at the end of the day.

The challenge of having so many World leaders participating alongside tens of thousands of negotiators, government representatives, corporate and businesses and citizens congregated over many days of talks and ensuring that the discussions and deliberations are moving smoothly and effectively, and to ensure that the necessary consensus is arrived at, must have been a gargantuan task indeed. 

Failure is not an option. Otherwise, the accusation of lack of real action being undertaken will undermine all the good intent.  The syndrome known as “NATO” – No Action, Talk Only, that can inflict damage to the unwary and feed the much-feared inertia which will slow down progress and even bring things to a complete standstill or paralysing deadlock. That would be a disaster – a human disaster of failure to agree on top of an impending natural disaster that has been brewing for a while now.

Fortunately, the appreciation for an understanding of Climate Change as being a key existential threat to mankind has moved from a just a fringe topic of discussion to centre stage of conversation and serious international discussions. However, the risk of inertia is ever present and taking our eyes off the ball will risk it not moving to its intended target of ‘scoring a goal’.  The most important goal of all, is the survival and wellbeing of the human species on this lonely planet of ours called ‘Earth.’

The need to keep going despite the feelings of inertia and push back must never be forgotten. The fire of ambition and determination to overcome our predicament must be kept lighted, like the proverbial eternal flame which never goes out. There is wisdom in persistence and in keeping on going. To uphold hope in times trials and even despair is very important.

And on that note, and to conclude this posting, I’d like to share a recent piece which I have composed whilst flying above the clouds in the air space between Kuala Lumpur and Bintulu, thus:

The Wisdom To Keep Going

By Maya_Green

Along life’s path, there will be stops,
Deviations, hesitations, and obstacles,
Never stop, just because you feel defeated;
Keep on going, doing the best you can.

The journey to the other side is attainable,
But only after great efforts and suffering;
When we are tested, we are being prepared;
To be made stronger, to be better.

Know that what you feed grows bigger,
And becomes even more powerful,
And what you starve, will soon weaken and die;
So feed only that what is good, starve the bad.

Don’t let an evil thought linger, else it will grow,
Kill it off, before it becomes a monster.

Let faith and trust be as your true guides;
And carry not doubts, as your baggage.

Always shine a light in the darkness,
And don’t let dark clouds overshadow your life,
Be the bearer of light unto others in need;
So they’ll find their own way home.

Plant and nurture the Flower of Love,
For it is the most beautiful of blooms;
Know that it is the greatest power there is,
Without which everything will fall apart.

Dateline: 25 July 2022

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect that of New Sarawak Tribune.

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