Keith Schneider writes: The momentous climate accord reached last weekend in Paris recognizes three powerful and unyielding economic and ecological trends. These were prompted by the collision of the resource-abundant development approach of the 20th century with the increasingly dire environmental conditions of the 21st.
By far, the most important has been that Mother Earth is fuming. Hurricanes have drowned two American cities in recent years. Mammoth wildfires have raced across the American West. Toxic algae contaminate drinking water drawn from warmer and more polluted rivers and lakes all over the world. In June 2013, a flood that scientists linked to climate change killed thousands of people in Uttarakhand, India, and wrecked that Himalayan state’s hydropower sector.
Deep droughts have been especially worrisome. Brazil’s largest city, America’s most populous state and nearly all of South Africa now contend with serious water scarcity. Earlier this year, a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States added fresh, peer-reviewed details about how a destructive drought from 2007 to 2010 in Syria played a role in igniting the calamitous civil war there in 2011. With the farm economy ruined, more than one million farmers and their families ended up in unstable, resource-scarce cities, where people were inspired by the Arab Spring to rebel against the country’s authoritarian rule.
The second trend has been the growth of influential civic campaigns to push for climate action, and against big infrastructure projects, especially energy and mining undertakings. [Continue reading…]