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Focus on carbon 'missing the point'
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The focus on reducing carbon emissions has blinded us to the real problem - unsustainable lifestyles, says Eamon O'Hara.
Is it not time to recognise that climate change is yet another symptom of our unsustainable lifestyles, which must now become the focus our efforts? Yet governments, and those organisations who have now assumed the role of combating climate change, subscribe to the notion that climate change is our central problem and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions is the cause of this problem.
Undeniably, climate change is a serious problem but it is only one of a growing list of problems that arise from a fundamental global issue.
These problems all clearly have a common origin, yet the search for solutions has invariably focused on targeted treatments rather than addressing the root cause.
Global warming - the latest in this list of environmental woes - is a particularly worrying development, not only because it is potentially catastrophic, but because it is going to be incredibly difficult to control.
...However, by focusing on the need to reduce CO2 emissions has reduced the problem to one of carbon dioxide rather than on the unsustainable ways we live our lives.
This oversight has led to the assumption that if we reduce emissions then our problems are solved, hence the focus on carbon sequestration, renewable energies and environmental technologies.
...The large-scale transition to renewable resources might provide a safer alternative to oil and gas and other finite resources, but it will not remove our energy and resource dependency, which will continue to expand in line with economic growth.
Ultimately, our problem is consumption, and the environment is not the only casualty.
The modern Western lifestyle also has an inbuilt dependency on the cheap resources and the low carbon footprint of developing countries, which has compounded global injustice.
...The world simply does not have the resources, renewable or otherwise, to sustain Western lifestyles across the globe.
...Every day we wait, another 30,000 children needlessly die; between 100-150 plant and animal species become extinct; 70,000 hectares of rainforest is destroyed and another 150m tonnes of CO2 is released into the atmosphere.
...We urgently need to think about the more fundamental concept of sustainability and how our lifestyles are threatening not only the environment, but developing countries and global peace and stability.
In my view, we need to embrace this as an opportunity and not see it as a responsibility. Living a more sustainable lifestyle does not have to be a burden, as some people fear.
It could be a liberating and rewarding experience to participate in creating a better world. After all, how good do we really have it at the moment?
How many people are tired and weary of modern living? The endless cycle of earning and consumption can be exhausting and does not necessarily bring happiness and fulfillment. Can we do things differently, and better?
If we don't, then we are heading for certain disaster, regardless of whether or not we manage to reduce our emissions.
Eamon O'Hara is a Brussels-based policy adviser for the Irish Regions Office, which represents Irish interests in the European Union