Fossil fuels and climate change: The Caribbean's conundrum – Stabroek News

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In what must surely be one of the more peculiar of contemporary ironies, the Kingdom of Norway, whose status as one of the world’s wealthiest countries has everything to do with the manner in which it continues to manage its oil and gas resources, on Monday, went to the polls to elect a government in circumstances where, reportedly, all of the contending political parties were possessed of campaign manifestoes reflecting varying degrees of concern over climate change in circumstances where, according to one media report, “fears about climate change have put the future of the (fossil fuel) industry at the top of the campaign agenda.”
What is occurring in Norway is part of what of what is now an unfolding climate change agenda that is gathering a formidable head of steam. This, it must surely occur to the authorities, both here and in neighbouring Suriname, is happening even as development plans in the two countries, among the poorest in the hemisphere, begin to unfold and which plans are centred overwhelmingly around the recovery and  marketing of their confirmed huge volumes of oil and gas inside the now globally talked-about Guyana-Suriname Basin.
In truth, the climate change tidal wave has not, as yet, become sufficiently assertive to remove the ‘shine’ off the boisterous celebrations that have attended what is being regard as definitive turning points in the developmental pursuits of Guy-ana and Suriname. Going forward, however, it very much appears that the two countries might have to navigate their way through the   thickening mist of the global climate change lobby which is, even now, gathering momentum at breakneck speed.
That climate change concerns have now taken on a life of their own has to do with the fact that the phenomenon has, over time,  removed itself from the status of a raucous global din, executed through boisterous and frequently directionless ‘clean air’ protestations by enthusiasts whose advocacy appeared to  lack ‘the science’ to sustain it. These days, it has clad itself in a more robust, science-based (as against sci-fi) façade that is not now as easily dismissed and which, moreover, is attended by a much louder drumroll that continues to attract a global constituency now armed with both the ammunition and the animation to sustain itself. The fact is that the science-based evidence of climate change-related environmental degradation has become hard to challenge.
More to the point, insofar as the global oil and gas industry is concerned, the climate change advance now has the global fossil fuels industry squarely in its sights. Put differently, the strategy of the global environmental lobby, including its pursuit of placing restrictions on the unchecked recovery and use of fossil fuels has taken a quantum leap from boisterous public demonstrations that target indifferent governments and recovery-focused oil companies to far more persuasive arguments which, increasingly, have not only been recruiting persuasive evidence to back its concerns but has also been,  over time, attracting the attention of greater numbers of one-time skeptics.
Contextually, the pronouncements of a University of London scientific team based on recently updated estimates arising out of research undertaken in 2015 with regard to just how much fossil fuel should be left unburned if the increase in the level of climate change gases is to be pushed back, have now been significantly upgraded. Current recalculation asserts that nearly 60% of the world’s oil and gas reserves and 90% of the coal reserves must now remain in the ground by 2050 if the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement are to be met. What the ‘science’ would appear to be saying is that global oil and gas production ought to peak immediately.
Interestingly, it is entirely reasonable to assume that the period between now and 2050 almost certainly approximates the time frame within which the earliest phases of the oil and gas-related development plans of Guyana and Suriname will be executed.  
If the global din of the climate change clamour may not yet have arrived at its optimum decibel level, in Guyana and Suriname, where the advent of the oil and gas factor has pushed the national discourse on fossil fuel discovery along an altogether different path, the worm, one feels, is not that far away from turning. Both countries, having   embark-ed on aggressive public policy positions that now, to an overwhelming extent, pin national material aspirations on fossil fuel recovery, will have to face the climate change ‘tape’, seemingly sooner rather than later.
That time, frankly, may not be that far away. There is, even now, ample evidence that the climate change discourse has made its way directly onto the science agenda of the Caribbean. “We can now say with greater certainty that Climate Change is making our weather worse. It is affecting the intensity of heat waves, droughts, floods and hurricanes, all of which are impacting the Caribbean,” is what the University of the West Indies Mona, Climate Studies Group (CSG) had to say recently.
The reality is that the Caribbean’s own climate change headaches are likely to push the region much closer to the centre of what has become a militant science-backed force. That push has already begun with the urging to Caribbean leaders by Co-heads of the UWI’s CSG, Professors Tannecia Stephenson and Michael Taylor that they collectively lobby for deeper global greenhouse gas reductions at the forthcoming 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change scheduled to take place in Scotland in November.
Conceivably, though, hopefully, not inevitably, the circumstances could see CARICOM member states going different ways on the issue.
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