Tired Earth: An Interview with Rosmel Rodríguez, EU Climate Pact Ambassador
This interview was conducted by Sara Sanchez
Is it true that global warming is caused by human activities?
To begin with, we must make it clear that global warming is a natural phenomenon within the internal regulatory processes of our common home, planet Earth, but what is not normal is the acceleration of this process, due to external factors that create fluctuations which generate a distortion in the natural processes and internal mechanisms of the planet.
In order to get to grips with the current problem, it is necessary to comment on a fundamental aspect, which is that a large part of humanity's development has been based on the use of natural resources and the modification of the environment to satisfy our needs as a society. To better understand the impact that human activity has on the planet, we must look back more than 250 years to when the industrial revolution began and which marked the beginning of the intensification of our economic activity on the planet. This event marked the industrial development that would generate one of the most impactful changes on the planet. This event meant a before and after in our history, there was a significant increase in the world population, innovation in agriculture and livestock promoted greater food production, progress in means of transport and infrastructure were significant for commercial development, mass production and the beginning of greater connectivity across the planet, all this under the use of fossil fuels and the massive exploitation of natural resources, but that progress had and has a price. We have been living beyond our means, as a society we use far more resources than the planet can regenerate.
These consequences provoked without us realising it, a change in the geological era of the planet, we went from the Holocene, where human civilisation developed in the post-glacial period, with a relatively constant and stable climate that has lasted approximately 11,000 years, to what most scientists call the Anthropocene.
The Anthropocene is understood to be the geological period on Earth that is marked by major human-driven changes in the way the Earth's system functions. Scientists and writers describe that, from the 18th century onwards, planet Earth entered this geological era, characterised by major climatic changes, between pollution and biodiversity loss, leading to major social crises and challenges facing humanity, while at the same time linked to rapid and accelerated human activity, which from 1950 onwards caused the most abrupt changes in the trends of the Earth system. These changes coincide with industrial activity, coupled with the process of globalisation, which together contributed significantly to these peaks in human activity, such as increased connectivity and trade.
Similarly, there is a criticism that is handled in the academy dedicated to the study of this environmental issue, which exposes another concept instead of the Anthropocene, and considers that human action is always crossed by political and economic relations of power and inequalities in the context of global capitalism, so this concept called the Capitalocene, highlights that what generated the current environmental transformation has its basis in the capitalist economic valuations of appropriation of nature and territories, and not only direct human actions, are the cause of environmental transformations.
The debates around both the Anthropocene and the Capitalocene are a political opportunity to rethink the relationship between human beings and nature and also to open up different discussions and bring together people from different backgrounds, cultures and perspectives to participate in the construction of new notions and practices in relation to nature.
What awaits us and what can we do to avoid the worst?
The outlook is not encouraging, let's rely on the most legitimated data, which are the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which state that the world is now approximately 1.2°C warmer than in the 19th century, and the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased by almost 50%. Estimates suggest that between 2030 and 2052, temperatures could reach 1.5°C of further global warming in this time. This would mean the greatest climatic risks recorded in the comparable historical data of our existence and would mean a radical change for natural systems and for all living beings, but it would still be far less adverse than if we exceed 2.0°C of global warming, where the consequences would be disastrous and would change the entire self-regulating system of the planet.
The temperature increase must be slowed down imperatively, it must be done, we have no choice. Global warming must be kept to just 1.5C over the next century. Humanity must commit itself to reducing climate change over several centuries and adopt a new sustainable lifestyle.
We have had the solutions for years, it is time to start implementing them, it is time to take action and bring and end to hollow speeches. We must change our relationship with nature, look for alternatives to the system of mass production and consumption. It is time to bring into practice the circular economy and to leave behind the linear production system of the past. Prioritise environmental education, promote ecological justice, it is time to consider nature as a subject with rights.
Each of us as individuals must dedicate ourselves to documenting and disseminating everything about this global problem, we must be agents of change, multipliers of the message, inviting more people to investigate, debate and organise. As a society, we must exert pressure on the relevant state bodies to apply or create environmental laws and on companies to ensure sustainable business management, since it will be of little use for each of us to change our lifestyles towards sustainability if the productive sector of the economy and the states do not change their way of acting.
How do you assess the actions of governments in the fight against climate change?
In the transition from the 20th to the 21st century, the global environmental problem has rested not only on the efforts of companies and private institutions to subvert the effects of the crisis, but predominantly on nation states as subjects of international law, as guarantors of sovereignty and makers of laws that, ultimately, have the purpose of ensuring the protection of life in all its forms. In addition to public and foreign policies, states must ensure the right to a healthy environment, the right to development and sovereign equality.
There have been many complaints from the peoples of the world about those who hold power and their lawmakers about the climate crisis. Some states in the world often use their economic privileges to divert people's attention from their responsibilities and commitments in the framework of the defense of territory and the environment, a kind of "greenwashing" that ends up undermining the environmental sovereignty of the people, subjecting them to immeasurable misfortunes and misfortunes caused by the socio-political negligence of some of our leaders.
At the national level, it is necessary to territorialize the environmental and climatic struggle as part of non-governmental organizations and organized society itself in its multiple ways of grouping together; all these forms of citizen participation are the ones that make up the first flank in the face of the social demands that they assert, and coincidentally they are usually those who suffer first-hand from the effects of climate change, as well as environmental degradation. On the other hand, at the concentrated level of the State, there is a governing body in charge of directing public policies in this sense, such as the Ministries of the Environment. However, the conjunction between the other ministries, as well as other decision-making and deliberative bodies of the States have a part and participation in the integral articulation for the approach to the environmental-climate issue, especially those that rest within the high-level diplomatic activity.
I would like to stress that there are large lobbies financing an energy transition that, far from being "eco-friendly", are more of a great abyss whose main characteristic lies in the fact that, despite selling itself as ecological, green, and renewable, it points towards a disruption that divides the world between those who mitigate and those who will have to adapt. Where is the vulnerability? Why are the countries that contribute the least in their CO2 emissions the ones that will be most affected? Are we facing a climate apartheid? A transition of such proportions would not only represent a clear deficit in the balance of payments because of the imbalance in GDP due to the health emergency, but it would also be superimposed as a maker of a new geopolitical game pattern after the discourse of decarbonization, denuclearization and a host of hopeful elements in the post-fossil period.
I therefore believe that states have an obligation to mitigate the harmful effects of climate change by taking the most ambitious measures possible to avoid or reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the shortest possible time. While the richest states, i.e. the biggest polluters, must lead the way both domestically and through international cooperation, all countries must take all reasonable measures to reduce emissions to the maximum of their capabilities.
In addition to mitigation, they have a historical and political responsibility to enact the necessary countermeasures to help those within and/or outside their jurisdiction to adapt to the foreseeable and unavoidable effects of climate change, so that their basic human rights are felt as little as possible.