World leaders bring no new ideas to Rio summit

While the world changes, leaders at the Rio+20 summit spin their wheels.

The Rio+20 was a complete non-starter. Despite all the movers and shakers from 188 nations, states and NGOs, 100 world leaders, and 45,000 others of varying interests, the best the delegates could come up with was to re-affirm what they’ve re-affirmed in the past, i.e., work toward sustainable development defined two decades ago at the first UN Earth Summit in Rio.

Nothing has changed.

It’s just a revolving door of promises to have a conference to re-affirm the need for a conference to agree to work toward sustainable development at the next conference. So why is Peter Kent, Canada’s environment minister, happy? He doesn’t have to do anything. After all, the feds did a carte blanche job of weakening everything environmental in the Omnibus Bill C-38.

Meanwhile, the world is changing.

The delegates should have paid more attention to the research of 22 biologists, ecologists, complex-systems theoreticians, geologists, and paleontologists from the U.S., Canada, South America and Europe, who studied the consequences of human development and the impact of global warming. In the lead-up to the Conference, they warned that population growth, widespread destruction of natural ecosystems, and climate change are adding up to a perfect storm that will drive the planet to irreversible change.

“It really will be a new world, biologically, at that point,” warned Andrew Barnosky, professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and lead author of a review paper published this month in the prestigious journal, Nature. “The data suggests that there will be a reduction in biodiversity and severe impacts on much of what we depend on to sustain our quality of life, including, for example, fisheries, agriculture, forest products and clean water. This could happen within a few generations.”

The scientists took the cause and effect of past global changes and compared them with current processes to assess the future. They saw fundamental shifts in the disappearance of species and major disruptions in agricultural production.

The delegates should have read another international study that included the U.S. Canada (UBC and McGill universities) U.K., Sweden and Switzerland and published in Nature in May. Fifty studies of 1,634 plant species across four continents showed plants are flowering and leafing as much as over eight times faster than previously predicted. That forebodes consequences to ecosystems, pollination, migrations, and animal and plant behaviour patterns.

While global warming predictions are that Canada could benefit from warmer, longer growing seasons and greater production, all that depends on rainfall patterns. There are lessons to be learned from Australia’s enduring drought and water supply dilemmas.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the world remains on a warming curve. Despite the fact that the Pacific Northwest has been either normal or cooler than normal this spring, the globally averaged temperature for May 2012 marked the second warmest May since record keeping began in 1880. Most areas of the world experienced much warmer than average temperatures including most of Europe, Asia, northern Africa, and most of North America.

The cooler weather in B.C. brought late winter snows. Heavy rains in the Interior resulted in the freshet flood alert we’re dealing with now. According to Roger Pannett, Chilliwack’s volunteer weather observer for Environment Canada, the 2012 precipitation to the end of May has been 123.6 per cent above normal, making it the wettest spring since 2007.

To support seven billion people, 43 per cent of Earth’s land surface is in agricultural or urban use. To feed and house the projected nine billion by 2045, 50 per cent of the planet’s land surface will be disturbed by 2025.

And thanks to the Rio non-starters, there are no protective plans in place.