By Ranil Senanayake –
By now the reality of climate change should be evident to most of us. The sober reality that forty years of biogeographic data produces, is seen in the disappearing populations of Pygmy Chameleons (Cophotis Zeylanica) in the central hills or by the disappearing beaches and beach ecosystems of the Southern Coast. The message is clear, there are changes happening in the environment. These changes are not and will not be benign.
According to the IPCC’s report from 2014, every decade of warming that happens, decreases the amount of food the world can produce by 2%, or 4.4 million metric tons. Heat stressed plants are not productive and increasing heat is a current feature of climate change. The global situation is so dire that President Barack Obama announced new limits on just how much carbon dioxide US power plants can release into the air, “Human activities are changing the climate in dangerous ways,” Obama said Monday. “Levels of carbon dioxide, which heats up our atmosphere, are higher than they’ve been in 800,000 years. 2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record.” As the world realizes the gravity of the situation, people divest in Coal and Coal. Stocks are falling and Coal mining companies are closing. Against this backdrop, the rationality of even suggesting going ahead with coal fired power plants, must be questioned.
It is a tragedy that some ill informed politicians in Sri Lanka have seen fit to follow the line expounded by the carbon emitters and polluters of the environment. Given the level of current scientific knowledge even accepting one coal fired power plant will go against the interests of the people, especially in terms of respiratory diseases. Just mouthing the word ‘development’ should not suffice anymore. Development without a clear vision of where we are heading towards, can only spell disaster for the future. Having ‘leaders’ and their ‘advisors’ without the slightest ability to comprehend the words above will ensure our demise into fossil dependency and will accelerate those climate changes that we are already facing. The coal debacle is one such potential blunder.
All reasonably informed people have seen the various scientific studied carried in the press, that coal has been a human health disaster. It provided the energy that ignited the industrial revolution, but it also carried the price of human health. In this modern day, when many healthier alternatives to generate power abound, it seems rather foolish to tie our energy future to the sinking coal wagon.
Fossil thinking on development issues were once tied to fossil energy. It was believed that development could only be attained by the use of fossil fuels. Consider this statement from Sri Lankan Government comuniqué in 1979 displayed in the nation’s newspapers states: “No oil means no development, and less oil, less development. It is oil that keeps the wheels of development moving”
Since that time, national investment in energy production for this nation was tied to fossil. This created a bloated class of fossil suppliers with fat kickbacks to those who placed the orders. This lobby is still at work influencing the ignorant politicians with promises of financial and political carrots.
Will the future population benefit from the current investment in fossil based power generation? In Coal? The answer is a resounding No. Then who will benefit? The Coal suppliers, the Coal buyers and their respective agents. Politicians, ignorant of the negative effect their decisions will have on the children of tomorrow, have surrendered our energy future to the fossil lobby up till now. We should treat this sorry past as fossil and look towards an intelligently and dynamically planned future. A new Government will grace the land soon, the question before us now is, ‘ will the new government continue on the fossil path led by the fossil lobby or move us to become a responsible global citizen by transitioning quickly into new energy technologies of today ?’