Hopes and fears of a future world citizen

From Daniel Rong, Shanghai High School International Division

Consumers purchase and select the goods being provided on the market. However our recognition about global warming, what we can do in our lives to alter the eventual outcome is very little. Besides, a lot of us still do not want to give away comforts in lifestyle. For now, what we need is a definite and decisive policy to set us onto the road to our survival — where we purchase only environmental products. Copenhagen Climate Conference is a symbol of the opening of the attention from leaders of the world. And as a world citizen who is guaranteed the hardest hit by climate change, I have my hopes and fears for the conference from today on.

If we successfully reach an appropriate goal by the decisions of the conference, education will be a rather important factor to sustain the idea of sustainability. As for how we can reach the goal, a change of economic model must be acquired now. And that’s what discussion I hope will be sparked at the Copenhagen Conference. I am very certain that the world leaders understand the urgency of climate change, and I believe that the participation of over 170 countries in this conference means their attention to this topic.

Current economic models have not considered “natural capital” as the cost of production; that’s why, however dire the future may become, the profits are always alluring for people to continuously cut down the forests around the world, and emit pollutants. With natural capital to be considered into the cost of production (air, water, anything that exists in nature), environmental issues can be considered more seriously. For example, if resource A costs £50 more when natural capital is factored in, then the waste of the product using resource A shall be used in a more meaningful way.

Therefore, once the natural capital is being considered, the corporations will take environmental factors more seriously during their production. For business to factor in environmental issues, the only way is to revise the understanding of how they would make profits.

Also, looking forward, if this model can be immediately engendered, a large amount of funds into the research for sustainability not only will give further hope, but a boost in the economy as well — which is what the world is currently concerned by. For long-term sustainability, I’d also wish for their attention to the matter of educating the next generations about such matters. The youth are the biggest potential force for the world to keep running; so is knowledge.

However much I acknowledge that the world leaders know of the urgency of the crisis, I have fears as well. The topic of climate change was brought to attention more for economic reasons than for survival reasons. So each country must likely have entered this conference concerned with the prospects about future economic growth. If the interests between countries collide, a climate treaty is probably not to be signed – let alone how domestic opinions, if the most vocal of the public does not support agreement, will impact on decisions.

If a treaty is signed without all the major countries participating, the morale of the rest of the world to fight climate change might be hurt — thereby spark disputes over inequality. Note that mob mentality is a very important factor for any single person to be willing to participate in fighting global warming. We need everyone – or at least the majority — to have the determination in order for the rest to take action.

Also, even if the treaty has been reached for the major countries to reduce carbon emissions, there lie some concerns as well. Would a reduction in one country cause a rise in another? Would some countries that do not sign the treaty accept the dirty industries rejected by the world, and therefore by no means reduce the total carbon emission produced by the world? And would education enable public consensus to cope with the alteration of things that they feel familiar with? The world is constantly changing, but if one part of humanity refuses to accept new ideas, will it change for better or worse?

The Copenhagen Climate Conference is not likely to settle, once and for all, every climate problem we are facing now. But it symbolises a new starting point for another leap. Before the conference reaches its conclusion, we can only hope.