Working Draft of “All in for All Life” Declaration: Turning Around Now

November 24, 2016

A year ago this month, 195 countries at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP) agreed that we must keep global temperature rise “significantly below 2 degrees C”, aiming for 1.5 C, more in line with the science.  We advocated for the latter, which scientists and economists have told us is/was technically and economically achievable with fast action.  In any case, we are all aware now that we must aim for the lowest temperatures and return to a safe climate, preserving polar ice and the temperatures in  and systems in which human life began to flourish, without delay. We are “all in” for all life!

Serious action, without delay requires a plan for getting there, not just “doing something” toward that end.  The 1.5C aspiration means little without measures for hitting it or bringing us back below 350 ppm CO2.  Since we are closing in on a 1.5 C temperature rise already, 1.5 C or even “well below 2 C” can be translated or summarized as “turn around now”.  We must repent of our life-destroying patterns and behaviors, including our use of and dependence on fossil fuels.  

We realize that true repentance bears fruit, leading to a change of action and greater life, more generative living.  We know that transition and the change of heart, being “all in for all life” not just our own or systems that benefit the most wealthy, we need to make must be rapid (and can be!). There is no time to waste.  

If we had started reducing worldwide emissions in 2005 it would have taken a 3.5% reduction in CO2 every year to keep temperatures to a safe level, given the decades of warming built into long-lived CO2 in the atmosphere.[i]   Now it is nearly 2017 and we need to aim for reductions of at 7-8% a year, annually from now until our societies and economies are free of fossil fuels.  What seems difficult now will only approach nearly impossible if we wait (15% per year if we wait until 2020), not to mention the death and destruction unleashed by more powerful storms, droughts, and rising temperatures.

Five years, a decade or two ago, or more, there was considerable question about how we could economically make the shifts we need to make to preserve (and create) the conditions for all to flourish.  Now we know that this is possible and there are paths to do so.  We are held back by systems and interests that do not prioritize the common good, life, and the dignity, rights, or ability of all to live.  We realize the need to beware of policies that, unintentionally or not, wage war on life.

Every day that passes without dramatic emission cuts and shifts off of fossil fuels, more announcements that electricity will get off of coal or combustion engines will be banned by certain years or forests and soils restored, is a day we move closer to pushing our climate into irreversible feedback systems that accelerate warming and diminish our ability to adapt or intervene. Every moment we delay the shift to a more life-giving economy based on clean technologies of the present and future, we recklessly endanger the lives and livelihoods of people here and abroad, as well as the unborn.

The more we build that is dependent on fossil fuels, the more we lock ourselves into dependency and fossil fuel residues in the air for 1000 years.  As Christina Figueres said, the infrastructure we build in the next 4 years (3 years, now) will determine the fate of our planet.  We do not have time to delay in even the tiniest amounts.

A rapid shift is possible, but we must begin now. The later we start the steeper and faster the transition will have to be completed.  Waiting incurs further costs and runs a serious risk of irreparably damaging the ocean.[iii]  Because of threats like these and drought, agricultural impacts, hunger and disease, and sea level rise, the bulk of the transition off the most-polluting fossil fuels (e.g., coal) will need to occur in the next 10-20 yrs.

Successfully achieving 1.5 C will require major players and the biggest emitters to be more ambitious for the common good.  Deeper cuts are needed by all sooner rather than later (next 5-6 years) especially in energy and industry; 88% of coal, globally, will need to be kept in the ground, plus 52% of gas and 35% of oil.  The air can no longer be a free dumping space.

The meeting this past month in Marrakech concluded with a final declaration by nearly 200 nations affirming their “highest political commitment” to combatting climate change.  Even the poorest nations have said they will do this and make the necessary changes; 48 of the most vulnerable nations pledged to make a rapid shift to 100% renewable energy production.

Stanford University research (Jacobson et al.) developed all-sector energy roadmaps for 139 countries of the world, based on 100% clean and renewable wind, water, and sunlight (WWS),[iv] demonstrating that the transition is not only possible, it would virtually eliminating air pollution morbidity and mortality and global warming.  There are roadmaps to net new jobs, more stable energy prices because fuel costs are zero, and reduced conflict over energy because each country will largely be energy independent, also reducing terrorism risk by significantly decentralizing power.

Surprisingly, this transition is estimated to save 27% of the energy needed simply by shifting to electricity, which has great efficiency advantages over energy generated by combustion for transport and many other needs.  Over the 139 countries, converting will create an estimated 22.8 million 35-year construction jobs and 17.5 million 35-year operation jobs for the energy facilities alone, the total outweighing the 37.3 million jobs lost by around 3 million.  

Of importance in considering life, health, and well-being, not to mention worker productivity, converting to wind, water, and solar will eliminate in the range of 4.6 (1.3-8.0) million premature air pollution mortalities per year, key to health, productivity and the dignity of life.

This shift – turning away from our former ways — requires all of our leadership, action, commitment, and local application – acting as “we”, not merely individuals.  We need to conceive of and implement a different system, respecting life for all and the ability of every person to flourish, not just survive.   Only 15% of the money in circulation in the global finance system today is funding businesses or generative purposes, 85% is devoted to the casino economy, extracting and “bidding up” resources, a practice by the top fraction of .01% to take even more for themselves, regardless of others, our living planet, and our life support systems.

We know individual action is not enough to get us there, so we must each take ownership of our roles and responsibilities in our different groups, professions, communities and networks, to effect this shift.

Governments are created to protect the interests of the people and the common good, but our recent governments have lost their way.  At its inception, the US declared:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. –Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

It is time to re-orient and get on a generative path that is life-giving for all who have been suffering or ignored by an economy and system that has funneled benefits to the very few and ready to destroy that which supports life, rather than defending and promoting extraction, domination, or the profits of corporations and special interests at the expense of the health and well-being of all people.

If we do not intervene, if we persist in silence, cynicism or passivity, we become complicit in the annihilation of human life–and all life.  The time to shift to an economy for life, in line with a stable climate and that addresses the needs of all, leaving no one out, is now.  It is past time.  

The US and other countries have made rapid shifts in the past.  We can do this again, mobilizing for jobs for all those who have lost them and restoration of a safe climate, with a government that governs on behalf of life, our ability to live and flourish, not mere or bare survival, while others continue to dominate, destroy and extract, or justify a path that relies on these to continue.

No government can rule without the consent of the governed.  We must be clear on our goals, needs, and concrete strategy, to deliver a transition of this magnitude.  We seek to unite in a transformative movement to establish a democracy that governs on behalf of all life, not profit for a few.  If we are to be successful, the members of this movement, those who are “all in for all life” must lead:

  1. Transitioning our local communities (and the monopolies currently holding the reins in many areas) off of fossil fuels.
  2. We declare that violence and war are wasting life and resources and fundamentally opposed to our principles.  We disown and oppose it.  When we see violence unfolding, we pledge to nonviolently intervene. We seek a positive path forward, and we disavow violent or hateful language.
  3. Solutions or gradualism which write off the lives and livelihoods of many through disregard for the ability of they and their families to live are not solutions.  Our standard is life and protection of the conditions necessary for life, for all.
  4. We are facing an emergency and that requires serious change, a rapid shift, emergency action to create a clean, viable future with good jobs and a stable climate.  This is possible and we will not give up!  

[i] Hansen J, Kharecha P, Sato M, Masson-Delmotte V, Ackerman F, et al. (2013) Assessing ‘‘Dangerous Climate Change’’: Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature. PLoS

ONE 8(12): e81648. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0081648

[ii] IPCC Report (2014), WGIII SPM page 17.

[iii] The oceans have absorbed 93% of the global warming that has occurred to date.  Researchers have found that even if humanity had a way of removing CO2 from the atmosphere in the future (outside of slow removal by trees and intact grasslands), if emissions continue, warming and CO2 and the associated reduced oxygen, reduced circulation, and acidified water will kill many species. See:https://www.awi.de/nc/en/about-us/service/press/press-release/the-oceans-cant-take-any-more-researchers-fear-a-fundamental-change-in-the-oceans-even-if-gr.html.  “Greenhouse gases’ millennia-long ocean legacy.” ScienceDaily. 3 August 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/08/150803155059.htm

[iv] Jacobson, MZ et al., 2015. See summary paper, xlsx-spreadsheets, % of 2050 WWS installed as of 2014, Wind installed as of 2014, PV installed as of 2014, CSP installed as of 2014,Hydro installed as of 2014, Geothermal installed as of 2014, Tidal installed as of 2014 http://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/CountriesWWS.pdf