Tue | Oct 20, 2020

Earth Today | Nobel laureate insists on hard labour from developed nations for climate change

Published:Wednesday | October 25, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Professor Anthony Chen addresses his audience. Seated are Dr Suzanne Shaw, director of Sustainability at the Caribbean Policy Research Institute, and International Monetary Fund economist, Dr Sebastien Acevedo.

RESPECTED physicist Professor Anthony Chen says developed countries, which have historical responsibility for the greenhouse gas emissions fuelling climate change, should be made to serve a sentence of hard labour.

"Adaptation (to climate change) is necessary, it is not sufficient. It is mitigation to the reduction of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) that is necessary and sufficient. Unless we get rid of the GHGs, then we will be adapting to no end," he predicted.

Chen was speaking at the forum put on by the Caribbean Policy Research Institute together with the University of the West Indies and the International Monetary Fund in Kingston on Monday evening.

The subject of the forum was 'Hurricanes and the Caribbean: Risk, Resilience and Response'.

"In Jamaica, we currently emit small amounts of GHGs. It is the developed countries that need to mitigate. This has always been the problem, to get them to mitigate ... and, largely, that is due to the resistance from the fossil fuel industry. More pressure must be brought to bear on the developed countries," noted Chen, who in 2007 shared in the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

He proposed building a case against them at the level of the International Court of Justice.

"We can make a case about hurricanes...Higher temperatures means that there is higher evaporation in the ocean, more moisture in the atmosphere and, therefore, more rainfall and flooding," Chen explained.


Moisture factor


"More moisture in the atmosphere means the more latent heat is released on condensation of the vapour, the more energy and stronger winds that make the hurricane more destructive. The sea level rise that arises makes storm surges more destructive and, for the Caribbean, climate change would produce more droughts and floods," he added.

"So we can make the case, but instead of seeking reparations, I would suggest sentencing them to hard labour. And I am not being facetious. The hard labour would be that they would have to work to make clean energy more affordable," the scientist said.

And this, through a focus on storage.

"They need storage in down-times, like at nights, etc. The drawback is that storage is technically feasible but expensive at the moment. We should sentence them to hard labour so that they do research and development to make storage, especially batteries, cheaper," Chen, former head of the Climate Studies Group Mona, insisted.

"The case may not succeed, but that would be one more bit of pressure. And think of the benefits to the Caribbean if the insulation of clean energy plants, that is, solar and wind energy plants, plus storage were made cheaper than gas or oil or coal. We could set up power plants for which we would not have to pay fuel cost. We would just use the sun and the wind. So why not take them to court and seek a sentence of hard labour to develop storage of energy?" he added.

CARICOM, whose members include Jamaica, has been plagued by high energy costs associated with production and, has been on a drive to realise increased infusion of renewables into their energy mix.

This is reflected in the Caribbean Sustainable Energy Roadmap and Strategy (C-SERMS) that sets the framework for a set of regional energy goals, including 20 per cent of renewable power capacity by 2017 a target missed, given, among other things, the cost of making the transition.

Other C-SERMS goals include 28 per cent renewables by 2028 and 47 per cent by 2027.