Action 21 and Climate Change – Debunking Some Myths: Part 2

This is part 2 of a series of blogs for Action 21. Part 1 covered how Covid had made us think about our role within the community. It seemed like a good time to retell our story and let people know what it’s all about

What is Agenda 21?

Visitors to our web-page will already be able to read a little of our history in our About section, and see that Action 21 in the local area was a response to Agenda 21(PDF) of the 1992 Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit. It relates to goals on environmental protection and sustainability. Looking at it now, nearly three decades later, it makes for a sobering read. So much was hoped for and so little achieved. In many ways we are accelerating in the opposite direction.

What Were the Main Goals of Agenda 21?

There were four main sections as detailed, with links, in the quote below. They were essentially:

  1. Tackle poverty so that people could have sustainable lifestyles
  2. Conserve and protect the natural world, including the atmosphere
  3. Strengthen the role of local groups
  4. Use a variety of means to achieve the goals

It was understood from the start, that local authorities and groups had an essential role .

Section I: Social and Economic Dimensions is directed toward combating poverty, especially in developing countries, changing consumption patterns, promoting health, achieving a more sustainable population, and sustainable settlement in decision making.

Section II: Conservation and Management of Resources for Development includes atmospheric protection, combating deforestation, protecting fragile environments, conservation of biological diversity (biodiversity), control of pollution and the management of biotechnology, and radioactive wastes.

Section III: Strengthening the Role of Major Groups includes the roles of children and youth, women, NGOs, local authorities, business and industry, and workers; and strengthening the role of indigenous peoples, their communities, and farmers.

Section IV: Means of Implementation includes science, technology transfer, education, international institutions, and financial mechanisms.[3]

Why Are they not Doing What is Necessary?

Portrait of Thunberg at the European Parliament in 2020
Greta Thunberg (Wikipedia)

Change is difficult, of course. When Greta Thunberg spoke to the UN, she complained that they were constantly discussing problems and even agreeing about was needed but that they did not do anything. They were still worried about the cost and held back by the vested interests of big business like the oil industry. Since 1992, there has been widespread acknowledgement of the need for change. However, in spite of some promising initiatives, and some high profile protests, it is sadly ‘business as usual’. There is even an increase in destructive behaviour in many ways.

Joseph Fourier - Wikipedia
Josef Fourier (Wikipedia)

Trying to convince governments and citizens to take action on climate change has been a long and frustrating battle. Knowledge of the ‘greenhouse’ effect dates back to 1824 when French scientist, Josef Fourier discovered that the Earth was warmer than it should be for its distance from the Sun. In 1896, Swedish chemist, Svante Arrhenius found that carbon dioxide was one of the ‘greenhouse’ gases that acted as an insulator for the planet. We need the greehouse effect for life on Earth, but he worked out that if we continued to add CO2 to the atmosphere (through the burning of fossil fuels) we would increasingly warm the planet.

To begin with, people welcomed this idea. They thought that it would prevent further ice-ages and help crops to grow, but by the time solid evidence was produced in the 1930s that linked it to a worrying increase in global temperatures, people had already begun to deny it. To avoid heating the Earth, we needed to reduce greenhouse gases and to do that, we had to stop burning coal, oil and gas, and change our farming practices. So it was understandable that resistance to the idea of climate change would come primarily from fossil fuel and power companies, manufacturing and industrial farming.

Part 3 will talk about levels of denial and how this relates to climate science and the evidence on global warming.

J Nickels