American Darkness Vs. Bhutan Brightness
By Robert Hunziker
As Donald Trump axes America’s commitment to the Paris Climate Accord, the Kingdom of Bhutan’s Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay finalizes Bhutan for Life, a fund that will give the country the funding required, meeting its commitment to remain carbon neutral forever.
As such, the Kingdom of Bhutan is making America look like a tired old retread jalopy/bucket of bolts that sputters and coughs along the roadway to doomsday. By ignoring the pressing issue of climate change/global warming, America looks insignificant, undignified, and very weak whereas Bhutan’s carbon neutral commitment looks relevant, sophisticated, and very strong.
In point of fact, Bhutan is a carbon sink, meaning it absorbs some of America’s and everybody’s CO2 for free. Bhutan cleanses the planet because its government demands it do so, clashing with Mr. Trump’s radical contorted vision of a dog-eat-dog world.
The Kingdom of Bhutan is located deep in the Himalayas nestled between China and India. The kingdom’s prime minister discusses a world standard for environmental preservation, aka: Earth for Life, in a TED talk widely praised as “powerful” and “fascinating” and “moving.” It is a brilliant speech.
In his speech the PM explains Bhutan’s commitment to remain carbon neutral. Correspondingly and initiated in 1970s, the country declares its commitment to GNH or Gross National Happiness as a substitute for GNP or Gross National Product. Effectively, Bhutan’s people have turned economic progress into a planet friendly endeavor. All development in Bhutan is driven by GNH. Education is free. Health care is free. Economic activity is based upon “development with value” for the environment. This is the antithesis of America as well as much of the world. Futurists much prefer using Bhutan as a model rather than America when writing about a livable world in the decades ahead.
The Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan, Article 5, Section 3 declares a minimum 60% of Bhutan’s total land shall be maintained under forest cover for all time. Singularly, Bhutan is one of the few global biodiversity hot spots in the world.
Bhutan’s economy generates 2.2 million tons of CO2 annually. However, its forests sequester more than 3xs that amount. Notably, Bhutan is a net carbon sink.
Additionally, the country exports clean renewable hydropower electricity. This offsets an additional 6 million tons of CO2. By 2020, Bhutan will be exporting enough clean renewable electricity to offset 17 million tons of CO2. If they were to harvest one-half of their hydropower potential, they could offset 50 million tons of CO2 per year, and that is Bhutan’s goal. That is more CO2 than NYC generates in one year.
Wistfully, climate change brutally impacts Bhutan. The Himalayan glaciers are melting fast, causing flash floods and landslides. Years ago a glacial lake broke lose and flooded the country. Now, Bhutan has to contend with the looming danger of 2,700 glacial lakes that did not exist 20 years ago because global warming is melting Himalayan glaciers to the bone, 2,700 xs so far. Yet, Bhutan has done nothing to contribute to global warming but the country is bearing the brunt of the consequences of New York City’s congested traffic spewing CO2 like there is no tomorrow.
Worldwide, the drastic sudden loss of glaciers, happening way beyond natural variability, over time, will impact more than one billion people in Asia alone as they lose a major source for irrigation and drinking water. In South America, the World Bank issued a warning a couple of years ago of impending loss of irrigation and drinking water for inhabited areas surrounding the Andes Mountains. Thereby, ecological migrants, already a major problem in the Middle East, will become the norm in the world community, but to where?
Based upon the World Bank study:
If warming trends continue, the study concluded, many of the Andes’ tropical glaciers will disappear within 20 years, not only threatening the water supplies of 77 million people in the region, but also reducing hydropower production, which accounts for roughly half of the electricity generated in Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador.(1)
The climate change denial camp claims glacial melt is natures’ way, but it has been scientifically established that anthropogenic (human caused) global warming is hitting glaciers hard. A landmark study of 200,000 glaciers in the world ruled out natural causes behind the rapidity of melt:
In our data we find unambiguous evidence of anthropogenic contribution to glacier mass loss. What is happening in recent decades is not explicable by natural climate effects such as variations in solar radiation or volcanic activity.(2)
Problematically, glacial melt is accelerating ever faster and recklessly faster yet. For example, Mengke Glacier, one of China’s largest, retreated an average of 26’ annually from 1993-2005 but from 2005 to 2014 it averaged 54’ per year. Anthropogenic global warming, which Mr. Trump denies, has cranked up glacial melt by more than 100% since a little over one decade ago. That rate of change is well beyond the impact of natural variability. It’s huge acceleration with a cherry on top.
If the world does not hurry up installation of renewables, it risks suffering massive loss of sources for agriculture and drinking water and power generation. And, that likely guarantees worldwide chaos as angry mobs of distraught edgy people roam the planet in search of sustenance. This is already underway throughout the Middle East and southern Mediterranean region, which are drying up.
One obvious answer is carbon neutral policies using Bhutan as the archetype versus America as the deviant, odd, peculiar, really strange abnormality. How to do it? Bhutan provides free electricity to farmers so they will no longer have to use firewood to cook their food. The country subsidizes the purchase of electric vehicles. The government is going paperless. All of those efforts, and many more, are part of Clean Bhutan, a national program. They also plant trees throughout the country via Green Bhutan, another national program. Bhutan also has protected areas that are at the core of their carbon neutral strategy. These protected areas serve as carbon sinks or as explained by the PM “our lungs” wildlife sanctuaries, national parks and nature reserves.
The World Wildlife Fund is Bhutan’s principal partner in its journey of Bhutan for Life, a commitment to remain carbon neutral forever. Beyond those stupendous terrific spectacular efforts, Bhutan’s PM has a dream of Earth for Life, encompassing all nations. Well, almost all nations….
He’s likely not holding his breath for America’s participation. As far as that goes, Mr. Trump is villain number one to the spectacular majestic Himalayan glaciers. He and President Bashar al-Assad of Syria share a loathsome, and lonely, title: Global Warming Deniers, Par Excellence.
One has to wonder where the Philippines callous President Rodrigo Duterte stands since he and Mr. Trump are so much like two peas in a pod (footnote: Duterte signed the Paris pact on February 28, 2017 stating in a letter to the Senate: “After examining the text thereof, I find it advisable to accede to the Paris Agreement and seek the Senate’s concurrence thereto.”) Wow, he read it!
Now, if only… Oh well, forget it!
1. “Retreat of Andean Glaciers Foretells Global Water Woes”, YaleEnvironment360, April 9, 2009.
2. Marzeion, B.; Cogley, J.G.; Richter, K.; Parkes, D., 2014, “Attribution of global glacier mass loss to anthropogenic and natural causes”, Science, 345, 919-921, DOI: 10.1126/science.1254702.
Robert Hunziker (MA, economic history, DePaul University) is a freelance writer and environmental journalist whose articles have been translated into foreign languages and appeared in over 50 journals, magazines, and sites worldwide. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Read other articles by Robert.
Source: Dissent Voice