Day 1 & 2 at the Climate Leaders Workshop

by Ghani Kunto

I feel old.

It’s not because the room’s filled with vibrant, younger, creative people. It’s not because I’m feeling out of shape either.

It’s because I feel like I’m out of my element. I feel like my eyes are being opened to a new world, a new way of thinking, a new way of living; one that I don’t necessarily feel comfortable in yet. I feel like I arrived late in the game, and I’m unsure whether I can keep up with this new world. Maybe a bit like how my grandmother felt when first introduced to Facebook.

***

Okay, now that I’ve got that out of the way….

Regardless of feelings, I’ve learned A LOT already about climate change in these two days. It’s wonderful to learn it among incredible people. What a great learning environment.

Even during the flight to Bangkok, Denny, Pungky, and I had already hatched some collaborative ideas. After arriving and meeting with the rest of the crowd, more ideas popped up.

We’ve got Yanina from Bulgaria who had hitchhiked from Russia to Pakistan. We’ve got Nev who has traveled and photographed war-torn areas. We’ve got a Japanese musician, a Korean scientist, a student from Thailand, and that’s just the people in my little group!

In the bigger 30+ group, we have more interesting people under 35 years old (except for Theo. Sorry Theo) and most of them are below 25 years old.

So what have we learned so far?

First about the background on human-induced accelerated climate change.

The scary facts:

1. Planting trees are good. Cutting down less trees are good. But even if all the trees we’ve lost due to deforestation were replanted, we’d have only offset 20% of the CO2 in the atmosphere. That’s more or less the CO2 that’s naturally occurring. There’s still 80% for which we are responsible. More than mitigation, we need to adapt our lifestyle.

2. Lots are being done campaigning against reducing CO2, when really the scarier stuff in the atmosphere are the other greenhouse gasses. Stuff like CFC and HFC (artificial, designed to stay for a long time in the atmosphere, found in air conditioning and fridges) and NO2 (major contributor includes too much fertilizer use) and methane (can be mitigated by reducing the amount of time rice fields are covered in water). Compared to CO2, all of them are trapping the earth’s heat more effectively; thus, making it warmer even faster.

3. Biomass may not be a solution, since it increases the amount of formaldehyde in the atmosphere (that’s what’s going on in Bangkok).

And for those who like numbers:

1. Average person in US produces 4-5 tons of carbon per person per year. While China as a country produces more carbon emission, it’s annual per capita carbon emission is only 2-3 tons.

2. One liter of fuel produces around 2 kg of CO2.

3. One kg of garbage produces around 10 kg of CO2 & methane 4. Predicted economic loss of GDP =6.7%, while cost of mitigation is less than 1% of GDP. Sorry, will need to clarify later if this is talking about world GDP or Southeast Asia.

But, if we embrace a low carbon economy, some of the benefits include:

1. Less dependence of imported fuel

2. Enhance efficient use of energy

3. Ensure national competitiveness

Hm, but really, I think for me personally, the biggest potential benefit: being able to take my yet-to-be-born daughter out to see the beautiful islands of Indonesia. I hope they’ll still be there when she gets here.

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