Climate Change and Georgia
22 November, 2012

For those who don't know, the climate is changing due to the activity of human beings. There are several human activities that cause it but the main one is burning fossil or hydro-carbon fuel like gasoline and coal. Most people in countries with strong education systems know that it is happening. The correlation between education and accepting climate change is clear. Educated people understand this and accept this and uneducated people don't. Hurricane Sandy hit New York city a few

weeks ago and caused such damage just before the US election, practically everybody saw it as evidence of climate change. And yet this topic is so infrequently discussed in Georgia unlike everywhere else.



You hear many people from post Soviet countries, and I have had many senior officials from the former government say to me, that climate change hasn't been proved, there is still disagreement. This is an old tactic of big corporations that want to delay a solution to climate change and the groups they support. When somebody supports an argument that has lost, the next step is just to insist that both opposing points of view be put forward. When scientists first realised that smoking tobacco cigarettes shortened lives, big tobacco companies denied it for years, because they made such high profits and didn't want to loose those profits. Then when it was obvious to everybody, they would simply "teach the controversy". They would support media outlets and so could influence them to put forward headlines like, "Cigarettes: Dangerous or Not?" That way people who don't want to believe cigarettes kill you have a way to continue avoiding the truth.



There are very powerful companies doing the same with climate change now. They say if anybody talks about climate change, they must present "both sides" But there aren't two sides, scientists all agree. The only scientists that don't agree are the ones paid by oil and coal companies. So we need to get past that.


There is a book called Fast Forward (Strapad Tsin in Georgian, put out by Radarami, a non-profit publisher which which I am connected) that discusses what climate change means for the world. Climate change hasn't been successfully dealt with by the UN or really any individual country. Really only the EU takes it seriously. The book says that it will have to be decided by big countries, particularly India, China, the US lead by the EU. In Western Europe this is one of the biggest issues on people's minds and is constantly in the media.


What does climate change mean for Georgia? Several things. First of all, it is easier for Georgia to do it right than most other countries, because of its location and topography. In Georgia now everybody is talking about the import of gas from Russia or from Azerbaijan but the more important question is the speed of the shift to renewable fuel, like hydro or wind power. Georgia discusses its ability in the future to export electricity, and of course this would be great. But if Georgia were to build dams and export electricity, it would be the only net renewable electricity exporter in the world.


Good international citizenship matters and is judged in several ways. Currently Georgia's willingness to support its allies has been via the US mission in Iraq and the NATO mission in Afghanistan. But fighting climate change now buys good will with exactly the constituency Georgia needs, the European Social Democrats that worries about the former government and it's aggressive stance towards Russia and its too-conformable relationship with American Republicans.  If Georgia were to become a leader in the control of climate change, that could greatly improve it's reputation in western Europe.


During the Soviet period people had to wait years for a car. Then a few years ago, when the Interior Ministry started running such an efficient car market, Georgia's number one export became used cars. The former government talks about that with great pride. But the rest of the world had moved on from this fever for cars. As Enrique Pen~alosa famously said, “A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It is one where the rich use public transportation.” So true. Georgia's current preoccupation with cars, having lots of cars, and big cars as possible, seems to the Western European eye, a little…..third world. Georgia is one of the only countries in the world that doesn't have an anual inspection for cars for safety or emissions. In fact Georgia is one of the only countries that uses gasoline with lead in it, which increases lead in the environment which hurts children's brain development among other things.