The “transition” that is being talked about today, both in the social sciences and in the natural sciences, points to a change of system from an unrestricted production of the resources that nature provides us with, to one in which limitations are imposed on all those practices that do not contribute to a sustainable production that is sustainable with Nature and that do not lead to social justice in which the socio-economic and political system opens the way to greater well-being for the entire population. From my point of view, it is a matter of consolidating wealth distribution practices, so that it is produced with greater equity, reducing all kinds of gaps between the richest segments in the world and each nation, as opposed to the poorest and most vulnerable.

By Alberto Salom Echeverría

If this is the premise around which a consensus seems to have been generated, it would be necessary to seriously consider how to progressively reduce the production of pollutants (hydrocarbons, oil, gas, coal, methane gas in particular, and all that derives from them), to enhance clean energies called to replace all that contributes to the warming of the Earth’s atmosphere and concurrent climate change. There is, of course, a key phrase here, “phasing out”. This means that it would be unreasonable and even disastrous for humanity to try to do away with the hydrocarbon energy industry, on which the productive machinery has been based since the beginning of the industrialization period in the mid-19th century until the present day. This has been understood by the vast majority of the planetary conclave of nations that have gathered at the “Conferences of the Parties” (or COPs) convened by the United Nations to address “climate change”.

However, as there is not much time left on the planet to reduce the production of polluting industries (essentially hydrocarbons), and to curb the consequent production practices that devastate the seas, forests, mangroves, etc., the COPs have adopted a set of resolutions to reduce the production of greenhouse gases, the COPs have adopted a set of resolutions accompanied by indicators to measure how to replace this greenhouse gas-producing production, as well as the aforementioned savage practices that damage nature, and instead channel resources into “research and development” to generate other forms of sustainable and environmentally sustainable production, which we call “clean energy”. This is where the “desideratum” of our time lies, as we have continued to cross the scientifically established thresholds of the COPs.

How much time do we have to achieve the required change?

Certainly, it is not possible to dismantle the production machinery that has been created over decades by decree; but it is also clear that it is not appropriate to postpone any longer investment in innovation to create an industry based on “clean energy”. I write this in inverted commas because there will always be some pollution since we are necessarily leaving a sediment in our wake, an ecological footprint that does nothing more than highlight the birth of humanity, or each living individual in his or her journey on earth. There is therefore always an ecological footprint that we leave behind, which means that the equation between the pollution produced by human beings and their environment is less than the capacity of the atmosphere to regenerate itself and offer us a healthy or livable environment, i.e. an environmentally friendly one. In other words, it is necessary to generate a quantity of CO2 that is less than or just equal to, but never more than, that which the planet needs to consume in order to continue the cycle of life (the threshold, as we shall see, is established by the panel of scientists). When carbon dioxide emissions exceed its capacity to regenerate, we are in trouble. This is what is happening nowadays, essentially caused by the disproportionate productive activity of human beings, in the midst of a productive model of “neo-extractivism”, so called, to differentiate it from the productive model that prevailed during the colonial and even neo-colonial period, in this era of unbridled industrialism. This is the point: we have unleashed a “voracious industrialism” to sustain consumerist societies, in which, by the way, a minority consumes excessively, and the majority do not consume what is indispensable.

The panel of scientists attached to the COPs has found that as humanity we continue to overshoot our self-imposed targets. In doing so, we risk causing more warming of the atmosphere, through the greenhouse effect, than the threshold set by scientists, I insist, of 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050, i.e. a temperature that would be, by that measure, above the pre-industrial era (that which existed approximately before 1850). We are not there yet, but we are dangerously close to that limit.

Before demonstrating with data that we are heading towards a situation of undesirable crisis that will leave a high percentage of the poorest people on earth out of life, I believe it is essential to quote the Portuguese sociologist, Boaventura de Sousa Santos, speaking about the crisis of democracy, who tells us that: “The model of capitalism that dominates today is increasingly incompatible with democracy, even with the low-intensity democracy in which we live, a democracy centered on democratizing political relations and allowing despotisms in economic social and racial, ethno-cultural and gender relations to continue to prevail. I am referring,” de Sousa adds, “to the priority of markets over states in economic and social regulation; the commodification of everything that can generate profit, including our bodies and minds, our emotions and feelings, our friendships and our tastes; international relations dominated by finance capital and the super-rich”. It should also be clarified that, for Boaventura De Sousa, in the models of industrial development, there were two historical versions, that generated by “capitalism” and that of “Soviet socialism”, which, from the point of view of their relationship with nature, were very similar. (Cfr. Sousa Santos, Boaventura. “Las Transiciones del mundo: dónde y hacia dónde”. Revista digital La Razón. https:/ítico/2022/08/28/las-transiciones-del-mundo-donde-y-hacia-donde/ La Paz, Bolivia).

De Sousa then quotes his fellow countryman, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, who, faced with the situation we find ourselves in and which distresses us, proclaimed: “Either collective action or collective suicide”. De Sousa immediately emphasized that the regions of the world that, due to the prevailing “neo-extractives” production model, are suffering most intensely from the ecological crisis are Africa, some Pacific islands and some South Asian countries, including Bangladesh, where a quarter of the territory is flooded, affecting some four million people. It also says that in 2020, glacial ice in the Arctic Circle experienced the largest reduction ever recorded in just one month. Moreover, a “new continent” – he called it a “new continent” – of plastics is forming in the Pacific Ocean, stretching from California to the Hawaiian archipelago. Finally, he stresses that if the current rate of global warming continues, given that most of the world’s population lives in the tropical and temperate regions of the Earth, in Southeast Asia, between one and three billion people will be left, for 50 years, out of a “climatic niche” in which they can survive. We are therefore in a limited situation, where there is virtually no time to spare.

It is important to know that about 40% of the carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere by humans since 1850 remains in the atmosphere for thousands of years. Official statistics unfortunately confirm that CO2 emissions have not decreased over the last few years, except for the months of confinement – mainly due to the COVID 19 pandemic. The countries that have most successfully reduced their carbon dioxide emissions are in order: Germany, Mexico, France, Spain, Italy, and Saudi Arabia. On the other hand. The most polluting countries such as China and the United States were continuing to increase their CO2 emissions until 2023. On the other hand, only two countries had reached carbon neutrality, i.e. zero carbon or climate neutrality, namely the Vatican and Bhutan. To achieve carbon neutrality, one of two paths must be followed: a. Use renewable energies, that do not produce carbon dioxide or are very low in carbon dioxide emissions, in this case, we speak of a decarbonized economy. b. Use renewable energies, which do not produce carbon dioxide or are very low in emissions. The second way is to pay others to capture and store 100% of carbon emissions into the atmosphere (e.g. planting trees). It is also obtained by financing carbon projects that prevent future emissions or by buying carbon credits. (Cfr. Durán, Rafael -18 July 2022. “Companies leave their footprint on forests” quoted on

Ideology before science, business before country.

When analyzing the case of Costa Rica regarding the exploration and eventual exploitation of oil and gas, two crucial circumstances become evident: 1. the first is that a large part of those who seek to support this aspiration are involved in an ideological framework rather than in an attempt to approach a scientific vision of the issue and its solutions. Those who start from this premise only want to see, obsessively, productivism and its correlated consumerism as an option and as two sides of the same coin. In both cases, as De Sousa says again, they assume that economic growth is infinite, and this, in the Costa Rican circumstance, means that they are sure that the exploration aimed at finding oil and gas in the subsoil will culminate in a happy ending: they assume once again that the aforementioned exploration and exploitation of oil and gas will get us out of the economic difficulties we are suffering, and they also fantasize that this will happen in the very short term. On the other hand, they disregard the fact that the economic elites and the states that protect such circumstances are constantly pursuing the intermediation of hydrocarbon exploitation as one of the main sources of their economic power, rather than resolving the economic situation of the most vulnerable. For the latter, the transition from the neo-extractives model to one that is economically sustainable and sustainable is essential. In other words, a model of “Buen Vivir”.

On the other hand, for the economic and political elites, the prioritization of this source of power turns the transition into an empty phrase, devoid of content, which therefore means nothing. 2. The second circumstance refers us to another equally significant fact; it consists of the discovery of the journalistic investigation of a very revealing case, that of former minister Dobles Arias, since, as revealed by the newspaper La Nación, the former minister maintained a relationship with “…oil companies interested in extracting hydrocarbons on national soil, for more than two decades”. In other words, even before he held the post of Minister of the Environment in the second administration of Oscar Arias, from 2006 to 2010. Concomitant with the journalistic denunciation, the Costa Rican Union of Chambers and Associations of the Private Business Sector (UCCAEP), has proceeded to remove Dobles Arias from its energy committee. While the doubts raised by the investigation are being clarified, we affirm that, if the allegations are true, it would entail a possible conflict of interest on the part of the former minister Dobles, having signed an agreement in 2010 with the Black Hills Corporation, the company that owns Mallon Oil. In fact, according to a document in the possession of the newspaper La Nación, according to journalist Diego Bosque, Dobles had agreed “… millionaire royalties with Black Hills, in exchange for promoting the exploration and exploitation of oil in several onshore blocks in the northern region”. (Cfr. Diario La Nación. “UCCAEP separates ex-minister Dobles from Energy Committee” by journalist Diego Bosque, 10.03.2024. Pp.3). For this, Dobles would have received, according to the contract, the sum of $4,000 per month (equivalent to approximately 2.1 million colones). In addition, the agreement contemplates representation expenses for dinners, hotels, petrol, transport and others. Additionally, it was contemplated in the agreement that, when the exploitation of oil and natural gas comes into effect, Roberto Dobles would receive between 2.5% and 3% of the profits per year throughout extraction, which would be defined according to the average annual value of oil. The agreement also provides for identical percentages for the eventual extraction of natural gas. (Ibidem).

There is, therefore, sufficient evidence whose veracity will have to be verified in the journalistic investigation, or eventual accusations by the public prosecutor’s office, given that the allegations give rise to the possibility that there could be, if proven, at least a conflict of interest in the case in question, given that the ex-minister promoted actions in favor of the oil company when he was still the head of the sector.

Therefore, in the Costa Rican case, the hypothesis that some of those who seek to support the exploration and exploitation of oil and natural gas are inextricably involved with the interests of large oil corporations that seek to promote the neo-extractives model is valid, thus invalidating or nullifying a course towards an energy transition that would open the way to an economically sustainable and sustainable model that is compatible with carbon neutrality.