Activists of global anti-poverty charity Oxfam, wearing masks depicting some of the world leaders, stage a protest ahead of the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, known as the COP21 summit, in Paris, France, November 28, 2015. (photo: Benoit Tessier/Reuters)
By William Boardman, Reader Supported News – 03 December 15
World “leaders” hold world hostage, no release seen soon
Maybe that sub-head is too bleak, maybe it’s unjustified, maybe there is an invisible political will to survive more than the next fiscal quarter or election. If COP21, the UN climate conference that began November 30, actually manages to provide some reason to believe the world will not continue to stumble deliberately toward self-incineration, that would beat present expectations. But even that unlikely result would be far short of the profound changes needed to prevent the world from heating more than the 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) already considered inevitable – and calamitous.
COP21 stands for the 21st session of the Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), an international treaty established in 1992 (at the Rio Earth Summit) “to consider what they could do to limit global temperature increases and the resulting climate change, and to cope with its impacts.” Like the UN, UNFCCC is dominated by the richest and most powerful countries, whose perceived interests give little weight to the needs of the poorest or most vulnerable countries.
That underlying structural problem of power imbalance is amplified at COP21 by sheer numbers. COP 21 has at least 36,276 registered individual participants. Of these, 23,161 people represent 198 countries (two of which are only observers). There are another 1,236 observer organizations, including 36 units of the UN, 71 intergovernmental organizations, and 1,109 non-governmental organizations, altogether represented by 9,411 people. And there are 1,366 media organizations with 3,704 registered participants. All of them (and all of us) will have to slog through jargon and Orwellian language which have the effect of obscuring meaning, not exposing it.
The official goal of this gathering of world leaders is: “COP21, also known as the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, will, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.”
COP21 is theatre of the absurd, diverting the frogs as the water boils
What passes for global “leadership” has already pissed away more than three decades since climate change was identified as a clear and present danger to life on earth. Even now the world’s leaders appear content to lounge in their comfortable bubbles of denial of reality and conflicts of interest that reinforce that useful denial. We live in a time when shameful leaders almost everywhere appear to lack the capacity for shame, much less the capacity to change their shameful behavior.
They aim to achieve a legally binding agreement on climate? If they wanted a legally binding agreement, or even an agreement that worked, they would have had one long since.
They aim to achieve a universal agreement on climate? They don’t need a universal agreement on climate, they need only to agree among the powerful few and the agreement would then be universal.
Those making a globe-saving agreement unlikely, if not impossible, are the ones who brought the globe to the climate brink in the first place. These are the governments that have for decades subsidized their oil and coal companies, whose social conscience is exemplified by Exxon. Almost 40 years ago, in 1977, Exxon learned that carbon dioxide produced by burning oil and gas was warming the planet and could threaten humanity. Exxon immediately blew the whistle – on sharing that information. Continuing to accept government subsidies, Exxon poured millions of dollars into a decades-long disinformation campaign debunking the climate change it knew to be real. In effect, even after the government knew through other sources about global warming, government continued to subsidize Exxon’s possibly criminal lies to the government and the public. Forbes magazine defends Exxon, arguing that Exxon was right because global warming has increased more slowly than predicted by some.
Corporate polluters embedded in UNFCCC (go ahead, pronounce it)
Exxon and its ilk have long had a heavy hand in UN activities to address climate change and they are well-represented at COP21. It is not in their interest to have the conference reach an enforceable and universal agreement, because most of their corporate assets are oil and coal in the ground and they can’t cash in on the value of those assets without burning them, no matter what they do to the planet.
When a society, in this case a global society, sets out to confront criminal behavior, if they’re serious, they don’t convene a conference of criminals. Assuming that planetary destruction is at least a crime against humanity (this is controversial in some circles) what earthly sense does it make to have the world’s global plunderers, governmental and corporate, choose themselves to figure out how to reduce their plunder without reducing their profits and power?
Having absolute authority to take ameliorative steps on their own initiative, the plunderers swamp the credulous media with claims that an unwieldy conference with a track record of 23 years of failure is the only possible way to find a solution to the dangers of climate change. To emphasize that opinion, the plunderers exclude the most articulate voices against plunder from their conference. Those are the lucky ones. The less lucky are deposed by military coup and jailed, while the US is quick to recognize the coup government of the Maldives as it promptly issues offshore oil leases, showing their willingness to see their own people drown sooner or later. Like the Marshall Islands (under US “protection”), the Maldives are a looming test case of whether the world prefers long term humanity over short term profit.
The Marshall Islands were the subject of a long, lavishly illustrated page one piece in the December 2 New York Times fatalistically headlined “Pacific Island Nation Struggles Against Relentless Rising Sea” (and worse online: “The Marshall Islands Are Disappearing”). The story is strangely disconnected from COP21, as if assuming there’s nothing that can be done to save the Marshall Islands. The Times even characterizes foreign minister Tony A. deBrum as somewhat unconcerned with saving his country:
Mr. deBrum’s focus is squarely on the West’s wallets – recouping “loss and damage,” in negotiators’ parlance, for the destruction wrought by the rich nations’ industrial might on the global environment. Many other low-lying nations are just as threatened by rising seas.… But the Marshall Islands holds an important card: Under a 1986 compact, the roughly 70,000 residents of the Marshalls, because of their long military ties to Washington, are free to emigrate to the United States, a pass that will become more enticing as the water rises on the islands’ shores.
Speaking, as it typically does, in the voice of the plundering class, the Times frames the destruction of a sovereign nation in terms of issues that matter to the plunderers: they want our money, and they want to come here – the horror. But the full moral squalor of the Times as plunderer mouthpiece comes later. The Times describes neighborhoods in the Marshall Islands that already suffer periodic flooding with salt water and raw sewage, followed by sickness and disease, fever and dysentery, in a cycle that will only repeat more quickly as warming continues. Such health conditions would be forbidden in the US. The Times, sounding like Marie Antoinette with the monstrous detachment of the rich and unaffected, worries only that Marshall Islanders “could see their homes unfit for human habitation within the coming decades.”
“If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu”
The plunderers also ban peaceful protest against plundering, using the “terrorism” threat as an excuse to prevent protest against the eco-terrorism of the plunderers. When the plunderers’ gag on free speech is met with non-violent protest, the plunderers’ police respond with a violent put down and 200 arrests. This is Paris now. The local police state also used the “terrorism” smear to raid the homes of climate change activists, putting them in house arrest without charges. French President François Hollande, a head of a leading plunderer state, lied about the police actions this way:
This is why these protests are not authorized. We knew there would be troublemakers, who by the way have nothing to do with climate activists, or those who want the conference to succeed, and who are there only to create problems. That’s why they were put under house arrest. And it’s doubly unfortunate, I’d even say scandalous, Place de la Republique, where there are all these flowers and also candles placed in memory of those who were killed by the bullets of terrorists.
While Hollande’s first remarks are commonly dishonest, unprovable smears of unnamed and uncharged citizens, his last remark is a callous, demagogic lie. Video of the police attack shows that the memorial at the Place de la Republique was protected by the protesters and trashed by the police.
As with past UN climate meetings, peaceful protesters have been kept away from the eyes and ears of registered participants. What does it say about the participants’ arguments about climate change to see that they need police to protect them from counter-arguments? As one protester said, commenting on their exclusion from any meaningful part in the process: “If you’re not at the table, you are on the menu. So, we want to be at the table.”
Do the people at the table care what happens after they’re dead?
If the people at the table actually thought and felt in global terms, if they actually thought and felt in generational terms, they could not possibly act as they do, fecklessly, ineffectively, self-servingly and soullessly. Their terrorism is magnitudes larger than the “terrorism” they pretend to “protect” us against with their creeping totalitarian controls. If it were otherwise, there would not be so many casualties among climate change action advocates. Another such excluded expert is Pablo Solon, a former chief negotiator for Bolivia, now denied a seat at the table. He went to Paris to protest against the scripted charade of COP21, where there is no negotiation of unenforceable national promises to reduce emissions. Perhaps the conference would be better named COP-OUT21, if Solon is right:
There is an official document from the UNFCCC that says,… we are going to be increasing the temperature between 2.7 to 3.9 degrees Celsius…. And now to be speaking about [global warming of] four degrees or five degrees Celsius is, to put it in other terms, to burn the planet. So the Paris agreement is an agreement that will see the planet burn.
For that prediction to be wrong, our global “leaders” need to change their behavior in radical ways that they have so far shown every intention of resisting. More likely Paris is another sham. It’s as if a ship captain with a vessel taking on water demands that the crew bail faster, and viciously punishes anyone trying to plug the hole. Faced with the need to reverse course to avoid calamity, the captains of our ships of state have gathered to discuss only the possibility of slowing down, while maintaining the same course.
- 50% of the world’s population, the poorer half, cause only 10% of greenhouse gas emissions.
- 10% of the world’s population, the richest 10%, cause almost 50% of greenhouse gas emissions.
The plunderers show little interest in sacrificing their wealth to save the poor, or the planet. Among US presidential candidates so far, only Bernie Sanders has acknowledged that climate change is the most serious national security issue this (or any other) country faces. His campaign is predicated on the possibility of a political revolution from below, which might allow the possibility of US actions consistent with protecting the planet. It’s not that the ways to protect the planet are unknown or unachievable. But the best ways to protect the planet – especially keeping fossil fuels in the ground – are fundamentally unacceptable to those whose present interests are in conflict with efforts to keep the planet from burning. And the plunderers still control the game at the top.