Three years ago, the nations of the world gathered in Paris to hammer out an agreement to keep average global temperatures from rising more than 1.5º C — a figure the scientific community says will cause catastrophic changes in the environment but will avoid a mass extinction event. That’s a polite way of saying we won’t all die because the Earth will no longer be able to support human life as we know it.
The resulting agreement was hailed as proof countries could work together to solve global problems but it was just a framework for action. The hard work of figuring out precisely what each country needed to do would come later. The COP 24 climate summit in Katowice, Poland, is where the rubber was supposed to meet the road — the time for the details needed to implement the Paris accords would be hammered out.
Instead, the nations of the world got hammered by 4 of the largest fossil fuel producers in the world. Yesterday in Poland, the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait served notice that they have no intention of lifting a finger to prevent the destruction of the planet. Instead, they all support a “business as usual” approach that will see every last molecule of fossil fuel extracted and burned in the pursuit of profit.
The Unites States even had the chutzpah to stage a pro-coal exhibit at the COP 24 conference, which should come as no surprise to anyone who has been following Donald Trump’s manic campaign to please large donors who are coal company owners. Which raises the question, why are the leaders of these countries not in prison? Isn’t willfully depriving people of clean air and clean water tantamount to murder? And isn’t murder a crime?
The four nations object to “welcoming” the latest IPCC 6 report. Instead, they simply want it “noted,” a namby pamby circumlocution that would leave everyone free to ignore its findings. During a plenary session, all the nations of the European Union, a group of 47 developing countries, as well as the nations of Africa, Central America, and South America denounced the four countries.
Rueanna Haynes, a delegate from the islands of St. Kitts and Nevis, told the session it was “ludicrous” not to welcome a report that UN member nations had commissioned and to hold up crucial talks over two words. “It’s very frustrating that we are not able to take into account the report’s findings: we are talking about the future of the world. It sounds like hyperbole when I say it but that’s how serious it is,” she told The Guardian. “I would say that this issue has to be resolved. This is going to drag out and the success of the COP is going to hang on this as well as other issues.”
Alden Meyer, the director of strategy and policy in the Union of Concerned Scientists adds, “It is troubling. Saudi Arabia has always had bad behavior in climate talks, but it could be overruled when it was alone or just with Kuwait. That it has now been joined by the US and Russia is much more dangerous.” Donald Trump is the denier-in-chief. He takes a personal interest in dissing scientists. “But the science won’t go away. The law of thermodynamics can’t be ignored.”
May Boeve, the executive director of 350.org, said: “Deliberately ignoring the IPCC report would be wholly irresponsible and 350.org stands with the rest of world in condemning these climate deniers … and the vested fossil fuel interests behind them.”
The only hope for the COP 24 conference is for the president of Poland to throw his weight behind the IPCC 6 report later this week. “The big challenge now is for the Polish presidency to set aside its obsession with coal, get out of the way, and allow full acknowledgement of the IPCC 1.5°C report and its implications for increasing the ambition of all countries in the conclusion of COP24 later this week,” said Bill Hare, the managing director of Climate Analytics. Poland is the largest user of coal power in Europe, so good luck with that, Bill.
Many CleanTechnica readers see stories about the cost of renewable energy falling and cities pledging to become carbon neutral or ban diesel and gasoline powered vehicles soon. They think that means the world is going to be OK. It’s not. Russia and the US and Saudi Arabia are at each others throats over who gets to kill whom in Yemen or Syria, or the Saudi embassy in Ankara, but they agree completely that extracting coal, natural gas, and oil is critical to their economic survival. They will happily band together to protect that overarching principle even if it means destroying the world.
Their behavior in Poland exposes the extent to which the US and Russian governments are hostages to fossil fuel interests. And the news gets worse every day. Carbon emissions were up a whopping 2.3% in 2017 after holding steady or declining for several years. New coal-fired generating plants are under construction in many Asian countries, financed by investments from Japan, China, and South Korea. The US wants to open the Arctic Wildlife Nature Reserve to fossil fuel extraction for the first time.
Way back in the ’60s, the Kingston Trio popularized a satiric ballad called The Merry Minuet. While its primary focus was on nuclear war, many of its lyrics are just as pertinent today as they were then, if not more so.
They’re rioting in Africa,
They’re starving in Spain.
There’s hurricanes in Florida
And Texas needs rain.
The whole world is festering with unhappy souls;
The French hate the Germans, the Germans hate the Poles.
Italians hate Yugoslavs, South Africans hate the Dutch,
And I don’t like anybody very much!!
But we can be tranquil and thankful and proud
For man’s been endowed with a mushroom-shaped cloud.
And we know for certain that some lovely day,
Someone will set the spark off — and we will all be blown away!!
It’s the last verse that still rings true now more than 50 years later:
They’re rioting in Africa.
There’s strife in Iran.
What nature doesn’t do to us
Will be done by our fellow man.