Climate Corner: Celebrating failure
Dec 10, 2022
Coca-Cola Presents: COP27 took place last month in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, presumably scheduled between the annual Foxes Guarding Henhouses Convention and Lockheed Martin’s World Peace Extravaganza 2022. About as much was accomplished here as one might expect of a climate change summit sponsored by the world’s largest multinational plastic polluter, and occasional patron of anti-labor paramilitary death squads in Latin America.
For those not in the know, Coca-Cola Presents: The United Nations Climate Change Conference, or Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC, is an annual summit at which the wealthy nations most responsible for the climate crisis pretend that there’s very little they can do about it which they aren’t already doing. Activist Greta Thunberg once succinctly summarized the results of every single Conference of the Parties since the first meeting in 1995 with the words “blah, blah, blah.”
The weeks leading up to this year’s summit saw the UN Environment Programme’s reassuring announcement that “no credible pathway to 1.5C” of warming currently exists, with that number being the theoretical limit of warming we can “safely” withstand while still maybe, possibly, perhaps avoiding the worst impacts of the climate crisis (though even this level will result in more of the deadly heatwaves, killer extreme weather events, sea level rise, and a litany of other consequences we’re already beginning to experience; current policies place us on track for somewhere closer to 2.7C of warming, which should see us well within the “hell on earth” range by the end of the century.)
One notable achievement of this year’s conference was the setup of a loss and damage fund supporting the global south as it continues to be ravaged by the unnatural disasters of a warming world. This is well overdue, given that the emissions of rich and powerful nations such as the United States, responsible for some 20% of all CO2 emissions since the Industrial Revolution, play an outsized role in climate tragedies so egregious as the wholesale destruction of entire nations- as in the case of the small Pacific Island nation of Tuvalu, 40% of whose capital city routinely finds itself underwater at high tide. And just on a side note, here’s a fun fact for you: the foreign minister of Tuvalu, Simon Kofe, recently announced that his would become the first ever digitized nation in the metaverse, in hopes of preserving its culture and continuing to function as a country once the real thing has been swallowed up by the sea. We truly are creating the best of all possible worlds for ourselves, are we not?
Even assuming rich nations do not attempt to weasel out of whatever commitments they make to poor nations (and you should not assume this), the achievement of this meager concession rings largely hollow considering the overwhelming failure of the conference-goers to reach any sort of meaningful agreement to phase out the use of fossil fuels. This feels somewhat akin to generously gifting your neighbor with a brand new garden hose, only to then carry on lobbing Molotov cocktails through their front window.
Furthermore, individuals describing the conference to the Guardian referred to COP27 as “the worst climate talks they had been involved in,” and stated that they were “untransparent, unpredictable and chaotic.”
Naomi Klein, climate activist and author of “The Shock Doctrine,” has suggested that civil society organizations should boycott the next of such summits altogether. COP28 is scheduled to take place at the end of November 2023 in, of all places, the United Arab Emirates, one of the largest producers of oil on the planet. One can scarcely fathom the new and innovative levels of “blah blah blah” and greenwashing that might be achieved at such a venue. Why, Klein asks in a Twitter thread, “should civil society expend the carbon, money, and time to join them just to declare it a failure all over again?”
And “failure” truly is the only way to describe it.
Last year around this time, when writing about COP26, I noted that: “It’s been estimated that more than half of our 1.5 trillion tonnes of CO2 emissions since 1751 have been produced in the past thirty years alone — more or less the exact same period that UNFCCC parties have been meeting every year to work on ‘fixing the problem.’”
If nothing else, it would seem that this year’s summit has upheld the proud tradition of doing nothing while the world burns. And by all indications, the stuffed shirts in their fancy meetings have no intention of bucking said tradition anytime soon, as they carry on with the happy, lucrative business of razing our planet to the ground.
Aaron Dunbar is a member of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action.