COP27 and the fantasies of salvation, colliding with reality

First thing to say is that it isn’t the people on the sharp end of climate change who have been indulging in fantasy. They are not to blame for this. They did what they could, they did not “allow” this, they were simply outspent, outfought, outmanoeuvred.

The small island states knew that rising sea levels (from from melting ice and straight-forward thermal expansion – warm water takes up more space) would doom them.

They formed AOSIS in 1989. They made the Male Declaration in the same year (see my All Our Yesterdays site)

Since then (actually since 1988, in Toronto and Hamburg) they have been pleading with “developed” (a euphemism for ‘successfully extractive’) nations to take climate change seriously, to reduce emissions.

The rich nations’ governments have blathered. They have offshored production and taken the credit. They have diverted everyone into emissions trading (lawyers and bankers get rich), or talked about technological solutions (full disclosure – I think carbon capture and storage for a small number of processes is probably not a bad idea), without ever delivering, without ever creating and implementing policies that would even reduce the acceleration in the trajectory of man-made emissions (they needed to reduce in absolute terms – they have gone up by 60% since 1990).

The corporations and their lobby organisations have done brilliantly in slowing, or stopping, or diverting climate action. And they have been endlessly exposed, named and shamed by journalists and academics (waves at Oreskes, Conway, Brulle, Stokes etc). And still they keep on, with new versions of predatory delay. Why change a ‘winning’ game?

Western consumers and “citizens” never realised what was actually at stake, or thought it was anything to do with them. In the countries of the world where there was freedom of speech, assembly and information, where you didn’t get thrown in jail or worse for telling the truth about what our Lords and Masters were doing… there was, basically, silence, punctuated every few years by noisy and short-lived protest. Nobody knows how to build the stamina for a long sprint through the institutions (sorry Rudi, your sacrifice was in vain. I am glad you’re not hear to see it. You too, Bert).

I think we are finally on the cusp of a bunch of “serious” and “grown up” people coming out and saying what the scientists I trust (waves at Kevin) have been saying for years – that “our” chances of keeping warming below 2 degrees are now vanishingly small.

We (rich people, comparatively) in the West, did not act. We lived in worlds of fantasy and distraction, of festival, and delusion. Other people – people of colour – died, but we thought that would never happen to us, because we are white, we speak English, we are, what’s the word, “civilised.” If the situation were all that serious, our leaders would do something. The technology would be our salvation.

That narrative? That narrative is gasping, doing its Cheyne-Stokes respirations.

What comes next?

I don’t know.

Fear, slow panic as we realise the slow violence we dished out has consequences? Millennarian manias?

Yes, social “capital” will be required, but at what scale? The scale of a town, a city, a nation? What do we DO?

And all those species we are killing.


See also

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