Category Archives: our doomedness

On existentialism, guilt, Godard and … Shell’s corporate framing strategy

Shell has a new advert – another clever and slick one extolling the virtues of burning gas, which, by pure coincidence, they happen to sell. Why now with this? Well, a mere three decades after the scientists started saying “we’re gonna fry ourselves if we don’t get off the fossil fuel habit” we rich white people are finally thinking about talking about at some point in the middle future perhaps getting rid of one of the three fossil fuels (oil, gas, coal). And Shell sold its coal assets a while back, so would, along with the gas industry more generally, like to throw coal under the bus. It all came out in the open in June at a gas conference in Paris, the city of lights.

Fwiw, I’ve written here (“Simians, Cyborgs and Shell: Corporate Propaganda and Fall-back positions”) about Shell and its adverts. Slick stuff. This advert is a homage/pastiche/rip-off (take your pick) of Jean-Luc Godard’s stunning 1960 film “A Bout de Souffle” (or “Breathless”).

Shot in black and white (but curiously flat and expertly amateurish – probably another bid to seem quirky and authentic), it shows a pretty young woman and her French Bogart-y/Belmondo-y boyfriend in conversation, ostensibly about love, but actually about energy policy. She wants constancy, not intermittency, and he offers that he’ll always be around . It’s a parable, don’t you see – renewables can’t provide base-load electricity generation (says Shell), only natural gas can. It’s all done with subtitled dialogue and sub-Godardian camera angles.

This is presumably part one of a cunning two-part dog-whistling strategy. First they get you used to the idea that sophisticated people, who ‘get’ the (mis)appropriation of French cinema history, are willing to keep tipping enormous quantities of carbon into the atmosphere to maintain their tres debonair lives, (some other schmucks, without the distinction and cultural capital to have heard of Nouvelle Vague, pay; but they tend to be people in far off countries about which we know little. Like the Ogoni, to pick an example at random.)

The second part involves some meat-puppet politician telling you that natural gas is a transition fuel, and you nod along sagely, not even dimly aware that you’ve been primed.

Shell is in a spot of bother. On the question of carbon capture and storage (the only technology that might have given the fossil fuel industry a breathing space)  its boss had this to say

Van Beurden insisted that he had his hands tied from investing more heavily in CCS because they would not produce the high financial returns that investors had been used to from oil and gas. “I would lose my job over it if I just threw a few billions away [on CCS] … CCS is essential for society and … is ultimately important for our company, but listen, I have great difficulty to have shareholders focus on the quarter after next.”

More recently it got its Arctic arse handed to it by Greenpeace.

So at times of trouble, you fall back on what you are good at. And Shell is very very good indeed at distinguishing its indistinguishable-from-its-competitors’ product by appeals to identity, authenticity and naturalness. As the Australian cultural commentator Ross Gibson wrote two decades ago, back when climate change was possibly still manageable;

In 1953, John Heyer produced, co-wrote and directed a documentary film, The Back of Beyond, for the Shell Film Unit of Australia. For forty years in Europe, Shell had been engaged in advertising campaigns designed to “naturalize” their products in economies around the industrial world. The general strategy entailed representing Shell as innate to the good life available to the citizens of the twentieth century. “You can be sure of Shell” – the famous slogan is serene and solid like a landmass. Emphasising that Shell was part of Britain’s second nature, the company’s public relations exercises often functioned with the assurance and cunning of a myth of origin.
(Gibson, 1993; 135)

For my money (and as a PhD student, I don’t have a lot), Shell is trying to create another halo effect here. Rather than nature, female-ness and creativity, as per the ‘hybrid world’ advert, this time it’s about implying existentialism, passion and meaning. Which is a bit of a contrast to the lives of desperation, relentless banality and triviality that most of us are forced to live most of the time, but there you have it.  We’ll keep burning the fuels, so pretty soon our lives will still be full of desperation and banality. The mindless consumerism of trinkets may tail off a bit though.

Finally, there’s a couple of implications here that they presumably hope viewers are vague enough to miss. Casting itself as the Gallic gangster has the implication that it, like Belmondo’s character in Breathless, natural gas is a nihilistic narcissist/sociopath who uses up beautiful things and throws them to one side when they’re used up.

Also, I seem to recall it not ending well for the lad. One can only hope that there is a cop (or perhaps a “COP”?) to do the decent thing sometime rather soon.

So, Shell, I have two things to say – Go ahead, steal a great film, use it up, spit it out. That’s fine, that’s just what you do, who you are.

Oh, and Shell? Je dis que vous êtes vraiment “une dégueulasse”.


Gibson, R. 1993. “Yarning,”  pp 135-157 in South of the West: Post-colonialism and the Narrative Construction of Australia. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press.


Prof Kevin Anderson on #climate, INDCs IAMs and much else

Here’s another part of the interview with Professor Kevin Anderson.  It covers some of the same ground as what has already been posted (see below for explanation)- the inadequacy of the Intended Nationally-Determined Contributions (the pledges for Paris), but goes into much more detail on the nature of Bio-energy Carbon Capture and Storage, the problems with the “Integrated Assessment Models”, the problems of reductionism and the limits of human intelligence/governance.

On Monday 23rd November Professor Kevin Anderson did an interview on climate change.  I failed to double-check the position of the camera, and so after 20 minutes realised that the framing was off.  We started again, covering the same ground (thanks Kevin!).  When I looked at the footage I saw that while it was bad, it wasn’t totally unusable, AND Kevin went into interesting detail about a few things that we glossed over more in the second attempt.  So, while it is “part three” in terms of what has been put up already, it’s actually “part one”, i.e. first attempt.

Professor Kevin Anderson on #Paris #Climate #hope and much more

This post originally appeared on Manchester Climate Monthly.

Climate scientist Professor Kevin Anderson spoke to Manchester Climate Monthly on Monday 23rd November. In the two separate videos that follow, you can see him outlining what is at stake in the upcoming Paris climate conference – the nature of the individual nations’ pledges (INDCs) and how they actually add up to 3 or 4 degrees of warming, not the 2.7 that’s being widely quoted. He believes there is still a (very) slender chance that we can keep warming below two degrees, but it will require a much larger effort than anything currently on the table, and within months the option will be gone.

He looks at the heroic assumptions involved in “Bio-energy Carbon Capture and Storage” before turning to the history of the “two degrees” claim and what it means, the question of ‘what is to be done’, of hope, responsibility and much else.

As ever, Kevin’s answers are comprehensive, carefully modulated around what is fact and what is interpretation, and compelling.

First video

0 minutes What are INDCs? And why should the claim that the INDCs add up to roughly 2.7 degrees of warming very questionable?

INDCs are the “voluntary contributions” (pledges), only go out to 2030, hard to quantify because being submitted in different forms. LOTS of assumptions in this. UNEP Emissions gap report released recently suggests 3 to 4 degrees.
And all the assessments assume that we will develop techniques to suck carbon out of the atmosphere – “BECSS” – Bio-energy Carbon Capture and Storage, and roll them out. Lots of very heroic assumptions in all this

7 minutes and 30 seconds – “It’s the responsibility of intellectuals to expose lies and tell the truth”

Must be careful ascribing intentionality to deceive – it’s an “emerging conspiracy”, of iterative failure, making it harder and harder to do anything.

10 mins. You live in hope?

“We are incredibly unlikely to succeed on two degrees. We are unlikely to hold to three.” Paris is probably the end-game for two degrees C. We’ve lost all the our carbon budgets for that…”

13 mins Explain what two degrees means and why it matters?

Second video

O mins – what did we agree at Copenhagen?

We agreed at Copenhagen to take action to stay below two degrees, consistent with science and on the basis of equity. And didn’t do it- the INDCS are not two degrees, not consistent with science, and massively inequitable.

1 mins 40 Why are you going to Paris?

2 mins 30 What should we as citizens be doing in 2016?

5 mins 40 Who do we push then?

7 mins 30 There seem to be no levers that people of good faith can pull on to even slow down the acceleration of the juggernaut.

“We’ve come to a consensus of apathy” … we have all been co-opted…

9 mins 50 “But then you become a voice in the wilderness”?

10 mins 50 What changes do we expect – food prices, wetter winters?

If only it were that. And who for? People living near the sea level in Bangladesh, or rich people in the Northern Hemisphere? We think we can get by, build big enough walls to cope with 2 or 3 degrees warmer.

“We need imagination, clarity and courage.”

14 mins 10 Is there a country or a region that is doing things in the right direction, even if not at the right speed or scale?

16 mins 35 Anything else you’d like to say?

On optimism, pessimism, personal carbon allowances

Learning Curve: Australia and the #Climate Negotiations #Paris

Below is a short briefing, in the format of a Q and A, about the upcoming Paris climate talks, and Australia’s role over the last 30 years (and the motivations behind that).  There’s also a short glossary, a timeline, references and the standard disclaimer. (My basic opinion on Paris, written in February, is here).

You can read it/download it/share it as a pdf here.

Would be interested in any non-denialist comments.  (At this stage, if you can’t see that climate change is happening – and faster than many scientists have thought – then you are very very wilfully blind. That’s sad, but it’s not my job to help you).

And here’s a fab set of additional Q and As a good friend just sent me

How long is this going to take to read?
No more than five minutes.

I’ve got to take the kids to drama school and get the grouting done, why should I put that off?
Because it’s still at least marginally possible that the future of human civilisation is at stake. You want the little ones doing Lear on a really authentic blasted heath? Your call.

Will it save the world if I read it?
No, but you’ll know a bit more about possibly the most important topic in human history. So if you’re the sort of person who likes to know stuff…

I’m on this blog, aren’t I?
Fair enough. Carry on…

Learning Curve: Australia and the International Climate Negotiations, a 25 Year Overview, Focusing on the Here and Now.

Marc Hudson
23rd November

What’s up?
Another big international climate conference at which world leaders are going to “Save The World” from excess carbon dioxide.

Again?! How many is that now?
This is going to be the 21st annual “Conference of the Parties” to the United Nations Climate Change Convention. The first was in Berlin in 1995, chaired by a somewhat younger Angela Merkel. But there were a bunch of meetings before that, and there have been other meetings in between of course, and plenty of other forums in which the issue has been discussed.

Yeah yeah. This one’s in Paris, right?
Yep, it’s deja vu all over again. Way back in 1989 the G7 meeting was in Paris, and there were a series of heart-warming words about global warming, and pleasing Parisian promises of imminent action were made. Plus ca change, as my phrase book says.

Can you recap the last 30 years, “tres rapidment” as my phrasebook says. Oh, and as soon as you use a three or four letter acronym or some jargon, you know I’m gonna poke your eyes out with this pointy stick, right?
Aah, okay, that’s peer review! So, briefly – since 1988 the world’s nations have been paying attention to climate change. It had taken the scientists thirty years to get their attention. After some wrangling they made a deal in Rio in 1992. It said that the rich countries had started the mess and so should start with the reduction of emissions first. Poor countries were basically saying “we should be allowed to develop.”

Sounds like some nice words. Was this Rio deal strong? Weak? What? Did it have any targets?
Kind of weak. It had no targets or timetables, because the Americans said they wouldn’t be flying down to Rio if there were. The Europeans blinked and the deal was signed.

So what next?
By 1995 the cracks were showing. Various business groupings had succeeded in weakening momentum for action. Everyone had other things on their plate. In 1997, at Kyoto, the rich countries ‘agreed’ to start, but at a much lower level of cutting emissions than the scientists were saying necessary to avoid mayhem. And after that meeting, well, the USA and Australia walked away, saying poor countries should be cutting their emissions too, despite what they had signed in Rio and Berlin.

And since then?
Oh, I could go on all day.

Please don’t
Short version; The same arguments in different cities. Milan, Montreal, Bali, Copenhagen, Warsaw. Whose fault it is, who should start cutting when by how much, who should pay who for what. Mostly it’s rich countries beating up on poor countries. It’s like Groundhog Day, except a version in which Bill Murray never ever learns a damn thing. And as the damage from climate change increases, vulnerable countries are demanding money to help them adapt. So rich countries are giving them some.

That sounds generous.
Well, they mostly give less than they promise. And they mostly just take money out of the aid budget and re-label it climate adaptation. Which the poor countries tend to notice, not being stupid.

So there are trust issues?

I’ll take that as a yes. So, let’s back up a bit. I am a leeetle puzzled. I read somewhere that Australia had become the world’s biggest exporter of coal in 1984, and that coal exports even then were pretty damn serious as a foreign-currency earner/balance of payments and all that.
That’s about right, though it’s never been a huge employer or percentage of GDP.

Yeah, shut up you greenie hippy, I’m asking the questions here. And my next one is why did it even agree to sign up to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in the first place?
Middle power politics.

Gee, thanks, that helps so much.
As Dave Cox (1997) says:
When states lack the power and resources to unilaterally influence international relations, multilateralism permits a ‘seat at the table’ where it is hoped some influence can be exerted.”

So if you’re not a big big beast or a complete irrelevance, your best bet is to hook up with other middle countries and together you’ll be able to get most of what you each want?
Bravo! And to quote a former Australian Foreign Minister, Gareth Evans, writing in 1990 on the subject of rising sea levels and potential environmental refugees who would want to come to Australia, then Australia would need to “promote universal adherence to [international environment] conventions already negotiated and… develop new framework conventions on the protection of the atmosphere and the environment.” (cited in Cox, 1997)

And we did that?
You’ve been asleep for twenty years? We strong-armed an increase in our emissions at Kyoto, and forced them to let us include land-clearing. We then refused to ratify Kyoto because it wasn’t in our quote national interest unquote. Then, when Kyoto finally came into play in 2005, we tried with the Americans to get a spoiler organisation off the ground. After the Rudd-Gillard thing, Abbott then didn’t even send a minister to the 2013 negotiations. It’s been really classy.

But I don’t remember us getting bombed or trade-sanctioned. Australia got away with it!
Maybe, maybe not. A top diplomat co-wrote a very good piece “Australia and climate change negotiations at the table, or on the menu?” (Bamsey and Rowley, 2015) earlier this year. On page seven there’s this;

When, in June 2002, the Howard Government announced that Australia would not be ratifying the Kyoto Protocol most other governments were unhappy with the news, and some appeared to be deeply offended. In subtle ways some of that group may have paid back Australia for the perceived offence on other issues, often well beyond the sustainable development domain. These instances are difficult to evidence because most often linkages were not formally made (unsurprisingly, given the nature of diplomacy). But the authors are aware of occasions on which otherwise friendly governments inexplicably declined to agree to Australian requests. Sometimes no feedback at all was provided, sometimes an eyebrow was raised, and sometimes elliptical references to the Kyoto Protocol were made informally.”

I’m sure we can live with raised eyebrows. And anyway, Australia met its Kyoto obligations, which is more than you can say of the USA or Canada.
As you will be told by the business press and lukewarmists repeatedly. What they mysteriously never have space, time or inclination to tell you is that Australia had wangled an increase in emissions and a “land use” get-out clause, and that it was, in the words of Clive Hamilton (2015) “a three inch putt rather than a hole in one.”

So moving on Tony Abbott wasn’t the world’s biggest worrier about climate change. What did that mean for Australia’s negotiating position?
Oh, I could go on all day.

Please don’t
He was a thug who couldn’t represent Australia’s interests properly, even those of the fossil fuel lobby.. At the first UNFCCC negotiations with him in charge, the December 2013 ones, as I said, he didn’t even send a minister. They were all too busy on climate action at home.

What action was that?
Abolishing the piss-weak climate tax that the Labor lot had gotten onto the statute books. As for the December 2014 UNFCCC discussions, held in Lima, Peru, well, let’s quote Climate Action Network –

This year’s Fossil of the Year Award, goes to Australia ….. From the get-go Australia signalled they were not coming here to make progress towards a comprehensive international climate agreement.… when they sent a climate sceptic Trade Minister Andrew Robb along to “chaperone” Foreign Minister Julie Bishop into a negotiating dead-end…. Shape up Australia, you are making Canada look good!”

Look, there’s plenty of other vandalism, in CHOGM, in OECD…. Aaaargh. Holy cow, you maniac, you just poked me with that stick. Holy crap, I’m bleeding.

So, Uncle History*, that was sooooo fascinating, but what are the issues on the table in Paris, that Australia might be particularly involved in?
Well, there will be some thorny issues for the Aussies. Their reduction target – I was going to say INDC but you have a stick in your hand, is on the low side, and there is no way on God’s no-longer-very-green earth that the ‘Direct Action’ scheme currently in place is plausible. Malcolm Turnbull said this back in December 2009, after Tony Abbott had knifed him. “Abbott’s climate policy is bullshit” (Turnbull, 2009)
Malcolm is going to Paris with that self same policy. The deal he made to become prime minister instead of Tony seems to include “no change on gay marriage and no change on climate.”

The major issues are the size of the cuts and who is going to pay for it all to happen (See Bateman and Packham, 2015.) Australia will be keen to avoid too much close scrutiny of its actual emissions, and of its coal exports.

And when does all this happen? Who does what when?
The conference runs from 30 November – 11 December (Don’t be surprised if it runs over, they often do). Malcolm Turnbull will be there for the opening day, but the French want to avoid the Copenhagen debacle, so the photo-op is at the start not the end. Then the environment minister Greg Hunt will be there, and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop for the second week.

There’s an interesting website called Reneweconomy. One of their writers, Sophie Vorrath noted that Labor’s shadow environment minister was accusing Turnbull’s government of being all “smooth words and warm handshakes” but with “no change what so ever in the substance.”
Julie Bishop has confirmed that there is nothing new on the table for this vital Paris meeting, no strengthening of the emissions target, no additional contributions to the Green Climate Fund, just the same Tony Abbott plan.
Vorrath points out that the shadow minister doesn’t mention coal, and Australia’s coal exports…

Look, you seem to be pulling some sort of “we’re doomed, we’re doomed” thing. It can’t be as bad as all that. Our lords and masters are smart and responsible people, who would never kick the can down the road in the manner you imply Do you have any more credible sources that have a perspective on Paris?
You mean like the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), a public policy research institute that has been around since the late 80s?

Yeah, they’ll do. What do THEY have to say about the prospects for Paris?
Well, they publish detailed and respected daily reports of all the climate negotiations, and have done so for ever, basically. And they do summaries of each set of talks, in multiple languages. And after the last set of negotiations, in Bonn, in October, they did a summary that – in part – reads like this.

Almost no time at ADP 2-11 was spent addressing the decision text necessary to flesh out the hoped-for concise agreement. The Paris package is meant to constitute of both agreement and decision text. Some had hoped for a virtuous cycle in which the details on the “how” would be captured in decision text, thus allowing the agreement only to focus on the “what,” with parties able to make compromises within the agreement text, once assurances on how issues were being dealt with in the decision text were elaborated. Instead, at ADP 2-11 a vicious cycle continued to inhibit progress, as parties were loath to remove anything from the agreement without knowing what would be in the decision text, but also found it difficult to work on decisions without knowing what would be in the agreement.

Don’t get me wrong, there will probably be SOME sort of basic ‘agreement’. Piss-weak, no enforcement, nothing serious though. It will be an agreement to keep on meeting. What matters- what has mattered for decades – is what people in rich countries do in their own towns and cities. Are they preparing to challenge corporate spin, to force politicians and bureaucrats to make real promises, and then keeping involved so the promises can’t be rolled over, ignored or weakened?

But what you’re saying really doesn’t sit within the mainstream, does it?
You’re quite right. As my friend, Professor Chris Wright of the University of Sydney just observed

the mainstream media here in Oz are still in the ‘CC is a hoax/not happening’ mode (Murdoch press) or ‘there’s hope, the world is changing’ mode (Fairfax/Guardian). No one is willing to look into the abyss and contemplate the end of the party! For an example of the ‘there’s hope’ line this latest one from ABC identifies the usual suspects (Jeffrey Sachs/CSIRO etc) they even cite CCS!:”

Sigh. Anything else I need to know?
Yeah, the species has almost certainly left it too late to do anything about climate change. Yes, there’ll be some wind farms, but pretty soon we will panic and reach for the geo-engineering. You’d be well advised to take one or both of the following courses of action: 1) stockpile shotgun ammo and baked beans in a sick survivalist psychodrama 2) as per Banks et al. (1995) “dance and drink and screw, because there’s nothing else to do.”


1985 A scientific meeting in Villach, Austria with many experts, some of who’d been working on climate since the 1950s, realises it that once you properly factor the non-carbon dioxide gases, climate is a problem for the here and now. They start knocking hard on the Big Boys’ doors, and because they have Ozone-Hole credibility, they’re sort of listened to.

1988 A conference on “The Changing Atmosphere”, held in Toronto just after the G7 summit, is the first climate conference at which heads of state (Canada and Norway) appear. Australian scientists attend.

1990 Australia agrees to a domestic reduction target of 20% below 1990 levels by 2005.

1992 Australia signs the “UNFCCC” treaty, and ratifies it. Its domestic “National Greenhouse Response Strategy” is made up of only voluntary actions.

1995 Australia resists emissions cuts for developed nations (especially itself) and, in contradiction of the CBDR agreement it made just three years earlier, wants developing nations to agree to emissions reductions targets. At the end of the year it releases a report based on economic modelling paid for by the fossil fuel industry that ‘proves’ it would be unfairly penalised by agreeing to cuts.

1997 Australia extracts an emissions increase as its Kyoto target, and a special clause for ‘reducing’ its land-clearing (which it was doing anyway). The following year, Australia signs the Kyoto protocol. Big fossil business begins to lobby against ratification…

2001 New President George W. Bush announces that the US will not ratify Kyoto.

2002 Australian Prime Minister John Howard announces, on World Environment Day, that Australia will not ratify the Kyoto Protocol because it is not in the national interest (as defined by him)

2005 The Kyoto Protocol finally comes into force, once Russia ratifies. The USA and Australia cook up the “Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate”. The Australian Environment Minister accidentally admits it is an ‘alternative’ to Kyoto. It dies on the vine when US Congress cuts off its money.

2007 New Prime Minister Kevin Rudd (symbolically) ratifies the Kyoto Protocol and gets a two minute ovation at the Bali Climate Meeting. A two-year timetable is set of the …

2009 Copenhagen Climate Conference, with sky-high hopes (if not expectations) and, in the final analysis, rock-bottom results. Rudd’s climate dreams, already rocked by the second defeat of his “Continue Polluting Regardless Scheme” (subs, please check this) evaporate.

2011 At the Durban meeting of the UNFCCC they all agree to keep talking and at the end of 2015 make an agreement to start doing something by 2020. #senseofurgency

2013 Australia doesn’t even send a minister to the Warsaw Climate Conference.

2014 In October Australia hosts the G20 in Brisbane. Among many other embarrassments, Abbott’s efforts to keep climate off the agenda end in farce when Obama and the Chinese simply ignore him.


Common but Differentiated Responsibilities – A term loose enough in meaning that the people at Rio could agree it. A Rorschach inkblot it lets developing countries think “The rich guys have promised to make deep cuts before we have to do anything” and the developed countries say “well, it’s been twenty years, so the poor are going to have to stay poor.”

CHOGM Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. Remnant of British Empire. Meets every two years, so that Australia can act like a dismissive thug.

CPRS Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. Went tits up repeatedly, took Rudd’s credibility with it.

Kyoto Protocol – 1997 agreement that rich countries would cut their emissions by various small amounts that were much less than the scientists said was necessary. After the USA walked away, Australia did too, despite having wangled an increase as its reduction target. The deal came into force in 2005, with Russian ratification, but is now essentially a zombie process. See “Veil of Kyoto”

Middle Power – not a superpower, not a minnow. In combination with other middle powers, can bend things in their own interests, a bit.

OECD – Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development. Rich countries club, now with 34 members, set up in 1961. A sometimes useful talking shop and rule-maker.

Uncle History One of my nieces calls me this. True story.

Veil of Kyoto – Term of two English academics who argued in 2010 that

“‘Kyoto’ has created a veil over the climate issue in Australia in a number of ways. Firstly, its symbolic power has distracted attention from actual environmental outcomes while its accounting rules obscure the real level of carbon emissions and structural trends at the nation-state level. Secondly, a public policy tendency to commit to far off emission targets as a compromise to implementing legislation in the short term has also emerged on the back of Kyoto-style targets. Thirdly, Kyoto’s international flexibility mechanisms can lead to the diversion of mitigation investment away from the nation-state implementing carbon legislation. A final concern of the Kyoto approach is how it has shifted focus away from Australia as the world’s largest coal exporter towards China, its primary customer. While we recognise the crucial role aspirational targets and timetables play in capturing the imagination and coordinating action across nations, our central theme is that ‘Kyoto’ has overshadowed the implementation of other policies in Australia.”

References and Further Reading

Bamsey, H. and Rowley, K. 2015. Australia and Climate Change Negotiations: At the Table, or On the Menu? Lowy Institute, March.

Banks, N., Cocker, J. Doyle, C, Mackey, S. and Senior, R. 1995. Common People. Pulp. Different Class. [CD]. London: Island.

Bateman, B. and Packham. A. 2015. COP21: The road to Paris (via Bonn) Clayton Utz, 29 October.

Climate Action Network, 2014. Australia gets another OI, to its OI OI OI with 4th Fossil of the Day Award (4 out of 10, ouch) Climate Action Network International, 11 December.

Cox, D. 1997. The road from Rio: multilateral cooperation gives way to national interest. In Leaver, R. and Cox, D. (eds) Middling, meddling, Muddling, Issues in Australian Foreign Policy. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin.

Hamilton, C. 2015. Australia hit its Kyoto target but it was more a three inch putt than a hole in one. The Conversation, 16 July.

Haworth, N. and Foxall, A. 2010. The Veil of Kyoto and the politics of greenhouse gas mitigation in Australia. Political Geography, Vol. 29, (3), pp.167-176.

IISD, 2015. Earth Negotiations Bulletin ADP2-11 Final, Summary of the Bonn Climate Change Conference: 19-23 October 2015.

Turnbull, M. 2009. Abbott’s Climate Change Policy is Bullshit. Sydney Morning Herald, 7th December.

Vorrath, S. 2015. Heat on Turnbull ahead of OECD talks on coal subsidy cuts. Renew Economy, 11 November.

Thanks to: Loukas, Joe, Chris. All errors remain mine.


Marc Hudson, besides trying to extract himself from editing “Manchester Climate Monthly,” is a second year PhD candidate at the Sustainable Consumption Institute, studying how come and how coal is still in the game almost thirty years after climate scientists and some ‘issue entrepreneur’ activists, bureaucrats and politicians managed to wake everyone up to the threat of anthropogenic global warming. The views, snark and glibness contained herein are entirely his own, and in no way represent the official position of the SCI, the University of Manchester or anyone else, obvs.

Future “Learning Curve” briefings will appear on – (Australian) divestment, peak bodies & umbrella groups, carbon capture and storage, local coal conflicts, denialism, the coal industry’s recent trajectory.

He can be contacted via @marcsrhudson or on his email marcmywords [at]

The Prospects for Paris – not good. #climate #debacle

The “Earth Negotiations Bulletin,” the best summary of the climate talks, has this (in part) to say about the last official meeting before the up-coming Paris talks;

“Leaving [the last UNFCCC meeting before the Paris conference, held in October in Bonn], many delegates concurred with Laurence Tubiana, who spoke for the incoming COP 21 Presidency, that the text produced at this session was far from what parties had hoped to have in their hands ahead of negotiations in Paris. …

“Almost no time at ADP 2-11 was spent addressing the decision text necessary to flesh out the hoped-for concise agreement. The Paris package is meant to constitute of both agreement and decision text. Some had hoped for a virtuous cycle in which the details on the “how” would be captured in decision text, thus allowing the agreement only to focus on the “what,” with parties able to make compromises within the agreement text, once assurances on how issues were being dealt with in the decision text were elaborated. Instead, at ADP 2-11 a vicious cycle continued to inhibit progress, as parties were loath to remove anything from the agreement without knowing what would be in the decision text, but also found it difficult to work on decisions without knowing what would be in the agreement. ….

“Reporting that Hurricane Patricia was about to hit its coastline with unprecedented strength, Mexico, described the government’s desperate work to move coastal populations out of harm and made an emotional appeal for all parties to set aside their differences and focus on the work ahead. While delegates expressed solidarity with the affected populations, many in the room reflected on the increasing chasm between the international climate policy-making process and the mounting real-world impacts of a changing climate.”

I find it hard to believe that Paris could be as big a catastrophe as Copenhagen 2009 (it’s all relative of course – the battle to save our species from the unintended consequences of its own ingenuity was already lost by May 1992, when the Europecat_seen_the_endans couldn’t get a domestic carbon tax through thanks to massive opposition from industry, and when/so they blinked at the American threat to snub the Rio Earth Summit if there were targets and timetables in the proposed climate treaty. Everything since then – Kyoto, the Hague, Montreal, Copenhagen, Durban – has been a series of yelps as the species plummets towards an unforgiving earth, its parachutes shredded by the scissors of vested interests and inertia.)

But catastrophe-wise, Paris MIGHT be. Holy cow we are as dumb as a rock.

A lively dodo!! On extinction, Derrida and solastalgia

Went do a corking seminar this afternoon, at the end (well, middle) of a corking day (more on that another time).

It was by Gitanjali Pyndiah, a third year PhD student at Goldsmith’s University (scene of a crime against academia and activism 10 days ago, but I digress).

She’s looking at how ‘we’ (people from both Mauritius and the wider world) think of and portray … the dodo.

Dodo_tennielThe title was “The objet-Dodo: reframing extinction in a post-colonial context.

This blog post is NOT a verbatim summary of what she said, more of the interesting stuff (and also my stuff) that came out of the talk and the discussion.

She started in with a brief history of the dodo and how it is native to Mauritius. It got wiped out by the Dutch, who then scuttled off and left the island to be colonized by the French, who had it till 1810, when the English took it (but left the language, laws and everything else untouched).

There was a good short description of “Imperial Nostalgia” –

a mood of nostalgia that makes racial domination appear innocent and pure; people mourning the passing or transformation of what they have caused to be transformed. Imperialist nostalgia revolves around a paradox: A person kills somebody and then mourns the victim; or someone deliberately alters a life form and then regrets that things have not remained as they were. . . Imperialist nostalgia uses a pose of “innocent yearning” both to capture peoples’ imagination and to conceal its complicity with often brutal domination (R. Rosaldo, Culture and Truth: The Remaking of Social Analysis)

There was a fascinating bit on the biology of islands and “island dwarfism” – how things either shrink or become giant when isolated. May use it to think about social movements some more, and how they shape people’s habits… But I digress

There was a fascinating section on how the Oxford Dodo (on display, in multiple senses, at the Natural History Museum there) is worth thinking about.

There was a bit on Derrida where my attention became decidely undecidable; I thought and wrote some theoretical stuff about my PhD (on the dialectical issue lifecycle model, since you ask), which would make my supervisor happy, but he doesn’t read this blog.

Then there was some cool stuff on a Mauritian artist whose representations of the dodo are again worth thinking with.

This was followed by a lively discussion. If only I could read my hand writing that suggested I read something “Essay on Cr…., essay on…..”

Other books and essays to add to the tottering pile

“Borders, boundaries and frameworks.” Hmm, can’t find, but this, by someone called Mae Henderson, might be it?

Peasant Pasts: History and Memory in Western India” by Vinayak Chaturvedi

My thoughts, fwtw

Solastalgia – sadness for what we’ve lost thanks to climate change.

Solastalgia is a neologism coined by an Australian; The philosopher named Glenn Albrecht in 2003 with the first article published on this concept in 2005.[1] It describes a form of psychic or existential distress caused by environmental change, such as mining or climate change.

Hans Haacke – German political artist

Elizabeth Kolbert and her book on The Sixth Great Extinction

Extinction as a passive term where the doer is missing, but in Chile the dictatorship would “disappear” people, as a verb…

The Portuguese only have one word that covers exploration and exploitation, which is sensible and honest, if you think about it…

The dodo as US (we are stupid but don’t know it). An invading alien would do for us the way the Dutch did for the dodo. As per “The Arrival” which stars Charlie Sheen as a rocket scientist…

Martha the Passenger Pigeon and the last Tasmanian Tiger (that we know about  and that sad sad footage.)

Baudrillard’s Simulacrum – representation of a thing that never existed/no longer exists blah blah

Dodo as boundary object?

In sociology, a boundary object is information, such as specimens, field notes, and maps, used in different ways by different communities. Boundary objects are plastic, interpreted differently across communities but with enough immutable content to maintain integrity. The concept was introduced by Susan Leigh Star and James R. Griesemer in a 1989 publication (p. 393):

The animals we choose to represent us (the hippy students of UC Santa Cruz getting the banana slug instead of the sea lion. But not every animal “means” the same thing the world over, of course…)

Oh, btw, Shell, we have that ‘hybrid world’ – thanks in part to you…

Yesterday I posted a piece on Shell’s beautiful (in a Leni Riefenstahl kind of way) new advert in which two vegan, pierced women act as spokespeople for the exploration, extraction and burning of natural gas.  I should have pointed out that this advert is also an appropriation of the whole “we need more women in STEM” thing. And even more than that, I should have pointed out that we already have the hybrid world they are saying they’d like, just not quite in the way they probably mean…

As the late Ulrich Beck said in a May 2014 discussion with Bruno Latour –

“… global warming is already transforming the world dramatically. For example: there is no longer such a thing as a purely natural weather event. Equally, no weather event can truly be described as artificial, that is human induced. By changing so substantially the composition of the world’s atmosphere, humans have not simply brought a new category of weather into being – ‘human weather’, for example, as distinct from ‘natural weather’. Rather, the planetary system which yields distinct weather at distinct times in distinct places is now a both-and-system – it is a hybrid system yielding hybrid weather. Whatever the weather outside this window today – whether storm or calm, whether heat wave or cold wave – it is a result of this new co-produced natural-societal system.”