As the COP21 Climate Change Conference in Paris came to a close, world leaders along with their media mouth pieces are celebrating the agreement, while the rest of the world is critical.
The deal touts the goal of keeping global temperatures “well below” 2° C warming, but the actual emission reduction commitments globally put us on track for 3° C warming, which would be catastrophic. The deal allows countries to voluntarily stay on track with commitments, in theory, via peer pressure, with no enforcement mechanism in place. There will not be sanctions or any other penalty if countries do not comply. Many front-line communities and much of Latin America called for a 1.5° C limit, which scientists agree is the only way to protect vulnerable populations.
Obama refused to sign any legally binding language that would force the payment of reparations to developing countries by the “first world,” which is responsible for the majority of emissions historically while prospering from centuries of exploitation of the Global South. There was a hollow mention of human rights, but it was only included in the preamble, which is not considered part of the agreement. Human rights are a key issue as the poor and indigenous communities will continue to be hardest hit by climate change impacts.
The deal urges rich countries to give assistance to the developing world in relation to financing and technology, but any such assistance is voluntary.
No mention of fossil fuels
The language does not once mention fossil fuels, oil or coal and has a vague directive for global emissions to peak “as soon as possible,” meaning business-as-usual. It “invites” stakeholders to take part in the effort to curb emissions, appealing to some mythical morality that corporations hold for the public good. Janos Pasztor, the U.N. assistant secretary-general on climate change, told CBS News, “What we want is zero emissions at some point in the future; from a climate point of view, it is perfectly OK to continue oil and gas for some time to come.”
Even this inadequate deal will only go into effect after it is ratified by 55 of the 195 signing nations and allows nations to withdraw after 3 years.
The agreement also ignores the fact that the Trans-Pacific Partnership, currently awaiting approval, will supersede any climate agreement and gives corporations enormous powers over local governments and any environmental regulations. Also, there was no mention of protecting ecosystems or the well-being of future generations.
Currently, entire ecosystems are being thrown off balance by the warming climate, extreme weather and sea level rise as we face the 6th mass extinction, the worst disaster since the dinosaurs died off. Each species serves a role in the greater ecosystem. Like parts in a factory, when one part breaks, the factory can no longer produce. And what “factory Earth” produces is life sustaining air, water and food. Biodiversity is crucial for our survival.
And what does a warming atmosphere really mean? Do we all just have to move inland, adapt to the heat and be more creative at growing food? It’s actually much more daunting. If we were to reach 6° C warming, which is possible in the business-as-usual scenario, a major imbalance would occur in the atmosphere and it would be like trying to breathe on Mount Everest, but at sea level, meaning there would not be enough oxygen in the atmosphere to sustain life. With current predictions of warming, humanity will have to adapt to the changes already in motion, but we cannot adapt in this runaway scenario.
It is important to put in perspective the commitments of the U.S. to cut emissions since the U.S. has by far the largest per-capita carbon footprint globally, almost three times greater than China’s.
Role of imperialist war in global warming
Never seriously addressed at climate conferences is the fact that the Pentagon, which is the biggest polluter on the planet, is immune to any regulatory authority and not beholden to any environmental agreements.
During the Kyoto negotiations in 1997, the U.S. demanded as a provision that all of its military operations worldwide, including operations with the UN and NATO, be exempted from measurement or reductions. The U.S. then refused to sign the agreement, but Congress went on to pass an explicit provision guaranteeing the U.S. military exemption from any energy reduction or measurement.
Currently, if all of humanity lived like the average U.S. consumer, we would need over 5 Earth’s to sustain us. In general, corporations cannot be allowed to continue the rapid rate of production of disposable goods and the absurd practice of planned obsolescence if we are to solve the crisis. 30% of food produced in the U.S. is thrown away because it can’t be sold at a profit.
Not only do we need to curb consumption, but we need massive infrastructure improvements to greatly decrease how many cars are on the road by using smart growth planning so that people live, work and shop within their communities, in addition to a massive expansion of public transit.
The scientists and engineers of the world have the solutions. The technology exists today to provide all energy needs globally using wind, water and solar, but the political will to quit fossil fuels is largely absent.
Fight to save the planet
During the final week of the conference, protesters led “toxic tours” and a sit-in at the COP21 Solutions Expo pointing out that the corporate polluters on display were merely “green washing” rather than providing any real solutions. Protesters and journalists were dragged from the expo by police for speaking the truth about these corporations’ role in climate change.
Looking for solutions from the same forces that have caused the climate crisis is ludicrous.
The climate deal coming out of COP21 is a joke. The entire scientific community, and anyone remotely knowledgeable of the issues, knows it. Once again, the conference was a two-week-long PR campaign in which many well-meaning climate experts and communities spent countless hours trying to convince an irrational train conductor not to drive us all into the precipice. In reality, we should all be taking control of the train instead.
We need to take to the streets. We need to make it impossible for the corporations to continue to profit. We need to educate each other on the issues and solutions and we need to change the system to one that serves the needs of humanity and the planet and not the needs of the billionaires. We need socialism!