The climate change negotiations in Warsaw have, predictably enough, ended in failure: the rich nations desperate to avoid financial and legal liability for past emissions. Countries like Australia, Canada and Japan all backsliding away from previous commitments. The lack of leadership from democratic nation states is heart breaking. Environmentally focused civil society organisations are doing all they can to compensate for this lack of political leadership. They lobby, educate and network. This simply is not enough. Investment and action are urgently needed.
We have for long spoken about climate change policies and investments in terms of ‘mitigation’ and ‘adaptation’. Now a third strand is emerging: ‘loss and damage’. Due to our failure to limit greenhouse gas emissions we see the consequences in ever more frequent and ever more extreme weather events. Super Typhoon Haiyan had winds of 199mph. Politicians seem incapable of promoting the best carbon negative technologies. Instead they allow the momentum of devastation to increase, and then react by giving aid to the victims. We continue to act as if extreme weather events were simply acts of God, ignoring our unwitting but rapidly growing influence on global weather patterns. Increasingly our policies and practices determine everything from the global area of forest cover to the acidity of the world’s oceans, from the gaseous composition of the atmosphere to the weather we all experience every day. That is an awesome responsibility for naked apes such ourselves to carry. Our political structures seem increasingly inadequate for the challenge, locked as they are in outdated notions of national security, national self interest, economic growth and the pursuit of political advantage. The fact that atmospheric Co2 is 400ppm and rising may be a greater determinant of future life expectancy than any normal political or economic criteria. We are coming up against Gaia’s bio-physical limits, and we as a species are expendable. The planet will endure without us.
My tone in these blogs is usually pretty upbeat. Indeed there is much going on that is worth celebrating. Ecological sustainability and global social justice are making great strides forward in many areas, usually despite national governments rather than lead by them. I’ll try and return to the positive side of things next time.
Graham Readfearn on failure at Warsaw http://www.theguardian.com/environment/planet-oz/2013/nov/25/climate-change-warsaw-rich-countries-blame-paris-deal