Curtain Raiser

Polluters Change the Subject, Colltalers

After the chaotic two-week U.N. conference on climate change ended in Warsaw, it was hard to know whether the event has caused some permanent damage to the overall movement of awareness about the issue, or it was simply the most disastrous meeting of its kind ever.
Marked by a heavy presence of coal, oil and gas industry lobbyists, and hosted by a nation whose own energy policies tilt heavily towards coal, and that halfway through it, dismissed its own environmental minister, who was chairing it, no wonder the conference ended Friday with a massive walkout of progressive environmental organizations. They hardly had a chance to squeeze a word in the deliberations anyway.
Deemed a failure by those who’ve spent decades trying to drive home the point of man-made causes for rising of global temperatures, and its consequent disastrous impact of higher ocean levels on millions living near bodies of water, the event was also compounded by an ongoing dispute.
While the Philippines picks up the pieces left by Typhoon Haiyan, counting its dead in the thousands and the costs both human and material in the hundreds of millions, the issue that neither this nor any other natural disaster is bound to settle is that whether such storms are a direct consequence of climate change.
Which is really irrelevant to everyone involved, but the tabloid media, which tends to trivialize and reduce the matter to a few bombastic, easily dismissible statements, or for those who are truly engaged raising awareness and battling powerful interests that want to mute it.
For everyone else, including victims, the discussion is beside de point. Which, at least in the case of the compromised media, may be by design: picking the element that can be easily lost in grandstanding diatribes, and leaving out what’s more revealing: the sea levels rise.
More on that later, but first let’s make the point that whoever thought that big numbers and human devastation would be enough to make governments and the public opinion jump into action, is clearly losing the argument. We’ve grown numb and, so far, hopeless at loosening the grip of big corporations on the issue of man-made climate change, either by misinformation campaigns, and/or the power of sheer money.
The U.N. conference was just another sample of how this discussion has been framed, as Poland held a parallel event with members of the very industry that’s, by all accounts, accelerating the irreparable damage in the name of profits still to be made out of fossil fuel dependency.
According to a new research on historic levels of pollution, all but seven of the 90 companies that produced 63% of cumulative emissions of industrial carbon dioxide and methane between 1854 and 2010 are oil, gas and coal producers. The remaining are cement manufacturers.
The paper, published by the Climate Accountability Institute in Colorado, states that half of these estimated emissions were produced in the past 25 years, when, as The Guardian points out, the effects greenhouse gases have on the atmosphere were already well understood.
The study does justice to at least one other aspect of what seemed to have been the tenor of the Warsaw discussions, about who’s responsible, or rather, who should be held accountable for the situation we find our species at this point, which hinges on our own survival on the planet.
Although it’s easy for the West to blame Poland and other Eastern European nations, China and much of industrialized Middle East and Africa for their reliance on coal to foot progress, it’s the U.S. that’s the main supporter of an arguably even more polluting form of energy.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the highly pollutant and aggressive form of natural gas exploration, has already started to cause irreparable damage to once pristine swaths of North Dakota, parts of the midwest, Pennsylvania, and now threatens to take over more eastern states too.
As with the myth of ‘clean coal,’ there’s also already been talk purporting that there are ways of ‘safely’ exploit for gas, which, more than a tall order, it’s obviously a blatant attempt at creating a distraction from the fact that that’s virtually impossible with the current technology.
Other countries are guilty for trading in fallacy too, and that also means you, oh, Canada, and let’s not get into Japan’s shameful excuse, that since its misguided option for nuclear power has failed, as anyone could’ve expected, it’ll therefore raise, not cut down, its emission targets.
So, whether climate change caused by carbon dioxide and methane is triggering ever more powerful storms may or may not be determined for certain in the future, if there’s even one left. But we can’t really wait to be sure that the big wave rising in the horizon is a tsunami or just a trick of our sore eyes, before running for higher ground, can we? By the way, that’s a much more measurable phenomenon, and we all know it.
The melting of the glaciers, and its consequent impact raising global ocean levels, means that people living near water will have to seek relocation, regardless of what happens next. And so should people who live in historical paths of hurricanes and typhoons.
That’s not even climate change; it’s pure logic, and as hard as it is for those who keep losing everything year after year, the reality is that to rebuild over and over doesn’t really make sense. Specially when even a small disaster can cause so much damage.
The fact that most people can’t afford to move without help is a consideration that must be part of any solution designed to minimize the effects of natural disasters which, again, as we know, will happen no matter what. And that’s an issue of accountability worth discussing.
For all the admirable global efforts to help the Philippines’ recovery effort, what amounts to charity can’t really be a consistent approach to a multifaceted problem that’s bound to strike us in many directions and as many times as the world goes round.
As long as environmental polluters spend billions of dollars, not to find ways to switch to alternative ways of energy, but to sabotage even timid initiatives, such as carbon trading and pricing, we’re all as trapped in this quagmire as the gases they produce are in the atmosphere.
Colltales could’ve found a better pun to explain it, of course, but the point should be well taken by now. If the U.S. and other western nations refuse to take the lead in this issue, and the U.N. allows itself to be manipulated by the industry, where should hope come from?
How to expect that Greenpeace and other grassroots movements, often at odds with local laws, risk their activists’ lives to call for protection of the Arctic, for instance, while we passively keep our commitment to fight for air and water quality for everyone to a negligible minimum?
The North Pole, by the way, may be the next battleground of this war, as it’s already causing much hand wringing among world corporations, as it melts and may open new shipping routes and oil drilling, with all the disastrous consequences it’ll cause to global temperatures.
We don’t mean to depress you on this Thanksgivukkah week, but we do have very little to thank for about the state of the Earth these days. Not that we wish to provide ammo for heated discussions at the holiday table but it does beat discussing Uncle Bob’s eccentricities, doesn’t it?
Have a safe time. WC


One thought on “Curtain Raiser

  1. WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

    I didn’t even know a UN conference was on. So right there in the very first sentence, you bring me more awareness of what’s going on.

    “rreparable damage to once pristine swaths of North Dakota, parts of the midwest, Pennsylvania, and now threatens to take over more eastern states too.” – right there is a reason to stop. You did say irreparable? So STOP. Incredibly, we don’t stop.

    Another excellent, excellent post. So right – look at us pouring in billions in charity, but what are we CHANGING? This is just so clear, as usual, so well written.

    I really appreciate your doses of reality, Wesley.


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