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'Progress' Is Fatal

Tim Green / CC BY 2.0

By Stanley Heller / PeaceNews

Tim Green / CC BY 2.0

This piece first appeared at Peacenews.org.

Historic! Oh, how the elite love to use that word when touting their meetings and decisions. It’s so important to have a record of historic agreements for your “legacy.” So it was no surprise that President Obama said the Paris agreement on climate was a “historic agreement” and “tribute to American leadership”. Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the pact was a “historical turning point.” Ban Ki-Moon, U.N. Secretary General went further said the deal inked in Paris was “truly historic” and was a “monumental success.” Wow, “truly” historic!

Now considering that the New York Times said that the Paris meeting was “the world’s last, best hope of striking a deal” that would begin to avoid devastating climate effects, the Paris agreement must have been one doozy of an arrangement. Except why didn’t the 32 page document talk about fossil fuel? It literally doesn’t mention those two words, nor can you find the words “coal” or “oil” in the text. That’s because the world’s great muckamucks are promising to limit emissions without challenging the beast whose waste is the emissions, without insuring that most of the world’s fossil fuel stays right where it is, deep in the ground.

James Hansen called the deal a “fraud”. Hansen as you recall was NASA’s top climate scientist and more than anyone has rallied the scientific community to understand that human caused carbon dioxide emissions are rapidly ruing the climate. About the agreement he said, “It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned.”

He has a point.

There’s nothing binding in the agreement. Though all the countries made “commitments” nothing will happen if they’re not honored. And even if all the commitments are fulfilled the earth’s temperature will go up 3.7 degrees Centigrade, far more that that 2 degree limit that the nations of the world said was a safe limit five years ago and double the 1.5 degree limit this agreement says the world should “pursue.”  For an inkling of what that means sees the New York Times article this week about Shanghai.   Four degrees of warming will put three-fourths of Shanghai “underwater’ by 2100. That’s a city of 24 million people.

Obama admits the agreement doesn’t get anywhere near the needed 1.5 degree limit, but says that’s not a problem because the agreement “establishes the enduring framework the world needs to solve the climate crisis.” It’s the “mechanism,” the “architecture.” So the agreement isn’t the measures that are our “last, best hope,” but a “framework” that will lead to the measures that are needed. Hmm, framework, framework, where did we hear that approach before? Ah yes, in regard to the Administration’s Middle East policy. Back in 2013-4 Secretary of State Kerry went through nine months of peace talks with the Israeli government and the Palestine Authority. When that went nowhere, he went after “Plan B,” to make an agreement for a “framework” on all the major issues. We can all see how terrifically well that approach went.

“Process,” “roadmap,” “framework.” We need to use the technical word “bullshit” to describe these phrases. They are words to describe non-agreements, words to fool the public into thinking something important has actually been accomplished.

Despite all the hype about how cheap renewal energy is becoming it’s still cheaper to burn fossil fuels (FF), since FF producers don’t have to pay a dime to treat their deadly (to the climate) carbon dioxide waste. Thanks to fracking and other factors the price of methane (natural gas) is at a 16 year low. The U.S. has so much oil it can now export it again. The obvious, obvious need for a tax to pay for FF waste is not mentioned in the agreement.

The agreement doesn’t even challenge the subsidies that governments give to the FF industries to go out and find more carbon to burn. A piece in Scientific American in May 2015 calculated the total yearly amount of these subsidies, a breathtaking; mind boggling $5 trillion, $5 trillion a year to hasten the end of a human-favored climate.

If despite all this, you think the agreement has given the “signal” (as Al Gore claimed) to governments to turn away from “dirty energy,” consider that the Obama Administration is right now, bargaining with the Republicans to give independent oil refiners a new $3 a barrel subsidy. It would be part of a deal to renew subsidies for renewable energy. The mighty Paris signal hasn’t changed Obama’s All-of-the-Above energy strategy one iota.

Another thing missing from the deal is indigenous rights. As we know much of the FF is found in the “wilds”, the land where indigenous peoples live (think Albert tar sands or the “wastes” of North Dakota). The indigenous are mentioned in the agreement “preamble” along with the other lofty wishes and in the airy “acknowledgements” of the Annex. The UK, Norway and the U.S. fought any mention of specific “rights” fearing it would help court suits against land theft and the like. Indigenous Environmental Network said in a press statement that the Paris agreement “may turn out to be a crime against humanity and Mother Earth”.

Lots of “Green” organizations seem to be buying into this deal. Michael Brune head of the Sierra Club spoke on Democracy Now! about how the agreement was a “good start” and that “progress” is being made. He said, “the best news that I think we saw from COP is that every country has realized this is a problem.” Well, if this was the year 2000 that would be a fine analysis, but it’s 2015 and we’re fast burning up the last gigatons of carbon that will doom a human-favored climate.

“Progress” is not enough. At this point it’s fatal. We all know the usual thinking, “It’s better to get something than nothing. We’ll keep on calling for more. That’s better than grandstanding, etc., etc.” It sounds sensible but the thinking is wrong. At some point climate activists have to dig in their heels and say we have to get the minimum necessary to save a livable climate and we have to get it now. On this issue half-measures are as good as being half alive. The whole system that is poisoning the climate has to be reformed, changed, revolutionized, …whatever, We have an immense task and we have just a few years or decades to get it accomplished.

Stanley Heller is administrator and writer for Promoting Enduring Peace and host of “The Struggle” TV News, www.TheStruggle.org. He can be reached at stanley.heller@pepeace.org.

Stanley Heller / PeaceNews

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