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Billy King


Nonviolence News



These are regular editorials produced alongside the corresponding issues on Nonviolent News.

Editorial 235 supplement: January 2016

[Return to related issue of Nonviolence News]

Larry Speight brings us his monthly column –

Climate Conference Fantasies

Tim Lott writing about Christmas in his weekly article on family life in The Guardian, 19th December 2015 mentions the common practice of "pretending to believe." He describes Christmas as "a pantomime that we join in together and play out what it would feel like if we really did believe."

The Paris climate change agreement to prevent carbon emissions rising by 2 degrees by 2030 as measured against pre-industrial levels, applauded by the representatives of the 196 participating countries, is a case of pretending to believe. The idea that it is worthy of applause as it will curtail carbon emissions is make-believe with no more substance than the belief that a man with a white beard and a pot belly climbs down chimneys on the night of the 24th December. Reasoning eventually leads children to realise the absurdity of the Santa myth. Yet it seems that the signatories of the Paris agreement think that the people of the world have the reasoning of young children and will believe that all is well now that there is an international agreement to reduce climate chaos emissions. The signatories, and powerful financial bodies, want us be a part of their pantomime of pretend belief.

The evidence based website informs us that if the carbon reduction pledges made by the participating governments are honoured humanity will be producing more global warming gases in 2030 that we do today. If the aspirational goal of a ceiling of 1.5 degree rise in temperature is to be met, which climate scientists say should be our aim if ecological and economic catastrophe is to be avoided, humanity has a breath taking four years to achieve this. A net zero emissions global economy, which UN climate scientists say must happen by 2070, is simply not going to happen.

No government has a creditable time-based plan to honour the pledges made at the Paris conference never mind extradite their economy from dependency on fossil fuels. This is borne out by the case that while renewable energy receives a global subsidy of $121 billion a year, the G20 countries subsidise fossil fuels to the sum of $452 billion a year. (George Monbiot, The Guardian, 15th December 2015) The fossil fuel subsidy means you, a tax payer, are paying for disassembling the biosphere making it all but impossible for the children of today, perhaps your own offspring, to live a life free from life-crippling deprivations.

The environmentalist Bill McKibben in The Guardian, 13th December 2015, outlines a number of economic imperatives, which although won't prevent climate chaos, it is too late for that, would mitigate the effects of the chaos our children will be subjected to and eventually lead to the development of a carbon neutral economy. These include leaving fossil fuels in the ground, which means no fracking, a substantive price on carbon would help achieve this end. Installing solar panels and windmills "at a breakneck pace – and all over the world." Immediately increasing the subsidisation of renewable energy. Measures not mentioned by McKibben include a rapid move away from consumption of red meat, insulating our building stock, an environmentally friendly transportation system, rewilding and becoming a cradle to cradle economy rather than as at present a cradle to grave one. This means designing products that can be repaired and recycled rather than dumped when their usefulness lapses.

Rationality tell us that the Paris agreement is a case of pretending to believe. However, as we don't want to leave the party of gluttonous consumption provided by the energy from fossil fuels we will likely carry on pretending that the agreement means all is well, and as herd animals will to do this for fear of been out of step with social norms. As recent changes in attitudes towards sexuality show, especially in conservative Ireland, social norms can rapidly change. This is one reason why we are all important, each of us can be role models for a new society based on economic justice and ecological sustainability. We can be empowered to do this by accepting that we are short-time visitors on the Earth rather than permanent residents.

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