Saturday, December 19, 2009

The falure of Copenhagen Summit


The conclusion of the Copenhagen conference represents either colossal disappointment or profound rage. The financial pledges— if honored— that rich nations made to poor nations will do nothing to combat global warming. The few climate related agreements that were made were of zero substance, especially when compared to what the situation demanded.

The sorrowful outcome, however, could have been predicted in the conference’s first week, based on two seemingly unrelated events: The conference showcased the largest police action in Denmark’s history (including mass arrests of “troublemakers”); while also producing the largest ever boom in limousine rentals. Both happenings helped reveal the true nature of the conference, spelling doom for climate progress.

Contrary to the hopes of billions of people, the talks were a purely elite affair. Many of the thousands of delegates sent to the conference were not looking to save the planet, as advertised, but were looking out for the national interest of their native governments. Most of these countries are dominated by the “special interests” of giant corporations.

Big business in the rich nations used the conference as a cynical maneuver to maintain their economic dominance over the “emerging business” in the developing countries. This fact was at first obscured by technical language, until the now-famous “Danish Text” was leaked to the press in the first week of the conference.

This document was a conference proposal written by the U.S. and England, though submitted by Denmark. The Danish Text proposes that developed nations — the U.S., Europe, Japan, etc. — be allowed to pollute twice the amount of developing countries — China, India, Russia, Brazil, etc. — for the next fifty years.

If enacted, the corporations of the developing nations would be forced to function under an incredible economic handicap. Their governments would have, of course, rejected such nonsense, giving the U.S. delegates the needed excuse to blame China for the failed talks (the U.S. media has done this with absolute disregard for facts).

The Danish Text also proposed to move future climate talks out of the realm of the too-democratic UN into the U.S./Europe dominated World Bank. Obama has thus surpassed his predecessor in the realm of global arrogance.

However, the U.S. torpedoed the talks long before they ever began, forcing the international media to campaign in favor of “lower expectations.” The New York Times explains:

“… when Mr. Obama and other world leaders met last month, they were forced to abandon the goal of reaching a binding accord at Copenhagen because the American political system is not ready to agree to a treaty that would force the United States, over time, to accept profound changes in its energy, transport and manufacturing [corporate] sectors.” (December 13, 2009).

Instead of building upon the foundation of the already-insufficient Kyoto Protocol, the Obama administration demanded a whole new structure, something that would take years to achieve. The Kyoto framework was abandoned because it included legally binding agreements, and was based on multi-lateral, agreed-upon reductions of greenhouse gasses (however insufficient). Instead, Obama proposed that “…each country set its own rules and to decide unilaterally how to meet its target.” (The Guardian, September 15, 2009).

This way, there is zero accountability, zero oversight, and therefore, zero climate progress. Any country may make any number of symbolic “pledges” to combat global warming, while actually doing very little to follow through — much like billions of dollars rich countries pledged to Africa that have yet to leave western bank accounts.

Obama’s maneuvering to ruin Copenhagen was correctly assessed by Canadian writer Naomi Klein, who said that Obama, like Bush, is “using multi-lateralism to destroy multi-lateralism.” This means that Obama is participating in international organizations like the UN Copenhagen conference, with no intention of reaching agreements. Once the U.S. blames its overseas rivals for the failure to “cooperate,” a more independent path can be struck.

This is reminiscent of Bush’s path to invading Iraq: he used the UN Security Council to pass resolutions against Iraq, which helped him weaken Iraq while strengthening U.S. public opinion. But when the Security Council wouldn’t agree to an invasion, Bush assembled a pathetic “coalition of the willing” to attack, completely abandoning the UN (Obama appears to be following an identical approach with Iran). U.S. corporations wanted to dominate Iraq’s huge oil reserves and other treasures, to the detriment of the corporations within Europe, Russia, and China.

Another example of Obama’s fake multi-lateralism is the World Trade Organization (WTO). The U.S. is again being blamed for blocking a multi-lateral agreement in this corporate-controlled organization — some U.S. corporations want market protection from rival corporations of other countries.

The international WTO continues to be unofficially abandoned in favor of regional (unilateral) trade blocs like NAFTA, CAFTA, the EU, etc., increasing international tensions, which, if one looks below the surface, are conflicts between giant corporations based in rival nations, battling for control of international markets, raw materials, and cheap labor.

The failure of the WTO, the UN, and now Copenhagen are all examples of an increasingly conflict-ridden world, based on the emerging economies challenging the rule of the old powers. This dynamic clearly resembles the situation prior to WWI, when the big powers — England and the U.S. — felt threatened by the rise of Germany and Japan, and used a strategy of “containment” to stunt their growth. The end result was war.

This time, however, China, India, Brazil, and Russia are the emerging threats, and the issue of climate change is being used as yet another tactic to “contain” their growth.

With such a dynamic unfolding, there can be no future multi-lateral agreements expected, minus the “symbolic” type that Copenhagen produced. The unbridgeable national conflicts are not the result of bad policy from na├»ve leaders, but an inherent future of a market economy [capitalism].

Giant corporations in different countries are constantly growing and competing with each other for a very limited global marketplace, always attempting to monopolize markets, raw-materials, and labor by any means necessary. This vicious competition pushes all other social issues into the background — human needs are subordinate to blindly chasing profits.

Such an irrationally competitive system cannot be smoothed over with good intentions and on-paper cooperation. Deeper, conflicting corporate interests between nations are the motor force pushing countries further apart the more cooperation is needed.

But soon the fake cooperation Obama stresses will be too much for the U.S. corporate-elite to bear. Many of them are bored with the international community, especially when the U.S. is the sole military super-power in the world. Soon Obama’s “failed attempts” to cooperate internationally will evolve into a more independent, Bush-like approach.

The largely ignored UN is likely to be further pushed aside so that brute force can continue to dictate US international policy, an agenda already begun by the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, Obama’s expanding war in Pakistan, and the “looming threat” that supposedly Iran is.

As long as governmental policy is dictated by the corporations — represented in the U.S. by the two party system — multi-lateralism and cooperation are doomed. Thus, the battle to save the environment and end war must include a fight against these corporations, who wield a political/economic vise grip over society. Only by publicly controlling these billionaire-owned mega-enterprises can the peaceful and cooperative impulses of the earth’s people find their full expression.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Bangladesh tops the Global Climate Risk Index


The report from the climate and development organization Germanwatch was released on Tuesday at the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.

According to the index, Bangladesh is the country most severely affected with natural disasters claiming 8,241 lives and damaging property worth 2.18 billion US dollars a year on average.

Myanmar, Honduras, Vietnam, Nicaragua, Haiti, India, Dominican Republic, Philippines and China are other countries in the top ten of the 2010 index, based on data made available by the world's largest reinsurer, Munich Re.

On the top 20 list of affected countries, there are only four developed countries: Italy, Portugal, Spain and the United States.

"It's really hard to make a climate risk index. Only the number of people killed in natural calamities and losses of properties were counted to make this report... But millions of people, who survived extreme weather events and who are suffering across the globe, were not taken into the account," says Dr Saleemul Haq, chief of the climate change cell of the International Institute of Environment and Development, according to The Daily Star.

He added that some African nations would have been on the list, if the surviving people had been counted.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Can we expect a Copenhagen protocol?

The Summit at Copenhagen begins today. Can we expect some good news at the end....not likely. Is it a political game of the influential Nations? Now scientists and environmentalists came out openly about the possible outcome of the Climate Summit.

"For those who claim a deal in Copenhagen is impossible, they are simply wrong," said UNEP director Achim Steiner, releasing the report compiled by British economist Lord Nicholas Stern and the Grantham Research Institute.

Environmentalists have warned that emissions commitments were dangerously short of what UN scientists have said were needed to keep average temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius (3.6F) above what the industrial age began 250 years ago.

But most of those warnings were based on pledges only from industrial countries. The UNEP report included pledges from China and other rapidly developing countries, which in turn were contingent on rich-country funding to help.

UNEP said all countries together should emit no more than 44 billion tons of carbon dioxide by 2020 to avoid the worst consequences of a warming world.

Computing the high end of all commitments publicly announced so far, the report said emissions will total some 46 billion tons annually in 2020. Emissions today are about 47 billion tons.


"Absolutely. It is possible – if we give politicians a cold, hard slap in the face"....says James Hansen, the renowned Climate Scientist fro U.S. See his article published in the Guardian which is relevant in the context of Copenhagen Summit, is reproduced below.
Article by James Hansen:

"The fraudulence of the Copenhagen approach – "goals" for emission reductions, "offsets" that render ironclad goals almost meaningless, the ineffectual "cap-and-trade" mechanism – must be exposed. We must rebel against such politics as usual.

Science reveals that climate is close to tipping points. It is a dead certainty that continued high emissions will create a chaotic dynamic situation for young people, with deteriorating climate conditions out of their control.

Science also reveals what is needed to stabilise atmospheric composition and climate. Geophysical data on the carbon amounts in oil, gas and coal show that the problem is solvable, if we phase out global coal emissions within 20 years and prohibit emissions from unconventional fossil fuels such as tar sands and oil shale.

Such constraints on fossil fuels would cause carbon dioxide emissions to decline 60% by mid-century or even more if policies make it uneconomic to go after every last drop of oil.

Improved forestry and agricultural practices could then bring atmospheric carbon dioxide back to 350 ppm (parts per million) or less, as required for a stable climate.

Governments going to Copenhagen claim to have such goals for 2050, which they will achieve with the "cap-and-trade" mechanism. They are lying through their teeth.

Unless they order Russia to leave its gas in the ground and Saudi Arabia to leave its oil in the ground (which nobody has proposed), they must phase out coal and prohibit unconventional fossil fuels.

Instead, the United States signed an agreement with Canada for a pipeline to carry oil squeezed from tar sands. Australia is building port facilities for large increases in coal export. Coal-to-oil factories are being built. Coal-fired power plants are being constructed worldwide. Governments are stating emission goals that they know are lies – or, if we want to be generous, they do not understand the geophysics and are kidding themselves.

Is it feasible to phase out coal and avoid use of unconventional fossil fuels? Yes, but only if governments face up to the truth: as long as fossil fuels are the cheapest energy, their use will continue and even increase on a global basis.

Fossil fuels are cheapest because they are not made to pay for their effects on human health, the environment and future climate.

Governments must place a uniform rising price on carbon, collected at the fossil fuel source – the mine or port of entry. The fee should be given to the public in toto, as a uniform dividend, payroll tax deduction or both. Such a tax is progressive – the dividend exceeds added energy costs for 60% of the public.

Fee and dividend stimulates the economy, providing the public with the means to adjust lifestyles and energy infrastructure.

Fee and dividend can begin with the countries now considering cap and trade. Other countries will either agree to a carbon fee or have duties placed on their products that are made with fossil fuels.

As the carbon price rises, most coal, tar sands and oil shale will be left in the ground. The marketplace will determine the roles of energy efficiency, renewable energy and nuclear power in our clean energy future.

Cap and trade with offsets, in contrast, is astoundingly ineffective. Global emissions rose rapidly in response to Kyoto, as expected, because fossil fuels remained the cheapest energy.

Cap and trade is an inefficient compromise, paying off numerous special interests. It must be replaced with an honest approach, raising the price of carbon emissions and leaving the dirtiest fossil fuels in the ground.

Are we going to stand up and give global politicians a hard slap in the face, to make them face the truth? It will take a lot of us – probably in the streets. Or are we going to let them continue to kid themselves and us and cheat our children and grandchildren?

Intergenerational inequity is a moral issue. Just as when Abraham Lincoln faced slavery and when Winston Churchill faced Nazism, the time for compromises and half-measures is over. Can we find a leader who understands the core issue and will lead? "

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