May 2016        

Climate change scam

Tomás Mac Síomóin

As the unprecedented series of winter rainstorms indicate, Ireland is not immune to radical climate change. The increase in temperature of the South Atlantic, from which most of our rain comes, enhances evaporation from the ocean’s surface, hence the formation of rain-bearing clouds that are carried towards us by the prevailing winds. As there is increasing evidence of the human-made factor that leads to oceanic warming, and increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide caused by the consumption of fossil fuels, such rainstorms are bound to be a part of the Irish weather scene for the foreseeable future.
     Hold on a minute!
     Didn’t our mainstream media trumpet that the Paris climate agreement, announced on 12 December 2015, was “the world’s greatest diplomatic success,” as headlined euphorically by the Guardian (London) in its report on the bash? And no less than the secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, presenting the results of that conference, said: “Today we can look into the eyes of our children and grandchildren and tell them that we have joined forces to make the world more habitable for them.”
     That should silence victims and critics of the government’s pitifully inadequate response to floods in the Shannon Basin (and elsewhere) who are calling for measures to curb the effects of future floods and to provide adequate redress for their victims.
     Alas, the results of this Paris congress show it to have been a scam. Distorted media coverage of the deal, presenting it as a historic agreement virtually without shortcomings, was helped by the French government’s banning of mass climate protests following the attacks in Paris in November 2015. With radical protesters silenced and their demands marginalised, the global power elite could make virtually any public claims it wished, without having to be faced by any dissenting view.
     Because, these lobbyists hold, for this “balance” to be achieved in 2050–2100 there is no need whatsoever for ultimate limits on the burning of fossil fuels if notional sinks to absorb the carbon dioxide emissions are created. Reafforestation and a notional technology called “bioenergy with carbon capture and storage”—i.e. the burning of biomass, with the carbon dioxide captured and stored deep underground—would constitute such sinks.
     The Paris scam is premised on the availability some time in the future of such non-existent technologies. The climate deal scam also exempts from consideration all emissions of greenhouse gases from international air traffic and shipping, though such emissions are now as great as those of Germany and Britain combined and are growing rapidly.
     A close look at this agreement, however, belies the exaggerated claims made for it. The 196 countries that are parties to it, including Ireland, reiterated the Copenhagen goal of 2009 of keeping the average increase in global temperatures well below 2°C. Climatologists point out, however, that pledges made by individual countries that would push average global temperatures up by as much as 3.7°C, with irreversible and catastrophic results, are voluntary and non-binding.
     To emphasise this: the agreement itself contains no legally binding limits to carbon dioxide emissions. It includes no meaningful mechanisms for achieving its stated aims, it would not even go into effect until 2020, and it is subject to reconsideration every five years.
     Most importantly, it presents as its ultimate aim the achievement of “a balance between anthropogenic [human-made] emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century.” This constitutes an important victory for the powerful and vociferous fossil-fuel lobby, which sees the agreement reached in Paris as an important victory for their “cause.”
     In fact the present climate deal blocks real change. As James Hansen, the leading American climatologist, declared,
it’s a fraud, really a fake. It’s just bullshit for them to say, “We’ll have a 2°C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.” 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 continue to be burned.
      In the words of the English climatologist Prof. Kevin Anderson, the Paris agreement in general is “not consistent with the latest science.” While
zero carbon energy technologies are a prerequisite of a 2°C future . . . they are far from sufficient. They will only deliver the necessary levels of mitigation if they are accompanied by fundamental changes to the political and economic framing of contemporary society.
      In other words, the present neo-liberal consumerist model of society, based on an elevated consumption of fossil fuel, is unsustainable on environmental and social grounds, leading inexorably, as it does, to dangerous levels of environmental deterioration and human misery on a scale never before witnessed.
     Never has the need for socialism been so blindingly apparent.

     Kevin Anderson, “The Paris Agreement,” Monthly Review, February 2016.
     Oliver Milman, “James Hansen, father of climate change awareness, calls Paris talks ‘a fraud’,” Guardian (London), 12 December 2015.
     Oscar Reyes, “Seven wrinkles in the Paris climate deal,” Foreign Policy in Focus, December 2015.
     United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 12 December 2015.

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