The Durban debacle awaits …
Here we go again, another climate clambake attracting attendees from all over the world. They’ll be the usual assortment of politicians, government civil servants, Media, NGOs, activists and fruit loops determined to save the earth from global warming. Nothing changes.
In terms of the basic political objectives, nothing much either has changed since Cancun. The developing world will be hoping for a bit of money from the developed world but will concede nothing substantive in return. As before, their hopes aren’t too high on that one. Once again, China, the world’s biggest carbon emitter, will act as their spokesman to scuttle any meaningful deal. They’re quite happy building new coal-fired electricity generation plants at the rate of one a week and selling us solar panels.
The politicians, apart from the politically desperate and a few has-beens, will again be notable for their absence because they know it’ll be a waste of time and there’s always the slight but real danger they might have to end up coughing up some money. It’s always safer to send delegates who, if they misguidedly agree to anything, can bring the paperwork home with them so that it can simply not be ratified, à la Kyoto.
In passing, I have to say that George Bush jr, a president not usually noted for his subtlety, played Kyoto beautifully; instruct the delegates to accept commitments which were so extreme, they never stood a snowflake’s chance in hell of getting ratified by Congress. I think the accord was safely refused ratification at a later date by a vote of ninety-four to zero. Everyone at Kyoto was pleased the States had committed to something and months later, everyone at home was pleased that they hadn’t. Everyone was happy in the end. Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it?
The real driver of government policy is simply that money’s in short supply and the politicians are already quietly cutting back on green subsidies and projects at home.
The media, even the most climatically enthusiastic elements of it, are well aware of what’s euphemistically called “climate fatigue”; people are bored with the climate scare, so it doesn’t attract the audience and therefore the advertising revenue stream that’s so important. More importantly, newsrooms around the world are being culled of journalists so everyone’s keeping their head down and concentrating on issues that the readers might actually be interested in. You can see from the luke warm build-up of a few articles that they’ve already started the damage limitation spin, in some cases pushing the line that Durban is just the warmup for the next clambake, where everything will be settled at last. Yeah …
The activists are in serious trouble, though large parts of the movement are ironically still in denial over how bad it really is.
Since Cancun, political commitment among the major blocks to doing anything about global warming is now token and what’s worse, they’ve lost the mob. If last year’s mid-terms in America were anything to go by, then next year’s presidential elections will be a blood bath for the Democratic Party, which is saddled with a greenish lame-duck president who’s achieved precisely nothing for environmental causes. He has bigger concerns. If there’s one lesson learnt by the Republicans last year, it’s play the “let’s be frank, global warming is a crock” card. They’ll play it again.
Reading the activists’ comments on the current lack of mainstream political enthusiasm for their position, I’m surprised at their anger and disappointment with the politicians. They apparently thought that the politicians actually believed in and were committed to fighting global warming. It’s as if they never realised it was the politicians using the momentum of the environmental craze to get elected. It was never about belief, just votes. Welcome to the real world and Realpolitik.
If the environmental movement were a real political party, then it would carry out an immediate policy revision, since it’s apparent that the current policies aren’t attracting any support from the developing world, politicians and the general public, that’s to say, pretty much everyone except the true believers.
The developing world will always fight anyone trying to stop it industrialising and the only realistic way of doing that is to build power generation facilities without which industrialisation is not possible. Solar and wind alternatives are simply not a viable option for them. The alternative of promising to bribe them not to industrialise is no longer feasible since we’re broke.
Public opinion, because of the recession, has not so much turned against them but sees environmental issues as irrelevant in the light of more immediate worries about jobs and money. Politicians for the most part have reacted to this change by barely mentioning the environment nowadays. The one political aberration in this concern is Australia but that’s a sorry tale for another occasion.
The limiting factor of course is that the environmental movement is not a political party and quite frankly, resembles more of a cult or a belief system. Cults are about strong beliefs which are never negotiable. They have simple credos like; coal bad, wind good, nuclear bad, solar good, crafts good, industry bad.
Any attempt to revise the essential tenets of the cult will result in a schism, which will lose them the foot soldiers of the movement. Alas, fanatics cannot change their mind nor reconsider their position. In a Darwinian sense, they’re creatures who not only just can’t adapt to a changing environment but won’t and are therefore slated for extinction through a slow process of political marginalisation.
This process has already begun and if you look around carefully, the signs are apparent, from the BBC slowly backing off global warming in the case of their Frozen Planet series to other scientists calling out propaganda about things like Greenland’s apparently shrinking ice coverage. There’s blood in the water and the sharks are starting to circle.
I’ve no doubt that a few minor non-binding words and commitments will be made in a very vague sort of way and that they’ll be bigged up by the propaganda machine as somehow meaningful but the truth is, it’s going to be another Cancun.
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