A Week of Bad Climate

EDITORIAL, 21 Dec 2009

#93 | Johan Galtung

The mountain in Copenhagen gave birth to a mouse that can hardly crawl.  No legally binding agreement, only vague promises for Mexico in 2010.  There are national and corporate interest- guided pledges with figures ending in 0 for a year ending in 0 (USA 18%, though).  Adding confirmed proposals reduces warming by 2050 from 4.8 to 3.8C; far from the low mission path to 1.9C (IHT, 19-20/12 2009).  The pledge of $100 billion per year (inflated $s? as development aid?) for climate-damaged countries is from 2020, but the disaster in the world’s biggest delta, Bangladesh, is now, for all to see.  Maldives, Kiribati, Tuvalu; caused by the rich.

There is a wish to have the world’s major polluters, USA and China, in on an agreement, and as the USA is still to clients like Denmark and Norway the leading country, the leading text became that of the USA, as empty as Obama’s statement; pushing the UN and the NGOs aside, arresting many protesters.  China was different, both developed and developing, closer to the poor, even endangered countries, but attacked for resisting outside monitoring.  Well, maybe they think they have been monitored about enough by the CIA that will join any team for any monitoring–nonetheless, they should have been more responsive and made themselves transparent.

But Obama’s problem with the US Congress is more serious than Wen’s possible problem with the Party. China is heading for global responsibility, but for the US Senate global warming is far down on the agenda.  And they feel above the UN anyhow. Lobbies for the status quo are at least as strong as forces in China for lifting the last hundreds of millions out of poverty by old methods.  But China has a lead on the USA in heading for green technology by green means, for domestic growth more than trade as the leading factor in the economy, and for export of green technology.

However, instead of lamenting the Copenhagen failure, what kind of conference would we like to see?  Continue goal pledging and work for a legally binding accord.  But then, in addition:

– how about pledges to adopt carbon (and methane!) neutral means, meaning green technologies, pledging concretely what technologies–wind, solar, geo- & hydrothermal, waves and tidal water, biomass etc.–they want to adapt where and when and how, for whom, and how they are going to mitigate the many conflicts with those against;

– how about concrete successes and failures and the mix of both, leading to inspiring conclusions, like Germany boosting renewable energy production from 1% of total output in 1995 to 14% in 2007 (see “Where’s the Clean Energy?” The Nation 7-12-09);

– how about possible new, incipient technologies, including social ways of mitigating the effects of global warming?

– how about praising and prizing those up front in addition to, critiquing those behind in pledges and/or concrete initiatives?

The Copenhagen conference choreography produced apathy and pessimism, nothing uplifting and inspiring.  The focus was on the fault-lines among countries, less on the conflict with a nature in search of new equilibria.  It was politics as usual, with groups scoring points, with no empathy with Mother Earth, in spite of the many signs of nature in pain, dying.  How about a higher level of co-existence, like a forester helping nature to thrive, harvesting what she offers beyond her needs for sustainability? Reforestation to absorb carbon and release oxygen for our human good is below what nature tells us, if we only knew better to listen.  Like President Evo Morales in his brilliant heavily applauded speech.

But there is also a different approach: nonviolent struggle. We have the same right to a carbon warning for as to a warning against smoking; overdue, but better late than never.  We have a right not to buy, not to import, to boycott.  Facts printed on each unit, please–like on each barrel of oil (the USA consumes 20 million per day, China 5-6 million).  Thus, big Statoil in little Norway is now seeing handwritings on the wall and follows in the footsteps of the NATO war on Afghanistan+ to offer their services.

    Meanwhile: Tony Blair declared that he would attack Iraq even had he known there was no nuclear threat (nor WMD in general).  No doubt, the war was about residual imperialism partnering with USA, about healing lost empire wounds in Iraq, about oil and bases to be in on future wars.  That man is more dangerous than Al Qaeda and Taliban combined by the numbers of killed and displaced due to the war he helped legitimize, now being scrutinized by the Iraq Inquiry Commission.  Should be prepensioned and sent to St Helena. Fortunately the Spanish premier Zapatero and others did not accept him as a candidate for the new and powerful EU presidency.

Meanwhile, Goldman & Sachs is now breaking the 2007 record of 46 billion net revenue out of which 20 billion went to indecent employee “compensation”.  Well, there is something beautiful about that socialist sharing of profit with employees.  And something hideous in an institution itself creating no real, only virtual, value, having that much to share.  From whom is it taken?

 Meanwhile, a great triumph for nonviolence: the 32-day hunger strike by independence fighter–for her country Sahrawi, “Spanish Western Sahara”–Aminatou Haidar, ended with Morocco giving in, returning her to Sahrawi after deporting her to Lanzarote in Spain because she had written her nationality as Sahrawi, not Moroccan.

One of the last acts of a dying Franco–and his regime–was illegally to hand over their colony to Morocco and Mauritania.  The promised UN referendum never took place, Morocco was against, fully supported by France and with the consent of the USA.  It is now up to Spain and Zapatero to raise the referendum issue in the UN, with independence as an option if that is what Sahrawis want.

Spain handled the encounter of a Basque tuna vessel with Somali pirates badly (November 19); only pirates at fault.  Time has come to correct these two mistakes in a fine track record.

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 21 Dec 2009.

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