A Small Town In Germany
That’s how John le Carré described Bonn, the Cold War capital of west Germany, in the title of a best selling spy novel. After German reunification, Bonn got somewhat smaller yet as many central government bureaucrats moved to the restored prewar capital of Berlin.
But currently Bonn is hosting 20,000 guests—there for COP23 (Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). For the twenty-third time, delegates, lobbyists, and media have come from every part of the planet for a lot of talk, and very little action about the greatest crisis humanity—and all living creatures—has yet faced.
In 1997, such a gathering produced the first international agreement addressing climate change—the Kyoto Protocol. Relying on market measures it established some modest, and complex goals for reducing carbon emissions–mandatory for “rich” developed countries, suggestions for “developing” nations. These were largely shaped by the chief U.S. representative—then Vice-President Al Gore.
But while the European Union took their commitments somewhat seriously, Gore’s boss Bill Clinton never submitted the Protocol to the Senate for ratification. Bush II renounced Kyoto. Obama essentially vetoed a promising expanded new deal at a 2009 COP in Copenhagen and did little around climate issues until his final two years in office–as Kyoto was about to expire. Finally, with Obama’s blessing, the earlier treaty was subsumed within the bit more ambitious 2015 Paris Accords—signed by all but two countries, becoming effective November 4 of last year.
The Accords set an objective of limiting planet-wide warming to 1.5C above a 19th century benchmark. But seemingly admitting from the git-go that may be out of reach, they added a backup goal of no more than 2C.
This two-faced approach infuriated many climate scientists–including those who submitted a UN commissioned study well before Paris comparing the effects of both temps. Some examples:
* Duration of heat waves—1.1 months vs 1.5
* Loss of fresh water—9 percent vs 17
* Increase in heavy rainfall—5 percent vs 7
* Drop in wheat production—9 percent vs 16
While both are bad news that extra little ½ degree can be a matter of life or death for millions. But, as we shall see, the present reality is grimmer yet.
No mandatory quotas for reduction in greenhouse emissions were assigned to countries. Their only requirement was to submit a plan for such cuts. The U.S. contribution was Obama’s Clean Power Policy mostly based on modest reductions in carbon emissions already largely accomplished through replacing coal in power plants with marginally cleaner natural gas.
In her opening remarks in Bonn the chief UN climate change official practically pleaded– “This has to be the launchpad for the next level of ambition on climate change action, because we know the pledges [to cut emissions] made so far are not enough to take us to [meeting the Paris goals].”
In fact, current commitments would allow warming to advance to 3C–resulting in irreversible climate catastrophe.
The no longer so early warning signs of our biosphere already being destabilized by global warming were palpable enough just in the weeks prior to the Bonn conclave—deadly air pollution in India and Pakistan; wild fires in Portugal and the western regions of Canada and the U.S.; hurricanes spreading unprecedented destruction in Mexico, Texas, Florida, Cuba, the Virgin Islands, and the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico; huge chunks of ice as big as small countries entering oceans after breaking away from the Antarctica and Greenland—to name just a few.
So far, the only thing rating more than polite applause in Bonn was when it was reported last week the two holdouts—Nicaragua and Syria—have decided to get with the program. That’s a good thing–but no consolation for defection of the world’s biggest economy and second biggest greenhouse emitter.
Four days after Paris became law, the U.S. elections delivered a punch in the gut to the wobbly Accords. The second place climate change denier headed to the White House through the trap door of the Electoral College and his party won majorities in both houses of Congress.
Withdrawing from the Accords is not easy and can not be completed until 2020. But that doesn’t mean the scofflaw-in-chief will honor the provisions of Paris or the paltry unpaid financial pledges made by Obama to assist poor countries being ruined by emissions of the rich.
Denial of climate change and reversal of all environmental reforms are the leading edge of Trump’s America First and Uber Alles industrial and trade policies—and the wanton destruction of the Bannon version of the “deep state.” Even the very mention of global warming by any Federal body is now strictly verboten. This is not merely an ideological struggle, or talking points for “resistance” to Trump. The resurrection of coal alone makes it a fight for survival of civilization, if not our very species.
This struggle will not be effectively led by the COPs. There are few climate scientists and even fewer trade unionists among the 20,000 in Bonn. Half are delegates from governments whose first loyalty is to their ruling class regimes and parties. 8,000 are a mix of representatives of corporations and banks along with those from NGOs of various stripes. (The other 2,000 are from the media.)
A new development in Bonn is a rival U.S. Climate Center whose slogan is “We Are Still In.” The introduction on their website says,
“Over one hundred of America’s climate champions are participating in the next round of UN climate talks – COP23 – November 6-17 in Bonn, Germany. These university presidents, mayors, governors, and business leaders will highlight their steps to reduce climate pollution and stand in solidarity with international leaders, showing the world that US leadership on climate change extends well beyond federal policy.”
The de facto leader of this current is California Governor Jerry Brown who is summoning other states and cities to join the Golden State in working to fulfill the Paris pledges. It sounds like a revival of the “think globally, act locally” approach of the early Earth Day events.
Of course, any reductions in emissions is welcome. But just the “Blue States” won’t do. The scale of today’s crisis requires massive global action above all.
And the putative “business leaders” allies of these mostly Democrat elected officials hardly inspire confidence. Among the good corporate citizens featured on numerous panel presentations are representatives of Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway; Microsoft; Walmart; Bank of America; Hewlett Packard; Citi bank; and Pacific Gas & Electric.
With no corporate sponsors, the only intervention in Bonn on behalf of the world’s working class by Trade Unions for Energy Democracy is limited to more modest side-events and one-on-one proselytizing. But their perspective is our best hope for the future.
The WIR will return to this topic after COP23 completes their business.
The 27 Percent Solution?
The Democrats—especially the Berniecrat Our Revolution–are crowing about off-year election victories in Virginia and New Jersey. At least 17 members of the rapidly growing Democratic Socialists of America were elected to local offices—all running as Democrats or on non-partisan ballots. And even though socialist Ginger Jentzen won the most First Choice votes for Ward 3 City Council in the complicated weighted voting system in Minneapolis, one of her Democrat opponents picked up enough Second and Third Choice votes to keep Bolshevism out of City Hall.
But a less rosy picture of the strength of the opposition boss party was revealed in an article about an ABC/Washington Post poll,
“Confidence about both major parties is not running high, the poll shows. Barely one-fifth of Americans, 21 percent, say they have a great deal or good amount of confidence in the Republicans in Congress to make the right decisions for the country’s future. Democrats fare just slightly better, with 27 percent saying they have confidence in the party…”
There is nothing new or shocking about this rejection of both major boss parties. Similar numbers have been trending over the past several years. What continues to amaze me is that “progressives” broadly defined continue to believe they can salvage a “political revolution” from the severely damaged goods of the donkey party.
Especially, but not exclusively, for our readers in the Land of Sky-Blue Waters, I pass on an annual fund-raising opportunity important to a unique St Paul asset—the East Side Freedom Library. They can benefit from matching funds from Give Minnesota during the yearly Give to the Max campaign. Any contributions by November 16 will qualify for a match. Donations should be sent through EastSideFreedomLibrary.org/Give
That’s all for this week.
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