Thursday, December 10, 2015

COP 21 is just a beginning

The president of China said, at the COP21 conference in Paris that “this is just the beginning.”  It is just the beginning of a series of conferences and agreements to secure the future of the planet.  COP21 is also, of course, seen as the culmination of a long series of negotiations.  Whether an agreement is reached by the end of this week, remains to be seen.  But it is absolutely essential that one be reached.

We have made a right mess of this world.  There have been several dangerous events over the last 100 years partially resolved through international agreements, some through responsible national actions.  We can point to the use of lead tetraethyl, DDT, chlorofluorocarbons to mention a few.  And now fossil fuel consumption.

Or at least that’s what I thought COP21 was all about.  But if you read the draft agreement being worked on in Paris this week, the words “oil,” “fossil,” and “reserve” do not appear once, and the only reference to gas is in the phrase “greenhouse gas!”  The only reason to be at the conference is ignored in its words.  The word “emission” appears frequently, as in emissions of greenhouses gases, but no reference to the source of those emissions.

No surprise I suppose.  We are drunk on our consumption of oil and gas.  Our lifestyle is the fundamental problem.  We are addicts who cannot recognize its seriousness.  We cannot admit that this is the wrong way to go, so focus instead on how we can mitigate for developing nations the costs of limiting “greenhouse gas” emissions.  At the same time we are spending billions of taxpayer dollars to encourage further oil and gas exploration, when all existing reserves need to be left in the ground.  Oh the absurdity of it all.

Even if we do reach agreement this week, there will be more environmental agreements to come.  We can already see the use of neo-nicotinoids, and plastic micro beads as sources of future catastrophes, let alone the almost invisible destruction caused by plastics in our oceans.  This to me is the sense in which we should interpret Chairman Xi’s remarks:  The beginning is trying to sort out the mess we have created with CO2.  If we can come together to address this crisis, then maybe we can also work towards the next.

So I am in agreement with Chairman Xi.  This has to be the beginning of realizing that we are destroying our only home.  But I also find myself in agreement with Pogo, when he said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”  It is tough not to be a cynic.