It was not only very disappointing that the United Nations 2021 “Conference of the Parties,” COP26, failed to reach beyond some new and some stronger “commitments” and “pledges” to reach various carbon emissions targets by certain dates. I among many others was even more disappointed with the struggle of some of the big environmental NGOs like Environmental Defense Fund to find some redeeming value in the document that resulted from two weeks of negotiations.
The fossil-fuel corporate elites heavily lobbied the event as they have in the past. They still seem to control much of what governments do and say. It is not only tragic; it is nearly terminal for not only our aspirations to return to relative climate stability, but to our chances to avoid societal collapse as well.
Foxes Designing Hen Houses
Case in point: Initially the final document to report the decisions of the COP26 meetings was to contain a statement on phasing out coal as a source of energy. At the last minute, the wording was changed, or I should say watered down to a meaningless blurb.
The fossil-fuel industry and its dependent corporate allies still wield considerable control over governmental policies. After all, they have built inroads to exert political power over legislation and administrative action for decades. They are not going away…unless we send them. By “we,” I do not mean governments, for they are too entangled in the hypocrisy to be untangled in time to avoid approaching catastrophic tipping points into chaos and collapse. We must resist the hypocritical word games and demand real climate action, but that will not be nearly enough.
Trading in Tragedy
Carbon trading and offsets are the corporate market-based response to the demand for climate action. The problem, however, is that they are actually a dodge, a diversion, and a means to carry on business as usual while claiming to “go green.” The so-called progress made in Glasgow was all about feeling good about good intentions, with no actual commitments to execute any particular plan of action by the signatories to the agreement.
“Carbon markets” are economic arrangements allowing corporations or other economic entities to buy the right to continue polluting by paying for some forest in another country to be saved from deforestation (often when it was not going to be cut down anyway)—or some other constraint on development—to “offset” the polluting corporation’s continued pollution.
We should close carbon markets immediately, yet they are continued as the lies that they have demonstrated themselves to be. They are nothing less than a license to kill more of our living Earth systems by unabated carbon emissions. The COP26 agreement touts its plan to clean up some of the loopholes that have made carbon trading an obvious scam, instead of abandoning the scam altogether. The bottom line is very simple: The Earth System cannot afford to allow any major carbon emissions to continue. We are far too close to important tipping points toward irreversible chaos and collapse.
Doing some things adds up to less than zero Benefit. Another buzzword touted by the institutional power elites who call themselves “environmentalists” is “net-zero” carbon emissions. By various means, including carbon markets and proposing unproven imaginary future high-tech devices to remove carbon from the atmosphere (instead of stopping its industrial emissions in the first place), they claim that we can achieve net-zero emissions while staying the course of endless growth. They claim that actual carbon emissions can be “offset” by both new technologies for carbon capture and carbon trading. It is all a carbon shell game. If all human activity summed up to net-zero change today, and new carbon in the atmosphere and all activities were “carbon neutral,” the parts of carbon per million liters of atmosphere would, of course, stay at the extremely high level where they are now, causing increasingly serious disruptions of every natural sub-system of the Earth System we have already destabilized far too much. It is all quite absurd as it spews forth as if it were rational public policy.
Net-zero carbon emissions are a conceptual mirage. The best science demonstrates that we are already so far behind in constraining carbon emissions from the global industrial-consumer endless growth economy that even reducing them to actual zero in the next decade or so, will not be enough to reach the goal of no more than a 1.5-degree C. average global temperature above pre-industrial levels.
We have now begun to see devastating effects of the 1.1-degree C. increase. Many of these are already baked into the growing climate chaos caused by self-amplifying feedback loops. Dark arctic seawater absorbs much more energy than the ice that previously covered it. Melting tundra releases deadly methane from the earth as its temperature rises. Numerous other processes triggered by the human release of carbon and other toxins amplify the climate emergency in other ways.
“Our leaders” have obviously failed to act on the climate emergency and show no signs of changing their ways as they try to respond verbally to the demands for real material change. The only option left seems to be for people all over the world to mobilize to resist the corporate state, and reorganize our communities to focus on restoring our ecosystems.
We must replace the global economy of growth—which is likely to collapse soon anyway—with ecological communities that can attain a viable level of resilience as we move deeper into the Anthropocene. It would be wise to heed Greta Thornburg’s oft-repeated admonition that hope does not come from words; it only comes from action.