Ever since the publication of the IPCC’s ‘Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C’ in October 2018, there’s been a spurt of activities on the issue of global warming/climate crisis. And as if on cue, in its wake came a torrent of ‘climate fakery’–when group after group and government after government started declaring ‘climate emergency’.
Climate fakery, or who is afraid of global warming?
In 2008, I gave a talk and later published it in Frontier Weekly with the title ‘Who is afraid of global warming?‘(1). It gives me no pleasure to say that ‘I told you so’. But I can’t think of a better title for what I want to say today than this.
Ever since the publication of the IPCC’s ‘Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C’ in October 2018, there has been a spurt of activities on the issue of global warming/climate emergency/crisis (2). And as if on cue, in its wake came a torrent of ‘climate fakery’.
Group after group and government after government started declaring ‘climate emergency’. On June 7th, the Portuguese parliament declared a climate emergency – and made sure it meant nothing by voting against a recommendation that the government “would do everything in its reach to make the country carbon neutral by 2030”. Further, in the same session, they also voted against “the closing down of coal power plants until 2023” (3)! Ten days later, liberal darling and Canadian PM Justin Trudeau did one better when he declared a national climate emergency, only to approve the Trans Mountain Expansion, a $4.5 billion twin pipeline that designed to exploit the vast – and vastly polluting – tar sands of the Alberta province (4).
Meanwhile, Trudeau’s next-door neighbour and the head of the world’s most powerful government, U.S. President Donald Trump, has no time for such hypocrisies. He and his deputies, along with their allies in other governments, are hard at work trying to dismantle the IPCC Report ahead of the next big climate meet to be held in Santiago, Chile, this November (5). They want the interim report, with its alarming conclusions, to be completely taken off the agenda in Santiago; which is doubly ironic, considering that that report itself was decried as inadequate by critics (6).
What is happening? A short answer is that the powers that be – the 90 corporations responsible for two-thirds of man-made carbon emissions (7) – are not prepared to lose their power. Instead they are actively furthering what they have dubbed ‘the Fourth Industrial Revolution’ (or sustainable capitalism) – that of Solar and EVs (Electric Vehicles), with no thought for where the resources needed for it would come from, and what environmental impact it would have (8).
But what about people mobilising and acting on their own? It is happening but they are mainly asking the U. N. and Governments to act. And these bodies will act by making announcements only – hence the term ‘Climate Fakery’! But why is there such lack of response when everyone knows the depth of the crisis? Again, the short answer is that it’s because we are asking people and governments for ‘Voluntary Simplicity’, or to scale down things on their own.
While a few – may be a few million – will do it, all others are either unwilling or unable to do so – tied as they are to the system, a system run by the ‘1%’. Another factor is that it is difficult – psychologically and materially to scale down voluntarily. As they say, only ‘pain’ or ‘necessity’ will make/force people to change.
Now, can global warming give this kind of pain or necessity? Yes and no. Yes, for the most vulnerable communities, classes and countries; No for the powerful ones. By the time the whole globe experiences such a pain or necessity, it will be too late. Most experts believe that if the present level of growth and consumption goes on, global temperature will rise to such dangerous levels in the period between 2050 or 2100 as to make the earth virtually uninhabitable; and not just for humans either. By this estimate, the window of opportunity to do something is 5 to 10 years.
But as we saw in the beginning there is little hope that any one will act. For sustaining hope, what then should we look for? Something that will give pain and create a necessity within 5 years. Is such a thing possible? Probably, yes. What is it? As Marx said ‘If you look for it you will find it’. Yes, you have guessed it. It is resource depletion or ‘peak oil’, in combination with global warming, ecological degradation and rising people’s power that can create such a condition. And there is a good probability that such an event will occur within the next 5 years.
But we can hardly expect that when such events occur, people will change positively towards voluntarily simplicity. There can be no guarantee. That can happen only if people’s movements urge climate action and work towards spreading awareness and forcing action in the intervening period. Movements like Transition Towns, Ecological Villages, the host of grass-roots alternatives documented by the Viklap Sangam group in India, and similar such movements elsewhere. If these conditions are not satisfied, then there will be chaos and collapse.
Finally, can we support this proposition? Our only evidence is the experience of Cuba(9). In Cuba all these conditions were satisfied in 1991 when they succeeded in overcoming the challenge of resource crisis in a sustainable manner with their ‘Special Period’. So let us work towards preparing for such an eventuality. By ‘us’ I mean all the civil society groups and may be smaller vulnerable countries that are today active on the climate crisis.
So, what should we be doing? Some possible activities I have outlined in a booklet, ‘Global Emergency and Local Action‘(10). In India we have a fairly vibrant organic farming movement. Many urban and rural groups are working on air pollution, on water, waste management, rain water harvesting, transport and bicycle movement, energy audit and reducing energy consumption, alternative local schools and health care and so on. We should support such activities and take part in them as much as possible. Then we may at least begin to prepare ourselves for the future and the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced.
Another world is (not) possible (on its own) – we have to make it happen!
Note: I can send pdf copies of my booklets by email to anyone who wants it. My email is [email protected]
1. Who Is Afraid Global Warming? Calcutta, Frontier, June 15-21, 2008. (http://www.mfcindia.org/mfcpdfs/MFC325-326.pdf)
2. Summary for Policymakers of IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C approved by governments https://www.ipcc.ch/2018/10/08/summary-for-policymakers-of-ipcc-special-report-on-global-warming-of-1-5c-approved-by-governments/
3. Portuguese parliament declared climate emergency – and made sure it meant nothing
4. Trudeau Declares Climate Emergency… Then Approves Major Oil Pipeline
5. Say Goodbye to IPCC Report : Countries are about to agree to have no science in the Paris Agreement
6. The New IPCC Report Offers Climate Solutions That Depend on Magic – Richard Heinberg https://psmag.com/environment/2018-ipcc-report-includes-magical-thinking
7. Just 90 companies caused two-thirds of man-made global warming emissions https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/nov/20/90-companies-man-made-global-warming-emissions-climate-change
8. Can we afford the energy demands of “the fourth industrial revolution”? Don’t ask. http://anoutsidechance.com/2016/01/20/can-we-afford-the-energy-demands-of-the-fourth-industrial-revolution-dont-ask/
9. Cuba – Road to a Fossil Fuel Free Society by T. Vijayendra. Booklet.
10. Global Emergency and Local Action by T. Vijayendra. Booklet.
The Nobel Prize for climate catastrophe
Jason Hickel, Foreign Policy
Jason Hickel writes: Many people were thrilled when they heard that the Economics Nobel went to William Nordhaus, known for his work on climate change. But many climate scientists and ecologists believe that the failure of the world’s governments to pursue aggressive climate action is in large part due to arguments that Nordhaus has advanced.
The IPCC systematically underestimates climate risks: here’s the proof
A Special Report on Global Warming has been released today by the IPCC, considered the international benchmark on climate change. Ahead of it, Donald Brown reviewed three independent studies which show that climate change is a much more urgent and serious threat than indicated by past IPCC reports, and examines the ethical questions they raise.
‘Tail Risk’: What the scientists are not telling you about climate change
There are strong cultural biases against discussion of ‘tail risk’ in climate science; particularly the accusation of “alarmism”. Does the dictum to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” not apply to climate scientists? If we omit discussion of tail risk, are we really telling the whole truth?
Scientists say a long feared climate ‘feedback’ is now happening
Chris Mooney, The Washington Post
In a massive new study published in the influential journal Nature, more than 50 authors from around the world document a so-called climate system “feedback” that, they say, could make global warming considerably worse over the coming decades. That feedback involves the planet’s soils, which are a massive repository of carbon.
Why trapped methane in the Arctic is a problem for all
Dave Lindorff, Counterpunch
The concern is that if the Arctic Ocean waters were to warm even slightly, as they will do as the ice cap vanishes in summer, at some point the clathrates which have currently trapped massive amounts of methane will suddenly dissolve releasing tens of thousands of gigatons of methane in huge bursts.