A very simple argument makes the scale of our failure absolutely clear…. let’s just call it the Vicious Syllogism. It goes as follows:Premise 1: If we do not keep average atmospheric temperature rise below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, we are in for dangerous, unpredictable and potentially catastrophic climate change.Premise 2: If the world does not keep further anthropogenic emissions of CO2 equivalent to no more than (say) 1,300 billion tonnes, we shall not keep average atmospheric temperature rise below 2°C.Premise 3: If [the UN FCCC is] not now even minimally embarked on a programme that might make limiting ourselves to such a carbon budget even remotely feasible, we shall not keep further anthropogenic emissions of CO2 equivalent to no more than 1,300 billion tonnes.Premise 4: [The UN FCCC is] not now even minimally embarked on such a program.So (by Premises 4 back through 1):Conclusion: We are (already) in for dangerous, unpredictable and potentially catastrophic climate change.–– John Foster, John Foster, After Sustainability: Denial, Hope, Retrieval (London: Earthscan, 2015), 2-3, with “the UNFCCC” replacing “we” in the original
The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in December will feature all the tightly choreographed production values of a Hollywood blockbuster. The cast will be huge: presidents and prime ministers at center stage, supported by thousands of extras, including protesters, riot police, and busloads of media. The script may still be under wraps, but the plot has already leaked: This time, in sharp contrast to the failed negotiations in Copenhagen in 2009, the planet is going to win.It is a seductive plot, but one that does not quite hold together. Goodwill and hard bargaining, the world will be told, paid off. Governments have agreed to voluntary reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions that will prevent the planet from heating more than 2° Celsius. Then, in a stunning deus ex machina, it will be revealed that the world’s largest fossil-fuel companies … have agreed to bring net emissions to zero by 2100, by capturing carbon at the source, sucking it out of the atmosphere, and storing it underground. The planet will have been saved, and the economy will be free to flourish. Cue the music and roll the credits.The trouble is that the script is fiction, not documentary. The technology required has yet to be invented, and bringing net emissions to zero simply is not possible. And, like a Hollywood production, the Paris conference’s message will have been heavily influenced by those who have the most money….The story that the Paris conference’s producers will ask viewers to believe relies on technologies that are no more effective than smoke and mirrors. It is important that we learn to see past them. The curtain will rise on a set of false promises, and it will close with policies that can lead only to mayhem – unless the audience gets into the act.
Thousands of people are estimated to take part in D12, the December 12th mass action during the last moments of the COP. Following the success of Ende Gelände, the open cast coal mine shut down in August, D12 could well be the world’s biggest act of disobedience for climate justice. The inevitable bad agreement will be a death sentence for the poor and the planet and a blessing for corporations, but world leaders will have no problem pretending that it is a success and the “best” they could do. We cannot let such a deal pass unchallenged. The call for D12 is that “We (the movements) will have the last word” but the actions which accompany “the last word” cannot simply become a footnote to the main story.
IMAGINE: When the summit inevitably crosses these red lines and just as the final UN plenary begins – the church bells, synagogues, minarets and civil defense sirens blast across Paris. This is the sign for the start of the action, people begin encircling the summit.Three circles are made. On the inside of the Le Bourget conference center, hundreds of civil society NGOs, scientists and defecting delegates hold hands and refuse to let the delegations leave. Outside a middle ring of people surround the conference center, their backs turned towards it. Some have come with wind turbines, solar panels, bikes and mobile gardens, others are setting up tents “Occupy” style, hundreds of chairs re-appropriated from banks funding climate crimes form an alternative assembly as a barricade, farmers have driven tractors into place together with the frontline communities from la ZAD to the Pacific islands, everyone is calm and determined but refuses to be moved. If country representatives want to leave Le Bourget, then it will be by walking over the bodies of the very people they claim to represent.Transport hubs and other roads that would enable delegates to leave Paris are also being blocked by smaller affinity groups; and finally an outer ring of tens of thousands, unable to come to Paris, take solidarity Blockadia actions in their own territories. The “red lines” meme appears everywhere, drawn across train tracks carrying coal, stretched across the entrances of institutions that refused to divest, marking the fields were fracking rigs are planned.The mass act of legitimate disobedience fills the front pages and the airwaves, the social media sphere buzzes, washing away the world governments’ greenwash with images of creative resistance, no one believes that a bad deal is a good deal anymore, everyone sees it for what it is – the ultimate false solution. Plans for a mass shut down of ‘carbon bombs’ across the world in the spring of 2016 are announced as the blockades are lifted. Rather than a Copenhagen hangover, we return from Paris filled with confidence and a much clearer path emerges towards climate justice in the months and years ahead.
Once it is clear that a deal, which will be nowhere near to 2 degrees Celsius will be adopted, “this is when we need African societies to demand that they don’t negotiate further”, Bond said, in reference to the global agreement on the emission reduction required to control global temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius by 2050.
All evidence indicates, however, that for Africa and the Small Island Developing States, temperature increases above 1.5 degrees Celsius are already catastrophic.
“If they (African negotiators and the civil society) unite and decide to walk out, they will deny consensus and then force the next COP (Conference of Parties) which is going to be in Africa, Morocco in 2016, to then change the power balance in the meantime,” Bond stated.
Acknowledgements: I’d like to thank Patrick Bond, Skye Bougsty-Marshall, Ramona Foran, Michael Gasser, Stephen Leahy, Theo LeQuesne, Brian Tokar, Richard Widick, Emily Williams, and others who have lovingly provided helpful comments, counterarguments, and corrections to earlier drafts.