Archive for December, 2008

Loaded communication

While it seems easy to draw attention to climate change by showing iconic one polar bear on a thin sheet of ice, the politics of such communication is questionable. Polar bears do not have union to voice their vulnerability. It is a noble duty of mankind to make their plight heard by others. But when climate change gets synonymous with polar bears’ plight (because it is easy to draw attention… god knows why), the other set of voiceless vulnerable, the millions of poor in the South stand to suffer. People who get deeply affected by the emotional appeal to save polar bear, and have the power to do so, are normally opinion makers in the North, or the elite opinion makers in the South. In turn, decision makers pushed by these opinion makers, are unable to do god for all, and try to do something for polar bears only. I would like to draw attention to all sorts of wildlife campaigns. In fact, millions of vulnerable humans may be asked to make sacrifice, to make space for vulnerable wildlife.

In this case, this mannequin inside COP14 hall didn’t do much job.

Aware civil society delegates know a lot more than the polar bear. a few got themselves photographed with the mannequin to show their partners back home.

Government delegates failed to see anything, as usual.

Smart guys in black suits found them to be punks.


Hot Air

Poznan is cold, a little less than it was expected.

And the delegates are to be kept warm

C for Change

The word ‘Change’ was recently made popular by Mr. Obama. In his campaign period, the ‘change’ almost sounded revolutionary. Taking cue from his campaign, climate activists have also picked up the word. UN is not far away with its stale slogan like: ‘It is time to change the climate change”. A mannequin at the conference lobby.

at COP14 lobby

at COP14 lobby



cartoon by Rustam Vania

What Went Wrong

James Watt remains an under-celebrated revolutionary. He made zillions of wheels revolve by the same steam that was otherwise restricted to Turkish baths and making delicious dumplings.

The way climate change is negotiated, it seems that there is a complete amnesia over our history. Emission of greenhouse gases (GHG, from now on) is a function of political economy. Hence, climate change has to be seen in that matrix, and it cannot be wished away.

In the early days the 90s, the original climate culprits, who have been spewing stuff in the atmosphere since last 150 years, tried to divert world’s attention towards countries like India and China for the climate crime, pointing out the large emission these countries were responsible for. It was a smart try.

While the fortunate students in the South are fed a lot of western philosophy around ethics, Northern contemporary thinkers forgot everything about it while measuring climate crime. They conveniently picked up large countries with large population in the South to identify the criminals. It took some time for the fact that each individual in the globe has equal entitlement of our atmosphere to sink in. While calculating per capita share of climate crime, it turned out that each resident of industrialized world spew 10 times more than that of the developing world. The idea is well argued in a 1991 publication called ‘Global Warming In An Unequal World: A Case for Environmental Colonialism’ by CSE. So, per capita emission idea became the guiding principle for climate negotiation.

Based on the per capita emission principle, it was decided that industrialized rich countries of the world were to reduce emission considerably so that the developing poor countries get some head room to grow. Today, it has become fashionable for the Northern negotiators and think-tanks to point out that South’s position of not taking up any commitment on emission reduction is just posturing and cannot be tolerated as India and China are turning out to be large emerging economies with rising per capita emission.

It is a joke that a lot of ‘well-meaning’ smart environmentalists who print posters like ‘One World – Our World’ support this viewpoint. They fail to see that there is no One World.

My posturing Vs Your posturing

Please remember, rich industrialized economies did nothing to cut emission in the last decade, even when they knew about climate change and made commitments about drastic reduction. It seems they waited for a decade to see that certain developing countries grow and increase their per capita so that they can start a new blame game. If the South is posturing, it is nothing more than a counter to Northern posturing of being worried about climate change.

It is well documented that all environmental negotiations convened by the UN has got nothing to do with environment, they are just negotiations to secure future business space for the rich nations. The fight on climate change is the most severe as emission cut for the rich is related to giving up ever increasing consumption and luxury. There is a dubious attempt in the climate negotiation that seeks a status quo on luxury emission and want to curb Poor’s survival emission.

All these, when the atmosphere still holds the carbon emitted by the rich countries in the last hundred years. And do not forget, most of these countries grew rich amassing wealth from the Southern countries.

Buying and selling

It is amazing to see how the rich nations have gone back to what they are best at: buying and selling. It is the Market in the first place that has created the problem, a religion that needs more and more things to be produced and consumed, giving rise to emission. So, a mechanism was created to buy back a little bit of atmosphere that was not polluted by the poor in the South. But it was sold with a grand posturing of helping out the poor to grow. As usual that never happened.

The idea was to buy the space, so that the poor could grow in a cleaner manner. But the process has been made such corrupt and convoluted that money transfer is happening between the rich companies in the North and the their counterparts in the South. The process was given a rather simple name: CDM (there are various versions on what the C stands for).

Over a period, the business interests have cannibalized the climate change discussion. Business interests are fronted by immoral intellectuals in both hemispheres, who are trying to turn climate change crisis into a business opportunity. I shall give a count on number of events organized by business associations and corporations directly during this COP in Poznan.

Fixers have an uncanny penchant for cooking up fixes. In climate change, they are at the game too. Without addressing the real problem of reducing emission, they are trying to increase efficiency, new methods of burying carbon in the hell, promoting more of dangerous and expensive ways of boiling water and so on.

WWW continues

What went wrong is not being reversed in Poznan at all. There is no talk of reduction of emission in near future. The fact remains that barring a few countries; all rich nations increased their emission in the last decade. They cannot possibly pretend to be ignorant about climate change in last ten years. All discussion hovers around some virtual money that is needed to manage the problem. If you propose to posture, I can posture better. Industry is trying to fish in dirty water.

Journalist friends at Sheraton Poznan were busy discussing ‘How many different ways can you do the same story that nothing is happening here?’

Coming up: more about the Market


Down To Earth

democracy and environmental justice

Abbreviated Future (AF)

It is no wonder that a friend of mine, a chartered accountant, is still confused about climate change causing severe winter while it is all about global warming. I am sure there are millions in the world who are oscillating between the hot and cold of climate change. To start with, climate change is an issue about a lot of smoke and a hazy screen restricts majority of the world to navigate through the cacophony over managing the problem. Brave and adventurous people who have volunteered or created a career out of understanding and solving the problem of climate change, talk in an encrypted language which is more complex than atmospheric behaviour. Take for example, the umbrella body that looks after humanity’s future threatened by the bad behaviour of atmosphere, UNFCCC. I am always nervous that I have missed out one C. At times, just to be sure, I write UNFCCCC. You can’t argue, it is United Nations Framework Convention on Control of Climate Change. There is an unprecedented eagerness in the climate circle to talk in jargon and create convoluted abbreviations. It is possible that the climate politicians who joined later, tried to outsmart the climate scientists who had inherited complex chemical bonds and formulas.

But if we look at the hazyness of climate change negotiations, one thing is clear. It is a deliberate attempt to keep people out of it. The process of managing climate change has been utterly undemocratic, where participation of majority is prohibited. It is controlled by a smart set to deliver more to the smart set. If we look closely at two dominating terms like ‘adaptation’ and ‘mitigation’ in climate discussion, they basically directs humanity to behave, and behave withing its means. It’s no wonder that we need trillions of dollars to behave!

If we are looking for any real change, all of us need to participate in the climate debate. Barring a handful of politicians, no peoples representative is aware of decisions taken in foreign capitals. We urge all social communicators to put extra efforts to make climate change understandable to everyone. There is no point crying foul after all decisions are taken by the smart sets.

Meanwhile, check out these links and bookmark them for quick understanding of climate smokescreen:

Glossary of Climate Change Terms


Wikipedia Glossary of Climate Change


UNFCCC: Essential Acronyms