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


3 Responses to “WWW”

  1. 1 Malavika reddy December 8, 2008 at 9:31 am

    i once heard an activist say…”closely follow the nobel prizes, depending on who’s won…you’lll be able to predict the next big industry the world will be pitching its hope on”.

    After the Al gore-IPCC team won, business iterests in environment have been legitimised.

    That explains all the job offers i am suddenly flooded with, i am an MSc in environmental sciences and was umemployed for the past four yrs.

  2. 2 climatenoise December 8, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    An old leader published in Down To Earth, just after climate men got Nobel Peace prize:

    Peace is a moving target

    This year’s Nobel Peace Prize prepares the world for a war against climate terror

    Interestingly, the unconventional choice of peaceniks, Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), by the Nobel committee has not created a public outcry. In fact, it has been lauded in all quarters, barring the ‘denial’ lobby. Over the years, the committee has made eclectic (and sometimes curious) attempts to enlarge and reinterpret the meaning of peace, hence focussing on the nature of war too. This time the award, probably, did not raise a controversy because the issue seemed larger than the awardees. The choice, undoubtedly, should place the climate change debate on the centrestage. Or are we being naive?
    Awards have a tendency to become a fashionable topic, specially when one of the awardees is already an Oscar winner. The danger is the focus will be on the celebrity and the issue will go out of the window or be underplayed. So, we will have to remember that this award for peace is also about a war to be won as also that climate change is as political an issue as armed conflicts, poverty or access to credit. The problem lies here.
    Who are we fighting in our war against climate change? The 2,500 scientists of IPCC who share the prize with Gore told us after long calculations—delayed reaction?—that climate change is human-induced. The fact is that all humans are not equal and that is where the politics of climate change comes in. But let’s give the IPCC scientists their due. Criticised by activists as too hesitant, they have put the bad news out. Given the high political and business stakes involved in climate, one must congratulate IPCC captain Dr Pachauri’s political acumen in negotiating the tough terrain of vested interests and steering his team to the prize.
    On the other hand, Gore’s track record as vice-president of the US—the world’s largest climate criminal—is under the scanner. In office, he was anti-union and a friend of the oil industry and Big Tobacco. He didn’t get his country into multilateral climate negotiations. His post-office activism, thus, has to be seen as posturing. But forget history, now we are just talking about an award ‘for efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change’. Only we can’t. Remember Kissinger, Begin, Rabin.
    They offer us a note of caution. Let’s hope climate change does not suffer the same fate as conflicts for which prizes have been given. After all, nothing has changed in West Asia or the streets of Kolkata.

  3. 3 Preeti singh December 9, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    The west is shouting itself hoarse, calling attention to the environmental degradation ensuing in china, courtesy: thegrowing chinese GDP.
    putting aside the fact that most of the sino indusrial growth is driven by lifestyles and consumption of the west,
    why are we risking the G-77’s stand by sheltering the world’s current highest emitter of CO2?

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