Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Climate talks are dead... - is it time to face the elephants in the room?

In an article in the Guardian this week, celebrated journalist and all round environmental paladin, George Monbiot stated in reference to December's upcoming international climate talks in Mexico that;

"The Process Is Dead..."(1)

In his article he speaks of how the follow on talks to last years failed Copenhagen summit, due to be held in Cancun, Mexico this December, show few signs of being a success - with the developed and developing nations still at loggerheads over who, how much and when differing nations should cut their carbon emissions.

With the agreements laid out in the Kyoto Protocol due to expire in 2012, the likelihood of us entering the second decade of this formative century with any hard agreements on carbon cuts in place seem slim. Indeed as Monbiot muses if we're not careful we may find ourselves somewhere akin to where the discussion was in 1997 or even 1992.

Upon unpacking the international efforts for curbing man-made climate change and declaring them dead, Monbiot then briefly interrogates some regional solutions (such as the EU trading emissions scheme). Much in line with this authors thinking he finds most regional plans, even those written into law such as the UK's very own Climate Change Act hugely short of the levels required to stabilise Carbon Dioxide levels in the atmosphere at a level below 350ppm.

Summarising rather grimly but realistically;

"What all this means is that there is not a single effective instrument for containing man made global warming anywhere on earth."(2)

Monbiot concludes; that the problems aren't only political but highlight deep-rooted human weaknesses, admitting he doesn't know the answers, and finishes that, "the conversation starts here."

OK -well thanks George rather humbly let me try to start (or indeed join) the conversation using a medical metaphor...

The globe has a medical condition called climate change - fundamentally we know what causes it (although there are many uncertainties involved), yet there are a myriad of inputs causing this illness - we monitor its condition by measuring the levels of certain gases in the atmosphere.

Up until now our main attack on this condition has been that of a unsympathetic doctor to an obese patient; simply cut your calories (emissions!). Even a single obese patient can find many reasons to avoid this doctors prescription - so no wonder there are problems when we transpose the metaphor to the protracted world of international agreements.

We need to unpack the case if we're to make true progress - why does the obese patient eat so much? What is it that drives this obsession with eating?

OK. Enough of the weak metaphor -

Climate change has provided (and will continue) to provide a great narrative and common discourse for many environmental issues - but ultimately it has become a term too broad, vast and veiled in its use. It has begun to mask some of the real elephants in the room.

If we are to truly address climate change we need to begin to attack some of these elephants - many fundamentals of the developed world - population growth, water usage, over consumption, capitalism.... I could keep typing the list until the summit in December.

At every level of our society we need to ask ourselves some hard questions - none of the topics they fall under are new - indeed many have perpetuated through cultures from the ancient to the modern.

Unfortunately I don't believe the international frameworks of the current status quo can solve a problem with which they were complicit in creating. We (you, your Gran, the region, and the human world) need to stop take a second and consider what future we want to live in, because as our little economic downturn has reminded us, the good times can't go on forever.

Which parts of your day to day life do you wish to save - the 36 pairs of shoes, the new mobile every year, and the package holiday to the Costa's - OR the huge leaps in life expectancy, the progression to shorter working hours in many societies, and a movement to an inclusive society?

OK- so I don't have a single solution in a box with a ribbon on, but that's the whole point, the politicians have attempted to get hold of the climate change condition and are flailing to find one pill which cures it when fundamentally a local doctor may have just prescribed a large shift in lifestyle rather than a medical solution!

Rant over.

Until next time,

P.s This blog is in no way a push to say that the climate talks in Mexico serve no purpose - rather it is a reminder that every individual is in control of our own futures. society is a collective of individuals.


(1) (2) "The Process Is Dead" - - September 20th 2010

1 comment:

  1. It was good to read your post. I think that the process is like doing a work of art: you learn some technique and eagerly attack a concerto and find you can't play the overall music you hear. You go back to learn the technique so you can play what you hear, and lo and behold, you hear more than you originally did. Solve at the small scale and the large one makes demands you didn't understand before. The ways that International diplomacy work, the glue that keeps international agreements together, and if one dares to say, their moral boundaries, have been different from the small scale for as long as human beings have created Kingdoms and lived in them rather than being content with the tribe. But we don't want to go back to tribal or local living exclusively. Neither do we want to loose the increased consciousness that comes with the largest scale networks. I think Copenhagen DID begin something, but that the kind of global network it needs to build has NEVER been seen before. We must go slow, and we must stay positive, and we must stay aware too that particular sorts of actions happen on different levels. We need to understand what this means and use it as a technique, so we can direct our actions where they are most appropriate.