We told you so. COP27, which Rex Murphy dubbed “the annual funeral deliberations for Mother Earth”, was a gathering of self-important windbags who did not know they did not know how to do anything about climate and arrived festooned with implausible promises only to depart trailing recriminations and fatuities. In the end they decided limiting greenhouse gases wasn’t important if they couldn’t do it, and struck a world-historic decisive deal on a side issue of doling out non-existent reparations funds. As GZero Newsletter put it in a newsletter headed “Climate COP-out”, “COP27 delivers on reparations but fails on fossil fuels” while the Telegraph reported “Cop27 strikes 'historic' climate compensation deal but no progress on emissions”. Which are kind of important to the story or so the activists have certainly seemed to insist for the last 30 years.
As a post-conference Guardian headline put it, “World still ‘on brink of climate catastrophe’ after Cop27 deal”. But to say that our “leaders” have sent words to do the work of deeds is not to suggest that they are not sincere. If people did not disagree on fundamentals they would not so regularly fail to connect on practical details. Speaking of which, the sorts of verbal constructions that flow so readily from the mouths of climate-woke politicians like Canada’s own Justin Trudeau do not in fact connect to functioning real-world actions, nor do the actions they take connect to the outcomes they both desire and expect. Which is precisely why COP27 was, in the eyes of its participants and enthusiasts, exactly the bust we knew it would be.
The whole conference was permeated by a theatrical air of pseudo-urgency. For instance a press release from The Commonwealth (yes, that one) “’End youth tokenism’ – Commonwealth young people tell COP27 leaders to recognise them as partners in fight against climate change”, essentially a statement about a statement, included “the statement calls for increased investment in schools and universities to encourage the development of innovative and climate-smart solutions”. What? What do they think governments have been throwing money at all these years? Are we only now discovering we need practical solutions? Oh, wait. We ain’t got none.
Even the Guardian, in the smouldering aftermath, ran a piece by a “Prof Emeritus of Geophysical & Climate Hazards at UCL” headlined “The big takeaway from Cop27? These climate conferences just aren’t working/ Rather than a bloated global talking shop, we need something smaller, leaner and fully focused on the crisis at hand”. But to say so is to imply that somebody somewhere has a practical plan for fixing the crisis that could actually be implemented in democratic governments. And they don’t. But maybe they could put the idea on the agenda for, say, COP80 or so.
Meanwhile, more gassy rhetoric. Consider the Canadian government’s windbag declaration on the 2nd-last day of the conference that:
“Today, at COP 27, on behalf of the Honourable Mona Fortier, President of the Treasury Board of Canada, the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, announced that Canada has joined the Net-Zero Government Initiative. The Net-Zero Government Initiative invites governments from around the world to lead by example and achieve net-zero emissions from national government operations by no later than 2050.”
Bear in mind that it comes from a government that has not managed, or really even tried, to collect any data on the effectiveness of its $78.5-billion strategy to combat homelessness. And whose renovations of the iconic Centre Block of Parliament will take at least a decade and cost at least $5 billion though in all likelihood both these estimates are as rubbishy as its defence procurement efforts. And whose hiring of a “deliverology” guru years ago to help with its habit of making promises it did not understand also turned out to be just more posturing. And which has missed all its climate targets so far, from emissions to tree-planting.
Thus the likelihood of its achieving Net Zero in its own operations by “no later than 2050” is as remote as the likelihood of its knowing whether it had, or of such a feat, if accomplished, making the slightest difference to overall human GHG emissions, global temperatures or the frequency of storms.
The New York Times’ David Wallace-Wells thinks this veil of ignorance may soon lift, gushing that “one of the most fascinating developments from this year’s major climate conference, COP27, which kicked off Nov. 6 with the U.N. secretary general António Guterres declaring that the world was on a ‘highway to climate hell,’ is a new online tool released by the nonprofit coalition Climate Trace that allows us to see emissions in near-real time…. it marks another step toward what is beginning to seem like the inevitable development of a sort of global carbon surveillance state… offering another piece of the emerging framework for global sanctions and climate litigation.”
Great. And maybe they’ll freeze the bank accounts of offenders based on it.
We ourselves can contain our enthusiasm for the surveillance state. And our faith in the Canadian government’s capacity to watch things and understand them even if it has microchips and stuff. But there’s more to its COP27 bloviating than just “Something must be done. This is something. Therefore this must be done.” There’s a genuine sense that such conspicuous displays of good intentions really do move mountains.
Thus the government is “leading by example” despite, again, the utter failure of its efforts to cut Canada’s overall GHG emissions, to secure international agreement that other nations will cut theirs, or even to come up with rational assessments of weather trends within Canada. And it will continue to emit phraseology like “By joining the Net-Zero Government Initiative, countries are collectively underscoring the critical leadership role of governments in catalyzing economy-wide climate actions and supporting their countries’ achievement of broader climate targets” until something finally happens.
Like another COP conference with more of those little sandwiches and sunny beaches.
P.S. Canada slithered out of this debacle with a Nov. 18 press release “Canada wraps up its participation at COP27 more committed than ever”. Which shows their degree of competence since the conference did not in fact end on schedule on that date but continued for two more days. And while that press release quoted the Minister that “Progress on commitments was at the forefront of this COP” it was not true once they did emerge blinking into the sunlight.
P.P.S. An outfit called “Doomberg”, after quoting Joseph Schumpeter that “The first thing a man will do for his ideals is lie”, noted pointedly that while governments floundered about missing climate targets “It is a poorly kept secret that most public company CEOs are more than happy to make the ‘net zero by 2050’ pledge, even if they have no idea how their companies will get there. To do so buys good public relations today, and they’ll personally be long gone before any real work needs to get done.” That the politicians do not even grasp this point, despite their profession’s hard-won reputation for slippery hypocrisy, suggests that they are as dim as they are devious, a disquieting thought.