Incredibly, there was just yet another UN climate summit. At which its Secretary-General, the ever-shrill António Guterres of boiling oceans and climate breakdown fame, announced to general indifference that his wretched fellow humans have “opened the gates to hell”. And he knows who the devils are: “We must make up time lost to foot-dragging, arm-twisting and the naked greed of entrenched interests raking in billions from fossil fuels.” Fine. Hold 27 COP meetings and schedule a 28th, 29th and 30th. Bicker over the agenda at a pre-meeting meeting in August, then hold a between-pre-and-meeting meeting in September to rant, rave, burn vast amounts of CO2 traveling around and eat fancy food while priding yourself on your righteousness. Just what we need.
Actually opening the gates of hell might be a plan at that. For one thing, to hear alarmists tell it, it’s probably cooler in there than out here. For another, sulphur helps cool the atmosphere. And they haven’t got a better plan except to open the mouth of blatherskite.
On the other hand, demonizing opponents had an evil reputation until cancel culture came along. And it still should. A couple of months ago the National Post published a piece by Brendan O’Neill about his own new book on how many of the infamous Renaissance witch trials targeted people for causing “hellish weather”. Gee. (We might add that it was during the Little Ice Age when cooling temperatures brought extreme weather, unlike the generally more placid Medieval Warm Period.)
When we say the Secretary-General spoke to general indifference we don’t mean his comment wasn’t widely quoted by the supine press that long ago stopped speaking truth to power in favour of promoting narratives on behalf of power. So in that sense it worked. But it’s a cheap high at the expense of long-term detox because what can Guterres say next?
What’s hotter than Dante’s Inferno? Boiling is bad, sure. Breakdown arguably worse. But once you’ve let all hell loose there’s really nothing left in your rhetorical arsenal. And more and more empty seats.
Indeed, the Guardian whined:
“Leaders from more than 100 countries were asked to take part in the climate ambition summit, with invites extended to those the UN deemed “to have new, improved ambition on climate”. In a sobering indication of the shortfall in the required effort to avoid disastrous climate change, most of the world’s biggest carbon emitters were absent, including Joe Biden, president of the US, and Xi Jinping, president of China – leaders of the two largest polluters. Also absent was France’s Emmanuel Macron, India’s Narendra Modi and Britain’s Rishi Sunak, who has been the focus of intense criticism after he announced a watering down of the UK’s policies to reach net zero emissions.”
Arguably the absence of the democratic leaders indicates that they’re starting to feel, how shall we put it, the fires of hell from voters for their out-of-touch, unaffordable, wouldn’t-make-any-difference policies. As for China, well, we never believed them on climate anyway. But it’s just possible that it also reflects an uncomfortable feeling that holding dozens of such conferences to listen to the same speeches juiced with the same inane hyperbole (including the UN Sustainable Development Goals Summit from September 18-19, 2023 in New York City, followed by the UN Climate Ambition Summit on September 20, 2023 in New York City, along with, as the New York Times “Climate Forward” boasted, “A plethora of satellite events… clogging city streets, including Climate Week, the Clinton Global Initiative, a pair of Bloomberg gatherings and our own Climate Forward event on Thursday”) isn’t just ineffective, it’s downright tedious.
Imagine being told that on September 16, before whooshing off to New York to talk about climate change:
“Today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with the Prime Minister of Norway, Jonas Gahr Støre, on the margins of the 2023 Global Progress Action Summit in Montréal, Quebec. Prime Minister Trudeau and Prime Minister Støre reaffirmed the close relationship between Canada and Norway, based on shared values, interests, and priorities, such as shepherding the economy to make life more affordable for Canadians and Norwegians, and fighting against climate change. They discussed the Global Carbon Pricing Challenge as a good example of working together to cut emissions and fight climate change.”
The Global Progress “Action Summit”? What “action” was taken, pray? Plus didn’t he just tweet on September 10 that “@G20org Leaders’ Summit has wrapped – but our work to create good jobs and economic growth, to fight climate change and protect the environment, and to defend peace and security continues”?
Your going places to gabble with the usual suspects certainly does. But what, for instance, did the “Africa Climate Summit 23“ accomplish to justify the cost in time, fuel and fancy food in a continent still struggling with massive poverty? Who ever even heard of it? Like the Climate Home News piece that started “Climate politics watchers had pinned major hopes on the much-hyped Amazon Summit this week” before subsiding to “When it comes to the summit’s outcome things get less rosy” including no pledge on “halting fossil fuel expansion in the Amazon.” Oh. Outcome. That old thing again. Or was that bit the supposed “hype” normal people never heard of?
Well, speaking of hype, including “Sustainable Switch” gushing “It’s that pivotal time of year when New York’s Climate Week and the United Nations General Assembly converge”, there sure are a lot of scolds for whom the UN’s hell and flames are “in”.
For instance the Evening Standard asked, with suitably lurid graphic, “Who Will Stop Earth Burning?” and the mayor of London, UK fierily retweeted it. And the Guardian quoted the clearly impartial “David Waskow, director of the International Climate Initiative at the World Resources Institute” that:
“The small steps countries offered are welcome, but they’re like trying to put out an inferno with a leaking hose. There is simply a huge mismatch between the depth of actions governments and businesses are taking and the transformative shifts that are needed to address the climate crisis.”
OK, think tank dude, enlighten us on this question: Does this mismatch arise because the actions necessary to get these “transformative shifts” are actually impossible to perform, despite decades of people like you telling us they’re easy?
Not according to California governor Gavin Newsom, who clearly had nothing better to do than fly across the United States to emote that:
“It’s not complicated. It’s the burning of oil. It’s the burning of gas. It’s the burning of coal. And we need to call that out. For decades and decades, the oil industry has been playing each and every one of us in this room for fools. They have been buying off politicians. Their deceit and denial going back decades, have created the conditions that persist here today.”
And what powered the jet that flew you across the continent? If fuel use is the problem, you could ban it in your state tomorrow. But it’s so much easier to grandstand and “call it out” than talk seriously about the real world trade-offs you’re asking people to accept.
As the Guardian noted with the cool, level-headed skepticism we expect from journalists on this file, “there remains a yawning gap in terms of what is needed to avert disastrous climate change, with little optimism the upcoming Cop28 climate summit in Dubai in November will remedy this.”
So they’re starting to plan for COP29 in 2024, and COP30 in 2025. With all the caviar you can eat, all the activists you can imagine, and all the rhetoric you can stomach. Plus some embarrassing bickering, and no results worth mentioning.