CLIMATE WATCH - Dateline: November 7-18, 2022, Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. Dignitaries from every country will be meeting to discuss climate change at COP27. Based upon early confirmations, 90 heads of state will attend, lending an aura of importance.
“Climate change is the crisis of our lifetime. If we are not able to reverse the present trend that is leading to a catastrophe in the world, we will be doomed.” (António Guterres UN Secretary-General, BBC interview leading to COP27)
The Secretary-General has been beating that same drum for some time now, which prompts a thought: Should the UN stop holding annual COP “Conference of the Parties” climate change meetings? For 30 years straight, following each COP meeting, CO2 emissions have climbed higher than the year before. That’s thirty years, or an entire generation, of failure to slow emissions by even a teeny bit. It’s starting to get embarrassing.
For historical perspective, Global CO2 emissions in 1992, when COPs started, were just over 22 billion metric tons. In 2021 CO2 emissions were a record high 36 billion tons or an increase of 65% since nations signed up to protect the planet from excessive greenhouse gases. This equates to thirty-years of blabbering and more blabbering with nothing to show for it, except big increases in greenhouse gases, an amazing anti-achievement!
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) formed at the Earth Summit in May 1992 with 178 member nations unanimously agreeing to bring CO2 emissions down to 1990 levels of 354 ppm by the year 2000.
May 1992 CO2 @ 359.99 ppm - UNFCCC formed
May 2000 CO2 @ 371.82 ppm – missed the 354 target
October 2022 CO2 @ 427.01 ppm – Oh, well!
COP meetings are the Super Bowl of climate change but not quite as extravagant but still pretty darn plush. And, millions are expended to house (multi-star hotels) and feed (30,000 registered delegates for COP27) to annual COP two-week get-togethers, not including airfare expenses as well as CO2 exhaust fumes.
So far, taxpayers or grants or private funding or institutional funds that support attendees have witnessed CO2 emissions increase every year ever since UNFCCC formed, never a down year. It’s been a bad investment, but offsetting that misfortune is effective PR. “Climate Change” is universally recognized.
Meantime – The All-time Worldwide Killer is Fossil Fuels
One seldom-noticed world statistic stands out like a sore thumb: “There are almost 10,000,000 (ten million) fossil fuel specific air pollution deaths per year.” (Source: Dr. Peter Carter - UN June Climate Meeting Bonn: Bad Beyond Belief - more on Carter to follow)
That puts fossil fuels in the all-time standings list with World War I and World War II, actually in first place. Wars end. Fossil fuel emissions do not. Why not use that statistic for more effective (compelling) PR?
According to a 2018 study by Harvard University, University of Leicester and University College London: “More than 8 million people died in 2018 from fossil fuel pollution, significantly higher than previous research suggested.” (Source: Global Mortality From Outdoor Fine Particle Pollution Generated by Fossil Fuel Combination, Environmental Research posted at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 02/09/2021)
Unfortunately, any prospects for a letup in fossil fuel-related deaths does not appear to be on the horizon, in fact, quite the opposite based upon the UN Emissions Gap Report 2022 d/d October 27, 2022, to wit: “As growing climate change impacts are experienced across the globe, the message that greenhouse gas emissions must fall is unambiguous. Yet the Emissions Gap Report 2022: The Closing Window – Climate crisis calls for rapid transformation of societies finds that the international community is failing far short of the Paris goals, with no credible pathway to 1.5°C in place. Only an urgent system-wide transformation can avoid climate disaster.”
Alas, there is no known “urgent system-wide transformation” that “can avoid climate disaster” on the drawing boards even as the United Nations insists it’s the only way to avoid climate disaster.
But, of course, the IPCC does not control fossil fuels, which, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), plan nearly $1 trillion of new fossil fuel projects, oil & gas, by 2030, and the IPCC does not control coal emissions.
According to Bloomberg, US Edition, Sept. 21, 2022: “A year after President Xi Jinping promised China would stop building coal power plants overseas, the country has completed 14 such facilities beyond its borders and will finish another 27 soon.” The soon-to-be completed plants will emit more emissions than the Philippines or 140 million tons of CO2/yr.
Additionally, India May Boost Coal Power Fleet By 25% By 2030 Amid Rising Demand, Bloomberg, US Edition, Sept. 22, 2022. India’s PM claims reliable electricity supply is the nation’s priority, and thus, according to Bloomberg and COP26: He aims for net zero by 2070, not 2050. Why not make it 2170? That’s likely what’ll happen over time, assuming an excruciating pounding summer heat, like the summer of 2022, doesn’t bring on mass protests or more likely mass deaths well ahead of net zero by 2070.
And, just for good measure: “The US government has funneled more than $9bn (£7.7bn) into oil and gas projects in Africa since it signed up to restrain global heating in the 2015 Paris climate agreement, a tally of official data shows, committing just $682m (£587m) to clean energy developments such as wind and solar over the same period.” (Source; Two-thirds of US Money for Fossil Fuel Pours Into Africa Despite Climate Goals, The Guardian, October 31, 2022)
In the face of all of that, expectations are high for COP27 in Egypt, but they're always high before every COP. In all honesty, maybe COP meetings should be stopped in favor of an altogether different approach because whatever they are doing is clearly not working. As a practical matter, maybe scale down the meetings to much smaller delegations and omit the edit of policy measures by individual country bureaucrats or economists or fossil fuel reps and leave the fixit policy measures to scientists/engineers and establish strict enforcement by monitoring country promises of CO2 reductions, abandon voluntary country emission reductions. That has never worked!
Of more than passing interest, people have already expressed trepidation about holding COP27 in Egypt with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisis’s massive crackdown on dissent. It’s over-the-top excessive and whether intentional or unintentional, may serve to diminish street protests at COP27. According to the Arabic Network for Human Rights, at least 60,000 political prisoners are held behind bars for expressing political beliefs. Amnesty International ranks Egypt as the 3rd worst country by numbers of executions. Highlighting Egypt’s troubling repressiveness, Naomi Klein referred to COP 27 as the “Carceral Climate Summit.”
In order to better understand what to expect at COP27, Dr. Peter D. Carter, director, Climate Emergency Institute and IPCC expert reviewer analyzed a major preliminary meeting to COP27 at the Bonn UN Climate Change Convention of June 2022 with insight to COP27, which Dr. Carter boldly labels: “Bad Beyond Belief”
Following the Bonn meetings on June 16th, according to Dr. Carter: “It is my unpleasant duty and with profound sadness that I’m going to report on what happened... I’ve called it an unbelievably abysmally bad Bonn United Nations Climate Change Convention meeting.” (Source: UN June Climate Meeting Bonn: Bad Beyond Belief.)
Carter: Bonn demonstrated a level of “incredible climate change denial throughout the conference.” Yet, Bonn paves the way for COP27, which brings to mind: Who listens to the Secretary-General?
It’s even worse than the Secretary-General realizes, according to Dr. Carter: “Today there is no agreement, not even a plan, to put emissions into decline... Bonn this June 2022 was yet another international meeting that refused to stop the rapid, rampant wanton destruction of the sacred earth.”
Accordingly, the most amazing media report by BBC that came out of Bonn: “To Bridge the 1.5C Degree Gap.” Countries agreed to a new “work stream” for this current decade. But that is one more decade following one more decade “work stream” or work program, a-work-in-progress. At the Bonn meeting, both the EU and the US said the “work stream should continue until 2030.” According to Carter: Effectively, they’ve advocated keeping on blah blah blah until 2030: “Which is definitely a delayed death sentence.”
Rather than discussing emissions decline, Bonn has reinforced the 1.5C climate catastrophe by more climate action delay. In contrast, the world’s most eminent climate scientist James Hansen said it is scientifically impossible to limit to 1.5 degrees. Evidently, nobody at Bonn was focused on that and what to do, if anything, about it.
Much more disturbing yet: “There are scientists supporting the 1.5C falsehood, wrongfully proclaiming there is no climate emergency. Instead they claim we can still limit to 1.5C.” (Carter)
According to Carter, Bonn has written the future off once again. The truth: “We face global climate hell at 1.5 degree C.” This fact was made obvious in the 6th Assessment by the IPCC itself. Hmm.
Meanwhile according to Carter: “We are getting severe extreme weather events at an increasing rate affecting all habitable regions on the planet. These will increase over time, heat waves, droughts, forest fires, superstorms, hurricanes and cyclones, torrential rains, floods. And the heat waves, unprecedented heat waves across the Northern Hemisphere.” For example, practically all of India was only recently under an unprecedented pounding heat wave. People died.
In spite of everything mentioned above, at the Bonn climate talks, no one could agree on what a work stream should look like. Thirty years of negotiations, and nobody knows what their recommendations for a work stream on climate action will look like. Amazingly disturbing.
However, Bonn did discuss carbon markets under the 2015 Paris agreement Article 6, which are really only mechanism for emissions trading or what many refer to as “junk or zombie credits,” worthless credits but now approved and used for greenwashing. In total 320 million of the credits equivalent to the annual emissions of 86 coal-fired power plants have been made available for countries to count towards climate emission reduction commitments. Hmm.
Bottom line: “There was not a hint of putting emissions into decline at the two-week Bonn meetings. All agreements result in continued emissions.” (Carter) The inertia is shameful.
Adding insult to injury, as part of COP negotiations, way back in 2009, rich countries agreed to provide 200 billion dollars a year to underdeveloped countries by 2020. As of today, they have failed to pay the first 200 billion. Bonn meetings ended with nothing more done about this 200B failure. Ever since 1992, major countries have stalled. This is a recurring source of distrust in the process by underdeveloped countries. A BBC headline regarding Bonn’s two-week meetings stated: “Climate Change: Bonn Talks End In Acrimony Over Compensation,” BBC News Science.
Additionally, it’s hard to accept, but Bonn caved in to major emitters. China rejected any references to being labeled a “major emitter.” However, they are a major emitter. In fact, China’s emissions are double the next largest emitter, which is the US. India, China, and Middle East all objected to any language about “major emitters,” which, in fact, was deleted.
They also agreed to omit any emissions accounting by the UN climate secretariat for NDC or voluntary national emissions targets, even though these are, in fact, “paltry targets” which will not even come close to limiting global warming to 2C. And, what they did agree to will not even be new national emissions accounting until 2023. Only Australia promised deeper cuts.
Alas, it’s hard to believe, but there is no plan for how countries will work out and submit their emission targets. Different countries are using different methodologies. “This is a basket case. It’s chaotic how national emissions targets are being accounted and registered with the UN.” (Carter)
Dr. Carter: “This is absolute madness. You read thru the accounts of these meetings and you cannot believe it is true… we will not survive if these unbelievably sky-high greenhouse gases, particularly CO2 are allowed to continue to increase at the accelerating rate. We’re on a global suicide proposal.”
Postscript: COP26/Glasgow/2021 news not covered by mainstream media: Commentary of Dr. James Hansen (Ex-NASA Climate Chief) re COP26/Glasgow: “In a memo published last December – unreported until now – Prof Hansen warned that world governments and the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are severely under-estimating the speed and impact of global warming this century.” (Source: COP26 Pledges Will Have Catastrophic Consequences Says Ex-NASA Climate Chief, Byline Times, February 16, 2022)
“Conventional climate models, he said, do not sufficiently account for the Earth’s paleoclimate history or ongoing observations of the climate system… Prof Hansen criticized Boris Johnson’s ‘claim that COP26 salvaged the chance to keep global warming below 1.5°C’ and that ‘we’ll look back at COP26 as the moment humanity finally got real about climate change. Describing the UK Government’s claims about the success of the COP26 as ‘unadulterated bulls**t’, his memo warned that ‘the 1.5°C global warming ceiling will be breached this decade’ and that pledges made by Johnson’s administration at COP26 will do nothing to stop the world hitting dangerous climate change.”
Recommended: Climate Restoration, Rivertowns Books, 2022
(Robert Hunziker, MA, economic history DePaul University, awarded membership in Pi Gamma Mu International Academic Honor Society in Social Sciences is a freelance writer and environmental journalist who has over 200 published articles appearing in over 50 journals, magazines, and sites worldwide.)