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Reaping the Whirlwind

December 18, 2009

The climate talks in Copenhagen were not a pop quiz. Our “leaders” have had years to prepare and plan to reach on consensus on the sacrifices that need to be made to limit climate change. And yet Western nations are willing to make only the most meager concessions. You might expect the world’s biggest polluter to take the lead in trying to reduce harmful emissions. But the US, the world’s biggest polluter for quite some time, is too busy trying to pass the title of sootiest sovereignty on to China to do much of anything, even though China has only recently industrialized and has four times the population and thus pollutes only a quarter per capita of what the US does. Well to be fair, the US did do something – as Naomi Klein notes, they trotted out everyone’s favorite diplomat Hillary Clinton to berate and blackmail developing nations. Not surprisingly, that didn’t go over too well. So while Obama blathers on without really saying anything the talks are looking more likely to collapse without coming to an agreement. And even that may not be the worst possible scenario since no deal at all is better than a terrible one. As Klein notes again, Western leaders desperately want some kind of agreement so they can at least pretend they did something, but that something could very well stick a fork in developing nations . The latest pledge of $10 billion per year is such a paltry sum it wouldn’t even match the brokerage fees Western financial firms rake in for carbon trading and the likely reductions would not be enough to keep Africa from being fried.

We do know, from witnessing a series of these jarring about-faces, that the G-8 powers are willing to do just about anything to get a deal in Copenhagen. The urgency clearly does not flow from a burning desire to avert cataclysmic climate change, since the negotiators know full well that the paltry emissions cuts they are proposing are a guarantee that temperatures will rise a “Dantesque” 3.9 degrees, as Bill McKibben puts it.


Europe, he [Matthew Stilwell of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development] says, fully understands how much money will be made from carbon trading, since it has been using the mechanism for years. Developing countries, on the other hand, have never dealt with carbon restrictions, so many governments don’t really grasp what they are losing. Contrasting the value of the carbon market–$1.2 trillion a year, according to leading British economist Nicholas Stern–with the paltry $10 billion on the table for developing countries, Stilwell says that rich countries are trying to exchange “beads and blankets for Manhattan.” He adds: “This is a colonial moment. That’s why no stone has been left unturned in getting heads of state here to sign off on this kind of deal…. Then there’s no going back. You’ve carved up the last remaining unowned resource and allocated it to the wealthy.”

It is abundantly clear that waiting for the world’s “leaders” to fix the problems that their own policies have created will not be enough to avert disaster. We will reap what we sow, and if we continue to sow the seeds of destruction the harvest will be bitter indeed.

21 Comments leave one →
  1. Stemella permalink*
    December 18, 2009 9:48 am

    Barack Obama’s speech disappoints and fuels frustration at Copenhagen

    Now the tarnish on “brand Obama” that we’ve seen for quite some time, becomes visible overseas.

    We should not forget the lessons learned by the residents of New Orleans in 2005. When it comes to environmental crisis, this government will not take a proactive reasonable approach. It will not even take a reasonable reactionary approach. It will do the minimum to appease the ruling class and the rest of us will eat shit.

    If we really want to survive as communities we had better build up relationships with immediate neighbors and townships and strengthen blood ties. The nationstate, the state, the metropolis, the city – these forms of organization in America and around quite a bit of the world are all proceeding into bankruptcy and corruption if not there already.

    I think it unfortunate (and I absolutely include myself in this) that so many of us, have invested so much time in online communities to the detriment of our tangible ones. We have invested so much time and energy building and embellishing the information highways, while real highways, water systems, electrical grids, food production systems, judicial systems, health and safety systems, the very foundations of our lives, wither and crumble before our eyes.

    • artemis54 permalink
      December 18, 2009 12:11 pm

      Wise remark.

      I’m not a fool; Obama wasn’t going to experience a conversion, wave a magic wand, or lead the masses out on to the street to shut down coal plants one by one. But it was time for leadership and he failed completely.

      These leaders are just the froth floating on the surface. They can and will soon be blown away. The real meat and energy of COpenhagen was obviously in the street, in the cooperation of youth, the poor countries, the NGOs, and the indigenous. These were the only people that had anything relevant to say, and it is clear to the whole world now.

    • cometman permalink*
      December 18, 2009 1:09 pm

      I struggle with what you said in that last paragraph a lot. I’d like to be out there trying to make a difference in the meat world community and I have in the past. But it turned out to be useless. Millions marched in 2003 to try to stop the war and nobody in a position of power cared. I’ve gone with others to my Congressman’s office and done all the other things you’re supposed to do and none of it mattered because nothing changed as a result.

      I watched Bill Moyers’ program from a week or so ago last night and he played footage of people protesting the banks. They weren’t huge protests but there were at least as many people there as were at many of the teabagger protests we heard so much about. But Bill Moyers was the only place I’ve seen this get much coverage other than on the internet. I think the fact that meaningful protests simply aren’t considered news by the corporate media frustrates a lot of people so much they just don’t even try. I know I feel that way recently.

      Lately rather than engaging in politics in the community, I’ve tried to simply get to know my local community and be a good neighbor. We bring the neighbors vegetables from our garden and bake things for them. Last winter some guy in a snowplow saw us struggling to shovel the snow from our driveway and he stopped on his way down the street and plowed it out just to be nice. In the course of getting to know people, we found out that some neighbors are involved in community theatre and got to see a good play. Those are the kind of things that renew my faith in people. Trying to engage in politics does about the exact opposite.

      Melvin is right in that the current political leaders like those before them can and will be blown away. Hopefully enough people grab a bellows and speed the process along before it’s too late for a lot of people.

      • cometman permalink*
        December 18, 2009 1:16 pm

        BTW, when I went to find that Moyers link, I noticed that Matt Taibbi will be on his program tonight. Should be interesting.

      • Stemella permalink*
        December 18, 2009 1:54 pm

        That is exactly what I meant, how you described getting to know your neighbors and being neighborly. I agree about the political protests. The local teabaggers got a whole lot more coverage than the anti-war protesters ever did and the latter outnumbered them heavily. I still can’t help being a bit romantic about “taking it to the streets,” but realistically street protests are as influential as writing on a blog. I struggle with it too.

        Thanks too for the heads up on Moyers and Taibbi. I’m very bummed that Moyers will soon be going off the air. He’s one of the few good guys out there. At least we know he has mentored quite a few and inspired many more.

  2. Stemella permalink*
    December 18, 2009 10:05 am

    Obama Snubbed by Chinese Premier at Climate Meeting

    • cometman permalink*
      December 18, 2009 1:15 pm

      Squobama has been getting the Heismann a lot lately. Just last week it was the bankers who he invited for some special meeting at the White House who were no-shows. The Chinese are increasingly treating the US like the US has treated so many other nations for decades- with condescension and mockery. Geithner got quite a few yuks on his last trip to reassure the Chinese that the US still had two nickels to rub together.

  3. artemis54 permalink
    December 18, 2009 1:00 pm

    Wow. Nothing on this disaster at DK except a Youtube of Obama followed by a comment about how it was a great speech. I’ll have what that person is smoking.

    Why any surprise though? That place long ago commmitted to personality politics and hence almost never has anything of interset to say.

    • cometman permalink*
      December 18, 2009 1:17 pm

      Nothing but dead enders left over there.

  4. artemis54 permalink
    December 18, 2009 1:16 pm


    msnbc talking about how the talks are saved since Clinton put a $100 billion on the table.

    Jesus Christ, she didn’t put a fucking nickel on the table. She endorsed the vague idea of someone somehow sometime in the future funding up to that total, if if if if if the US approved. She didn’t promise any amount at all from the US specifically. Can’t these morons tell the difference, or are they actively misleading the public?

    • cometman permalink*
      December 18, 2009 1:49 pm

      Probably a little of both. The execs are deliberately misleading while the bimbos they hire to read the teleprompter can’t tell the difference.

      Didn’t get into it much in the post above, but I might as well say again for the record just how much I loathe Hillary Clinton.

    • Stemella permalink*
      December 18, 2009 2:16 pm

      It is now a big red breaking news on Reuters. No story there yet, but it claims that a deal was made between US, China, India and South Africa.

      Here’s a story from the LA Crimes Tentative deal reached in Copenhagen on climate change curbs

      • cometman permalink*
        December 18, 2009 2:52 pm

        There is a lot of talk in that article about the US wanting some mechanism to make sure that China’s pledges are carried out and that developing nations’ pledges are carried out, but it looks like all those nations get from the US is a promise that they’ll do the same.

        The president promised that the United States would keep its pledge to reduce emissions — in the range of 17% below 2005 levels by 2020 — “no matter what happens in Copenhagen.”

        Really, why should anybody believe anything promised by anyone in the US government? And then there was this:

        “It’s not sufficient to combat the threat of climate change but its an important first step,” the official said.

        The leaders of the world have known about this problem for decades and much more should have been accomplished here than some vague and tentative “first steps”. Wish I weren’t so cynical but this just sounds like a bunch of pretty talk that won’t amount to a pisshole in the snow. If we even have snow anymore after another few years of fouling the earth.

        • Stemella permalink*
          December 18, 2009 5:19 pm

          Marla at Zedge zings it. Snow Day Job

          Obama emerges triumphantly from negotiations in Copenhagen having secured a 2 degree cap on world temperature. Of course, this implies a sea level increase limit of seven to nine meters. Having successfully commanded the tide to remain out, Obama and the United Nations have broken new ground in assuring climate status quo through international agreement. (Oh, and several programs directed at the mass redistribution of wealth to non-democratic kleptocracies were also outlined in the lobby during intermission cocktails).

          Enforcement hasn’t been discussed yet, but we are confident that a “Weather Czar” will be appointed to gauge world temperature compliance and levy world GDP bonus clawbacks in the event the limit is breached by the planet. Further, though the summit failed to fail to reach a non-binding consensus, it does provide the basis for hope that emissions targets will be re-aligned to newly developed targets for emissions targets. John Kerry expressed confidence that new targets for targets would be realized sometime when it wasn’t quite so cold outside, and pointed out that the appointment of a Czar and involvement of the EPA would eliminate the need for any legislative authorization to clawback world bonuses in any year where global temperatures exceeded the mandatory limit. No word yet on how the clawbacks would be used, but speculation includes the Administration’s new “polar bears saved or created” programs.

          Unfortunately, Obama will be forced to leave the Global Warming Conference due to an imposing winter storm bearing down on the mid-atlantic and due to dump as much as twenty inches of snow in the nation’s capitol, which may, in turn, delay the arrival in Washington, D.C. of the largest carbon footprinted transportation logistics infrastructure on the planet. Obama will therefore be unable to attend the final vote on the motion that the next conference will be in the South of France in August.

  5. cometman permalink*
    December 18, 2009 1:49 pm

    Shame shame shame. Chris Floyd on the Obama administration’s latest defense of torture – Dred Scott Redux: Obama and the Supremes Stand Up for Slavery.

    It happened earlier this week, in a discreet ruling that attracted almost no notice and took little time. In fact, our most august defenders of the Constitution did not have to exert themselves in the slightest to eviscerate not merely 220 years of Constitutional jurisprudence but also centuries of agonizing effort to lift civilization a few inches out of the blood-soaked mire that is our common human legacy. They just had to write a single sentence.

    Here’s how the bad deal went down. After hearing passionate arguments from the Obama Administration, the Supreme Court acquiesced to the president’s fervent request and, in a one-line ruling, let stand a lower court decision that declared torture an ordinary, expected consequence of military detention, while introducing a shocking new precedent for all future courts to follow: anyone who is arbitrarily declared a “suspected enemy combatant” by the president or his designated minions is no longer a “person.” They will simply cease to exist as a legal entity. They will have no inherent rights, no human rights, no legal standing whatsoever — save whatever modicum of process the government arbitrarily deigns to grant them from time to time, with its ever-shifting tribunals and show trials.

  6. artemis54 permalink
    December 18, 2009 2:04 pm

    Sunita Narain nailed it a couple days ago in an interview with Amy Goodman:

    Well, I think if President Bush was in kindergarten, President Obama is in first grade, but nothing more than that.

  7. Stemella permalink*
    December 18, 2009 5:17 pm

    Up to 140 for the year

    Seven more tonight valued at $1.38+ billions and billions

    First Federal Bank of California, Santa Monica, CA
    Imperial Capital Bank, La Jolla, CA
    Independent Bankers Bank, Springfield, IL
    New South Federal Savings Bank, Irondale, AL
    Citizens State Bank, New Baltimore, MI
    Peoples First Community Bank, Panama City, FL
    RockBridge Commercial Bank, Atlanta, GA

  8. artemis54 permalink
    December 18, 2009 10:39 pm

    What is this mess? Miraculous Pres About to Save Earth From Meltdown Someone please explain it to me.

    Well, some of us are as proud as we usually
    are, and are not surprised by another flash of greatness evident in the man.

    I can’t tell if they are serious or not.

    To be fair, MB has a very interesting roundup of responses from the world press on the fp.

    • Stemella permalink*
      December 19, 2009 8:22 am

      Explanation – clearly it was bad acid in the kool-aid. At least a few people called it bullshit in the comments.

  9. Stemella permalink*
    December 19, 2009 8:24 am

    Ruminations on rising apes and fallen angels by Terry Pratchett

    He’s a fan of Carl Sagan too

    • cometman permalink*
      December 21, 2009 8:23 am

      Thanks for the vid. Never read anything by Pratchett before but his talk was good.

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