By Gaius Publius, a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States and contributing editor at AmericaBlog. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius and Facebook. Originally published at AmericaBlog
As you’ve been reading lately, there’s a new IPCC climate report out, the second of three. This report is from Working Group 2, responsible for studying “impacts, adaptation, and vulnerabilities.” In other words, what effect is climate change (“global warming”) having now, what impact will it have if we make certain choices, and where are we vulnerable?
The 48-page “executive summary” (called the Summary for Policymakers or “SPM”) is available here (scribd) or here (pdf), and a number of us are studying it carefully, along with the full report. The full AR5 report from Working Group 2 is 2500 pages and available online here.
But there’s a story behind the story of this document’s release, and it illustrates perfectly why we will never (never, ever) solve the climate crisis by working toward “international cooperation.”
The Story Behind the Story — The U.S. Threw Poor Nations Under the Climate Bus
A great deal of the impact of global warming will be felt by the poorest nations on earth, for example, low-lying Bangladesh. Keep in mind that the poorest nations on earth never caused the crisis. The perps are rich Western nations, like the U.S. and Europe, with our high-consumption, high-waste lifestyles, and the emerging nations, like India and China, who are burning carbon as fast as they can, to catch up to us.
The poor nations are just along for the ride in most cases. With that in mind, here’s all you need to know:
1. Poor nations are innocent victims of climate change now, and will be even more victimized in the future.
2. To fix their vulnerabilities, it will require a transfer of money from rich nations in the neighborhood of $100 billion per year, according to the World Bank.
3. According to the large IPCC report (the 2500-page report), the first two statements above are included as part of the data for consideration.
4. Those statements (1 and 2) also appeared in the SPM, the executive summary, up until the very last draft, which was discussed for final approval in Yokohama.
5. At that meeting, the need for $100 billion in crisis funds to aid poor nations was removed from the 48-page Summary, the only document that will be read outside the scientific community.
6. The U.S. led the push to remove the statement.
Why? I can guess. Can you?
Here’s that story, according to the New York Times. This Times piece is a general report of the document’s release, so it covers a lot of ground. The information on U.S. action is buried at the bottom. That part reads (my emphasis):
“When supply falls below demand, somebody doesn’t have enough food,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a Princeton University climate scientist who helped write the new report. “When some people don’t have food, you get starvation. Yes, I’m worried.”
The poorest people in the world, who have had virtually nothing to do with causing global warming, will be high on the list of victims as climatic disruptions intensify, the report said. It cited a World Bank estimate that poor countries need as much as $100 billion a year to try to offset the effects of climate change; they are now getting, at best, a few billion dollars a year in such aid from rich countries.
The $100 billion figure, though included in the 2,500-page main report, was removed from a 48-page executive summary to be read by the world’s top political leaders. It was among the most significant changes made as the summary underwent final review during a dayslong editing session in Yokohama.
The edit came after several rich countries, including the United States, raised questions about the language, according to several people who were in the room at the time but did not wish to be identified because the negotiations are private.
The language is contentious because poor countries are expected to renew their demand for aid this September in New York at a summit meeting of world leaders, who will attempt to make headway on a new treaty to limit greenhouse gases.
Many rich countries argue that $100 billion a year is an unrealistic demand; it would essentially require them to double their budgets for foreign aid, at a time of economic distress at home. That argument has fed a rising sense of outrage among the leaders of poor countries, who feel their people are paying the price for decades of profligate Western consumption.
If you think it through, the reason for burying the information is simple. The rich nations, led by the U.S. (don’t kid yourself; we lead, others follow), are captured by their own rich. The key sentence is this, and it contains a “tell”:
Many rich countries argue that $100 billion a year is an unrealistic demand; it would essentially require them to double their budgets for foreign aid, at a time of economic distress at home.
The tell is “at a time of economic distress at home.”
We can’t have taxes on the wealthy because of “economic stress at home.” We can’t have infrastructure spending because of “economic stress at home.” We can’t have better schools because of “economic stress at home.” We have to cut Social Security because of “economic stress at home.” We need to reduce Medicare payments because of “economic stress at home.” We can’t reimburse stolen public union pension funds because of “economic stress at home.”
We can’t do anything because of “economic stress at home.” The rich want to keep their money, and we’re not going to get one thin dime of it. Ever. If we need David Koch’s permission to solve the climate crisis, we’ll never solve the climate crisis.
International Cooperation Will Never Exist; The Rich Will Never Pay Even U.S. Costs
Your three take-aways from this material should be:
1. There will never be international cooperation, because the rich will never pay a dime to offset anyone’s cost to deal with this crisis. Believe it. Anyone who goes down that path — bless their heart — is chasing a dream that human souls live inside the monsters who are keeping this crisis going.
If the rich wanted to fix this, it would be fixed years ago. They will never want to fix this.
2. Any nation can embark on a Zero Carbon energy economy the minute it wants to. It doesn’t need permission (or help) from any other uncooperating nation. Denmark can do it alone. France can do it alone. The U.S. can do it — yes, alone. Abandoning the hunt for the unicorn of international cooperation is freedom from the veto of other nation’s rich people.
In fact, any nation that does embark on a radical Zero Carbon economy — carbon-free in five years or less, with energy rationing and wealth confiscation — will be hailed as a hero among nations, and held as a light and a beacon. That’s true leadership in (and by) action.
3. The rich will have to be moved aside to solve the climate crisis. And by that I mean forcefully. They will never surrender, never meet us halfway. They will only delay us while they cash their next checks and sell more carbon.
As I wrote elsewhere regarding the current fetish for “carbon neutral” solutions — Carbon-neutral is the same as “Keep Koch in walking change” and will lead to the worst outcome. It hands us the nightmare, since the hard and constant pushback against any restriction always comes from Money — people who own trillions in unmonetized carbon assets, plus all of their enablers.
These people don’t do “incremental” or surrender. They do victory dances on the graves of their enemies.
Barring some kind of general panic, the only “incremental solution” we’re going to get will have the paper-thin illusory force of a politician’s (or carbon industry’s) PR campaign. We’re seeing that now, in the “carbon-neutral” admin dithering around Keystone, and in the industry’s current messaging from the woman I’ve been calling “lying pantsuit lady.”
It Will Take Some Kind of Force to Fix This
From point 3 above, it follows that some kind of force will be needed to solve the climate crisis in the U.S. In a perfect world, we get a real panicky crisis, a Better FDR, and s/he puts the wood to the wealthy the way the New Deal government did. Only worse. Because even street action may not be enough. We need the force of big-footed government to confiscate the wealth of the money holders, the predators and the Carbon profiteers — and put it to use in a command-and-control way. Or we’re likely done.
There are a lot of ways to use force, by the way, including divestment pressure. I’ll be listing them in future pieces.
The good news — a real holy-MF-christ–type panic (yes, a “come to Jesus” moment) may very well put that government in office. Even Tea Party voters will be begging for government to “make them whole” when climate starts to tear their lives apart. If so, we need that crisis soon enough to matter.
At least as I see it. If you see it that way as well, use your own “reach” to tell as many others as you can. Because if we get that panic, we need to start on that solution immediately. (For more detail on that plan, see here and also here. It’s not rocket science, and we’ve done it before.)
Stay tuned. There’s more in the news along these lines. Me and you, we’re not alone in thinking this.