Ilargi: CON21

By Raúl Ilargi Meijer, editor-in-chief of The Automatic Earth. Originally published at Automatic Earth

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius just announced, in Paris, a “legally binding agreement” that no-one has agreed the financing for. We can hear a couple thousand lawyers across the globe snicker. But it’s all the COP21 ‘oh-so-important’ climate conference managed to come up with. No surprises there. They couldn’t make the 2ºC former goal stick, so they go for 1.5ºC this time. All on red, double or nothing. Because who really cares among the leadership, just as long as the ‘targets’ are far enough away that they can’t be held accountable.

I’ve been writing the following through the past days, and wondering if I should post it, because I know so many readers of the Automatic Earth have so much emotion invested in these things, and they’re good and fine emotions. But some things must still be said regardless of consequences. Precisely because of that kind of reaction. No contract is legally binding if there’s no agreement on payment. Nobody has a legal claim on your home without it being specified that, if, when and how they’re going to pay for it.

I understand some people may get offended by some of the things I have to say about this – though not all for the same reasons either-, but please try and understand that and why the entire CON21 conference has offended me. After watching the horse and pony show just now, I thought I’d let ‘er rip:

I don’t know what makes me lose faith in mankind faster, the way we destroy our habitat through wanton random killing of everything alive, plants, animals and people, through pollution and climate change and blood-thirsty sheer stupidity, or if it is the way these things are being ‘protested’.

I’m certainly not a climate denier or anything like that, though I do think there are questions people gloss over very easily. And one of those questions has to be that of priorities. Is there anyone who has thought over whether the COP21 stage in Paris is the right one to target in protest, whatever shape it takes? Is there anyone who doesn’t think the ‘leaders’ are laughing out loud in -plush, fine wine and gourmet filled- private about the protests?

Protesters and other well-intended folk, from what I can see, are falling into the trap set for them: they are the frame to the picture in a political photo-op. They allow the ‘leaders’ to emanate the image that yes, there are protests and disagreements as everyone would expect, but that’s just a sign that people’s interests are properly presented, so all’s well.

COP21 is not a major event, that’s only what politicians and media make of it. In reality, it’s a mere showcase in which the protesters have been co-opted. They’re not in the director’s chair, they’re not even actors, they’re just extras.

I fully agree, and more than fully sympathize, with the notion of saving this planet before it’s too late. But I wouldn’t want to rely on a bunch of sociopaths to make it happen. There are children drowning every single day in the sea between Turkey and Greece, and the very same world leaders who are gathered in Paris are letting that happen. They have for a long time, without lifting a finger. And they’ve done worse -if that is possible-.

The only thing standing between the refugees and even greater and more lethal carnage are a wide, even confusingly so, array of volunteers, and the people of the Greek coastguard, who by now must be so traumatized from picking up little wide-eyed lifeless bodies from the water and the beaches, they’ll live the rest of their lives through sleepless nightmares.

Neither Obama nor Merkel nor Hollande will have those same nightmares. And let’s be honest, will you? You weren’t even there. And still, you guys are targeting a conference in Paris on climate change that features the exact same leaders that let babies drown with impunity. Drowned babies, climate change and warfare, these things all come from the same source. And you’re appealing to that very same source to stop climate change.

What on earth makes you think the leaders you appeal to would care about the climate when they can’t be bothered for a minute with people, and the conditions they live in, if they’re lucky enough to live at all? Why are you not instead protesting the preventable drownings of innocent children? Or is it that you think the climate is more important than human life? That perhaps one is a bigger issue than the other?

Moreover, the very same leaders that you for some reason expect to save the planet -which they won’t- don’t just let babies drown, they also, in the lands the refugees are fleeing, kill children and their parents on a daily basis with bombs and drones. Dozens, hundreds, if not thousands, every single day. That’s how much they care for a ‘healthy’ planet (how about we discuss what that actually is?).

And in the hallways of the CON21 conference they’ve been actively discussing plans to do more of the same, more killing, more war. Save the world, bombs away! That’s their view of the planet. And they’re supposed to save ‘the climate’?

There are a number of reasons why the CON21 conference will not move us one inch towards saving this planet. One of the biggest is outlined in just a few quoted words from a senior member of India’s delegation -nothing new, but a useful reminder.

India Opposes Deal To Phase Out Fossil Fuels By 2100

India would reject a deal to combat climate change that includes a pledge for the world to wean itself off fossil fuels this century, a senior official said, underlying the difficulties countries face in agreeing how to slow global warming.

India, the world’s third largest carbon emitter, is dependent on coal for most of its energy needs, and despite a pledge to expand solar and wind power has said its economy is too small and its people too poor to end use of the fossil fuel anytime soon. “It’s problematic for us to make that commitment at this point in time. It’s certainly a stumbling block (to a deal),” Ajay Mathur, a senior member of India’s negotiating team for Paris, told Reuters in an interview this week.

“The entire prosperity of the world has been built on cheap energy. And suddenly we are being forced into higher cost energy. That’s grossly unfair,” he said.

This means the ‘poorer’ countries, -by no means just India; China has 155 more coal plants in the pipeline despite their pollution levels moving ‘beyond index’-, the poorer counties won’t volunteer to lower their emissions unless richer nations lower theirs even a lot more. US per capita emissions are over 10 times higher than India’s, those of the EU six times. Ergo: Step 1: lower US emissions by 90%. It also means that richer nations won’t do this, because it would kill their economies.

Which, in case you haven’t noticed, are already doing very poorly, much worse than the media -let alone politicians- will tell you. In fact, the chances that the richer countries will ‘recover’ from the effects of their debt binge are about on par with those of renewable energy sources becoming cheaper than fossil fuels -barring subsidies. If only because producing them depends entirely on those same fossil fuels. All the rest of what you hear is just con.

The people of India obviously know it, and you might as well. It’s going to cost many trillions of dollars to replace even a halfway substantial part of our fossil energy use with renewables, and we already don’t have that kind of money today. We will have much less tomorrow.

Besides, despite all the talk of Big Oil turning into Big Energy, Shell et al are not energy companies, they’re oil -and gas- companies, and they’ll defend their (near) monopolies tooth and claw. Especially now that their market caps are sinking like so many stones. They have no money left to invest in anything, let alone an industry that’s not theirs. They lost some $250 billion in ‘value’ this week alone. They’re getting killed.

In the same vein, China can’t close more than a token few of its most polluting plants. China’s getting killed economically. And for all nations and corporations there’s one principle that trumps all: competitive advantage. If going ‘green’ means losing that, or even some of it, forget it. We won’t volunteer to go green if it makes us less rich.

And who do you think represents big oil -and the bankers that finance them- more than anyone else? Right, your same leaders again, who make you pay for the by now very extensive and expensive security details that keep them from having to face you. Just like they’re planning to make you pay dearly for the illusion of a world running on renewables.

Because that’s where the profit is: in the illusion.

Whatever makes most money is what will drive people’s, corporations’, and nations’ actions going forward. Saving energy and/or substituting energy sources is not what makes most money, and it will therefore not happen. Not on any meaningful scale, that is.

There will be attempts to force people to pay through the nose to soothe their consciences -which will be very profitable for those on the receiving end-, but people’s ability to pay for this is shrinking fast, so that won’t go anywhere.

The only thing that could help save this planet is for all westerners to reduce their energy use by 90%+, but, though it is theoretically and technically feasible, it won’t happen because the majority of us won’t give up even a part of our wealth, and the powers that be in today’s economies refuse to see their profits (re: power) and those of their backers go up in -ever hotter- air.

The current economic model depends on our profligate use of energy. A new economic model, then, you say? Good luck with that. The current one has left all political power with those who profit most from it. And besides, that’s a whole other problem, and a whole other issue to protest.

If you’re serious about wanting to save the planet, and I have no doubt you are, then I think you need to refocus. COP21 is not your thing, it’s not your stage. It’s your leaders’ stage, and your leaders are not your friends. They don’t even represent you either. The decisions that you want made will not be made there.

There will be lofty declarations loaded with targets for 2030, 2050 and 2100, and none of it will have any real value. Because none of the ‘leaders’ will be around to be held accountable when any of those dates will come to pass.

An imploding global economy may be your best shot at lowering emissions. But then again, it will lead to people burning anything they can get their hands on just to keep warm. Not a pretty prospect either. To be successful, we would need to abandon our current political and economic organizational structures, national governments and ‘up’, which select for the sociopaths that gather behind their heavy security details to decide on your future while gloating with glee in their power positions.

Better still, we should make it impossible for any single one of them to ever be elected to any important position ever again. For now, though, our political systems don’t select for those who care most for the world, or its children. We select for those who promise us the most wealth. And we’re willing to turn a blind eye to very many things to acquire that wealth and hold on to it.

The entire conference is just an exercise in “feel good”, on all sides. Is there anyone out there who really thinks the likes of Bill Gates and Richard Branson will do anything at all to stop this world from burning to the ground? You have any idea what their ecological footprints are?

Sometimes I think it’s the very ignorance of the protesting side that dooms this planet. There’s a huge profit-seeking sociopathic part of the equation, which has caused the problems in the first place, and there’s no serious counterweight in sight.

Having these oversized walking talking ego’s sign petitions and declarations they know they will never have to live up to is completely useless. Branson will still fly his planes, Gates will keep running his ultra-cooled server parks, and Obama and Merkel will make sure their economies churn out growth ahead of anything else. Every single country still demands growth. Whatever gains you make in terms of lower emissions will be nullified by that growth.

And in the hallways, ‘smart’ entrepreneurs stand ready to pocket a ‘smart’ profit from the alleged switch to clean energy. At the cost of you, the taxpayer. And you believe them, because you want to, and because it makes you feel good. And you don’t have the knowledge available to dispute their claims (hint: try thermodynamics).

You’re seeking the cooperation of people who let babies drown and who incessantly bomb the countries these babies and their families were seeking to escape.

I’m sorry, I know a lot of you have a lot of emotion invested in this, and it’s a good emotion, and you’re thinking this conference is really important and all, and our ‘last chance’ to save the planet. But you’ve been had, it’s as simple as that. And co-opted. And conned.

And it’s not the first time, either. All these conferences go the same way. To halt the demise of the planet, you can’t rely on the same people who cause it. Never works.

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  1. rusti

    For now, though, our political systems don’t select for those who care most for the world, or its children. We select for those who promise us the most wealth. And we’re willing to turn a blind eye to very many things to acquire that wealth and hold on to it.

    The reads like braindead comments I often see below MSM articles alleging that Sanders’ supporters are just deadbeats who want free stuff. People are motivated for a variety of reasons.

    And in the hallways, ‘smart’ entrepreneurs stand ready to pocket a ‘smart’ profit from the alleged switch to clean energy. At the cost of you, the taxpayer. And you believe them, because you want to, and because it makes you feel good. And you don’t have the knowledge available to dispute their claims (hint: try thermodynamics).

    What does this even mean? No one knows how quickly a transition to a low-carbon economy could occur if the political will was suddenly conjured. Fossil fuels are incredible sources of energy but there are other viable alternatives that could be fully developed and implemented on a terawatt-hour scale by 2050. No one knows the exact tipping points are for the climate (or whether we’ve already passed them) so the smug certainty of the author is annoying.

    There’s probably a lot of merit in the notion that a bunch of heads-of-state who have had incredible success under current systems of governance are going to have a natural disincentive to rock the boat too dramatically, until they start believing that the danger posed by climate change is greater to their personal well-being than the idea of legitimately overhauling the energy system. I doubt COP21 was that moment, but it’s going to come eventually, even if it does wind up coming too late.

      1. rusti

        I have been a regular reader for at least a couple years and still am. At first I was extremely impressed by the breadth of his knowledge and the unflinching certainty with which he stated his positions, but some time between his proclamation that the Ebola outbreak would likely wipe out a big percentage of humanity and another occasion when he made a particularly sweeping and misleading generalization about an area of technology where I was in a position to see the error I started having my doubts about how prophetic the narrative was.

        The best minds are continually soliciting feedback to test their ideas (Yves does this often), I’ve never seen him act as anything other than completely dismissive to commenters who provide even a whiff of dissent towards any point.

        Yogi Berra said it best: “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

        1. thefutureisowls

          Yes, I agree. As insightful and interesting the Archdruid’s is, he does not respond well to criticism and is dismissive of other points of view. I feel like he’s made his points extremely thoroughly as have his commentariat so I’ve lost interest in his weekly blog for the most part.

                1. Skippy

                  “I meant these days. It’s just preaching. Fire, brimstone” – is that like Boom and Bust or say… repent sinners recession and for the truly unrepentant a depression…. ????

                  As always who picks the sacrificial animals or humans[?].

                  Skippy…. and does the selection committee look anything like these blokes….


    1. Newtownian

      If you know any environmental science and have experienced how the environmental management game workds Ilargi actually makes perfect sense across the board in all his comments.

      If you are interested in understanding the ‘thermodynamics’ comment I recommend Steve Keens recent youtube post

      I had worried that no progressive economists understood the underlying reality but the latter happily proves me wrong in this lecture.

      1. bob


        There is no basis to apply thermodynamics to anything econ related.

        The earth is not a closed system, let alone the “economy” of the earth.

        1. Skippy

          It is one of my gripes about Keen, sorta Soddy like and I’m not keen on neoclassical like mathification to justify stuff…

  2. shagggz

    “Better still, we should make it impossible for any single one of them to ever be elected to any important position ever again”

    This line pretty much tells you all you need to know about the seriousness and pertinence of this half-assed stream of pointless ramblings.

    1. sd

      I thought Ilargi absolutely nailed it.

      What he didn’t say is a lot more dead babies will be washing up on shore as countries like Bangladesh drown under rising seas.

      1. susan the other

        I thought so too. We have based our economy on an idea – that growth floats all boats. But we left out the rising sea reality. And growth is incompatible with many of the things we will have to do to stop global warming. COP21 was nothing more than a memo of intent without a plan.

    2. AWB

      @shagz — Its easy to offer blank criticism. I take it you’re pro-status quo. You’re in denial and part of the problem, exactly the point the author was making.

    3. jrs

      Actually assuming the votes are legitimately counted (yes I know, that’s somewhat debatable), I don’t see why it’s not possible to have an influence there, to stop voting for these idiots, draw a hard line. Now whether it will happen is another story, but as for a line of attack, I don’t see it as that bad.

  3. jgordon

    Illargi is absolutely right. This is a topic that seriously pisses me off, and I find it almost impossible to communicate my angst to the ostensible progressives who claim to love the environment so much. I’ll give an example:

    There is a well-off progressive woman I know who was feeling guilty about her carbon impact on the earth. She heard about a program wherein she could pay an extra two dollars per month on her electric bill–collected by a third party finance company–and in return they’d send her utility bill in a green envelope and attempt to source solar energy, as much as possible, for her home. She wanted to know if that was a good idea.

    I told her: “No, that’s ridiculous. You are destroying the planet because you choose to run the AC and drive a car. Participating in some shady marketing scheme is not going do anything to help the planet. Not using AC and driving a car on the other hand would have some impact.” So she signed up for this scammy service, assured herself that she was a good person, and felt much less guilty from then on.

    That’s what it comes down to. Most “environmentalists” prefer deluding themselves if making an actual impact would involve cramping their lifestyle in the least. And CON21 plays perfectly to that. A bunch of sociopaths figured out how to con the suckers, suckers who feel like they’re good people but aren’t really, by making them feel less bad about raping the earth. Now it’s smooth sailing again for the powers that be!

    1. Portia

      I have the same reaction to the solar company promoting solar farms here. They rejected me as not having enough sunlight for installing solar panels on my house, and want me to join their “solar farm” program where they act as middleman between the power company and me. I would have to pay a fixed rate per month which is twice my normal usage. I do earn “credits” to apply during months I use less electricity, which I do not totally understand, but in the aggregate, I am paying much more than I do directly to the power company. This would just encourage me to use more power, since I have to pay for it anyway. I have consciously lowered my electricity use to the essentials, and this would just be going backward. I would like to believe I would be investing in their solar farm expansion, and not their Hawaiian vacations and gourmet food, but I am just too jaded at this point to want to trust them.

    2. makedoanmend

      Yeah, it’s all the fault of progressives.

      Or any bogeyman will do when nothing will be done.

      Con21 as kabuke.

      The proverbial deadlines – media as entertainment – the leader of world speech at the finale.

      All so hack-eyed.

      Got to blame someone.

      In a hall of mirrors, nobody sees their reflection – only reflections of reflection.

      1. jgordon

        Well if rich middle class progressives in America would just own up to the fact that they’re destroying the environment with their lifestyle, I wouldn’t have much to say to them except, “OK, you’re an asshole and you admit it. Next subject.”

        Instead though they have all these bizarre psychological things going on–rationalization, delusions, willful ignorance, etc to explain away to themselves why they aren’t such bad people after all. But actually they’re just very good at lying to themselves. Anyone who runs an AC or owns a car is not really serious about climate change. Now cue the plethora of explanations about why that’s true for other people, but not themselves.

        1. rusti

          It doesn’t really matter whether your affluent friend acknowledges that her high-consumption lifestyle is a terrible environmental burden or not. It only matters whether we push the ecosystems that sustain us beyond their ability to do so. And the ugliness that results is a matter of degree, not absolutes.

          If there were some incredible breakthrough in Carbon dioxide scrubbers and biofuels tomorrow that made a transition virtually painless compared to today’s outlook, don’t you think we’d find some other dubious logic to keep rich people rich and poor people poor?

          1. jgordon

            Well no argument that the practical results are all that really matter. However my affluent friend acknowledging that she is being false to herself is the first step to correcting the problem of her ideals not matching up to her behavior. And that would have an impact. But as long as she can fool herself into think that spending an extra two bucks a month for a green envelope is helping the planet, that’s not happening.

            This is a common theme in America: Well I am driving a car and running my air conditioner nonstop, but they’ll do something soon so renewable energy can take care of all that. Meanwhile I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing because it’s really hot and out and my job depends on having a care, but I’ll be slightly annoyed that they haven’t taken care of things yet. WAIT, didn’t Obama/Hillary/Bernie say something about how upset they are that climate change is going to make our lives hell soon? They must care about what’s going on, unlike those nasty Rethuglicans who don’t care about the environment at all. I’ll send Hillary a check straight away! Dang, I was starting to feel bad about myself, but now it’s all better. Whew.

            1. rusti

              Even though I don’t have a car, live in a small condo and don’t have kids I’m still going to jump on several planes tomorrow that will take me from Northern Europe to India in less than a day by spewing absurd amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. The fact that I’m doing this knowing full-well that it’s contributing to the melting of the Himalayan glaciers that my girlfriend is there studying means it’s probably even more immoral than your friend who is fooled by a green envelope.

              It was terribly arrogant to clear-cut entire continents worth of trees down, but humans have plodded on regardless. If this is the twilight of our current civilization maybe some of the lessons will be carried on to future ones. Or if we do manage to wipe ourselves out there will be probably be some new awesome-looking apex predators around in millions of years.

              1. jgordon

                I’m not on a high horse here: I have an AC and a car too. But I’m not being self-righteous about climate change either.

                I’m just pointing out that if people want to make an impact they should first look at their own lives and stop worrying about what other people are doing until they get themselves in order.

                I’m personally of the opinion that we’re about at the end of the industrial age and that all the extra carbon in the atmosphere could end up in forests in the not too distant future. Whether humans will be there or not to help out in the process is still up in the air.

                1. Vatch

                  What kind of car do you drive? Normally this would be none of my business, but your earlier comments about the environmental effects of driving a car and using AC have made me curious.

                2. different clue

                  You are also not serious about addressing global warming either, in the terms of your own analysis a little upthread here.

        2. different clue

          Well . . . I don’t have AC ( but I do have a window fan) for my 640 square foot dwelling unit.

          And . . . I don’t have a car ( but I do have a bicycle) to get around my money-breeder-reactor college town with.

          Has my credibility just gone up?

          1. jrs

            maybe, maybe not, you may just live in a well designed house or at least the bottom not the top floor apartment, but that’s not really to your credit but just wealth or chance, so unless you are equally hot as all your neighbors but endure it in stoicism, it may not count.

            1. different clue

              It used to be a well designed unit when I moved in here. But every few years the co-op sends a gang of workmen through, and they leave the insulation envelope a little more compromised. What used to be a live-in energy-thermos is now a live-in energy-collander. I have someone on one side of me and the great outdoors on the other side of me. I have one floor with no one above me and a slab on which my dwelling unit rests.

              No AC, and no car. And I am hotter than any of my neighbors. So there you go.

    3. Vatch

      You are destroying the planet because you choose to run the AC and drive a car.

      Wrong, at least partly. Nobody is destroying the planet by using air conditioning at a moderate setting or by driving a car that gets good fuel mileage. If someone is running the AC at 72°F (22.2°C), yes, that is destructive. Or if a person drives an SUV or a muscle car, that is also destructive. But if the AC is set to 80°F (26.7°C), or if a person drives a car that gets 40 or more MPG (14 or more kilometers per liter), then that isn’t destructive. People have the right to live their lives.

      What is destructive is that there are billions of people using AC or driving cars. The real destruction is caused by the people who insist on having large families, or who encourage or require others to have large families.

      1. Sluggeaux

        Yes! This is the only comment here that has any relevance — stating directly what Ilargi seems to be skirting (for whatever reason).

        Those dead babies being fished out of the eastern Med are a symptom of one thing, and one thing alone. They had the misfortune to be born in a region of the world that exceeded its carrying capacity for human life. As global population continues to skyrocket, we will see more dead babies who have been killed directly or indirectly in the struggle for ever scarcer food and energy resources. This planet never sustained more than about a billion human beings until about 70 years ago. Now there are 7 billion human beings trying to eat and excrete all at the same time.

        Politics, ideology, and religion are irrelevant so long as they fail to address the fundamental issue of over-population. Growth-focused capitalism refuses to even see the issue, as abundant labor drives down the cost of production.

        1. OIFVet

          They had the misfortune to be born in a region of the world that exceeded its carrying capacity for human life.

          Of course, global and regional power games for control of energy resources, routes, neocon delusions, and Shia-Sunni conflict have nothing to do with these dead babies. I am not about to deny that the world is overpopulated, but your simplistic reading simply absolves the truly guilty of their crimes.

          1. Sluggeaux

            No, my simplistic reading is intended to blame those who engage in delusional power games over the control of vanishing resources, which has everything to do with “these dead babies.”

            I think that’s why Ilargi so forcefully reminds us of those babies floating on the rising sea.

            1. OIFVet

              As Greg Palast would say, the scarcity of this ‘vanishing’ resource is related to its price. As the price rises more becomes economically viable to extract. IOW, it is not a battle over a ‘vanishing’ resource, but a battle for control over a crucial resource. Whoever controls it gets to exert power over the rest of us. So I still fail to see what carrying capacity has to do with these drowned children.

        1. OIFVet

          Yet the coming climate change disaster hardly qualifies as a black swan, unlike the Permian Extinction. I am leery of using the concept of black swans in general, it allows us to wash our hands of responsibility for the consequences of our own actions. Japan Times questioned the sanity of building nuclear plants in Japan 7 years before Fukushima, yet many see Fukushima as an example of a Black Swan event…

          1. different clue

            Well, that is exactly what I meant. There is nothing “black” about the global warming “swan”. We can see and hear it coming from miles away. There is no excuse for anyone to claim to be surprised by it.

            Now, if an unknown supervolcano of Krakatoa or Toba size exploded under the Antarctic Ice Cap, that would be a black swan.

  4. Alexandre Hanin

    I understand Ilargi’s argument, but I’m not quite sure what he’s suggesting.

    The message seems to be: ‘instead of asking corrupted people to do what needs to be done, do it yourself’. Some problems cannot be resolved at the individual level, however. People are not going to ‘sacrifice’ themselves, because 1) others won’t do the same, so the sacrifice will be seen as (and will be) useless; 2) if others do sacrifice themselves, then why not get a free ride?

    This kind of problem requires a political solution. The fact that politicians are corrupted is discouraging and shameful, but a political solution is needed.

    1. Newtownian

      He is saying dont waste time expecting mainstream politicians or economists to achieve/lead anything of substance in the way of climate change mitigation and dont pay any attention to the COP21 rejoicing. Its all show and no substance. If you want to save your children (most people on this site will be ok, it will the next generations who get hit), get out and politically active at grass roots level.

  5. tegnost

    Ah, the cold light of morning.
    I’m with those who agree with this post.
    Communication requires an acceptance of reality such as it is, and pie in the sky dreams are just as bad as head in the sand denial based on either one’s likelihood of success. Broadway in seattle was packed sidewalk to sidewalk from st marks to first hill protesting the first gulf war, we all felt so great, then we got home (back then you could simply turn on the tv no cable necessary…) and on the news it said 30.000 protesters when there were easily ten times that probably more, and I realized that protest was over and as illargi points out they’ve figured out how to legitimize themselves making the protesters look unappealing and like fringe elements. Instead of listening to right wing politicians try to have a conversation with someone on the right, a person you know and try to find some tiny ledge of common ground and you you may find yourself surprised because our differences are amplified by the media in order to keep us from communicating. For instance a righty friend said I hate corporations and we argued amicably a bit and I put forth that I don’t hate corporations I hate bankers and thought they got away with crime and if they’d been brought down my righty friend could have bought a house because they would be cheaper, so in that way we still disagree but I’m inoculated as it were from the knee jerk “hates corps” to a state where it’s accepted that there is a more nuanced view, but I also had to give up on the point that corps are bad, they’re just regulated for the benefit of bankers…

    1. tegnost

      I’ll take my own advice here and apologize to the decent people here at NC and elsewhere who work at banks, it’s not bankers, it’s banks that displease me, and I’m certain there were capable replacements for the too big to fails and the TBTF’s would have shaped up quick if they thought they’d be tossed in jail.

  6. Carolinian

    The hard truth from Ilargi

    The only thing that could help save this planet is for all westerners to reduce their energy use by 90%+, but, though it is theoretically and technically feasible, it won’t happen because the majority of us won’t give up even a part of our wealth, and the powers that be in today’s economies refuse to see their profits (re: power) and those of their backers go up in -ever hotter- air.

    Sanders was spotted the other day saying that the cause for climate inaction was–guess what?–billionaires and it was the dreaded Kochs who are holding us back while the ordinary folks are “doing their part.” But of course this isn’t even remotely true. LIving in an area where SUVs are thick as fleas I believe i can state that with confidence. Of course my town is building trails, encouraging bicycles etc but that is as much a marketing ploy for the Chamber of Commerce–a feel good bandaid. Ultimately if you want to reverse climate change you may have to reverse capitalism itself. Nobody wants to go there.

    1. susan the other

      actually, I do want to go there… it’s not like “capitalism” sacred. I would like to do something politically palatable like create neocapitalism to deal with our neoreality. An new idea, like all other economic ideas, that is totally synthetic, totally fiat. And serves to organize us in the most equitable way possible. It would look something like growth (green growth) without profit. Justified by the fact that nobody’s going to fix the planet without all us humans pitching in.

      1. Carolinian

        Nobody in power wants to go there and it isn’t clear the voters want to go there either. It harks back to justified snarks about Al Gore and his giant house, constant airplane travel etc. His “Inconvenient Truth” was never going to be inconvenient for him. Here in the US our high energy consumption lifestyle is so baked in it would be a considerable hardship for many if, say, gasoline was environmentally priced. Everybody talks about climate change but it is so very hard to do something about it without general social upheaval. There is huge resistance to even less disruptive measures like forcing people to drive smaller cars. And how many of our Masters of the Universe are going to give up those carbon spewing jets?

        1. Elizabeth Burton

          The problem I see is that too many progressives are either ignorant of or choose to ignore just how complex human culture has become. It’s fine to criticize people for driving cars, until you consider that people working minimum wage jobs are being driven farther and farther from where they work by gentrification while public transportation isn’t keeping up. The nearest bus stop to where I am is almost half a mile walk—and I’m disabled. I need a bus to get to the bus.

          It was clear to me the COP21 was as big a farce as all the other “heads of state” conferences, but then, I don’t get my information from the MSM. I know we the people are being screwed over and lied to and manipulated, and even so the desire to, just once, have something real happen is almost overwhelming. Even though I know it’s impossible.

          I empathize with the author. There is so much energy being wasted on the wrong targets. Sometimes, yes, a demonstration can be educational, but unless there are enough people explaining the matter, all most will see is a big crowd with signs the sermon of which is only accessible to the choir.

          The only way to eliminate the politicians killing us off is to replace them, and right now that means having the enlightened run for public office and win by appealing to a broad enough voter base the billions on the other side won’t matter. It needs to be done on all levels—local, state, and federal—and it needs to start now.

  7. Brooklin Bridge

    This is a post of despair. It asks, rhetorically i assume, readers to change priorities from one set of impossible goals; getting a bunch of corrupt politicians to make real treaties to combat climate change to that of readers (the people) getting rid of the exact same bunch of corrupt politicians, perhaps by asking them to legislate themselves out of existence?: Better still, we should make it impossible for any single one of them to ever be elected to any important position ever again. Right, bippity boppity boo, next…

    Followed immediately by an admission of why such is impossible (never mind absurd), For now, though, our political systems don’t select for those who care most for the world, or its children. We select for those who promise us the most wealth. And we’re willing to turn a blind eye to very many things to acquire that wealth and hold on to it.

    It’s our fault is not a new argument. It’s not, so the argument goes, so much that politicians have been corrupted by big business into fixing the system for over 40 years in every possible dimension from government lobbyists to corporate largess, and from our judiciary to the 4th estate and making it virtually impossible to redress, it’s that “we”, the all powerful voters in our all powerful democracies have gone along with the process by being willing to turn a blind eye. There is a lot of truth to that but it is unrealistic to imagine that our human complicity through frailty, shortsightedness and narrow self interest is going to change in time to prevent (the arguably healthy) empire collapse and (horrific suffering under any measure that results from) catastrophe any more than our corrupt politicians.

    Sure, the Paris protesters to the climate sham are exploited by tptb, what else is new? If everyone changed their priorities and protested the dead babies of Syrian immigrants fleeing for their lives fished out by the Greek coast guard, does anyone imagine for an instant the same politicians wouldn’t find a way to exploit that?

    And it’s not the first time, either. All these conferences go the same way. To halt the demise of the planet, you can’t rely on the same people who cause it. Never works.

    It’s a post of despair, for those people who created climate change also corrupted our judicial system, and our military system, and our legislative system and our social system and our media, not to mention how our votes are counted and who we get as candidates in the first place, and THEY are not so easily disposed of regardless of our priorities.

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        To be fair, I agree with Illargi’s point that drastic reduction in energy usage is the priority, but trying to support that argument by telling the public they can’t trust the people running the show is absurd. Seriously, the one thing every one has in common from those on the far right to the dirty socialist commies is distrust of the people running the show. We know they are corrupt and frankly most know this get together was simply a sham. Hell, even the msm (yep, I watched this morning) is pointing out that there is no compulsion or means of enforcement to the agreement.

        You have a point below in mentioning the soliloquy. IIargi boxes himself into a corner where virtually nothing can be done – and damn if he isn’t right about that (even if the intention is to scold some reality into the discussion). The likelihood of climate change being addressed effectively before major calamity is baked in to our future is darkly scant for many of the reasons he mentions – hence the despair..

    1. jrs

      Are the Paris protestors really exploited by the powers that be though? Hasn’t protest kind of been made illegal in Paris by the powers that be to a large extent? Oh sure protest may be argued to be *ineffective* anyway, but that’s a subtly different argument than saying protestors, who have largely been made illegal, are somehow being used by the powers that be. Especially those daring to protest illegally.

  8. DJG

    Sorry, but Ilargi is exposing himself here as a “Hamlet soliloquy” liberal, arguing that protest is somehow now effective or valid. I’ve seen this argument before: Should we stop staging demonstrations? Are they too much trouble for liberals to attend?

    Two problems: Hamlet was a man of action, who dispatched more than one person, and we don’t protest for the sake of one-to-one correspondence. We protest as a way of kicking the struts of this rotten framework. Here in Chicago, everyone has accidently surprised themselves: Protests are having some results. No one here is kidding themselves about the “difference between the two parties,” another liberal fiction.

    In this time when the personality of the average person is atomized, when communication is roiling (the WWW) and is ineffective as ever, when the elites are plundering the citizens, for the citizens to be even more passive is a death sentence.

    1. jrs

      I would be more sympathetic to an argument that many big orgs of the type that stage protests are corrupt. I suspect that’s true enough, but there may still be value in the protest or not, and there can exist such a thing as grass roots movements.

  9. DJG

    With regard to protest, the comment from the member of the Indian delegation is a perfect pretext for protest: What he is saying is that the Indian elites are just too busy looting and pillaging the lower classes and the lower castes to be bothered with monitoring their energy use. India has so many urban and rural poor by design, and those ugly facts are covered up by a lot of P.R. about marigolds / Kali / incense / bliss.

    Plenty to protest in the land of Siva, who likely would welcome it.

    1. susan the other

      I really like the Indian woman who is so well spoken and was one of India’s delegates or NGO. Didn’t catch her name. She called herself “an ecologist” so proudly she stole the dialog on one F24 debate, and she participated in the demonstrations. We could use a whole army of ecologists like her about now.

    2. Steve H.

      “More than three decades ago in New Delhi, India, I was attending a protest seminar. Speaker after speaker denounced the double dealing and mendacity of the government. At the end of two days of such berating the assembly was set to pass a resolution making demands — of the same government! It was left to one of the last speakers, the writer and thinker Arun Shourie, to gently touch upon the incongruity here. Instead of asking such a supposedly terrible government to do something, he suggested, why don’t you say what you will do? His words have always remained with me.”

      – Niranjan Ramakrishnan

  10. TedWa

    Here’s a thought on : “There will be lofty declarations loaded with targets for 2030, 2050 and 2100, and none of it will have any real value. Because none of the ‘leaders’ will be around to be held accountable when any of those dates will come to pass.”

    How about we the people set up judges and juries to hear the evidence and convict and sentence offenders in absentia if need be (probably most likely). Courts regularly sentence offenders to 100 or more years – way beyond their lifespan. There must be acceptance among the judiciaries that sentencing someone to beyond their lifetime has weight in the after-life. How about we use that acceptance of a sentencing weight that goes beyond a lifetime to put the fear of God in some of these God-less people so that some or maybe most would fear that just because they won’t be around for the consequences of their actions it does not necessarily mean they escape justice. It might create a more conscious effort to effect real reform in their own lifetimes. Of course no kangaroo court would do, it would have to be real courts and real judges. The press would see it as acting, but would those being sentenced see it that way? I’m laughing as I think of this, because it just might work.

  11. Steven

    13 years ago, on the basis of the assumption that if the world was indeed running out of cheap energy (AKA ‘peak oil’) it was a good idea to use as much as possible of what remained to produce them, I installed my first set of solar panels. One of the people with whom I worked had a PhD in physics and informed me those panels would never produce as much energy as what it took to make them. I can’t cite specifics – maybe some NC reader can. But I’ve since learned that even with the state of the art way back then my panels and the whole system with aluminum rails and inverter would produce about 7 times the energy cost of their manufacture (energy returned on energy invested).

    So while I agree with Ilargi’s contempt for the world’s ‘leaders’ (SIC!) I do NOT agree with the science on which he purports to rest his pessimism – “the illusion of a world running on renewables”. Ilargi acknowledges this “is theoretically and technically feasible” but dismisses its practical possibility on the grounds that it is not profitable. There is a very simple way to make it profitable – pass laws which accord with the requirements of global and national sustainability and the laws of science – not the property rights particularly of second generation ‘economic rent’ seekers or in our day the ‘financial engineers’ who have grown fabulously ‘rich’ buying up the political and educational systems of the so-called “Western democracies” so they will be allowed to continue conjuring up “financial weapons of mass destruction” and illusions of wealth.

    I believe one of the principles of good propaganda is including as much truth as possible consistent with your objectives. Once again Ilargi scores with “(hint: try thermodynamics)”. But rather than use the laws of thermodynamics to determine a legal framework within which to channel the energies of “‘smart’ entrepreneurs stand ready to pocket a ‘smart’ profit from the alleged switch to clean energy”, Ilargi uses them (apparently?) to advocate a New World Order, free of the scourge of national governments: “To be successful, we would need to abandon our current political and economic organizational structures, national governments and ‘up’”.

    The U.S. may be well along the way towards destroying the economic clout it once had as ‘the workshop of the world’. But as far as I know it still remains the ‘market of last resort’ for the global economy. So instead of signing toothless agreements that permit the country’s 0.01% to continue their asset stripping in a global race to the bottom, how about just trying to set our own house in order? How about telling the world ‘you can’t sell in the market of last resort’ unless you adhere to the technical standards the world’s scientists have determined to be necessary for the country’s and the world’s survival?

      1. Steven

        Thank you, thank you, thank you!! I wanted to throw that in – a kind of ‘anti-TPP/TTIP’. But I am trying to learn when to shut up. Talk about discouraging! When the motto of country’s political and economic leadership appears to have the motto ‘Do the wrong thing’, it doesn’t give one much hope.

    1. rusti

      I can’t cite specifics – maybe some NC reader can. But I’ve since learned that even with the state of the art way back then my panels and the whole system with aluminum rails and inverter would produce about 7 times the energy cost of their manufacture (energy returned on energy invested).

      This is an incredibly complicated calculation because it’s so hard to decide where to place the bounds on inputs and outputs and those decisions are rarely made without an agenda in mind. To what degree do you factor in the recyclable nature of the metals? The energy for digging them out of the ground and the crusher that ground the stone? The food of the workers and the transport that took them there?

      A friend of mine who did his PhD at the “Energy Systems Analysis” department of the technical university next to where I work was anecdotally telling me about an illustrative calculation someone had done that showed it was much more environmentally benign to take a private jet from here to Paris rather than bicycling.

    2. different clue

      I think the various Free Trade Agreements prevent us from doing what you just said. We would have to withdraw from the WTO, and abrogate NAFTA, MFN for China, and some of the GATT rounds, perhaps all the way back to the 1949 round.

      We would have to re-protectionize our political economy and then we would be in a position to deny entry to goods from countries with more carbon emissions per unit of economic activity then our country.
      But till we abolish Free Trade, we can’t do any of that.

  12. JEHR

    It strikes me that we miss the reality of how our planet exists. It exists to change and we are part of that change. So we have chosen to support a so-called economic growth system which will be the means by which the world will terminate. We do not have either the desire, nor the will power nor, perhaps, the means to choose a different path. The future will be longer than we think but it will end in a predictably bad way. That is the way of human beings some of whom are intelligent but all of whom act mostly in self satisfying ways. We all have a certain amount of greed with which we view our living spaces and that belief will determine our fate. This is not a pretty picture but it has been foreshadowed by other crises, especially by the Great Recession and our response to it.

    Perhaps we are part of an experiment where god has created the world and put human kind in charge in order to see what will happen. There is no other animal capable of the mass self-deception that human beings enjoy and I include myself in this analysis.

    1. Brooklin Bridge

      the world will terminate. No, “we” will terminate, the world will go on I imagine, though it may take a long time for new species to evolve – and of course there is no requirement that any species do survive and/or evolve for the world to go on.

      Perhaps that’s what you meant, not a biggie. Interesting points, anyway. The way I heard about the God part is that God said to humankind – as we would say to a teenager, “OK, OK! Here are the keys to the car, I promise I’ll keep out of the way.” And s/he did.

      1. Plenue

        The planet isn’t going anywhere, and won’t for at least a few billion years (when the sun goes red giant). And plenty of life will adapt and survive the changes that are coming. Humans may even survive. But industrial civilization as we know it won’t.

        Mysterious progenitor civilizations who left behind seemingly impossible cities and other constructs are a common trope in fantasy and science fiction. It occurs to me that we, right now, may very well be those advanced ancients, and in a few hundred years much more primitive survivors will wander the remains of our major cities in awe.

  13. Norb

    What is needed is a new vision. A description of how we should live as people, responsibly and kindly with the world around us- and start building it. Talking to sociopaths is a waste of time. Defending oneself from the negative effects of sociopaths is what is needed and that means not letting the sociopaths subvert or co-opt our efforts.

    This change will only come from the bottom up. Individuals can do much, but it takes emotional effort and work. The guiding principle will be strong local communities. Self-sufficient to a high degree. What other alternative is there?

    Globalism is a disaster. Corporatism is a disaster. Are we to be ruled by a sociopathic elite till the end of time?

    Not supporting sociopaths, living with less, learning to restore the planet, and building strong local communities. Really, its remaking our existing culture. Has this ever been attempted in human history? Is it possible?

    1. jrs

      The strong commitment to a community tends to be in direct conflict with the not driving. Jobs are impermanent and restructure all the time, there is seldom a choice to always take a local job, and jobs are what most people need to have any income for basic needs. So you either live near work and don’t drive and change communities fairly regularly or you commit to a community and drive a lot. Choose one, unless you are very fortunate in your choice of employment. Can we just get a B.I.G. already?

      I like your ideas just they and present capitalist employment can not easily coexist.

  14. financial matters

    In her Jacobin interview Naomi Klein makes the useful point that climate change should be strong motivation to be anti-austerity

    “If you are dealing with the endless budget crisis and this false sense of public scarcity, of course governments are going to cut their support for renewables, of course they are going to increase fares for public transit, of course they are going to privatize the rail system as they are doing in Belgium, of course they are going to say that we have to drill for oil and gas to get ourselves out of debt.

    This was always going to be a fight between false corporate solutions and real people solutions, and one side of that fight has just really been silenced and constrained while the other one is inside the bubble.”

  15. Russell Scott Day/Founder of Transcendia

    Superconductors may allow us to squeak through. It is likely to devolve faster and faster. Look at where the tanks are and get far away from the tanks. Look at who threw the TPP shysters out, and head there. Montevideo.

  16. RBHoughton

    Thank you Naked Capitalism for publishing this. I doubt it would have got much coverage otherwise and its a heartfelt message that needed to be said. Food for thought.

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