COP26 is over, and it produced the usual mix of achievements and bitter disappointment. The agreement is only a snapshot, though, of a process that is moving in the right direction. It's still too slow, but speed & momentum are building.
Dave, I very much share your frustration and aggravation at the situation with regard to what's happening in DC. Especially the fact that the current climate provisions of the BBB bill are in the hands of those who are untrustworthy, and yet--given the political balancing act the Democrats are dealing with--we are forced to trust anyway. So whenever I see something optimistic from you, it makes me feel as though all is not lost.
Does progress on emission reduction result from international conferences? Or even national policy? Or do they result from technological advances and market forces? What is more important? So far governments dominated to varying degrees by vested fossil fuel interests have not made much difference. They are offset by continued support for the fossil fuel industry, auto companies, dealerships, utilities, etc. Witness Biden's absurd statement about GM leading the transition to EVs. Vested interests prevail on governments, but technology disruptions continue to provide hope. If solar and wind prices continue to plummet as seems likely, won't the transition to clean energy accelerate. Yes, we should continue pushing. But where and how? That is what needs attention from us pushers.
It is good to remember that all international efforts are slow--often very slow. How long was Hitler in power doing horrible things before the Western powers united to stop him? Why did it take so long? That last is not important in a literal sense. It is important to understand that when there is a present danger, that it takes much time to obtain a united approach to addressing the issue.
It is more difficult yet to create a sustained and consistent effort. The only way this generally occurs is that the pain continues--as it will certainly do with the climate crisis.
We are already seeing that a majority of Americans want the climate crisis addressed. The issue is that the fossil fuel interests still control such a large portion of advertising budgets that the "free press" is anything but free. They have gamed our political system consistently and well--for 50 years, while the attempts to get the public behind an effort to address the crisis have consistently lagged from the start.
The tide is turning in a literal and symbolic sense. The fossil fuel industry is not going to have any better luck than Xerxes at slowing the rising tides. They are not likely to slow global heating with business as usual, regardless of how much time they waste on distractions like net zero.
What COP-26 shows us is that the most comfortable, the most privileged people of the northern hemisphere are still too comfortable--not feeling sufficient pain to have empathy for those already experiencing climate tragedy. That is self rectifying. Doing nothing will turn up the heat, as will doing too little.
The greatest danger we face is the belief that we need not concern ourselves as much with people as we do with the technology. We still have too many interests dedicated to finding just the right technology to solve the problem. The greater problem is all those people being disadvantaged by what is occurring. That needs immediate attention or it will become a reflector for hot hot the climate will become. As we are seeing in the news today, people and their misery will be weaponized against one another. This will be a new form of warfare that is extremely difficult to deflect or stop. Responses need to be thought through now--thoroughly and with a mind to obtaining a most humane response. Less than that may leave us with a world hardly worth surviving.
We need a climatic plan much like the Marshall Plan after WW II. We need it now. This is where COP-26 fell especially short.
To make this real, each of us should start thinking about how the USA should address an influx of 2-3 million climate refugees at our southern border? This year was a warm up. Nations to the south need not experience the full 2.4 degrees C, of heating--much less than that can create political instabilities that prompts autocrats to drive people north as refugees.
The George Monbiot editoria this past Friday is worth the reading. It is hopeful, and optimism does help.