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Web Letters | The Nation

Web Letter

All you need to do it look at the strangely robotic body language with which Obama delivered his speech. Obama's "accord" is go-nowhere hot air and he knows it. Nowhere good--it's a letter-of-intent for genocide. It must be unprecedented for a world leader to issue such a warrant so calmly, with such technocratic language--it's such a brazen refusal of responsibility. Ten billion dollars a year in capital transfers for mitigation and adaptation is an insult to the Global South, and to the world's collective intelligence. As the courageous Sudanese G-77 negotiator Lumumba Stanislaus Di-Aping quipped, "Ten billion will not buy developing countries' citizens enough coffins." Perhaps they'll economize on size. Children will die first. They're more vulnerable to malaria and famine.

So to watch Obama jerkily rotating his head, repeating the words his speechwriters drafted for him perhaps five hours before the speech (it looks like he hadn't even read it before delivering it), reminding the world that "our ability to take collective action is in doubt right now," is infuriating. The notion of "collective action" suggests "collective responsibility." But who is this collective? Why is "everyone" responsible? The Global North's climate debt--the dollar amount of overuse of the atmospheric commons, both historical and projected given reasonable reductions in CO2 emissions--is $23 trillion.

The North owes a debt to the people of the South. That includes the people of China and India. Where does America stand on that? Well, Obama tells us that "all major economies" must start to reduce emissions: China, India, Brazil and South Africa, all of them with a fraction of the per capita emissions of the global North, alongside a fraction of the per capita wealth. The real issue is China, not susceptible to American bullying. The American political establishment can't seem to wrap its sclerotic collective intelligence around the fact that a country with five times the population of the United States gets to emit over five times as much CO2. Perhaps too much talk of the "national interest" has Obama really believing that there is such a thing--as though a Chinese peasant has the same interests as a coastal billionaire "entrepreneur," or Obama, living well in Hyde Park, has anything in common with his destitute neighbors other than their melanin counts.

When Obama speaks of the "ambitious targets" set by major economies, he's just ad-libbing. The US targets even fall short of the Kyoto Protocol's minimalism. They're not ambitious. They're pathetic. Under the current promised emissions reductions, global CO2 counts will be at 650ppm of CO2, 800 ppm of CO2 equivalent by 2100. We will see temperature rises of over 3.5 degrees Celsius, with a one-in-four chance of exceeding 4 degrees Celsius. Those numbers are unconscionable. The Amazon will be a desert. The ice caps will be gone forever. The United States is by far the worst: 17 percent "cuts" by 2020, from 2005 baselines. That's about 3 percent from 1990 baselines, in contrast with EU cuts of 20 percent from 1990 baselines. And that's assuming the chicanery of "off-sets" doesn't allow American CO2 emissions to actually rise. Offsets allow huge hydroelectric dam projects in the Third World to count against First World CO2 emissions, allowing more pollution. Swell idea, except mega-dams probably don't reduce CO2 emissions a whit.

Meanwhile, the call to "mobilize" $100 billion in climate financing by 2020 is vapor. As Hugo Chávez said, "If the climate were one of the biggest capitalist banks, the rich governments would have saved it." Instead, within a decade we'll muster up a year's worth of US government spending on bombing villagers in Waziristan. Washington's priorities are clear. Saving AIG is more important than saving the planet.

So when we hear platitudes about America having "charted our course," that the "time for talk is over," we can only see an attempt to save face. Obama expected to be able to intimidate China into total acquiescence, and expected to shush Africa and the island nations with what his more sycophantic admirers call his "eloquence," a smoothly delivered stream of half-truths, clichés, and bullshit. No wonder the response was reluctantly polite applause. Look at the delegates' numbed faces. They're aghast. Of course they are. Could Obama be so used to fawning adoration that he expects the world's leaders to smile and cheer as he locks in a course that will devastate their peoples?

Max Ajl

Brooklyn, NY

Dec 20 2009 - 3:42pm

Web Letter

Thank God this thing was a bust. The idea that a trace gas (.04 percent of the atmosphere) required for all life on the planet is somehow a polutant is both nuts and criminal. All of you eco nut cases who think windlmills are the answer to everythng can now get busy shoveling the two feet of globlal warming that's at this moment falling in DC and New York. How appropriate.

Mike Markey

Swanzey, NH

Dec 19 2009 - 6:15pm

Web Letter

The science, both political and in climate, are settled. There is universal agreement, that COP15 was the most fouled up, amateurish, petulant, assembly of world-class buffoons in perhaps the history of the human race. The scientists have conducted themselves as incompetent teenagers, advising political leaders who hold the power to injure or kill hundreds of millions of people. It is lethally dangerous to act as both have done. The runner-up disastrous meetings may have been the first meeting at Versailles, which destroyed Germany after WWI and led to Hitler's Nazism, which met the second time to destroy western Europe in WWII.

There now is zero respect and trust among the peoples of the world in science and peaceful diplomacy in scoping and resolving an energy policy relative to combustion of fossil fuels.

Perhaps the only bright positive result was exposing the lie that there is a prosperous future in green technologies. No nation will proceed down this path, if other competitors opt to burn coal.

If there was a shred of ethics in either crowd, we should expect mass resignations next week. You cannot claim that this is the last chance to save mankind, do nothing, and then go home with no decisions and claim progress. COP15 is now history; mankind may not survive another one. There will either be a peaceful return to trust in honest energy policies, or another cause of war has been man made. This was a disaster.

R.L. Hails Sr., PE

Olney, MD

Dec 19 2009 - 12:06pm

Web Letter

How many more lies must Obama tell before some realize that he's just a reincarnation of G.W. Bush whose main allegiance is to Wall Street ?

Remember his campaign promise to "bring the troops home"? Not only did he break that promise--one of many--he's amping up the war against Afghanistan while starting new ones in Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan. If a Republican prez had done that, "progressive" media outlets would be howling like a dog scalded with hot water, but since Obama's a "Democrat," it's OK, says Code Pink.

Obama's grandiose plans for the climate are all about stealing more of our money and trashing more of our liberties and building dozens of nuclear power plants. Will you have to see those familiar towers popping up in your backyard before you open your eyes to the schemes of Al Gore and Co.?

If Obama were truly interested in the climate, he'd have Congress pass laws that granted massive tax breaks for homes and businesses installing solar cells or wind turbines to generate electricity and subsidies so people could properly insulate their home's attic spaces. But you never hear about those commonsense approaches, do you?

That would give people true energy independence, and giving people a taste of freedom is the last thing G.W.'s clone wants to do.

Greg Bacon

Ava, MO

Dec 19 2009 - 8:22am