Monday, 27 October 2014


I am reposting an article I wrote late last year

Betrayal of Hope


As the tragic events in the Philippines unfold things are happening pretty much in line with the 'worst-case' scenarios laid out by people back in the early days of climate change awareness said predicted.

That has caused me to go back to recollecting the past.

My first awareness of global warming goes back to 1988 when I was travelling in Asia. I read an article in the Bangkok Post that made a huge impression on me. I remember going to the New Zealand embassy to check on the newspapers and looked for reference to climate change: all I could find was a small article saying that climate change may be bad for the ski fields!

Signs of the future.

My awareness was furthered by hearing talks by the great environmentalist, the late Teddy Goldsmith, who warned, back in 1988 that the world had ten years to put things right, and was predicting extinction of life on the planet.

Wind on a bit further and I remember being influenced by a 1992 book, “Earth in the Balance” by one Al Gore who went on to become vice president of the United States.

That was before he went on to push through neo-Liberal economic policies and dismantle social and economic protections and then to help to torpedo the Kyoto negotiations. It was before he went on to make money on what is essentially a ponzi scheme called carbon trading (or cap-and-trade), that has very little to do with cutting Greenhouse gasses.

In fact I remember James Hansen saying the Kyoto protocol (1997) helped to increase emissions.

Anyway, back then reading his book was the first time I saw the outlandish prediction that with climate change we are likely to see mega-storms, stronger and more frequent than any time in recorded history.

When I realised who he was, I remember thinking how fortunate we were having someone like this as vice-president of the United States.

How little I knew!

By 1997 we knew that our hopes had basically been betrayed. Things could hardly get worse.

Little did I know.

We had the stolen election of 2000, 9/11 and the 'war on terror' which continues to this day.

If we thought there might be some light with the election of Barack Hessein Obama, this was dashed with the COP-15 talks in Copenhagen.

I remember watching in-depth coverage of the events on Democracy Now! I remember watching in horror with my friends Pam and Dido as events unfolded.

I remember how environmental activists were first excluded, demonstrated and were beaten by police; how delegates from Third World countries had to queue for hours in the snow.

I remember the pleas from leaders of small island states such as Vanuatu, the Solomons and the Maldives pleaded for action

I watched how the developed countries (led by Obama and the United States) torpedoed the talks- how the world agreed not to agree.

I remember how Tim Grosser, who had just become New Zealand's Minister for Treaty Negotiations, defended COP15 and condemned Pacific Island leaders for their statements.

This was the moment when hope for any meaningful action that would halt the destruction of our beautiful planet was extinguished.

It was before the 2008 Global Financial Crisis; it was before Deepwater Horizon, before the earthquake, tsunami and catastrophic nuclear meltdown at Fukushima.

It was before we started hearing about the melting of the Arctic ice cap and the release of methane from the Arctic ocean and the melting permafrost of Siberia.

It was before the 26 (at last count) positive, self-reinforcing feedbacks.

In fact, it was at almost exactly at this time that I found a BBC documentary, Global Dimming, that had a huge effect on me.  It examined the effect of pollution on dimming sunlight and hiding the effects of global warming. It was the first source to talk about runaway climate change and posit the possibility of sudden release of methane from the sea floor, leading to runway global warming.

More or less exactly what we are witnessing today

As an aside, it was before (I think) when Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! chose corporate funding over principle for her TV show.  

In those days she was still doing good work and chronicled the betrayal of climate justice at COP15.

Here she is interviewed at the conference

Since then a few other people I trusted and looked up to, have proved to be disappointments, notably George Monbiot who I used to read avidly, waited for the Fukushima disaster to adopt nuclear power as a saviour in the fight against global warming.  He has also, since then, swallowed the corporate disinformation and done a mea culpa on Peak Oil.

The days in which truths were much simpler and we (the tiny minority) stood united against corporate power and for climate justice have well-and-truly passed.

It has proved too difficult a pill to swallow for many of yesterday's friends to acknowledge that the days of finding a 'solution', of moving back to 350 ppm (or in any way halting the runaway train).

Instead we see hopium served up in truckloads. If we just donate and help build up a movement, if we divest from investment in hydrocarbons (or whatever), we can save the planet.

It takes guts to recognise that (in all probability) the game's up.

It takes even more fortitude to embrace uncertainty.

I have gone through all the emotions identified by Elizabeth K├╝bler-Ross - anger, depression (not so much denial and bargaining), and hopefully, some acceptance. 

The past few days in the Philippines have shown us that we are not going to quietly disappear into oblivion

Things are going to become very ugly indeed.

Just to finish off where we began here is the plea from the Filippino delegate at the Doha climate change talks.

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