Although just about everybody at the COP18 climate talks in Doha, Qatar, understood the importance of arresting climate change following a slew of recent reports that show temperatures and sea levels rising faster than we imagined, the conference closes today without a commitment to cut a single pound of CO2 emissions.
The reasons for that are both complicated and simple: aside from an obvious collective denial about the difficulties that are hurling down the path as a result of climate change, rich nations are especially unwilling to acknowledge their role in the accumulation of greenhouse gases that has put us in so much trouble because they don’t want to pay for it.
Although some analysts considered COP17 in Durban to be less of a disappointment because nations agreed to write a successor to the Kyoto Protocol by 2015, this year’s conference was a waste of time, effort and money. (Because frankly, at this stage, anything short of revolutionary will not keep the globe safe from harm.)
This would be less frustrating, perhaps, if everybody who attended the Doha meetings were completely clueless about climate change, if no reports in the last two weeks had revealed in no uncertain terms how thoroughly storms and bugs and heat and rising seas are going to destroy life as we know it.
Everybody knows, but only a handful of countries, namely Lebanon, the Dominican Republic, Belarus and Ukraine are prepared to cut their own emissions.
And only Germany, Britain, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and the EU Commission in Doha agreed to contribute to the $20 billion global climate change fund agreed to at COP15.
“The question of climate management is extremely serious,” said Laurent Fabius, France’s foreign minister, according to Reuters.
“It appears we have already exceeded the 2-degree limit. If that is the case, there are absolutely catastrophic consequences. We must react.”
That’s the consensus, but rich countries like the United States, Canada and Japan refused to sign an interim agreement to cut emissions and the very mention of a Loss and Damage fund owed to poor, vulnerable nations seems to give everybody hives.
Both the EU and US cite the global economic crisis as justification for their reluctance to make commitments.
But here’s the great fallacy. Delaying payments now will not forestall the inevitable, which is destruction on a scale never before seen on earth. Hurricanes and typhoons are going to keep ripping through coastal towns and we’ll be forced to clean up the mess, year after year.
Hurricane Sandy alone is expected to cost $50 billion USD, according to early estimates, which is half of what all the developed nations committed to raise by 2020. So we’re going to pay some time down the line, whether we like it or not.
Our leaders have failed us. Miserably. Again. Is it time for the people to take matters into their own hands?
Image of Hurricane Sandy damage by Leonard Zhukovsky, Shutterstock