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Cancun: No will to save ourselves

Written By: - Date published: 8:25 am, November 27th, 2010 - 51 comments
Categories: climate change, International, leadership - Tags: , ,

The 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference — the Copenhagen Summit — was one year ago. Great things were expected. There was a sustained media build up, including a carefully timed and completely spurious attack on climate science. There was debate and activism. World leaders were in attendance and great things were expected. And then it all ended in pretty miserable failure. Whatever hope remained for a workable agreement on action to combat climate change was punted to the future, to this year, to Cancun.

On Monday the 2010 conference — the Cancun Summit — begins in Mexico. Did you know? Have you seen the media build up? Is there the same sense of urgency and hope that preceded Copenhagen? No. Cancun is flying almost below the radar:

Twelve months ago, world leaders were preparing to converge on Copenhagen to hopefully put the finishing touches to a global agreement on climate change. The whole thing fizzed.

Next Monday, negotiators head to Cancun in Mexico to try again. This time, expectations are much lower.

Parties have been meeting on and off all year, going over the same ground time and time again. Realistically, the best that can be expected at Cancun is for last year’s Copenhagen Accord to be brought into the official negotiating text and for progress in important areas, such as financing climate change work in third world countries

Expectations are “much lower”. “Realistically” all that can be expected is tweaking round with last year’s inadequate and ineffectual non-binding agreement. This is beyond pathetic.

There will be no global agreement at Cancun and there is unlikely to be one in December next year in South Africa. As the pressure goes on to reach an agreement, one can only hope that common sense prevails and New Zealand does not sign up to something, either global or bilateral, that damages our economy more than our competitors’.

And that is beyond stupid. Does it really need saying again? Without the environment there is no fucking economy. Not for us, not for anyone. Even on purely economic terms it makes much more sense to incur some costs now to reduce climate change, because the costs to the economy if we don’t are going to be overwhelming (see Stern Review). But look beyond economic terms, climate change is going to be a catastrophe.

Future historians, if any, will I think look back on Copenhagen as the moment that we failed. Seems like it’s going to be down hill from here. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that we lack the will to save ourselves.

51 comments on “Cancun: No will to save ourselves”

  1. vto 1

    r0b, did you use the ‘f’ word in your post? That’s a bit naughty. Thought that’s just what us naughty kids did..

    Re the post, imo only a fool will rely on politicians to save the world. While trying to reverse / prevent suchclimate change we should at the same time prepare to live with the changes to come.

  2. At least now Key and Smith can go over and smugly tell them how we’re single handedly saving the planet with our world leading Emissions Trading Scheme….PFFFFFT

    • RedLogix 2.1

      Yeah right… so you’re going to wait for someone else to do it for you. …PFFFFTTT yourself.

      • pollywog 2.1.1

        do what ?.. create another tradeable bubble of fake assets for fatcats to get richer off the poor by ?

        i say party like there’s no tomorrow and go for broke if you want to cos it’s not gonna make one bit of difference how many trees we plant, plastic bottles we recycle or how much shit a cow produces

        the damage is done and all hope now rests with an energy source some can only just begin to think about.

        think global act local nah fuck that, think local act local…FUCK THE WORLD !!!

        save yourself and your family if you can…by any means neccessary

        • Bill

          Would “any means necessary” involve a revolution that targets, not the authorities that preside over us, but the market economy they protect and promote and that is the cause of all this?

          I’d hope so. And I’m realistic enough to realise that in the first instance people would probably merely replace the market with a command economy. And although that might be a good enough mechanism for making sure that destructive economic activities cease and cease quickly, it will provide us with the booby prize of a political dictatorship…which will require that we engage in a further revolution.

          • pollywog

            Would “any means necessary” involve a revolution that targets, not the authorities that preside over us, but the market economy they protect and promote and that is the cause of all this?

            uhhh…does this count ?



            • Bill

              Yeah, nah.
              That revolution happened in about 1982 for me. Still waiting for all youze all to catch up.

              • Colonial Viper

                You are legendary. Have a Speights on me.

                • Bill

                  Legendary? Dunno ’bout that. No decapitalising option from about ’82 onwards…

                  As for Speights? Piss poor doesn’t require being piss tasteless to boot now, does it?

              • pollywog

                it’d still be interesting to see if one can create a concerted global social media campaign to force a run on the banks.

                collapse the banks, collapse the market, collapse the gov’ts, collapse the system…then what ?

                what’s gonna fill the vaccuum ?

                • Bill

                  I put up a post about that the other day So Sport and Politics Should be Kept Separate. Admittedly it wasn’t too clear that was what it was about unless you clicked through the link to the youtube video of Eric Cantona’s interview.

                  December 8th this year is apparently the ‘big day’.

                  I put the post up more because it struck me as unusual that one of the world’s most famous footballers should be speaking out on political matters and advocating revolution than for any other reason.

                  I mean, how do you run down to the bank and withdraw your overdraft?

                  • pollywog

                    looks like Cantona and them froggy bastiches have been jacking my shit 🙂

                    the key to playing it out is to build momentum over a longer period and play the numbers game by picking an auspicious date and tapping into a wider cultural vein

                    20/12/2012…the end of the age of motion and the dawn of the age of light in line with the mayan calender and to celebrate a galactic equinox might tip the balance and give it the critical mass protests need to force real change.

                    I mean, how do you run down to the bank and withdraw your overdraft?

                    you don’t…you run to the bank and withdraw someone elses flush account instead but if you could do it online…then hmmmm 🙂

  3. oscar 3

    Im sticking to my principles on this, in that the leading ‘authority’ the IPCC being government funded is seen as the most credible source. In fact, the only reason why we’re all chicken little-ing ourselves is that for time in recorded history humans are watching a balancing act of sorts take place within nature.
    I see from todays dompost that England is already experience unusual snowfall this early into Winter. Whos to bet that this Winter will be their hardest in more than 30 years? Last year was their hardest in 30, will this be their hardest in 50 years?
    I personally reckon that the arctic will freeze again, but not for another 100 or so years, at least not until the current ice has all melted.
    Conversely, Antarctica is experiencing increased ice cover, and colder summer temperatures.
    Like I keep saying, the science isn’t proven, and it’s all based on hypotheses. Not proven results. Even the historical records point to ‘something’ happening, but it’s unclear just what exactly.
    On the upside, at least this new ‘faith based religion’ is certainly encouraging us to be more sustainable in terms of what we produce and consume, which I’m all for.
    And fwiw, I’m not a denier. I accept that the climate is changing, I just don’t accept this new religion we’re all being asked to believe in.
    Faith: that CO2 is the leading cause of global warming and cutting emissions will save us all.
    Fear: hell on earth. Boiling seas, drowned cities etc
    Saviour: Ourselves.
    All hallmarks of a new religion. Christianity out. Climatica In.

    • Bill 3.1

      oscar. You write : “Like I keep saying, the science isn’t proven, and it’s all based on hypotheses. Not proven results. Even the historical records point to ‘something’ happening, but it’s unclear just what exactly.”

      Every major scientific academy in the world, and all the peer-reviewed literature, says global warming denialism is a pseudo-science,on a par with Intelligent Design, homeopathy, or the claim that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS. One email from one lousy scientist among tens of thousands doesn’t dent that. No: the debate is between the scientists who say the damage we are doing is a disaster, and the scientists who say it is catastrophe.

      And besides, seems to me the post is about the politics of climate collapse, not the science of it.

      • oscar 3.1.1

        Yet the science itself is psuedo science based largely on hypothetical notions.
        If we’re talking about the politics of what to do, then it seems to me that there needs to be a real and frank discussion, from all sides of the political spectrum instead of just leaping blindly into the latest faith based ‘science’
        What will we say if in 20 years it turns out that oops, the banning of CFCs did more to combat the cause of global warming, and as such, the political will surrounding CO2 is less able to come to a consensus as after all, it is one of the most natural gases in our atmosphere, making up less than 1% of the atmospheric layer surrounding earth. I have stated before that CO2 levels do affect plant life and biodiversity as CO2 is a major building block for all life. Of course my horticulture degree probably means jack now given that we were led to believe that in a controlled greenhouse environment, a reduction in CO2 led to a reduction in leaf growth.
        Captcha: increase. How apt given we should probably be increasing CO2 levels, not less. The current 391ppm level is still well below what has been previously experienced, particularly when ice sheets started retreating some 10k years ago.

        • lprent

          What exactly do you proper to do to make the science non ‘hypothetical’? Wait for it to play out s you can write a paper explaining that it was out on the fifth decimal place?

          You’re a bit of a science dingbat aren’t you – by your definition all science and engineering is ‘hypothetical’. According to you it appears that science is only ‘real’ is when it is history. Science is about predicting events but according to you it is seems to be all about documenting disasters..

        • lprent

          Plants aren’t constrained by a lack of CO2. They are constrained by nutrients, water, and tempatures. Why bother mentioning something so irrelevant?

        • Bill

          Science is evidence based. First a hypothesis is proposed and then empirical evidence either backs up the hypothesis or doesn’t.

          The hypothesis was that CO2 emissions among others hanging around in the atmosphere would lead to general warming which would threaten the rhythm of seasons, result in extreme weather events and cause die back in various eco systems.

          The empirical evidence is that there is general warming, more extreme weather events (both in frequency and extent) and a rise in the rate of extinctions.

          But you seriously advocate more CO2 being pumped into the atmosphere?

        • Jeremy Harris

          making up less than 1% of the atmospheric layer surrounding earth.

          It’s is 0.039%… It’s the effect not the quantity that’s important, I think that is what the debate is all about – the effect of this amount…

        • Ari

          The definition of pseudoscience is theories that aren’t accepted by the scientific community or basis in the scientific method, so you’re dead wrong on both counts.

          If we end up being wrong about CFCs or global warming in 20 years, the scientists will be the first ones telling us. Why? Because they care about being right more than they care about being consistent. Almost all scientists have an amazingly high degree of integrity and frankly, I trust that research was conducted with good intentions when it’s done by peer-reviewed scientists, even if they make mistakes. We’re not talking about politicians here- most research that’s spin is conducted by political think-tanks or activist organisations, so don’t go trying to pass off climate science in that category. It’s not.

      • lprent 3.1.2

        Good point Bill. I should read the post rather then responding to such a daft denier sprouting all of the same worn out disproven lines from watts up

    • lprent 3.2

      Climate change means exactly that. There are shifts in climate patterns.

      In the case of the arctic it means that is a lot warmer, but that also means climate shift is is pushing more cold air into more temperate zones. That is what happened weather wise last year – the tempature anomaly maps were quite clear.

      Antarticia has a different set of climate shifts going on. It a continent, so the different effects showing in different places. Some parts of the east are having more snow fall indicating more water vapour (bad sign), whereas the all important WAIS appears to have mass wasting. But the climate changes are happening there as well.

      Stopping co2 emissions won’t stop the climate changes already running. What it will do is to reduce the likelihood that they trigger a runaway event like the release of methyl hydrates or a shift in something like gulf stream or WAIS breaking up.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.3

      Your problem, oscar, is that the science is pretty much settled (better than 95% proved). Has been for quite some time now. Humans are causing global climate change through our unregulated use of fossil fuels and destruction of the environment.

      • Ari 3.3.1

        That’s really a horrible way of putting it. Science doesn’t settle, it just becomes increasingly unlikely that a new theory that doesn’t incorporate the old one in some way will pop up. (Relativity, for instance, was a great theory because it needed to be encompassed in subsequent descriptions of physics) We could be wrong about climate science- in fact, the revision of the possible consequences suggests we’re not exactly “right” yet.

        The important part is that there isn’t a truly competing theory that has passed peer review, which effectively means all the climate change deniers have been laughed out of town because their ideas were so full of holes. If someone can come up with a competing theory that explains the data better, I’m willing to hear it and climate scientists will be, too. The problem is that nobody’s got any serious ideas.

  4. anarcho 4

    Copenhagen also marked the failure of summit-hopping activism. After 20 minutes of pushing at fences thend crowds sat down on the road for a ‘popular assembly’ where they applauded each others speeches.

    Time to reject their authority (of both camps), decentralise, diversify and DIY.

    • Bill 4.1

      Agree with your sentiments anarcho, but prefer DIO ( ie Do It Ourselves…in concert, together, unfragmented) over DIY ( isolated, fragmented and ultimately inadequately)

  5. Bill 5

    Very good piece on Cancun by Johann Hari There Won’t Be A Bailout For The Earth

    The link provided in the post suggests that there is an expectation for “progress in important areas, such as financing climate change work in third world countries.”

    On the same matter, Hari writes that “everybody is backing off from one of the few concrete agreements at Copenhagen: to give the worst-affected countries $100bn from 2020. Privately, they say this isn’t the time..”

    And besides when Bangladesh, the 7th most heavily populated and the most densely populated country on earth has a carbon footprint equal to the Island of Manhatten. And when you consider that it’s fast sinking into the rivers and sea, questions arise over the whole notion of providing them with green technology. The poor are not the problem. Bangladesh and other ‘third world’ countries are not the problem. We are; the wealthy living in the ‘developed’ countries.

    On claims of inaction, I believe that Hari is closer to the mark when he writes that ; …”leaders are sometimes described as “doing nothing about global warming.” No doubt that form of words will fill the reporting from Cancun too. But it’s false. They’re not “doing nothing” – they are allowing their countries’ emissions of climate-trashing gases to massively increase. That’s not failure to act. It’s deciding to act in an incredibly destructive way.”

    I’d go further and contest that they complicit in the largest crime against humanity that humanity has ever seen.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.1

      I’d go further and contest that they complicit in the largest crime against humanity that humanity has ever seen.

      and all at the behest of the psychopathic capitalists/corporations.

      • Bill 5.1.1

        I think it’s a wee bit more subtle than that. Capitalists or who-ever don’t have to make urgent demands of them. Market structures insist that certain types of action are defended and pursued.

        Beyond that, or because of that, you and I and ‘everyone’ else should be assuming a degree of responsibility too. The market also demands certain types of actions from us, and we comply.

        At the moment it seems to me that there are growing numbers of people not altogether comfortable or are becoming more aware of the intricacies of this mess we’re in. Trouble is, most people feel hopelessly entangled and either can’t figure a way out, or lack the motivation to find a way out, that would preserve their well being.

        It might compare to a war situation where, instead of refusing to sign up or risk the consequences of going AWOL, most of us are on the battle field where a growing sizeable minority are firing their guns but refusing to take aim or deliberately mis-aiming. Problem is that, that tactic is not enough to end the bloodshed. Our mere presence continues to lend credence to what is happening, or at best does nothing to stop what is happening.

        We need to be conscientious objectors. The market, like a war cannot continue if no-body is taking part.

        A very, very hard, but necessary row to hoe.

    • KJT 5.2

      Right on. It is not the third world who need to reduce their carbon foot print. It is us.

      Then we need to leave the third world room to improve their standard of living!

  6. Bill 6

    Got a little time to kill, so…

    1 million 600 thousand people live in Manhattan.

    162 million 220 thousand people live in Bangladesh.

    And the total carbon footprint of Bangladesh is comparable to that of Manhattan.

    Meanwhile, 4 million 388 thousand people live in New Zealand.

    In 2007 emissions were:

    7.72 metric tonnes of CO2 per person per year in NZ

    19.34 metric tonnes of CO2 per person per year in the US (Manhattan)

    0.28 metric tonnes of CO2 per person per year in Bangladesh.

    Lost me calculator, so on the back of an envelope…

    It takes 29 Bangladeshi’s to produce the CO2 emissions of 1 New Zealander. Or put another way, our combined CO2 emission is equivalent to that produced by over 40% of the seventh most populated and most densely populated country on earth.

    So, next time somebody claims that there is no point in NZ doing too much about CO2 cause we are so insignificant…?

    • burt 6.1

      So we should live like Bangladeshi’s then ? OMG, NZ is almost twice the land area of Bangladesh so we would need to cram 324 million 440 thousand people into NZ.

      • clandestino 6.1.1

        Haha yeah, you’ve got to laugh. Are you saying we cut back to Bangladeshi levels, so we can both live in equally depressing poverty?

        • KJT

          No. Just that we waste a lot less, so the Bangladeshi’s can live better.

          • burt

            Diminishing returns and unintended consequences. We have less so Bangladeshi’s living conditions improve and their CO2 footprint escalates. Imagine the CO2 impact of lifting the Bangladeshi’s living standards to NZ levels. I’m not saying we shouldn’t donate to poorer nations and improve their living standards, just doing that will probably increase global CO2 emissions.

            • Colonial Viper

              I’m not saying we shouldn’t donate to poorer nations and improve their living standards, just doing that will probably increase global CO2 emissions.

              So the question is – are western countries willing to cut back on their energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in order to let the people in developing countries have a fairer slice of the world’s resource pie? Well the short answer is, off course not, don’t be stupid.

              • KJT

                The sad thing is,, if the will was there we could probably still live at a good standard while reducing our emissions enough to raise the standard of living in Bangladesh, without increasing overall emissions.

                Have to give up the Beamer, but the bach is still possible, because that comes from sustainable resources.

            • Bill

              It’s not about ‘more’ and ‘less’, it’s about fundamentally different. The yardstick of comparative difference based on material consumption needs to be smashed up and thrown away. Which means – just to spell it out – that we need to stop measuring our lives on how much we consume as though that was a measure of meaningful wealth or well being.

              Or maybe you’d rather settle for the comparative advantage of that gin and tonic…

        • Bill

          Haha yeah, you’ve got to laugh. Are you saying we carry on being proliferate wasters of resources and guzzlers of bullshit so that we go down with a gin and tonic while Bangladeshi’s go down with a cup of chai? Way to prove supremacy.

      • Bill 6.1.2

        Nope. I think my point was pretty obvious. We are told time and again that NZ is just a wee country and so what we do doesn’t really matter in the scheme of things. Patently false.

        • pollywog

          yeah but…we don’t seem to collectively give a shit about alleviating poverty and inequality in our own country or addressing the causes for it from a Pasifikan perspective, so to expect us to give a shit about a billion sub continental Asians living in squalor and a shitload more starving and diseased Africans is a bit rich.

          29 people dying in a mine to support fossil fuelled big business is a tragedy, 40 000 kids dying a day from malnutrition is a statistic.

          you only have to look at Haiti and it’s cholera outbreak to see how much we care now.


          where’s Mike McRoberts saving the world one little girl at a time now ?…pining on some street corner in Greymouth looking sombre as. I can just hear him now. “Right, camera’s off, who’s shout is it ?”

          Maybe he should do a follow up story on that little girl and see if the broken arm he saved her from has ended in her dying miserably from cholera ?

          • Bill

            Who is the ‘we’ who don’t give a shit?

            Is it the manufactured ‘we’ that is presented to us by media etc that, funnily enough, coincides with the sentiments of elites? Is it the fabricated consensus of ‘we’ that serves to excuse the deleterious effects of capitalist systems? Is it the deliberate smokescreen to perception of ‘we’ that encourages inaction on the grounds that the cause of various horrors are somehow natural, or as the result of specific ethnic or historical ‘fucked uppedness’ and so have nothing whatsoever to do with the dynamics of Capitalism?

            Or is it the real we; us and our neighbours, friends and workmates and the tiny spark deep inside that constitutes the fundamental human sentiment and feeling we hold in spite of the endless propaganda that seeks to nullify us and have us rendered hopeless?

            • pollywog

              Who is the ‘we’ who don’t give a shit?

              ‘we’ as in the majority of registered voters who voted in these clowns and look set to vote them in again next year for lack of a viable alternative…

              if ‘we’ give these pricks another mandate to pull the wool over our eyes again then ‘we’ deserve everything we get shafted with afterwards

              look, it’s one thing to give a shit and another to be fucked doing anything about and it’s not that i don’t give a fuck, it’s that i give too much of one 🙂

    • burt 6.2

      Oh by the way, If everyone buys 3 ha of farm land and lets it return to native bush the NZ people would be soaking up -1.28 metric tonnes of CO2 per year. Then we would each carry enough carbon credit for about 5 Bangladeshi’s.

      Source: http://www.ebex21.co.nz/faq.asp

      How much carbon dioxide is sequestered by a hectare of regenerating native forest?

      This has been estimated for a range of regenerating forest types in New Zealand and also varies with local conditions such as species mixture, temperature and rainfall. On average, across many mixtures and a range of localities, the PFSI uses a default sequestration rate of 3 tonnes CO2e/ha/yr to set the level of AAU allocation.

  7. MrSmith 7

    Lets face it the name less, face less, conscious-less corporations that are running the world plus throw in the deluded religious and the US militarily, this lot don’t like change or loss of profits, I don’t expect any change till it is to late but this time we won’t be able to undo the damage, I am an optimist normally but people mostly want instant gratification or thats what the consumer driven capitalist society would have us believe, we can’t even save for our retirement let alone deal with this. Someone suggested to me stock up on guns and ammunition, I hope it doesn’t come to that, but unless we have a revolution I see little hope for future generations. Bring on the revolution

  8. belladonna 8

    The biggest impact on climate change is caused by livestock – save the plant, go vegan.

  9. MrSmith 9

    Here is a little gem a friend sent me. ‘Corporate sustainability is like teenage sex. Everybody talks about it. Nobody does it very much. And when they do, the don’t do it very well.’ (Joel Makower)

    • pollywog 9.1

      ‘Corporate sustainability is like teenage sex. every old man in his right mind wants to do it but it can cost more than its worth to try’

  10. john 10

    British scientists at Cancun warn that up to a billion people could lose their homes to climate change by the end of this century, refer link:


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  • Trans-Tasman cooperation in a COVID-19 world
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