This week is wild: Halloween, Beltane, Divali, Melbourne Cup.
It’s too early to assess the outcomes, but we know a few things.
Bolsanaro, Putin, and Xi Jinping didn’t turn up, and made no pledges. This shows what is, to my mind, the single most important development in climate change in the past years, even more than the relentless drop in the cost of renewable energy.
Since 2006, there has been an accelerating shift away from democracy and towards authoritarianism. Authoritarians will never act in the collective interest: they are in power precisely to do the opposite. The more our fear of climate change ramps up, the more people will turn to strongmen, and the weaker the political will to act altruistically.
There was a great address by UN chief António Guterres.
“Recent climate action announcements might give the impression that we are on track to turn things around. This is an illusion”…
Guterres gave a stark depiction of human ruin, with the planet changing before our eyes in the form of melting glaciers, disappearing forests and polluted oceans, the result of “treating nature like a toilet”.
He said: “We face a stark choice: either we stop [the addiction] or it stops us. It’s time to say: enough. Enough of brutalising biodiversity. Enough of killing ourselves with carbon.”
People seem to be reasonably happy with Modi’s committment to net zero by 2070. (I’m not, I don’t trust Modi one little bit.)
Here’s a powerful set of statements by world leaders:
The Archbishop of Canterbury went there:
They [the world leaders] could have been brilliant in everything else they’ve done, and they will be cursed if they don’t get this right. They could have been rubbish at everything else they’ve done. But if they get this right, the children of today will rise up and bless them in 50 years.
And here’s a set of charts summarizing the state of things. As usual, this tries to balance urgency with possibility. And as usual, it does this by an accounting sleight of hand.
The “causes” and “consequences” are real descriptions of the environment: CO2 levels, temperatures, and so on.
The “upside” shifts to talk about technology—increase in renewables, EVs, battery costs. None of these actually help the environment in any way. On the contrary, they are terrible for the environment. Selling more EVs is a disaster: it encourages people to think that our current suburban model of cities is sustainable. And it puts money in the hands of Elon Musk, who by dabbling in crypto and pursuing his mad notion that Mars will be a backup for earth, will create far more CO2 than his EVs and solar batteries have saved.
These technologies are less bad than fossil fuels, but they are not good. There is no evidence that their uptake has made any meaningful difference to critical aspects of the ecosystem like global atmospheric CO2. Which, as of Oct 30, was 413.89 ppm.
“Green energy” harms the environment and more of it is bad. What is good is stopping fossil fuels. Green energy is a net good if, and only if, it enables the closing down of fossil fuels. So beware any stats that talk about the growth of green energy, or the percentage of green vs fossil. What matters is how much fossil fuel is being used. Which, as you can see, is more and more.
The blurb in the Guardian article encapsulates the problem. “Inexorable increase of CO2” and “rapid growth in green energy”. How can both of these things be true?
Because for every positive there are negatives. Global atmospheric CO2 is not a negative to be balanced out with positives. It is already the sum total of all the positives and all the negatives. So the impact of renewables is already accounted for in global atmospheric CO2. To create the “upsides”, the positives have to be double-counted.