I think that James Hansen, as much as I respect him and his huge contribution to the science of climate change, and his personal commitment to communicating the risks we face (including getting arrested), has been outrageous in calling COP21 a fraud.
What would have happened if he had chaired the meeting? Hitting everyone over the head until they agree with a carbon tax, which he sets? I suspect the meeting would have ended in acrimony and the world would be in despair at no agreement.
Diplomats may not be great at science, but the converse is also true.
Laurent Fabius possesses another kind of genius.
Is the current agreement flawed? Yes, in many ways, but it is a framework on which to take us forward with 5-yearly reviews, and things that many developing countries had requested, like loss and damage.
I marvel at the ability to bring more than 190 countries together, all with very different histories and current needs, to knit something together.
French diplomacy tonight deserves our gratitude, not our scorn.
Is 1.5C achievable? The science suggests almost certainly not. So why include it? Because low lying and vulnerable countries demanded it. It is a recognition of their plight. Is that a sop to them, a fraud? No, its called diplomacy and of course not an easy thing for scientists like Hansen to accept.
It would not be the first time that ‘creative ambiguity’ was used in the cause of a greater good (I am thinking the peace accords in Northern Ireland where, if we had instead insisted on absolutely rigorous unambiguous language, would still be in a war there).
There is a joke about the visitor to Ireland who asks a local old man for directions to a place he needs to get to … and the old man says … “If I were going where you are heading, I wouldn’t have started from here!”.
We cannot change where we are starting from, not Hansen, not Fabius.
We can all help, individually, in our towns, in our communities, as voters, etc. to help turn aspiration into reality. e.g. like three examples below:
- In the USA, State lawmakers bypass Congress to support 50 percent clean energy by 2030 at Paris Climate Conference
- and my local town, Stroud, fighting climate change
- and my local football team Forest Green and its owner, Dale Vince, inspiring Australian politicians
I think we all need to stop whinging about how hard it is and #JFDI.
By we, I mean all levels of civil society across the globe, utilities, politicians, industry, engineers, and all who can contribute.
It is surprising how much can be achieved when everyone decides to work together.
That spirit of working together may be up against huge hurdles, and punishing odds, but it is not a fraud.
(c) Richard Erskine, 12th December 2015