The failure of the recent UN climate summit in Paris to adopt any strict requirements or enforcement mechanisms for reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is a testament to the power of reaction in the US, both in terms of corporate carbon-extractive industries and racist and religious right climate denialism. International mechanisms established by US initiatives such as the WTO and the upcoming TPP have built-in teeth that allow private corporate interests to enforce their will on supposedly democratic governments. But the climate accord creates no mechanism for governments to enforce democratic will or human and environmental needs on private corporate interests, because such a treaty commitment would never have been approved by the reactionary US Senate. Noted climate scientist James Hansen spells out the consequences of this failure.
Reflections on the COP21 Climate Summit in Paris
by James Hansen (taken from Guardian interview)
The Paris agreement is a fraud really, a fake. It’s just bullshit for them to say: We’ll have a 2 degree warming target and then try to do a little better every five years. It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will continue to be burned.
The international jamboree is pointless unless greenhouse gas emissions are taxed [or subjected to a fee that raises their price to their true cost] across the board. Only this will force down emissions quickly enough to avoid the worst ravages of climate change.
In Paris, I again called for a price to be placed on each ton of carbon from major emitters (call it a “fee” — because taxes scare people off) of $15 a ton that would rise $10 a year and bring in $600 billion in the US alone. But there weren’t many takers, even among the big green environmentalist groups.
In 1988 when I was still at NASA, I testified to Congress calling for a sharp reduction in the burning of coal, oil and other fossil fuels that release carbon dioxide. But the White House altered subsequent testimony, and NASA appointed a media overseer who vetted what I said to the press.
Scientists are trained to be objective. I don’t think we should be prevented for talking about the implications of science. [So] I retired from NASA in 2013. That was a source of friction. I held on longer than I wanted, by a year or two. I was in my 70s, it was time for someone else to take over. Now I feel a lot better.
In a report we released in July, 16 colleagues and I found that Earthís huge ice sheets, such as those found in Greenland, are melting faster than expected, meaning that even the 2?C warming limit is highly dangerous.
The sea level could soon be up to five meters higher than it is today by the latter part of this century, unless greenhouse gases aren’t radically slashed. This would inundate many of the world’s cities, including London, New York, Miami and Shanghai.
More than half of the world’s cities are at risk. If you talk to glaciologists privately they will tell you they are very concerned we are locking in much more significant sea level rises than the ice sheet models are telling us.
The economic cost of a business-as-usual approach to emissions is incalculable. It will become questionable whether global governance will break down. You’re talking about hundreds of million of climate refugees from places such as Pakistan and China. We just can’t let that happen. Civilization was set up and developed with a stable, constant coastline.
Obama has botched the opportunity to tackle the climate change. We all foolishly had such high hopes for Obama, to articulate things, to be like Roosevelt and have fireside chats to explain to the public why we need to have a rising fee on carbon in order to move to clean energy. But he’s not particularly good at that. He didn’t make it a priority and now it’s too late for him.
Leading presidential candidates Donald Trump, Marco Rubio and Ben Carson have all derided evidence that the world is warming due to human activity while Ted Cruz, another contender, has taken time out from his campaign to sit on an inquiry into climate science that has heard testimony from a right wing radio host who has no scientific background. It’s all embarrassing really. After a while you realize as a scientist that politicians don’t act rationally.
Many of the conservatives know climate change is not a hoax. But those running for president are hamstrung by the fact they think they can’t get the nomination if they say this is an issue. They wouldn’t get money from the fossil fuel industry.
China, the world’s largest emitter, will now step up to provide the leadership lacking from the US. I think we will get there because China is rational. Their leaders are mostly trained in engineering and such things, they don’t deny climate change and they have a huge incentive, which is air pollution. It’s so bad in their cities they need to move to clean energies. They realize it’s not a hoax. But they will need co-operation.