The Last Frog in the Pot

Being a bit of a climate change… Hawk? Sparrow… You’d think I’d be devastated by the USA pulling out of the Paris agreement – and I might well have been, even though I knew it was coming. But then the world reacted.

Severe vocal condemnation from world leaders everywhere – except Theresa May of course, whose value to the UK in relation to our American allies is now asymptotic to zero.

Yet another massive protest outside the White House. Traffic in Washington DC must be becoming a perennial problem.

Reminders that literally only two countries in the ENTIRE WORLD did not sign up to the Paris accord (Syria because it’s entrenched in a catastrophic civil war, and Nicaragua because they don’t think the Paris agreement went far enough). Think about that. North Korea signed up. Iraq and Iran signed up. Palestine and Israel apparently agree on two things: climate change and – as Tim Minchin observed in his outstanding peace anthem – not eating pigs.

Emmanuel Macron has won plaudits for his takedown of the US move – “make the planet great again.”

Landmarks in France and Mexico have been lit up green in a sign of support for the Paris Agreement.

China and Europe have jointly promised to redouble their efforts in the fight against carbon emissions. Some counties in the world are already well exceeding their commitments and are vowing to continue.

Universities, States and businesses throughout the USA have sworn to continue the fight and maintain their climate commitments. Elon Musk has quit his advisory role to the administration over the President’s decision. Even Trump’s own daughter Ivanka has urged him to take climate change seriously and and not quit the agreement.

I guess what I’m saying is: until this actually happened and someone somewhere pulled out of the Paris Agreement, I had no idea how seriously the governments of the world were really taking the issue. I didn’t know if one single loose thread would be enough to make it collapse entirely, with other governments around the world pulling out in turn due to a misguided refusal to hamstring their own economies when a key competitor was refusing to.

But no. For one thing, most of the governments of the world understand that advancement toward clean energy is a *good* move for jobs and the economy. As one commentator put it, Trump’s move isn’t really bad for the environment, it’s bad for America. But more than that, they fully appreciate the inescapable, simple truth of the problem: that if we don’t cut carbon emissions, billions may die.

If anything then, Trump’s long awaited withdrawal from the Paris Agreement has actually given me much more faith. The movement will succeed.

Well, notwithstanding the fact that all this Earth-lovin’  has started about 20 years too late. Don’t forget to move away from the coast, y’all. Storm’s a-coming. But I’m ​starting to believe we might be able to weather the worst of it.

American newspapers have said: the Republicans either think that God is going to solve climate change, or they don’t believe in it. Well, I believe in climate change. And the only thing that God needs to do something about is Donald Trump.

The Sustainable Environmentalist

Fighting for the good guys in the climate change war is beset with misery. Let’s face it, we get the rougher deal: the end-of-the-world levels of angst and terror, guilt about our carbon footprints and frustration at the lack of progress… versus blissful ignorance, limitless growth and laughing cheerily to the bank; unfalteringly confident that everything is gonna be awesome forever. Why oh why didn’t I take the blue pill?

It’s easy to see how a climate denier can keep getting out of bed in the morning (even if you’re less sure how they manage to sleep at night), but us poor climate change activists are a limited resource. And like everything from the soil to the sky: if you want it to keep doing what it does, you have to show it a little care.

So in the face of a bleak future, what helps me keep going? Well, to be fair I just came back after quitting for a year and I wasn’t contributing very much before that. But this time I wanna keep it up, and I think things like this will help me. Maybe they’ll help you too.

  1. Smugness. I am powered by smug. Smug helps me find the will to do anything. I’d give you some examples but I think the next few points will take care of that for me.
  2. Self-aggrandisement. You are so smart and insightful. You are a titan of the climate movement. You are as relevant and persuasive as Naomi Klein and Bill McKibben. You will save the world. Just as soon as anyone starts listening to you.
  3. Front line glamour. Twitter is great for this: feeling like you’re taking the fight to some of the biggest names in the dirty energy sphere. Go on, drop them a tweet, there’s always a chance they’ll see it. Hell, the other day I signed one off with “Are you listening, @realDonaldTrump?” – I like to think he was. It’s cathartic and satisfying and I’m far from being the only one who does this. I recently saw a tweet to @myronebell saying “I hope your children are the first to die,” which for me was probably taking it a bit far.
  4. At the end of the day… You’ll be proved right. Whatever else happens you’re gonna be handing out some of the biggest I-told-you-so’s in human history. Your children will be able to look you in the eye. And if the leaders of this new world want to go about solving the resource crisis by some Logan’s Run style solution, your efforts might even buy you a reprieve. Hey I did my best guys. Put someone else in your nutrient harvester.
  5. Stop reading George Monbiot’s Guardian column for a bit. Maybe even just set the current affairs to one side for a couple hours, yeah? Go outside. Feed the ducks (with rice or peas, you knowledgeable nature lover, you). See if Mark Ruffalo is in a new talkie. The world will probably still be there when you get back.
  6. Don’t get sad, get mad. Refocus your energies. When this old world starts getting you down, scapegoat someone who’s partially responsible and let your righteous anger flow. This is probably a very effective route to becoming an activist in the first place. When you can’t face the sadness, it’s time to bring the fire.
  7. Finally, and ironically this is the most serious point… You’re gonna need to maintain a good sense of humour. Ideally a pretty black one. Because the reality of climate change is so terrible, so bleak, so scary that it’s hard enough to believe never mind campaign against. So never forget to laugh and love, and remember you’re alive because these are the things that keep people going – and remind us what we’re fighting for.

Engaging the Enemy

Hi! I’m back after my impromptu year off. I had another kid, which retroactively is my excuse. So. How was 2016? Did I miss mu-AAAAAAAAH MY GOD!

***

Hi! I’m back after my impromptu stroke. What the hell, 2016? Donald Trump winning the US election after the deaths of so many celebrated stars of music, fiction and film must be the apocalypse that follows the rapture. And 2015 seemed to end so well.

Against the wishes and expectations of literally everyone I know and every source I rely on for news and information, the UK are leaving the EU, the US have elected a president who hates women, Muslims, Mexicans and the planet Earth… And the far right are becoming bolder, from anti-semitic graffiti on war graves to the murder of an inclusionist British MP.

Who are these people? Not the racists and killers, I mean the silent millions of ordinary people who are winning these elections. Nobody in the establishment and the mainstream media actually knows them, and that’s the problem. They don’t feel represented and they’ve started showing out in force to make their voices heard. They’re angry about being silenced, angry at their diminished wealth and prospects after the financial crash in 2008, and they’re blaming everything around them. Populism is back, bringing with it the rise of the far right. The far left have a look in too – hello Corbyn, hello Sanders – but nobody can mobilise anger like a hot-headed bigot. And when people are mobilised, amazing things can happen. There’s something in that. 

The West is in the midst of a political hot mess, but for those of us who choose to focus our campaign energies on climate change, the problem we have to confront is that a climate denier is moving into the White House.

A Frog In A Pot is back. And this time, it’s not about preaching to the choir. It’s about taking the debate to the enemy, engaging the non-believers, and encouraging the forces for change to keep fighting against the stacking odds. No more ruminating in the safe zones, hiding in the liberal bubble. No more protecting our apathy by pretending that we can’t make a difference in the world beyond, that we can’t change minds or motivate the jaded into taking meaningful action. We’re going to the front lines and we’re gonna make the powerful see that where climate change is involved, we expect to be represented. And what better place to start than right here:

God save me.

101 Damned Nations

For my birthday this year, the world leaders (well, their immediate underlings) had a whip-round and gave me a new, landmark agreement to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and so prevent global warming from killing everybody. I didn’t know they cared.

According to most accounts, COP21 has gone pretty well. The delegates themselves seem pretty pleased – there have been some satisfied little smiles in the press – but I suppose the real test of the document is when they all look at it again after three days’ sleep to see if, in their sleep deprivation, they haven’t manufactured a text comprising entirely of gobbledegook masquerading as legalese.

I didn’t envy the bastards, I must admit. With every one of the COP summits being quite literally nonstop tedium and wrangling for a full fortnight, I fear if I were sent as a delegate I wouldn’t COP very well at all.

Sorry.

So hats off to these determined ladies and gents for a fortnight of hard work and for going all the way to Paris with basically zero opportunity to visit the Louvre or something. And more than that, bloody good going not doing a Copenhagen and stumbling over the finish line with a very lacklustre deal (rumour has it there would have been no deal at all that time around if not for Ed Miliband’s intervention. He should have made more of that at the general election).

Is this new agreement really any good though? I’ll let more thorough commentators guide you through it (translation: I had a look but I didn’t understand it at all and then my mind wandered off and I started thinking about Batman). But as usual it seems nobody is in total agreement about whether we’re happy or not. The argument seems to run like this:

We have created an ambitious, rock solid agreement.

The wording of the agreement implies that all the terms are optional.

Yes, but the text includes a clause that every few years we all have a meet-up to swap progress information.

Optional meet-ups.

There’s a good feeling. There’s a sense of momentum, that we’re really gonna do this.

Uh-huh. What about the emissions targets? These will still see global warming to 3.5C by 2100…

Ah, but we’ll review those targets every few years as well and push for better targets.

Seems sketchy. Why didn’t you just commit to better targets now?

I don’t understand the question.

What do you say to the island nations who are telling you that even 2C of warming will see them drown as the sea levels rise?

Well, we’re gonna look at maybe doing something to possibly help mitigate the possibility of that happening by shooting for a 1.5C target.

We’re already at 1C now. You have half a degree left. How likely is that to happen?

I don’t know but I’m glad we’ve got those islanders to sign a piece of paper saying they can’t sue the developed nations for any loss or damage caused by the climate change we created with a century of burning stuff…

That’s a big relief.

You said it.

So it’s fair to say there’s a few holes in this thing. But under the cynical, lanky epidermis of my fragile physical frame beats the heart of a long-suffering optimist. I think I do believe that the momentum to kill fossil fuel burning is in place, and that the negotiators at COP21 genuinely believe in what they’ve achieved. And they’re right to. I think the world really is now on a course to a zero-carbon economy. But I’m afraid it’s all too late.

Here in the UK (while our chief negotiator Amber Rudd was, fairly, congratulating herself for noting the absence of aviation emissions in one version of the draft agreement) a decision on whether a new runway was going to be built at Heathrow or Gatwick was due to be announced. This was suspended for a further 6 months, but not for environmental reasons – all sources are very clear that “neither” is not one if the options. And as recently as Thursday night, hundreds of millions of pounds in subsidies and lucrative tax breaks were awarded to existing dirty power stations and diesel-burning energy generators to keep them on standby, so they can be called upon as a boost for periods of high demand on the national grid.

Her Right-Honourableness Mrs Rudd has signed a strong agreement, but getting the juggernaut of progress to change course is no mean feat and it’s never achieved quickly. And that’s a factor for every single one of the nations that attended Paris. Perhaps that’s why the agreement made today was made so much in advance of when it comes into force in 2020.

But we’re already living in “decade zero”: climate change for the rest of the century is being determined right now and we are running out of time. 3.5C emissions commitments are not enough, and by the time they come round for review I’m not clear how 2C will be achievable, let alone 1.5C to save those island nations.

This isn’t a deal that’s right for the present, I fear. Sadly I think we needed this exact agreement decades ago. I guess you might say that 2020 is hindsight.

So looks like we’re all going into 2016 with a lot of work to do. But then, what else is new? Have a great Christmas, dear reader. In January we go back to work.