Fiddling While Rome Burns–Along With The Rest Of The World: Leaders Sign COP21 Doc, Meanwhile Temps Already Surpassing Agreed-Upon Threshold.
World leaders gathered in New York last week to ratify the COP21 agreement that was hammered out in Paris four months ago, in what many are calling a futile gesture to cap off a toothless and meaningless agreement that is little more than show.
The agreement, which called for the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in such a way to limit warming to “…well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C,” has been widely derided as an empty gesture. An average global temperature rise over the past three months of 1.48°C is a painful illustration of that fact.
February even exceeded the agreed-upon number, reaching 1.55°C over the average global temperature.
But to watch world leaders practically injure their rotator cuffs in an effort to pat themselves on the back last week in the Big Apple, you would never have known that the agreement was already a failure before they even put pen to paper.
Given the ridiculously low standard to which the signatories held themselves we should have expected no less. If you recall there was tremendous consternation near the end of the conference over the use of the word “shall” over the word “should,” in terms of providing a guideline for nations’ future behavior. The US reportedly fought tooth and nail and held up the finalizing of the document over this seemingly niggling detail. It was thought to be monumentally important: if a nation signs a document that says it “shall” limit greenhouse gas emissions, that could be considered legally binding. Whereas “should” is more of a guideline, to paraphrase Jack Sparrow.
Needless to say, the US government and big oil companies that own it made sure that any whiff of mandatory language was eradicated before the final agreement was set.
Leading climate activist and professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University James Hansen had nothing but disdain for the widely hailed agreement. At the time, he said: “It’s just bullshit for them to say: ‘We’ll have a 2°C 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 be continued to be burned.”
But hey, at least world leaders got to gather last week in New York in spring, where it was an unusually balmy 22°C in April. At least they got to fly in on ridiculously fuel-consuming private jets, and ride around in NYC traffic in a fleet of exhaust-spewing limousines, before heading back to those private jets to zoom off somewhere else in a cloud of exhaust.
Meanwhile, it’s going to keep getting hotter and hotter in New York as summer rolls in and world leaders continue to fiddle. At least they’ll be comfortable aboard their climate-controlled jets.