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Paris Climate Accord Hyperbole (who’s winning now?)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- June 4, 2020

“Hyperbole toward the Paris Climate Accord, joining that of the Kyoto Protocol, is over. Dense, mineral energies are the wave of the future, while dilute, intermittent, earth-defacing renewables are in trouble. Dana Nuccitelli–are you listening?”

The Paris agreement signals that deniers have lost the climate wars,” read the Guardian headline on December 14, 2015. The subtitle to Dana Nuccitelli’s piece: “195 world nations have agreed to ignore climate science denial and cut carbon pollution as much as possible.”

This, in fact, was the same hyperbole following the Kyoto Protocol more than two decades before. “We’ve bet on the future, while others have bet on the past,” proclaimed Enron lobbyist John Palmisano from Kyoto, Japan in late 1997.

But the Paris Climate Accord would be different. “In stark contrast to the shortcomings of previous international climate negotiations,” Nuccitelli’s article begins, “the Paris COP21 talks have ended with an agreement stronger than most expected.” Nearly five years in, however, the Paris accord, voluntary and aspirational, is listing if not already sinking.

Uneconomic activity and reversing creature comforts is just not very appealing to individuals, groups, or nations. Recent polling in the linchpin U.S., furthermore, does not bode well for self-sacrifice (see American Voters’ Concerned about Economy, Not Climate).

Paris Hyperbole

“As the foreign minister struck the gavel,” Nuccitelli wrote

down in the media room there was a collective sigh, then applause and the odd ‘whoop’. Within seconds, broadcast journalists from across the globe bolted from their seats to tell the planet that Fabius had finally sealed the deal.

The article was unequivocal:

The deal, Van Ypersele said, was “a recognition that the science is solid and that everyone is aware of the urgency of tackling the issue.”

Throughout the week, campaigners have said the deal had to send a clear signal to global industry that the era of fossil fuels was ending. Scientists have seen the moment as career-defining.

The US secretary of state, John Kerry, said the Paris deal was “sending a critical message to the global marketplace” of where the world was heading….

In the moments after the agreement, the Indian environment minister, Prakash Javadekar said: “This is a new chapter of hope for the seven billion people on the planet.”

The Paris deal shows that the world wants to close the book on fossil fuels….

The opposition was minimalized:

While the Paris talks were ongoing, a group of fossil fuel-funded climate contrarians held their own sparsely-attended movie event and “counter-conference.” Their ringleader Marc Morano complained of the COP21 conference, “They haven’t been too friendly to sceptics this year.” Indeed, those who deny the scientific evidence were ignored; instead, scientific arguments in favor of an even more stringent target of limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial temperatures won the day.

If we’re honest, the climate “debate” and science denial are not actually about science…. It’s ideology, not science.

Hype to Realism

Fast forward to today. Virtually all countries have chosen business-as-usual energy policy in place of the voluntary, aspirational goals of the Paris Climate Accord. Of the 189 signatories to the Accord, 181 countries have not updated their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) targets to indicate decarbonization “progress.” For the Climate Action Tracker, the nation-by-nation analysis (updated May 20, 2020) is quite grim with “critically insufficient,” “highly insufficient,” and “insufficient” predominating over “2C compatible,” “1.5C Paris Agreement Compatible,” and “Role Model.”

The Tracker, in a shaming mode, stated:

Crisis, what climate crisis? The governments below have clearly signalled an intent to not update their NDC 2030 target or have signalled that they will only recommunicate their existing NDC by 2020 with no significant change in emissions ambition. The Climate Action Tracker will pleased (sic) to remove countries from this list as soon as they have clarified their position and commit to submitting improved NDCs in 2020.

Russia, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, Australia, the U.S.–it is a big show of sovereignty and self-interest.

The COP25 United Nations climate conference last year in Madrid, Spain was recognized by friend and foe as an empty vessel for the ephemeral goal of “climate progress.” The all-the-more crucial COP26 UN climate change conference set for Glasgow in November has been postponed a year due to COVID-19. Fossil fuels, meanwhile, are winning, winning, winning.

Hyperbole toward the Paris Climate Accord, joining that of the Kyoto Protocol, is over. Dense, mineral energies are the wave of the future, while dilute, intermittent, earth-defacing renewables are in trouble. Dana Nuccitelli–are you listening?


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