Dedicated to democratic climate-action mobilisation and the Mahurangi
author Cimino published 30 October 2021 notified 1 November 2021
Globally, writers are giving their best shot to the imperative of persuading the Glasgow conference parties that, this time, they must mobilise meaningful climate action.
One such writer, the Guardian ’s re-wilding guru George Monbiot, in his masterly eve-of-cop 26 article, Think Big on Climate: The Transformation of Society in Months Has Been Done Before, cites Pearl Harbor and the planning by President Franklin D Roosevelt that was pivotal to the miraculousWhat Franklin D Roosevelt described as a “miracle of production”, George Monbiot argues was the realisation of a well-laid plan. mobilisation that followed.
What another pre-cop 26Conference Of the Parties, #26 communication lacks in poetry, more than makes up for with pragmatism. Singling out modern, ultrasafe nuclear power as a key component of any credible pathway to zero-carbon, globally renowned climate scientist Dr James Hansen otherwise advocates a carbon-fee-and-dividend, market-led approach. While the logic of carbon-fee-and-dividend is elegant, there’s scant evidence that the market, collectively, is capable of planning anything beyond its own perpetual growth, at the cost of a survivable climate and the precipitation of the Sixth Great Extinction.
After two and a half decades of cop conferences in particular and 42 years of climate conferences in general, the gnashing of teeth preceding Glasgow is almost exclusively over the paucity of targets and funding promises. However, what humanity actually needs to see by Friday 12 November is not better targets, but a brutally honest plan as to how half of the world’s nearing eight billion people can decarbonise while not abandoning the other half who live in relative or absolute energy poverty. Despite three decades of substantial subsidies, however, what most people think of as renewables—wind and solar—contribute less than 1.8% of global energy supply.
Setting aside that flying nearly 40 000 attendeesflying, or otherwise transporting by modes involving greater or lesser greenhouse-gas emissions. As published, 20000. Figure of 40000 courtesy The Guardian: 21238 registered attendees forming the official delegations; 13885 observers; and 3824 media. to a global environmental conference is oxymoronic at the best of times, much less during a pandemic, New Zealand’s Green Party co-leader James Shaw, not its prime minister, will front, to present the government’s economy-centric ideology. Given Jacinda Ardern’s internationally applauded covid-19 intervention, this failure to position Aotearoa as a pragmatically grounded, global climate-action-mobilisation leader is monumental. But despite Ardern being bold enough to mention planning for world’s largest pumped hydro storage scheme in last year’s election debate, she would have needed her courageous energy minister Dr Megan Woods attending and beside her—virtually, of course. Between them, they could have grabbed the attention and respect of both queen of climate-action-mobilisation Greta Thunberg and Queen Elizabeth, equally irritated by politicians who talk but don’t do. Instead, we have a shameless demonstration of greenhouse-gas-emissions creative accounting.
That James Shaw has nothing more to offer than the bereft belief that the market is magically capable of mobilising substantive climate action underlines that no political party holding more than two seats in New Zealand’s 120-seat parliament represents those who understand that mobilisation must be deliberately planned—preferably, of course, deliberatively. A month ago, Greta Thunberg called out Germany’s politicians, including those of their Green Party:
It is clearer than ever that no political party is doing close to enough … but it’s even worse than that—not even their proposed commitments are close to being aligned with what would be needed to fulfill the Paris Agreement.
A Thunberg-led global climate-action mobilisation party would likely see energy-savvy candidates elected. Even Einstein, however, was unable to galvanise the world to address the lack of actual global democracy:
There is no salvation for civilization, or even the human race, other than the creation of a world government.
The John Birch Society, amongst other extreme antigovernment organisations, succeeded in framing the prospect of any new world order as the epitome of evil. That contagion now, all too predicably, is fertilising the disinformation-pandemic within the covid-19 pandemic. Global Democracy: The Last Chance to Resolve the Climate Crisis, a paper currently published for review, proposes a global party, but of the celebratory kind, provided the author’s proposal for an app-enabled global referendum convinces close to 1.7 billion peopletwo-thirds of half of global population aged 15 years or over to vote in favour. The risk that a greater number could vote against is probably moot—it took WhatsApp about 12 years to crack 2 billion users. Further, styling any process, whether it be cop 26, or a people’s referendum on creating a global democracy, as the last chance for climate action is problematic on multiple levels, but probably better elaborated on elsewhere.
Meantime, New Zealand’s Green Party believes that it owns climate, but it has merely opportunistically appropriated it, without bothering to learn the fundamental role of energy. Despite, in 2011, its comparatively charismatic leader Jeanette Fitzsimons hosting and lauding the world’s leading climate scientist, neither she nor her party has ever acknowledged Dr Hansen’s insistence that nuclear power is an acutely necessary component of any plausible decarbonisation plan. Now, the Green Party, along with its equally neoliberal bigger bedmate Labour, will studiously ignore Hansen’s 14 October 2021 statement:
The second essential action is whole-hearted support for development and deployment of modern nuclear power. Otherwise, gas will be the required complement to intermittent renewable energy for electricity generation. Gas implies pipelines, fracking, air and water pollution, and emission of ch4 and co2 that would assure climate disaster. Modern nuclear power, in contrast, has the smallest environmental footprint of the potential energies because of its high energy density and the small volume of its waste, which is well-contained, unlike wastes of other energy sources.
Nuclear power is already the safest of all major energy sources, based on deaths per kilowatt hour, but modern nuclear power is now far superior, with the ability to shut down in case of an anomaly and not require external power to keep the nuclear fuel cool. Nuclear power has also been the fastest way to deploy power to scale, which will be important for phasing out co2 emissions in places such as China.
George Monbiot detailed his embrace of nuclear-power a decade ago, but in Think Big he misses the opportunity to liken the Liberty ship programme to, for example, the production-line prefabrication of small-modular reactors. A recurring themeunapologetically shared by the Mahurangi Magazine in Monbiot’s writing, understandably, is how a global response might be catalysed, and in this latest piece, he, reasonably, recommends that the opportunity is that of today’s leaders. The crucial missing ingredient, however, is the Churchill–Roosevelt pairing of super-power leaders who, long-since, had been under no misapprehension as to the existential threat Hitler posed to civilization. Tragically, the Biden–Xi pairing is not comparably single-minded and collaborative on climate—Belt and Road adversaries, whereas their people’s unequivocal need is for them to be Lend-Lease alliesas published: buddies.
There can be no doubt that climate will manifest its appalling Polands and Pearl Harbors. It is imperative, at the very least, that fit-for-purpose mobilisation plans are ready for deployment the instant an immutable mandate has finally been thrust upon the world’s chronically climate-can-kicking excuses for leaders. Sadly, as their decidedly sickly covid-19 pandemic response is all too abundantly demonstrating, world leaders are prone to revert to type. With one such sorry example now charged with hosting the global climate conference, humanity should not bother to hold its breath for action, judging by his praise of Scott Morrison’s don’t-scare-the-coalmine-owners, technology-not-taxes rhetoric as “heroic”.
Against the vanishingly small likelihood of an honest cop, the earnest hope must be that cop 26 protesters are unprecedently coherent, or that at least one country breaks from the mob and unilaterally goes rogue on the whole comfortable climate-convention convention. As yet another cop demonstrates the danger of staking a survivable climate on you-first-no-you-first international conferences, Aotearoa—the world’s first full democracy—could yet unilaterally become the country that demonstrates democratically planned climate-action mobilisation can become, must become, the economy.
Disclosure The author of this article is the secretary of both Mahurangi Action Incorporated and the Mahurangi Coastal Trail Trust. The article published here, however, is that of the editorially independent, independently funded Mahurangi Magazine.