It appears from all reports that the 24th Conference of the Parties (COP24) in Katowice, Poland is not going well for the environment. The UN climate conference, in the heart of Poland’s coal country, is being attended by delegates from 200 countries and 30,000 more from governments, businesses, industries, environmental organizations, various issue and technology exhibitors, journalists, and various and sundry other places. The goal of the COP24 is to write the rules to be followed by the signatories on the 2015 Paris Climate Accord.
The Paris Accord was truly historic in its having gotten 195 nations to agree to it. In this day and age getting any agreement between nations on a matter as politically sensitive as climate change ranks as a minor miracle. Getting everyone of the nations to live up to the agreement is quite another matter.
Technically every country on Earth, including the US, are still signatories to the Accord. Syria and Nicaragua, the two original holdouts, penned their signatures to the document in 2017 right around the time Trump announced the US was backing out. Whether the two late signers saw the environmental light or just an opportunity to punk Trump is anyone’s guess—although I have my suspicions.
Enthusiasm for the Accord has clearly cooled since 2015. The first hint that something was amiss in Katowice was a dispute over the words “welcomed” and “noted.” The US, Saudi Arabia, and Russia refused to accept the wish of all the other nations in the room to “welcome” the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report into the record of the proceedings.
It is the report released in October that bluntly states the need to cut global net CO2 emissions by 45 percent over the next 12 years through "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society" to have any hope of keeping rising temperatures below the Accord’s aspirational target of 1.5 degree Celsius. The three nations—now being called by some the Axis of Evil—demanded that the Report be only “noted” by the conference.
The turmoil of this election year continues. A month after balloting there remains one contest yet to be decided. Voter fraud is suspected in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional district, and it is not known who will emerge victorious. The soon to be Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, has intimated that the chamber will refuse to seat the nominal victor, Mark Harris, until a full investigation is completed. It is even possible that the incoming 116th Congress will take the extraordinary step of calling for a new election.
The suspected fraud in the 9th District is not the worst of it. Several states are now embroiled in post-election maneuvering by Republican lawmakers hell-bent on stripping away the powers of incoming Democratic governors, secretaries of state and attorneys general. Although the very definition of a rigged system, neither Trump nor Kris Kobach, the discredited head of Trump’s disbanded voter fraud commission, have had anything to say about these travesties. The national Republican Party stands equally mute.
In the following paragraphs, I describe some of the targets, tactics, and actions of Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin, Michigan, and North Carolina who would wantonly steal their state’s elections for their own purposes. November balloting in each case has resulted in a split state government, i.e., Republican legislative majorities and Democratic executives.
More than the natural environment is under attack. Should these assaults on democracy succeed, the same or similar tactics will be used in the future to defeat hard won victories to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, preserve wetlands, increase the use of renewable energy source, and all that is necessary to maintain a habitable environment. It is vital for climate hawks to be aware of the tactics being used to diminish not just the duly-elected individuals but the offices they will hold.
Neoliberal establishments are collapsing…around the world
The 2015 Paris climate accord (Paris Agreement/Agreement) was hailed as a historic breakthrough in global efforts to combat climate change. Will history judge the COP24 meeting in Katowice, Poland as a breakdown of the three-year-old Agreement? Between then and now much has changed and not necessarily for the better.
The Paris Agreement established an aspirational goal of limiting Earth’s warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius /2.7 degrees Fahrenheit and a binding target of 2 degrees Celsius/3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels. Within the past eight weeks, two assessments of the looming impacts of Earth’s warming have been released. Both warn the world it has far less time than initially thought to meet either of those goals and highlighted the human and capital costs of failing to respond in time.
According to the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA) released by the Trump administration:
Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities. The impacts of global climate change are already being felt in the United States and are projected to intensify in the future—but the severity of future impacts will depend largely on actions taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the changes that will occur.
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius gives meaning to the NCA’s use of the word “faster.” The Panel estimates that the currently pledged nationally determined reductions (NDCs) in CO2 emissions by the signatories to the Accord will push global warming to at least 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100. The Panel further predicts that the 2 degrees Celsius threshold will be crossed in only 12 years.
It is hardly surprising that the current voluntary pledge levels are proving inadequate to the task of keeping temperatures below the 2 degrees Celsius target—let alone the 1.5 degrees Celsius mark. Many in the scientific community knew when the 2 degrees Celsius goal was settled on that it would be too little and the year 2100 too late to be spared the more crushing consequences of climate change, e.g., shortages of food and water, rising rates of mosquito-borne disease, strengthening storms and droughts.
Joel B. Stronberg
Joel Stronberg, Esq., of The JBS Group is a veteran clean energy policy analyst with over 30 years’ experience, based in Washington, DC.