The recent success of the Paris Climate Conference was largely touted with enthusiastic accolades. So many critical countries coming together and signing this significant agreement, Wow! These leaders agreed “in Paris to address the severe problem of ‘unchecked climate change’.” They have finally got it together and are moving to make significant changes. Oops, not so fast. There is one stumbling block and not a small one. “When the agreement was approved in Paris, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who hosted the talks, announced that it is ‘legally binding.’ That may be the hope, but there are more than a few obstacles that are worthy of careful attention.” The final step, when “negotiators have sought to forge a legally binding treaty that needed ratification by the governments of the participating countries to have force.” The big problem here is “of course” the United States. Without this (and Republican approval), the conference is little more than a large wish list.
The “January 2015 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists advanced its famous Doomsday Clock to three minutes before midnight, a threat level that had not been reached for 30 years. The Bulletin’s statement explaining this advance toward catastrophe invoked the two major threats to survival: nuclear weapons and ‘unchecked climate change’.” This article “condemned world leaders, who ‘have failed to act with the speed or on the scale required to protect citizens from potential catastrophe … (failed) to perform their most important duty—ensuring and preserving the health and vitality of human civilization.”
The essay linked below was found in The Nation Magazine where it was excerpted from Noam Chomsky’s new book, Who Rules the World? Of course Chomsky looks at both critical issues: nuclear weapons and unchecked climate change, but my emphasis here focuses on climate change. Where the nuclear weapons problem is ominous, loaded with potential human and technological errors it does not require our action, but instead our control and inaction. “That is the world we have been living in, and live in today. Nuclear weapons pose a constant danger of instant destruction, but at least we know in principle how to alleviate the threat, even to eliminate it”. Climate change, “the threat of global warming is not instantaneous, though it is dire in the longer term and might escalate suddenly. That we have the capacity to deal with it is not entirely clear, but there can be no doubt that the longer the delay, the more extreme the calamity.”
The acceptance of an inability to act on climate change, as Chomsky says, is “’because of the United States.’ More precisely, because of the Republican Party, which by now is becoming a real danger to decent human survival.” Almost every Republican candidate running for office “has publicly questioned or denied the science of climate change, and has voiced opposition to Mr. Obama’s climate change policies”. Of course the Democrats are also complicit, the noticeable difference being degree, but “both parties have moved to the right during the neoliberal period of the past generation. Mainstream Democrats are now pretty much what used to be called ‘moderate Republicans.’ Meanwhile, the Republican Party has largely drifted off the spectrum, becoming what respected conservative political analyst Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein call a ‘radical insurgency’ that has virtually abandoned normal parliamentary politics.” By large majorities, American citizens seem to believe the science of climate change and the goal of the Paris Climate Conference, but (American) democracy often does not reflect the will of the people. For this to change, “The message is clear. American citizens face an enormous responsibility”. The problem in both the U.S. and in Europe are similar, “The undermining of functioning democracy is one of the contributions of the neoliberal assault on the world’s population in the past generation.” Will our next steps fulfill the suggestions of the Doomsday Clock mentioned above or will a democratic change of course surprise even the most cynical.