Year 2, Month 11, Day 29: Puttin’ On The Hair-Shirt

The UK Guardian runs an optimistic take on Durban (NOT):

The will to act on climate change is out of political energy, running on empty. The problem is (relatively) distant, complex and intractable. The solution is costly, immediate, and the gains uncertain. It is the kind of slow-burn crisis that democratic politicians only tackle under sustained popular pressure and right now western voters have other things on their minds. Here, the government that promised to be the greenest ever is allowing emission-cutting policies to appear an indulgent hangover from a more prosperous age. Starting on Monday, when the 17th climate change conference opens in Durban, Africa has the opportunity to remind the rest of us why inaction is not an option.

Writing letters to the UK press always makes me want to use fancy words and allusions. To the best of my recollection, Saint Augustine has never before manifested in one of my climate letters. Sent November 25:

The yawning chasm between scientific reality and political exigency is swallowing up any hope for a meaningful agreement from the upcoming Durban climate conference.

Ultimately, the world’s nations are negotiating not with one another, but with a party whose inflexibility and intransigence would be the envy of any tinpot dictator. The laws of physics and chemistry are unmoved by arguments of economic survival, of market imperatives, of global justice — and their demands are simple: stop putting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Immediately. And all of us (nearly seven billion humans along with the rest of Earthly life) are the hostages.

The industrialized world’s leaders aspire to climatic chastity and carbon continence, but (like Saint Augustine) not yet. Their hope is that at some unspecified future date, some unspecified future politicians will do the right thing, an outcome depressingly less likely than the ravages of a runaway greenhouse effect.

Warren Senders

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