There (still) is no plan B

One of my earliest posts on this blog, on December 12, 2007, was headed ‘There is no Plan B‘. The headline was taken from a quote from the then new Australian PM, Kevin Rudd to delegates at the UN climate conference in Bali.

The line re-emerged earlier today, when British PM, Gordon Brown said in London: “This is the moment. Now is the time. For the planet there is no plan B”. He outlined a catastrophic scenario of heatwaves, flooding and droughts if an ambitious new deal is not secured in Copenhagen in December.

This landmark event gets underway in just 46 days, and right now, the omens are not encouraging at all. The breakdown earlier this week of talks among EU finance ministers on trying to agree how much the EU will pony up to allow poor countries to both adapt to climate change and also to acquire lower-emissions technologies.

This is a seriously not good time for the EU to be dropping the ball. The EU leaders’ summit takes place in Brussels in the next week or so, perhaps things can be put back on track by then. At the weekend, Obama’s climate envoy, Todd Stern warned that pre-summit talks had been moving too slowly, saying it was “certainly possible” there would be no deal at the December summit.

“This is a tough negotiation”, said Stern (not to be confused with Nicholas Stern of the eponymous 2006 report). “What we need to have happen is for China and India and Brazil and South Africa, and others, to be willing to take what they’re doing, boost it up some, and then put it into an international agreement – where they’re standing behind what they say, just the way we’re standing behind what we say we’re going to do”, he told Channel 4 News.

Meanwhile, Gordon Brown outlined his fears at the Major Economies Forum in London on Monday that international disagreement over emission cuts could result in deadlock.
Brown warned world leaders they could not compromise with the planet so “must compromise with each other” and reach a deal “to make the world safe for human survival”.

He went on to caution that: “Once the damage from unchecked emissions growth is done, no retrospective global agreement, in some future period, can undo that choice” That’s a pretty good way of putting it. Scientists have been trying to tell us for years that you can’t negotiate with physics. Great to hear this from a government leader. Let’s earnestly hope he means it.

“In every era there are only one or two moments when nations come together and reach agreements that make history – because they change the course of history”, said Brown. This is most assuredly one of them.

And in case you missed it last night on RTÉ, the concluding part of David McWilliams’s three-episode series, ‘Addicted to Money’ went out last night, but is now available to view on the station’s excellent Player service. Last night’s episode was called ‘Peak Everything‘, a title perhaps borrowed from Richard Heinberg’s book.

As I’ll be exploring in tomorrow’s column in more depth, the trick to ‘getting’ climate, sustainability and the various profound issues that now confront us is paying attention – really paying attention – to what’s going on in our biosphere. After that, it’s virtually self-explanatory.

I’ve talked at length with McWilliams both ahead of last night’s broadcast and immediately after it concluded, and am pretty clear that he has fully bought into this issue (unless of course, now that the TV series is over, he now promptly drops it – but unless he’s just fed me a monumental line in bullshit, I don’t think so).

It’s long been my contention that environmentalism is far too important to be left to ‘proper’ environmentalists. For all their many virtues, some environmentalist oppose wind power on aesthetic grounds, while the whole lot seem determined, come what may, not to even debate the option of nuclear power – no matter what they say, or how they spin it, this is a dogmatic stance, and I for one don’t believe we have the luxury of clinging to ideology, be it capitalist, ecological or otherwise. This is just too serious, too urgent.

Enough of the gloom. Below is a favourite clip, taken from the Discovery Channel series, Planet Earth, and featuring the glorious ‘Comptine d’un autre eté by French composer, Yann Tiersen. It’s barely two and a half minutes long, but my guess is it’ll stay with you for a long, long time:

ThinkOrSwim is a blog focusing on the inter-related crises involving climate change, sustainability, resource depletion, energy and biodiversity loss
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12 Responses to There (still) is no plan B

  1. Jude CC says:

    For those who can’t view David McWilliams new series on the RTE Player, it will be showing in Australia in early November, and there is a website http://www.addictedtomoney.com.au with further interview material from the experts in the program. I particularly loved watching Paul Ehrlich, an amazing man who has held his own all these years.

  2. Lenny says:

    We need as many people aboard this bandwagon, and fast. McWilliams is a good communicator, a bit less annoying now than he was a couple of years ago with all that “deck-lander”-style irritating labels for everyone. He’s telegenic and non-political, and thats whats needed above all to win the hearts and minds about the shitstorm ahead.

    Besides, in a pinch. you take help from whatever quarter. I see he’s MC for the Entrepreneur of the Year gig tonight, will be watching closely to see if he starts showing up at the far less glam eco-gigs around the town.

  3. denis says:

    Has anyone heard of or seen ” not evil just wrong” ?—there is much more to this global warming than meets the eye.
    Unfortunately, whether or not global warming is caused by man, nothing can be done about it anyway , as all the solutions so far require a further use of fossil fuel. We cannot stop using it either, as to do so would lead to a further world wide collapse of economies, and massive reduction of agricultural production.
    Horns and dillema come to mind,
    DK

  4. John Gibbons says:

    Denis, I’m very familiar with ‘Not Evil, Just Wrong’ alright, it’s a nasty piece of right wing energy industry-inspired and backed propaganda masquerading as a documentary. I blogged about it last August, see below:
    http://www.thinkorswim.ie/?p=122

    To give you a flavour of the kind of morons featured in the above mockumentary, here’s one of their “experts” on global warming: “I don’t think it would be a bad thing for the Earth to warm up; in fact, ice is the enemy of life”. That’s not tongue in cheek, that’s meant to be a serious comment. JG

  5. John Forde says:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/oct/21/rush-limbaugh-andy-revkin

    FoxMurdockOReillyland – God, I’d love to live there – no conscience, no guilt, no compassion for anyone else who doesn’t live in my valley cul-de-sac, no doubt, knowing that I’m right all the time…. jeez, happy days

    the very effort of trying to fair and liberally minded and weighing up each and every decision based on the consequences is just too much like hard work so I’m not going to bother and so i’m …….

    ….off to meet the wizards, the wonderful wizards of Oz………. maybe there I can hand in my heart, brain and courage and live the easy life…… that’d be nice, wouldn’t it Toto?

  6. John Forde says:

    Sorry, one more

    How about a new ‘Comhar Party’ based on the economic principles of Feasta and Comhar with Richard Douthwaite as Finance Minister; let’s stick it to Colm McCarthy and his neoliberalist cohort who are frustratingly and ignorantly out of touch and step.

    BUT we as Irish patriotic individuals have to stand up and be counted in regard to resisting dishonest or unsustainable or corrupt practices in this country.

    Our regard and national respect for the ‘cute hoor’, for the fella who skives off work, or just general intellectual laziness is sad and immature. Populism will not save us.

    In essence it’s time for us as a people to grow up and to start to value moral values and not just the ‘cost’ of everything.

    Sadly, this badly needed maturation won’t be voluntary as we reap what we and previous generations have sown….

  7. John Gibbons says:

    Good stuff John, just viewed your link to the article on that psycho Limbaugh. In a properly functioning democracy, he’d be strapped to a gurney to prevent self-harm in a psychiatric unit, being given his meds by IV, with the TV set permanently on Nick Junior.

    Instead, he’s the world’s most highly paid redneck, dragging politics and public life in the US down the sewer after him.

  8. denis says:

    Thank you John——I`ve seen it now ,and it is completely non-scientific dangerous rubbish.
    Denis

  9. Chris Murray says:

    Had almost enjoyed watching the David McWilliams series. Was great to hear an establishment right-winger very belatedly let rip with points environmentalists and the left have been making for decades.

    But am now utterly disgusted to find that David’s big solution is for a giant undemocratic government, a weird hybrid state-capitalist/communist dictatorship, China, to lead us in wasting trillions on a classically stupid technological fix, building unproven filthy nukes to churn out the power for billions more cars! How does that cure the money addiction? How does that cure the “Growth” delusion? It’s like “curing” an addiction to beer by switching to whiskey! Not surprising from someone who denounces Wall Street greed while advertising stock market gambling on his blog! It’s bad enough that the Green Party sold out so cravenly without David presenting this guff as being part of a new “Green” economy!

    Here’s another idea instead of David’s thinly disguised mania for more and more always and forever: LESS! LESS! LESS! LESS! Be happy with LESS! Learn to live with LESS! Live within your means! Live more simply! Live within the Earth’s means! If you want “growth”, do a bit of personal growth or spiritual growth! Or just GROW UP!

    Best wishes,
    Chris Murray.

    PS As far as I know, Paul Erlich is also against nuclear power.

  10. Martin says:

    @Denis re “Unfortunately, whether or not global warming is caused by man, nothing can be done about it anyway”

    Have you read “The Diversity of Life” By Edward Wilson. He suggests some interesting solutions…….. something can always be done

  11. Ian says:

    Chris you really validate John’s point that the green opposition to nuclear power certainly is a dogmatic stance, by your use of such a non-scientific label as “dirty” for a type of nuclear power source that cannot melt down.

  12. denis says:

    Thank you for that Martin,—-just read some reviews of the book—-certainly most interesting but does it address the problem of having to use fossil fuels to help us get out of our dependance on fossil fuels ?—–solar cells, solar water heaters, hybrid cars, wind turbines, passive houses, electric cars, and all the rest, presuppose that we all have jobs providing us with money to buy all these envirnomentally friendly products. Unfortunately jobs too require a large expenditure of fossil fuel—-in fact our whole life is based around the consumption of fossil fuel.
    Jonn wrote an excellent article some weeks ago on the madness of continuing the consumer society as a way of providing us with the items necessary for our existence, and that is really because it is all based on this cheap source of energy that is not only running out ,but is also ruining our planet.
    The book that educated me ,now over 25 years ago, was ” An Energy Basis for Man and Nature ” by Odum.
    Still the best book on the subject of energy and our relationship to it that I have read.
    Denis.

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