COP25 reveals that some people just want to watch the world burn

16 Dec 2019688 Views

UN climate change executive secretary Patricia Espinosa pictured at COP25. Image: UN Climate Change/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

COP25 was more of a cop out as major nations failed to agree on the urgency of the climate crisis even as it stares them in the face.

I had a different plan for this week’s op-ed. I was going to delve into my own journey to a more sustainable life.

I started this year with seven suggested climate-conscious resolutions and while I haven’t been the most diligent follower myself, I have made an effort throughout the year to take more environmental action. Since then, my diet has changed significantly, my attitude to each and every purchase has transformed, and I’ve been talking the talk of this walk at each and every step.

I could, absolutely, have done more. But sometimes comfort and convenience and the desire not to be constantly pestering those in my company about their climate impact prevailed over my sense of the common good.

But what was it all for? To wake up and discover that those charged with keeping us from steering straight into doom have given up hope too. Comfort and convenience and the desire not to be constantly pestering those in economic power about their climate impact prevailed.

‘COP25 has failed us and it’s another year of failure’
– ALEXANDRIA VILLASENOR

The 2019 UN Climate Change Conference, also known as COP25, took two extra days of debate to come to an agreement that compromises our future. The climate change can has been kicked once more down the road, to COP26 scheduled in Glasgow 2020, and I’m not sure how much more of a battering this crisis point can take.

Many major world nations – including the US, China, India, Australia and Brazil – have decide not to take the climate action necessary to reverse our rapid pace toward the point of no return, but instead to take it hostage. It is a devastating outcome that conference president Carolina Schmidt, the Chilean environment minister, blamed on the lack of consensus to “increase ambition to the levels that we need”.

“The new generations expect more from us,” Schmidt added, and indeed 14-year-old climate activist Alexandria Villasenor told AFP: “The difference between the youth on the streets and the negotiations is that the youth on the streets are acting with urgency. COP25 has failed us and it’s another year of failure.”

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When we think of this generation of young activists we think of Greta Thunberg, a teenager who has not only put climate action on the public agenda but also lives up to the expectations she sets for others. So far, though, it seems all we’ve succeeded in doing is putting Thunberg on a pedestal out of earshot of the ones who need to hear her decry their inaction.

‘Never have I seen such a disconnect between what the science requires and what the climate negotiations are delivering in terms of meaningful action’
– ALDEN MEYER

As well as ignoring the generations who will face the worst of this crisis, these leaders are flat out ignoring the science. “Never have I seen such a disconnect between what the science requires and what the climate negotiations are delivering in terms of meaningful action. Most of the world’s biggest emitting countries are missing in action and resisting calls to raise their ambition,” said Alden Meyer, strategy chief at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The pleas of indigenous people who are already at the frontline of this crisis have also fallen on deaf ears, but that didn’t stop indigenous rights activist Kera Sherwood O’Regan from issuing the stark warning: “You treat negotiations like a zero-sum game where you make deals behind closed doors, trading off our rights for the profits of the very corporations who caused this problem in the first place. But you forget that we cannot negotiate with nature.”

The people of Tuvalu know nature’s indifference to our compromises all too well, and their COP25 representative Ian Fry said: “There are millions of people all around the world who are already suffering from the impacts of climate change. Denying this fact could be interpreted by some to be a crime against humanity.”

‘You forget that we cannot negotiate with nature’
– KERA SHERWOOD O’REGAN

It’s hard at this point not to be utterly despondent. We can only hope that the international leaders being miserly in their climate action will be visited by the ghosts of Earth’s bleak future one fateful night at the close of 2019. All of them, in their millions, might haunt some sense into them.

Or, better still, we rise up – the ghosts of climate present – and sensibly convert all the energy we threw into individual changes in 2019 into collective action in 2020. That’s my new resolution, and it gives me just a small glimmer of hope.

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UN climate change executive secretary Patricia Espinosa pictured at COP25. Image: UN Climate Change/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Elaine Burke is the editor of Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com