IPCC accidentally proves that “international cooperation” on climate change is dead

As you’ve been reading here lately, there’s a new IPCC climate report out, the second of three. This report is from Working Group 2, responsible for studying “impacts, adaptation, and vulnerabilities.”

In other words, what effect is climate change (“global warming”) having now, what impact will it have if we make certain choices, and where are we vulnerable?

The 48-page “executive summary” (called the Summary for Policymakers or “SPM”) is available here (scribd) or here (pdf), and a number of us are studying it carefully, along with the full report. The full AR5 report from Working Group 2 is 2500 pages and available online here.

But there’s a story behind the story of this document’s release, and it illustrates perfectly why we will never (never, ever) solve the climate crisis by working toward “international cooperation.”

The story behind the story — the U.S. threw poor nations under the climate bus

A great deal of the impact of global warming will be felt by the poorest nations on earth, for example, low-lying Bangladesh. Keep in mind that the poorest nations on earth never caused the crisis. The perps are rich Western nations, like the U.S. and Europe, with our high-consumption, high-waste lifestyles, and the emerging nations, like India and China, who are burning carbon as fast as they can, to catch up to us.

The poor nations are just along for the ride in most cases. With that in mind, here’s all you need to know:


Bangladesh via Shutterstock

1. Poor nations are innocent victims of climate change now, and will be even more victimized in the future.

2. To fix their vulnerabilities, it will require a transfer of money from rich nations in the neighborhood of $100 billion per year, according to the World Bank.

3. According to the large IPCC report (the 2500-page report), the first two statements above are included as part of the data for consideration.

4. Those statements (1 and 2) also appeared in the SPM, the executive summary, up until the very last draft, which was discussed for final approval in Yokohama.

5. At that meeting, the need for $100 billion in crisis funds to aid poor nations was removed from the 48-page Summary, the only document that will be read outside the scientific community.

6. The U.S. led the push to remove the statement.

Why? I can guess. Can you?

Here’s that story, according to the New York Times. This Times piece is a general report of the document’s release, so it covers a lot of ground. The information on U.S. action is buried at the bottom. That part reads (my emphasis):

“When supply falls below demand, somebody doesn’t have enough food,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a Princeton University climate scientist who helped write the new report. “When some people don’t have food, you get starvation. Yes, I’m worried.”

The poorest people in the world, who have had virtually nothing to do with causing global warming, will be high on the list of victims as climatic disruptions intensify, the report said. It cited a World Bank estimate that poor countries need as much as $100 billion a year to try to offset the effects of climate change; they are now getting, at best, a few billion dollars a year in such aid from rich countries.

The $100 billion figure, though included in the 2,500-page main report, was removed from a 48-page executive summary to be read by the world’s top political leaders. It was among the most significant changes made as the summary underwent final review during a dayslong editing session in Yokohama.

The edit came after several rich countries, including the United States, raised questions about the language, according to several people who were in the room at the time but did not wish to be identified because the negotiations are private.

The language is contentious because poor countries are expected to renew their demand for aid this September in New York at a summit meeting of world leaders, who will attempt to make headway on a new treaty to limit greenhouse gases.

Many rich countries argue that $100 billion a year is an unrealistic demand; it would essentially require them to double their budgets for foreign aid, at a time of economic distress at home. That argument has fed a rising sense of outrage among the leaders of poor countries, who feel their people are paying the price for decades of profligate Western consumption.

If you think it through, the reason for burying the information is simple. The rich nations, led by the U.S. (don’t kid yourself; we lead, others follow), are captured by their own rich. The key sentence is this, and it contains a “tell”:

Many rich countries argue that $100 billion a year is an unrealistic demand; it would essentially require them to double their budgets for foreign aid, at a time of economic distress at home.

David Koch (source: NTD video, YouTube)

David Koch (source: NTD video, YouTube)

The tell is “at a time of economic distress at home.”

We can’t have taxes on the wealthy because of “economic stress at home.” We can’t have infrastructure spending because of “economic stress at home.” We can’t have better schools because of “economic stress at home.”

We have to cut Social Security because of “economic stress at home.” We need to reduce Medicare payments because of “economic stress at home.” We can’t reimburse stolen public union pension funds because of “economic stress at home.”

We can’t do anything because of “economic stress at home.” The rich want to keep their money, and we’re not going to get one thin dime of it. Ever. If we need David Koch’s permission to solve the climate crisis, we’ll never solve the climate crisis.

International cooperation will never exist; the rich will never pay even U.S. costs

Your three take-aways from this material should be:

1. There will never be international cooperation, because the rich will never pay a dime to offset anyone’s cost to deal with this crisis. Believe it. Anyone who goes down that path — bless their heart — is chasing a dream that human souls live inside the monsters who are keeping this crisis going.

If the rich wanted to fix this, it would be fixed years ago. They will never want to fix this.

2. Any nation can embark on a Zero Carbon energy economy the minute it wants to. It doesn’t need permission (or help) from any other uncooperating nation. Denmark can do it alone. France can do it alone. The U.S. can do it — yes, alone. Abandoning the hunt for the unicorn of international cooperation is freedom from the veto of other nation’s rich people.

In fact, any nation that does embark on a radical Zero Carbon economy — carbon-free in five years or less, with energy rationing and wealth confiscation — will be hailed as a hero among nations and people that care, and held as a light and a beacon. That’s true leadership in (and by) action.

3. The rich will have to be moved aside to solve the climate crisis. And by that I mean forcefully. They will never surrender, never meet us halfway. They will only delay us while they cash their next checks and sell more carbon.

As I wrote elsewhere regarding the current fetish for “carbon neutral” solutions — Carbon-neutral is the same as “Keep Koch in walking change” and will lead to the worst outcome. It hands us the nightmare, since the hard and constant pushback against any restriction always comes from Money — people who own trillions in unmonetized carbon assets, plus all of their enablers.

These people don’t do “incremental” or surrender. They do victory dances on the graves of their enemies.

Barring some kind of general panic, the only “incremental solution” we’re going to get will have the paper-thin illusory force of a politician’s (or carbon industry’s) PR campaign. We’re seeing that now, in the “carbon-neutral” admin dithering around Keystone, and in the industry’s current messaging from the woman I’ve been calling “lying pantsuit lady.”

It will take some kind of force to fix this

From point 3 above, it follows that some kind of force will be needed to solve the climate crisis in the U.S. In a perfect world, we get a real panicky crisis, a Better FDR, and s/he puts the wood to the wealthy the way the New Deal government did. Only worse. Because even street action may not be enough. We need the force of big-footed government to confiscate the wealth of the money holders, the predators and the Carbon profiteers — and put it to use in a command-and-control way. Or we’re likely done.

There are a lot of ways to use force, by the way. Including divestment pressure. I’ll be listing them in future pieces.

Franklin Roosevelt putting the wood to the wealthy

Franklin Roosevelt putting the wood to the wealthy

The good news — a real holy-MF-christ–type panic (yes, a “come to Jesus” moment) may very well put that government in office. Even Tea Party voters will be begging for government to “make them whole” when climate starts to tear their lives apart. If so, we need that crisis soon enough to matter.

At least as I see it. If you see it that way as well, use your own “reach” to tell as many others as you can. Because if we get that panic, we need to start on that solution immediately. Let’s teach each other beforehand what’s needed. (For more detail on that plan, see here and also here. It’s not rocket science, and we’ve done it before.)

Stay tuned. There’s more in the news along these lines. Me and you, we’re not alone in thinking this.


Twitter: @Gaius_Publius. Facebook: Gaius Publi.

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Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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26 Responses to “IPCC accidentally proves that “international cooperation” on climate change is dead”

  1. eggroll_jr says:

    A one degree Celsius average temperature increase in current arable areas translates to 12-16% lower grain yields, depending on type of grain and strain of plant. The 2010 drought in Russia and Ukraine was followed by the Arab Spring in Egypt, the world’s highest per capita wheat importer. Grain, meat and dairy are, in turn, are particularly problematic in food supply as they are presently used in lieu of local water. One kilo of wheat flour represents 1-4,000 liters of water input. One kilogram of beef produced in industrial conditions in the US is 15-50,000 liters (depending on age of slaughter and amount of time pen-feeding e.g. alfalfa and corn). We all pay for this. China has lost its long-touted food independence, and now depends on the mowing down of Paraguayan and Brazilian forest for soybean and other inputs. India, where 130 million people have extremely limited access to water, the move down the food chain is already about as far as you can go.

    Aside from adopting a vegetarian lifestyle, the most impactful act for the health of the planet by far would be an international treaty on reducing substantially or eliminating small-particle emissions. Fine particles produced by combustion are a triple threat: 1) they cause premature precipitation so rain or snow falls in the wrong place 2) deposition reduces albedo (planetary reflectivity), accelerates melting of ice and snow, and contributes to acidification, and 3) they are toxic. In urban areas in China, they already knock 5 years off life expectancy and contribute to China’s sky-high cancer rates.

  2. 4th Turning says:

    I’m still chewing on your “New Deal” ref./example remembering it took the sinking of our Pacific
    fleet and 2,386 lives before congress and the american public decided Britain might be worth saving.

  3. 4th Turning says:

    Thanks. I suspect business interests in “poor nations” run deeper than appear-increasingly
    rare raw materials can only be found now in some of these far off places-you can bet that the
    cia and pentagon brass were in attendance.

  4. GeorgeMokray says:

    Poorer nations can do a lot themselves as well. Prime example is Bangladesh and Grameen Shakti which is on track to install 5 million small household and business solar systems by 2015.

    Quickest fix for global climate change now is to reduce black carbon from inefficient cookstoves in the developing world. Cleaner cookstoves will not only improve the global climate within a month (about the time black carbon is resident in the atmosphere) but also improve the health of the women cooking and the children they care for as well as have local effects like improving crop yields.

    Methane management would be very useful as well. Grameen Shakti is also building methane digesters and combining them with small solar for microgrids.

  5. pvequalkt says:

    I don’t agree that a “real holy-MF-christ–type panic” will lead to any sort of change, except it will make dems move further right to keep their tills ka-chinging from the plutonomy (see yesterday’s SC decision). Americans have a two-letter alphabet… R and D. Nothing else exists. Doesn’t matter how horrible things get.
    The good news, however, is that economic collapse will likely precede ecological collapse here. And with total economic collapse we MIGHT get the “messy” revolution you mention below. But that’s the only thing I can see ever happening.

  6. pvequalkt says:

    “…a working government with a conscience, the will, and a top-down approach to the solution.”
    none of these things is possible without a “messy” revolution. It will take the same as the French (Louis XVI) and Russia (The Romanovs) to gut the wealthy like fish, because that’s what we need and that’s what it will take. And it will be messy because half the nation supports the status quo without question and with fervor. It won’t matter how bad it gets… those guys are absolutely religious about the status quo (plutocratic fascism).
    And a constitutional democracy is anathema, by definition, to a top-down approach… even in the case of a freak-occurance of a benevolent despot.
    If this kind of thing occurs, it’ll be China or Russia that will initiate it… and if either does, they become the defacto world leader. period.
    But, as I’ve posted before, it’s probably too late for several billion who will lose their potable water and/or ocean fishery protein sources in the next decade or so.

  7. PeteWa says:

    yes, I realize that they are likely thinking that way, but once the shit hits the fan, those living in their very own infrastructure oasis will find themselves living a true hell on earth existence.
    money means nothing when there’s no food to go around.

  8. milli2 says:

    Its not just money they have, which I agree, will be useless if the sh*% really hits the fan, its the sort of mini-infrastructure that they can have in place before it reaches that point. They can hire private security, store goods and food, and survive much longer than the rest of us. How many of the biggest and well-armed people wouldn’t volunteer to defend these guys if it meant food and shelter for themselves their family? That will be the new currency. It would be interesting to find out what these billionaires own and have stashed away in terms of survival resources in the near future.

  9. 2karmanot says:

    It’s too late.

  10. pappyvet says:

    Here’s an interesting article I just found from believe it or not Business Insider Magazine


  11. PeteWa says:

    what we need and what we’ll get are two different things entirely… no matter what we might wish, it seems most likely that we are going to be facing the Is-Ought problem in the very near future.

  12. PeteWa says:

    the longer this goes on I’m left with two conclusions:
    1. the rich laughably believe that they need to amass as much wealth as possible because they know the coming ecological disaster, not realizing that their wealth will mean little to nothing in a collapsed world.
    2. the rich laughably don’t believe the coming ecological disaster is real, and are smugly sitting around smelling their own farts.

  13. Ford Prefect says:

    I don’t know how we’re supposed to pressure elected and non-elected officials when the Supreme’s just eviscerated campaign finance laws. Under our current system, one has a right to buy candidates outright. Voting for them? Well, that’s another matter.

  14. Silver_Witch says:

    I look forward to your suggestions Gaius, so far all the articles have done – for me – is to create hopeless despair.

    Change requires action and I am afraid those who need to take action are actually actively hoping this devastation will come because they believe it will not effect them (as they have the money and the means to survive) and will decrease the surplus populations of the poor and drive those who manage to hang on to work harder for their weekly ration of water, air or food.

    “Then we need to pray that the president in office at panic-time is an FDR-on-steroids type with a Zero Carbon rod up his or her spine.”

    Prayer as you suggest, will change nothing…the Goddess quit listening a long long time ago.

    Spreading the word is futile because everyone is too busy worrying about their own survival in this economy and the GOP is busy focusing their people on the “next bright shiny” distraction.

  15. 4th Turning says:

    As an altruism infected progressive, have spent my entire professional career
    trying to “improve” public education from within. (Fellow commenters please spare
    me your pity/wisecracks.) It is too obvious we liberal types actually have come to
    rely on gazillions of words to smother brushfires big or small. I keep thinking that
    something else, maybe hidden in plain sight, needs to be identified and brought
    to the table in our so far rather impotent efforts to set this thing in forward motion.

  16. Houndentenor says:

    I hope it doesn’t come to that, but if wages remain stagnant while costs of living continue to rise, at some point so much of the country will be unable to make ends meet that a reckoning will be inevitable. I don’t know why the 0.01% don’t get this. Some do, I think but having worked for a few of them I can say that they are so far removed from what most of us consider reality that it doesn’t enter their minds.

  17. 4th Turning says:

    In melancholy agreement… It cost 600,000+ fellow American lives to end
    the dreadful and by every known standard of ethical conduct scourge of slavery. (And another 100 yrs. to end its de facto reincarnation.) An accepted economic system the then existing 99% was heavy invested in both here and in the UK.

  18. heimaey says:

    I probably didn’t get my sarcasm through that well on the last sentence.

  19. eahopp says:

    I agree with you that violent-from-below revolutions and regime changes are messy. And I’m not advocating such changes. I would like to think that such non-violent pressures of divestment campaigns will force the current government to accept such changes, but I’m not holding my breath for them. It may even be too late to start taking such baby steps in change. I don’t know.

    In a sense, we have a pseudo-democracy in this country. With so much money flowing into the political system, we are left with two corporate-sponsored political party candidates whose only difference is in whether a woman can have abortions, gays can marry, or other social issues. In terms of economics and business, Democrats and Republicans are essentially the same, voting in lockstep to what the money tells them. There is no conscience in government, no need for a government to improve society as a whole. It is all about special interests, and how much money special interests are paying to get their laws passed above everyone else.

    Pull the money out of the political system, and maybe you will get a working government with a conscience.

  20. caphillprof says:

    Sorry Gaius, it will be messy because messy is the only way for any change. Clearly the US has no functioning political system for the 99 percent.

  21. Straightnotnarrow says:

    Unfortunately, I don’t think a technological solution will get us out of this crisis. The ability to travel and terraform is so far out of reach and is not currently a priority for any major government that I am aware of. NASA has been trimmed to the bone and without the political will to secure the technology to explore the recesses of our local group, I’m afraid we won’t survive to become a spacefaring culture.

  22. Bill_Perdue says:

    The rule of the rich just got easier. “Supreme Court Strikes Down Limits on Federal Campaign Contributions – The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued a major campaign finance decision, striking down limits on federal campaign contributions for the first time. The ruling, issued near the start of a campaign season, will change and probably increase the role money plays in American politics..” This mornings NY Times

  23. GaiusPublius says:

    I’ve thought about that, eahopp, but the problem is that most violent from-below revolutions are messy, and we don’t just need regime change (as in, drive the money people out of the temple), we need a job to be done as well, and fast. I don’t think social chaos will help get the second part done.

    Not that any of us is in charge of the way this plays out, though we can help. I’ll have suggestions going forward that apply pressure, like the divestment campaigns I mentioned in the piece. But at some point, we’ll need a working government with a conscience, the will, and a top-down approach to the solution. IMO.


  24. Bill_Perdue says:

    The US has opposed real measures to limit climate change for decades because this country is a plutocracy run by and for the rich and they don’t want to pay for the pollution they create.

    “Clinton’s commitment to economic prosperity blinded him to other issues, including environmental protection. … he pursued his environmental agenda under the more immediate one of economic prosperity, and this limited his achievements.” http://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/clintons-environmental-legacy

    Bush was just as bad, deregulating laws that endangered the environment.

    But it’s Obama, with his policies of promoting offshore drilling, fracking and soon the Keystone pipeline who is the worst president in history when it comes to environmental questions. We need a massive, multi trillion dollar effort to green industry, agriculture and the transportation and energy infrastructures to end unemployment and give future generations the chance to survive.

  25. eahopp says:

    I’m sorry to say this, but it appears to me it may take a violent revolution in order to initiate such a change–or to suppress such changes. The current situation can not remain this way indefinitely. The rich are not going to lift a finger–not when they’re getting everything and satisfying their lust for greed and power. The rest of us 99 percenters can not survive on the few crumbs we’re ending up with, or still are falling behind. Something is going to crack, perhaps in the next five years, and it will not be pretty.

  26. heimaey says:

    Of course it’s dead. People are more interested in all the oil on Titan now. At least we may find another planet to live on after we’ve made this one uninhabitable.

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