Wednesday, 1 February 2012

The COP in Durban: a pit-stop in the fossil fuel journey to global destruction.

OK. We all know what a cop is and we now know what a COP is. And, as the slogan said, we can’t find a good one. It is true that the official delegates did not get into a big circle to follow Todd Stern chanting ‘burn baby, burn’. Todd Stern, for those who don’t know him, is the head honcho of the US delegation. It cannot be said that he or they have acted alone. Pretty much everyone has joined the dance on the embers. But the US sure has the leading role.

They certainly know where this lot is headed. A couple of years back, they sent a White House staffer out to inform us that we are heading for four degrees and the US is cool with that. There are two things to be said about four degrees: first, most of the world will be uninhabitable, including Texas; and second, four degrees is unstoppably on the way to eight degrees which will take care of the rest of us.

Perhaps there is some disappointment that the first version of Mutually Assured Destruction failed. MAD1 was the Dr Strangelove version and had the bronco man from Texas riding a big fat A-bomb to the end of the world over Moscow. That didn’t happen. Instead, the Berlin wall fell, the Soviet Union was dismembered and privatised and great profits were made.It was the end of history. Capitalism was in charge finally and for ever. Until 2008.

MAD2 seems more assured but there’s a twist to it. The alternative to destruction is absolute control. MAD2 presents the opportunity for geo-engineering – such as producing heat shields in space – as the final conquest of nature. Strangelove’s ghost is cheering from the shadows of an underground weapons laboratory.

Corporate America is already licking its lips. This is what you might call Business As Usual Plus Plus (BAU++) and it’s already in rehearsal. First, big oil has stopped all that nonsense about ‘beyond petroleum’. Now it’s ‘drill baby, drill’ and everyone out the way. Next up, profiteering from catastrophe is already under way with carbon trading but the Rio+20 agenda takes a broader view of sustainable development: all of what we once thought was ‘nature’ will be dismembered and privatised and great profits will be made. Geo-engineering – still to be officially announced –is the second plus for monster profits.

All this will, of course, turn to dust. Absolute control fails all the time. Just think of the regularity with which Sasol and the refineries catch fire. In the end, absolute control is not the alternative to destruction but the story line for MAD2.

There were some people at the COP and they talked of the Disaster in Durban. On the other hand, our minister who presided over the COP thought it was wonderful. We got the ‘Durban platform’ and that label will be attached to the negotiations process for at least another two years. It might go all the way to 2020. A triumph of branding. After all, why would anyone care what happens outside the world of image making?
(Images: Latha Ravjee  © )

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