Compilation: COP17 Durban UN Climate Summit 2011: Betrayal of life


This is an ongoing compilation of material and developments related to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), COP 17 (Conference of the Parties), annual Climate Change Summit, held in Durban, South Africa, Nov. 28 – Dec. 11, 2011, and its aftermath. (Also see: Compilation: Canada’s betrayal of life)

Our interest is less about conference details and more about the broad stroke realities of international climate negotiations in general.  For nuances and Canada-specific info, check out the resources at the bottom of this post (to be followed by a Canada-focused compilation and more as soon as we can).

The embedded videos (above), linked articles, blog posts, reports and resources are what we feel are the most succinct, relevant and useful pieces that convey the most urgency with the least BS.

Yet picky as we try to be, almost all of this linked material and public statements made by most involved — whether representatives of rich governments, politicians, banks, corporations, lobbyists, deniers, media, science academies or ENGOs (Environmental Non-governmental Organizations), and however deliberate, or despite best intentions — contain dated, inaccurate references, often grand understatement and / or flat out misinformation.

Given the DIRE EMERGENCY of the climate crisis, we consider this to be a dangerous betrayal of public trust, and of all life.


COP17 Durban UN Climate Summit 2011 – Post mortem (selected)
(Scroll to bottom for many more links / resources)


4 important quotes

“The planet has already warmed about a degree Celsius (+0.8C); it’s clearly going to go well past two degrees (+2C).” … “…the endless talks underway in Durban should be more important than ever — they should be the focus of a planetary population desperate to figure out how it’s going to survive the century.” ~ The most important news story of the day / millennium, Bill McKibben,, Dec. 5,  2011

“Two degrees (+2C) is not enough – we should be thinking of +1.5C. If we are not headed to +1.5C we are in big, big trouble.” … “The argument I am making is not about feasibility but an argument of social justice. We can’t have as our goal something that we already know does not guarantee the survival of low-lying states and sub-Saharan Africa. If we already know that, in my book there is no way we can stick to the goal we know is completely unacceptable to the most exposed [countries].” ~ UN Chief, Christina Figueres, challenges world to agree tougher target for climate change +1.5C, not +2C, Fiona Harvey, The Guardian, June 1, 2011

“…at today’s level of carbon dioxide, and not much above the current temperature, the world has experienced sea-levels 5 to 25 metres higher than at present! … It is hard to argue that anything above the Holocene maximum (of around +0.5C above the pre-industrial temperature) can preserve a safe climate, and that we have not already gone too far.  The notion that +1.5C is a safe target is out the window, and even +1C looks like an unacceptably high risk.” ~ Re-thinking a “safe climate”: Have we already gone too far? David Spratt, Climate Code Red, interprets James Hansen research, Jan. 23, 2011

“…to be honest, nobody over here is paying any attention to science.” … “…most of the discussions that are taking place over here are really focusing narrowly on short term politics…very narrow interests…” ~ Video: Interview with Rajendra Pachauri, Head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Democracy NOW! Dec. 7, 2011


The betrayal of Life in 10 need-to-know bullets

  • The threat of imminent climate tipping points that would lead to irreversible, runaway global catastrophe are the reason survival is a race against time / a rapidly closing window of opportunity and one-time chance to reverse course at EMERGENCY speed RIGHT NOW.
  • The climate crisis is an EMERGENCY — RIGHT NOW — that can only be addressed with EMERGENCY ACTION on a massive scale — RIGHT NOW.  Many conservative entities and other supposed authorities have stated that by 2020 or 2017 or 2015, irreversible, runaway tipping points will be locked in. This arrogance of certainty is based on outdated science and leaps to presume that we can predict with such accuracy the epic complexities and geological variables of the fragile global climate balance that evolved over thousands / hundreds of thousands / millions of years. If we are lucky, there *may* still be a brief, RAPIDLY CLOSING window of opportunity to prevent the worst outcomes, but only quick, bold, EMERGENCY ACTION can buy time in order to maximize the potential possibilities of whatever hail Marys might be implemented to help slow and reverse the epic process we have set in motion.
  • We must transform our suicidal, ecocidal, biocidal, pro-genocidal (future generations), fossil fuel-based, greenhouse gas-intensive global economy into one grounded in clean, ZERO carbon, everlasting (wind, solar, geothermal, tidal) energy and conservation AS SOON AND AS FAST AS POSSIBLE.


Some frames of reference


In the 2009 article, Perfect storm of environmental and economic collapse closer than you think, Jonathon Porritt, made the argument that a confluence of factors are anticipated to build over the next few years and mount into “world upheavals”, perhaps as soon as 2020.

Yet in 2011, international negotiations led to a further delay of action until 2015, 2018, 2020But what we do NOW — on a grand scale, and FAST — is our only chance to avoid those tipping points we mentioned.

The biggest, most immediate and urgent impact of the climate crisis EMERGENCY is the threat it poses to water (more here) and food security because it leads to the entire range of undesired consequences like famine, disease proliferation, multi-regional instability, conflict, resource wars, failed states (the number of countries at high risk of disintegration has doubled from 7 to 15 since 2005), mass migration and die-offs.

The neighborhood of +6C global average temperature increase beyond pre-industrial (1900) levels is considered unlivable for most life.  A rise of +3C would assure the catastrophic collapse of agriculture worldwide.  In vulnerable climates like Africa, this tip would begin at +1C and occur through the lead up to +2C (billions hungry or starved to death).

On our ‘business as usual’ emissions path, the UK Met Office warns that +4C by 2055 (catastrophic and incompatable with organized civilization) is very plausible.  It has been suggested that only 10% of humanity could survive.  And not pleasantly.  And not for long because +4C leads to +5C, then +6C (see bullet points below).

Decades sooner there would be drastic compromise to water and food security worldwide.  As mentioned above, in many ways and places, there already is.

3 key concerns:

Former World Bank chief economist and author of the 2006 Stern Review, Nicholas Stern, concluded that climate breakdown threatens to be the greatest market failure ever because the costs of fossil fuel emissions are not incorporated into free market accounting and polluters are not forced to pay for the social / environmental costs / impacts of their pollution.

In 2009, he warned of “severe risks” if global average temperature rises by the predicted +4C to +7C by 2100.

Agriculture would be destroyed and life would be impossible over much of the planet.

The last time the Earth was that hot was 30 – 50 million years ago.

The last time it was even +3C warmer was 3 million years ago, a reality that we are on course to reach again LONG BEFORE 2100.

When conservative bodies like the International Energy Agency (IEA) warn that irreversible climate change will be locked in within 5 years, or when the outdated 2007 IPCC report underestimates state that global emissions must peak by 2015 then rapidly decrease, we always try to keep the big picture in mind — that amount of heat-trapping CO2 in the atmosphere is already higher than at any time over the last 2 MILLION YEARS, and that humanity is only 200,000 years young.

Given these epic time scales, isn’t it a little hard to believe that we can determine the year — or even decade — by which action must be taken in order to avert irreversible, runaway climate tipping points?

And don’t you find arguments to delay action for any amount of time nonsensical when, based on the interactive graph from (embedded above) of the supposed gap between national commitments if implemented vs. what would be required just to achieve supposed necessary targets, global average temperature increases would become so extreme within just a few decades (+3C, +4C), that they would be incompatible with organized civilization and threaten the ability of most life to survive?

But you sure don’t hear nasty little details like these very often, do you?


We’ve already gone way too far


The first comprehensive study focused on the adverse effects of climate change on human society (2009) revealed that:

  • Hundreds of millions around the globe are suffering the consequences of climate change impacts NOW – their lives lost or livelihoods undermined or destroyed — and 4 billion (60% of the world’s population!) are vulnerable
  • Developing countries bear more than 90% of burden, but are least responsible for causes
  • 99% of deaths linked to climate change occur in developing countries
  • Current adaptation efforts NEED TO BE SCALED UP 100 TIMES
  • The findings are very conservative, true human impact will be FAR MORE SEVERE


Bottom line

Much of the social and economic critique given voice by the Occupy movement applies to the international climate negotiation process, dynamic and inequitable balance of power.

In their current form, the talks are a charade dominated by the systemic corruption of global politics and economics by rich, corporate lobbied (controlled), deadly fossil fuel-based and greenhouse gas-intensive energy addicted nations that threaten our fragile, finite world with their suicidal, ecocidal, biocidal, pro-genocidal (future generations) pathologies of endless growth and consumerism. (See video: Urgent call to unite toward ‘a whole different economic, trade and development model’, Maude Barlow)

If the umbrella crisis of climate breakdown / disruption / destabilization is not tackled fast, its impacts — severe threats to fresh water scarcity, global agriculture and multi-regional insecurity and instability — will make it impossible for us to address ALL other global issues and causes, let alone to thrive or survive.

The leaders of rich nations and the economic and other entities they aim to appease must alter humanity’s current, ‘business as usual’ course.

Instead, they must take the choice and moral imperative to value, prioritize, preserve and defend life — and all that is necessary in nature to sustain it — over short-term politics, narrow interests, consumption, growth, wars and profit NOW, FAST, TODAY, before it’s too late.

In future posts, we’ll expand further on our thoughts about what we consider to be the betrayal of all life, even by many who are devoted to defend it.  Meanwhile…

Get informed. Get inspired. Get involved and help to motivate bold, new, transformative approaches and just, resilient, EMERGENCY RESPONSES to the climate crisis FAST.




COP17 Durban UN Climate Summit 2011 – Selected articles, blog posts, releases, reports

climateye’s most essential EMERGENCY info