People of Earth, Your Attention Please

On the eve of COP21 the UN has uploaded onto YouTube a brief speech by Ban Ki-moon exhorting people everywhere to “push your governments to deliver what we need in Paris”. The words and the tone are eerily familiar – indeed, replace “Paris” with “Copenhagen” and this is something that might almost have been copied and pasted wholesale from the preamble to COP15.

“The decisions taken in Paris will shape the future of our planet and human society for generations to come.” And of course, the likes of Gordon Brown, for example, were saying much the same sort of thing six years ago – “…now fewer than 50 days to set the course for the next few decades”, etc., and so on and so forth. Groundhog Day, it appears, has dawned once again.

The Secretary-General appeals to us citizens of the world to raise our voices, and challenge our leaders to be “bold and [inaudible]”. This is where I need your help, actually. I’ve listened to the video quite a few times and for the life of me I can’t make out what the next bit is. Bold and [something]. This message to all inhabitants of planet Earth has already been seen by an amazing 744 people (maybe even more, by now!) so if you’re one of them, could you help me out and tell me what that [something] is? It sounds like “to the more” or maybe “to the wall” (god forbid, not “kill them all”). Thank you.

Ban Ki-moon’s words reminded me of a speech given by Caroline Lucas, now the UK’s sole Green MP (she was Party Leader and an MEP, then) at the Climate Emergency Rally in Hyde Park in London, a week or so before COP15, in which she calls for (amongst other demands, such as carbon rationing, “millions of green jobs” and reducing the general consumption of items like sausages and bacon) an unprecedented mass movement to push through political change. “I think we need to pledge here, today, now, that we will build the country’s largest ever campaign of nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience, to make our politicians act.”

That was six years ago. What is striking is that this mass movement has never materialised. True, over the years since then, there’s been no end of various campaigns, protests, petitions, hashtags and so forth, also quite a few marches and rallies – some of them large indeed. But there has been nothing on the scale that Caroline Lucas envisaged in 2009.

This is borne out by confirmation, in a very recent BBC news article, that public support for a “strong” global deal on climate change has generally declined, according to a survey across 20 countries by the Globescan research group this year. It is also in line with a United Nations survey, launched in 2013, which asked participants across the globe what their priorities should be, after 2015, and which revealed that “action taken on climate change” ended up at the very bottom of the list (see this excellent post by Hilary Ostrov for more details).

So it appears the public appetite worldwide for pushing our leaders to make a strong climate deal has generally waned – not that it was particularly massive in the first place. Most people are worried about other things – making ends meet, paying their energy bills, staying safe from fanatics with bombs and guns – and platitudes about “a healthier future for people and the planet” just don’t cut it.

The band plays on, regardless. Cardinal Peter Turkson of the Catholic Church has just written to 5,000 bishops around the world that “climate negotiators meeting in Paris need to hear the voice of ‘God’s people'” exercising en masse their “ecological citizenship”. (And as everyone knows, the Devil is in the details, which means that climate realism – containing plenty of inconvenient details – should be very properly shunned by the righteous) [1].

Returning to Ban Ki-moon’s video, rather than challenging our leaders to be “bold and [something or other]” about what the UN says “we need”, at the end of the day maybe we – the citizens of the world – should just keep reminding them that, as public servants, they should be acting on what we consider to be our priorities.

 

[1]. Here are a few more perspectives on the COP21 circus (and related issues) that you might find interesting:

Rob Lyons: The People’s March for Climate? Yeah, right
Pointman: COP21 – Doing the climate can-can in Paris.
Ben Pile: The world needs more energy, not green BS

9 thoughts on “People of Earth, Your Attention Please

  1. “..bold and to do more.”?

    Later he says “I count on you to push your governments to deliver what we need in Paris.” It seems a bit late for that, because the heads of government are already on the plane, or will be tomorrow morning.

    What they need in Paris at the moment is white spirit. Its sale has just been banned in the Paris region until future notice.

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  2. That could well be it – thanks, Geoff! I was also toying with “to the mall”, a possible nod to consumerism in the run-up to Black Friday, but “to do more” seems a lot more likely..

    Re white spirit, would absinthe do, at a pinch?

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  3. Ban-Ki-automaton. Scary, very scary. Even scarier if there are as many as 744 people listening to him since some may take him at his word without realising there is no mind, no thought of his own behind it.

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  4. Sometime 100 years or so from now after we are all long dead and gone, the climate will likely be 2-3C warmer. We think it might possibly cause a few problems in low coastal areas, but in general a warmer world will also be a wetter world. On the bright side though, global warming will probably delay the next ice age by 10,000y. Whereas another ice age would surely destroy western(US/EU/Russian) civilization. I sometimes despair of the stupidity of the cras decarbonisation progaganda. Houses are made of bricks and concrete, and roads are made of tarmac. Anyone with an A-level in maths or physics can see that there really are no magic feel-good solutions available today.

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  5. Speaking of Ban Ki-moon and his convoluted word salads … Evidently, earlier today, during the course of an “exclusive” CBC TV interview, he thought it was worth mentioning that:

    “When we do not address climate change properly it may also affect many people who are frustrated and who are impacted, then there is some possibility that these young people who [are] jobless and frustrated may join these foreign terrorist fighters,” the UN chief said.

    “There is a concern whether it may overshadow the climate change agreement and I think we have to move on this climate change agreement.”

    So much opportunistic and dismissive gloss on a glimmer, eh?!

    P.S. Thanks for the honourable mention, above, Alex! Just for the (updated) record, though … It seems that the powers that be at the UN more recently determined that the answers they were getting weren’t quite what they wanted to see written in the wind, so to speak.

    Soooooo … It was decided that the voices and views of 8 million+ gathered over approx. two years should be supplanted by those of a – quite possibly more predictable selection of a – mere 10,000 souls gathered and garnered during a single day!

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  6. Thanks, all, for your comments. The “let’s solve IS/terrorism by being seen to do something about climate change” idea seems to be the meme of the hour, going by this article from the BBC:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-34950442

    “A former UK government adviser on climate change and now chairman of environmental think tank E3G, Tom Burke, believes that some leaders will push the line that, by tackling rising temperatures, you remove one of the causes of terrorism.”

    The thought process behind this could be something like: there are vast, urgent and intractable problems facing us on our very doorstep – anyway, let’s talk about CO2 emissions instead.

    It’s like a form of displacement activity.

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  7. 2004 views now. The thing is there are 15 year old boys filming slugs who get more views than that. The reverence and importance the mainstream media gives to all this is mind-manglingly at odds with the real world.

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