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(also at Firedoglake and at Voices on the Square)

This post is prompted by yesterday's piece in the Guardian  titled "Doha climate talks: what to expect" -- today is the beginning of a UN-sponsored conference in Doha, in Qatar, on climate change.  I guess this is being celebrated as a breakthrough because it's a climate change conference in an oil-producing country or something like that.

The Guardian author's apology for the talks is as follows:

But without them, what mechanism would there be to enjoin all countries, developed and developing, to take the action needed?
This despite the fact that:
the best governments are now hoping for is to draw up an agreement in the next three years that would not come into force until 2020.
But if all the political class is going to do is talk about it, then what's the point of such a conference?  Maybe there ought to be some wholesale changes in the composition and social status of the political class, then.  You can do that -- you're activists!  At any rate, you can look at the agenda on the UN page -- it doesn't really say much about what-all they're going to do, but it would seem that repeat mention of the "Kyoto Protocol" would mean that they're going to try to do something with that piece of legislation.  Too bad cap and trade is no longer really of interest here in the US, never mind that it's ineffective.

I suppose they're going to talk about giving the "poor nations" money to develop "clean energy" projects.  Or maybe it's just loans or something.  Of course the "poor nations" are "poor" because they're sitting atop resources, both in terms of labor and nature, that multinational corporations exploit.  So whatev.  But here's a list of what you shouldn't expect.  

1) A multinational pledge to "keep the grease in the ground."  If we want to mitigate global warming, at some point we're going to have to abandon coal mines and oil wells.  Their commodity value will have to be zero.  Conversely, if we pump the oil and mine the coal, we will eventually burn it, with catastrophic results for the climate.  "Clean coal" is a joke because carbon sequestration won't save us.  So we can't pretend to continue to produce carbon while at the same time mitigating global warming.

2) A multinational pledge to transition out of the capitalist system.  Since our system of political economy, capitalism, is the main reason we burn 74 million bbls./day (about 3.1 billion gallons) of oil and an equal carbon equivalent of coal, it's really time we started to think about what will come after capitalism.  

Capitalism is the foundation for all this energy consumption -- when production is oriented toward markets (or in the Stalinist case, toward "five-year plans" designed to imitate market growth), businesses view the world (both society and nature) as an aggregate of objects for the taking, with the goal in mind of creating "sales."  There is no upper limit to the fetish and the fantasy that is "sales" -- unless, of course, the planetary ecosystem shrivels up, thanks to all of this wanton taking, and dies and shuts down the players of the game.  A world in which society and nature were respected, then, would not be a capitalist world.

Moreover, capitalism (as a system of political economy) rests upon a world of cheap resources.  Cheap resources allow the capitalists to profit; expensive resources may satisfy human needs, but what is at stake with capitalism is not human need but rather capital accumulation.  Alternative energy, specifically energies such as wind, solar, and geothermal, will grant planet Earth an indefinite continuance of human civilization.  But alternative energies will not provide planet Earth with the sort of cheap energy necessary for an indefinite continuance of the capitalist system.  Instead, energy hype these days (as measured by the discussion in The Oil Drum) is about the PR initiative behind US shale oil.  Should we wonder why?  It's another hit for the collective global fossil fuel addict: the capitalists, and their lovely system.

This need for a fossil fuel hit also points to what's wrong with the activists' solution to abrupt climate change -- a carbon tax.  Why are the business interests who control the world's governments going to allow them to tax the cheap energy that keeps them in business?

But don't expect the political classes to do any of this thinking at Doha.

3) Basic guarantees of fundamental human need.  As Duncan Green pointed out this year in The Guardian, "Providing the additional calories needed by the 13% of the world's population facing hunger would require just 1% of the current global food supply."

The reasoning is this: once you have everyone's basic needs taken care of, there really is no longer an excuse.  If large portions of the world's population are no longer obliged to spend their lives eking out a basic subsistence, their energies can be redirected to the problem of how to deal proactively with a future in which some form of catastrophic global warming is inevitable.  Since impending climate change doom would be a prospect too important to be left up to a few political representatives in a room, we might also argue, maybe the people as a whole should be involved in the decision-making.  The next step, of course, will be in the actual mitigation of global warming, directed by the world's people as a whole.

****

At any rate, this is the short list of things you can expect not to see at Doha this week.  Want to do something about it?  You could start by creating an organization of climate change activists that doesn't pussyfoot around the issue of fundamental change in the area of political economy (as a prerequisite to real action on climate change) like 350.org does.  As long as the politicians are mere handmaidens of the 1% and their lovely capitalist system, things will get worse.  Why, the folks are probably having a meeting in Doha this week for the mere purpose of insulating themselves from criticism -- so they can say "look!  We had a meeting!" when an outraged global public finally realizes that planet Earth is transitioning to something along the lines of planet Venus.  

I guess you might as well joint 350.org anyway, though.  Maybe it can be changed from within.  It is, after all, something to do on the way to the abrupt climate change disaster.  There is, however, a very nice blog you should check out on the way to said disaster: Climate & Capitalism.  Ian Angus knows the score.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Helluva diary Cassi. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus, maryabein, shaharazade

    Thanks as always. Sad situation to say the least.

  •  Youre dead-on. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    maryabein

    There is zero chance that the Doha talks will result in a one-world anarcho-socialist entity entered into by all significant nations of the world.

  •  When governments are corrupt.. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shaharazade

    It's hard to trust them to fight against corruption. When they're wedded to fossil-fuel money to ensure their power - asking them to divorce Big Oil and Big Coal for the sake of someone else's children is bound to fail.

    Sure, sooner or later, we'll hear about a "war" on global warming - and it will work out just as well as the "war" on drugs or the "war" on terror or the "war" on poverty have.

    We're in dire need of some kind of revolution - technological or otherwise - or as Hansen wrote, or else - It really is game-over.

    Maybe one day the Fourth Estate will take their jobs seriously. Or not..

    by Anthony Page aka SecondComing on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 09:34:11 AM PST

  •  Excellent post and brutally honest (0+ / 0-)

    40 yrs ago as a 17 y/o hippy Greenpeace activist I was alarmed at the greed and power of capitalism and the oil industry. I was a strong advocate of solar and wind energy. I believed the warnings of an industry that would control governments and destroy our environment.
    I thought then...and still do now...that capitalism would bring us to collapse as a society and a nation. Sadly, nothing has changed, the warnings ignored and I see this happening in my lifetime not in a few generations. I still advocate and make my voice heard and yes, I'm a member of 350.org but it seems hopeless to think we can bring about the huge immediate changes needed before the inevitable catastrophe sinks us all.

  •  Great diary, but I'm sorry (0+ / 0-)

    what is the basis for this statement?

    Cheap resources allow the capitalists to profit; expensive resources may satisfy human needs, but what is at stake with capitalism is not human need but rather capital accumulation.  Alternative energy, specifically energies such as wind, solar, and geothermal, will grant planet Earth an indefinite continuance of human civilization.  But alternative energies will not provide planet Earth with the sort of cheap energy necessary for an indefinite continuance of the capitalist system.
    Depending on the technology involved and the up front investments, renewable energy has the potential to provide very cheap energy, especially if public investment subsidizes the construction (which is the bulk of the costs).  After all, even if prices go up, capitalism would suggest that it would have the effect of moving investment around, but wouldn't kill the entire financial system, which is, after all, a set of social and legal norms, at heart.

    Furthermore, capitalism has operated just fine under more expensive energy regimes than we have now and does predate much of the cheap fossil fuel boom.

    So, it's an interesting idea, but I'm not sure what the support for it is.

    Hay hombres que luchan un dia, y son buenos Hay otros que luchan un año, y son mejores Hay quienes luchan muchos años, y son muy buenos. Pero hay los que luchan toda la vida. Esos son los imprescendibles.

    by Mindful Nature on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 12:32:48 PM PST

    •  If you have a way of substituting (0+ / 0-)

      for the global fossil fuel habit that is cheaper than what they're doing now, I'm sure we'd all love to hear of it.

      "Wars not make one great" -- Yoda

      by Cassiodorus on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 12:43:41 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  That doesn't answer the question (0+ / 0-)

        the question is why more expensive energy makes things impossible, given that the capitalist system has dealt with all kinds of fluctuations in the price of energy historically.  Renewable energy is more expensive now, but on current trends that will not remain the case, and even now it is not that expensive relatively.

        Hay hombres que luchan un dia, y son buenos Hay otros que luchan un año, y son mejores Hay quienes luchan muchos años, y son muy buenos. Pero hay los que luchan toda la vida. Esos son los imprescendibles.

        by Mindful Nature on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 12:48:34 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The problem is one of quantity (0+ / 0-)

          The capitalist system requires ever-more-increasing levels of throughput and intensity just to maintain its levels of profit.  It's a matter of grow or die.  You might be able to get "cheap energy" for marginal alternative energy systems as long as they stay marginal, but what happens when they're being asked to substitute for a 3.1 billion gallon/day oil habit and a coal habit equivalent to the oil habit in its carbon emissions?

          "Wars not make one great" -- Yoda

          by Cassiodorus on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 02:20:53 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent Diary! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus

    I am afraid we are all but past the point of no return. Outrageous that our government has ignored the greatest threat to our security the world has known, since the threat of assured mutual destruction.

    I guess Hell's just the place for "kiss ass politicians" who pander to assholes.

    by LeftArmed on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 02:30:01 PM PST

  •  You won't see a call for CONSERVATION in rich (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus

    countries because that would hurt capitalism, commerce and consumerism.

    It doesn't cost anything, it won't push the deficit over the imaginary cliff, it just means use less of the stuff that is killing us.

    ❧To thine ownself be true

    by Agathena on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 05:40:21 PM PST

  •  Thanks for keeping the REAL issue alive. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus

    I guess we are left with just keeping the focus on this amazing denial/lack of focus and continually focusing ourselves on what can be done.  Maybe my only criticism of your stance is that you build in expectations of what we don't want and not what can happen if everyone gets it.  

    I know the reality.  We must create a different one.  

    Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. George Orwell

    by 6079SmithW on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 12:21:25 PM PST

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