Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The COP21 in Paris: it was a victory

After a series of defeats suffered at the hands of the Swedes, the Russian Czar Peter the Great is reported to have said that, "Eventually, they'll teach us how to beat them". Then, in 1709, at Poltava, the Russian army decisively defeated the Swedes. Victory often comes from persistence and if we keep fighting for the earth's climate, eventually we'll win (Image by Mikhail Lomonosov,1762-1764 )

Before the COP21 meeting, I expected that the agreement that was to be signed would be something like the one that was actually signed. And I saw myself taking a position similar to the one taken by James Hansen and others: I thought I would have joined those who are now screaming "hoax!"

But no; after some thinking over the matter, I had a minor enlightenment. The Paris agreement is a victory. Maybe not a great victory, because from a technical viewpoint it is certainly insufficient. But, in communication terms, there is no doubt that it is a victory.

Put yourself in the shoes of those who have been pouring millions of dollars into "perception management" on climate (that is, good old "disinformation"). They might have thought that, after the Climategate story, after the demonization of Michael Mann, of Al Gore, of Phil Jones, and of many others; after that all the Republican candidates were convinced to refuse to admit that climate change is human caused, after the Trumpcane, and more things, then, the idea of human-caused climate change would be erased from the collective consciousness and its proponents reduced to the same level of prestige that Saddam Hussein enjoyed in the West when he was president of Iraq.

And yet, climate science is not dead and the concern about climate is alive and well in the world. The COP21 in Paris has shown that. So, the Paris conference is a victory because it showed the resilience of the climate movement. We have been attacked, ridiculed, demonized, harassed, insulted, dismissed, threatened, punished, and more. But we are still here. And we are growing. We are also getting smarter. We haven't won, yet, but we are learning how to win.

So, "they" must be thinking: what was all that money good for? Don't you think they are now thinking about whether putting some more money into a losing battle is a good idea? They may even be scared: it is shown by the reactions to the news of the agreement. Sometimes nasty, sometimes silly, sometimes rabid; always in a defensive mood. Look at this report, where the secretary general of Eurocoal has declared that the coal industry “will be hated and vilified, in the same way that slave traders were once hated and vilified" If this is not panic, what is?

This story reminds me of something that Peter the Great said after he was defeated, one more time, by the Swedes, "eventually, they'll teach us how to beat them". Then, there came the Russian victory at Poltava and the Swedes never were again a threat for Russia. In war, just as in most things in life, persistence is the essential quality. If we keep fighting, we'll win the climate battle.


Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)