Cassandra has moved. Ugo Bardi publishes now on a new site called "The Seneca Effect."

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.


  1. 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."

    - yeah, by the time the limits to growth have crashed our CV some of the the survivors could be very smart and possibly laugh at the former (and the late) GOP PR addicts

  2. Is the COP21 a failure, a defeat? Yes, in the sense that it was not a resounding victory. But the war has not yet been lost. Importantly, COP21 is a victory by virtue of being a major morale booster.

    I think of the Doolittle bombing raid on April 18, 1942. Almost all of the American bombers were lost; casualties were heavy. Col. Doolittle felt the mission was a failure and expected to be courtmartialled.

    But the raid’s value as a morale-booster was immense. It took place after the massive Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor; after the heartbreaking loss of Wake Island; during the Japanese invasion of the Philippines. The Japanese leadership freaked out; their navy went into the Battle of Midway too hurriedly, and the decisive American victory in that battle was a major turning point in the Pacific Theater of the war.

    I do not think that the Climate struggle will be won by one major battle, like Poltrova was for the Russian Empire. COP21 is not a morale-boost victory of the magnitude of the Doolittle Raid. But its value is not to be underestimated.

  3. Do you really think that this battle can be run? From what I can see, it's too late to stop this train wreck called climate change. The icebergs in the arctic are never coming back, and the oceans are acidifying-among other things. The CO2 that's in the air is there forever, and continues to heat up the world. Movement towards turning back the global warming clock should have happened in the 1970s when we still had time to fix things, but any action to do so was halted in the 1980s. I think that this COP12 meeting is actually a hoax, not so much because of the baby steps that the leaders have agreed to in fighting global warming. It's because, at this very late stage in the game, even herculean means taken to fix this problem just gives a false sense of security and accomplishment.

    1. As Dennis Meadows said, "it's too late for sustainable development".

  4. Yes, I think it was a victory too. Not a perfect one, but a very good start after too many failed attempts. The sour, angry, dismissive reactions of the so-called skeptics are a good check of this... if the conference had ended without an agreement is there any doubt they'd be crowing to no end about it?

  5. I agree about the conference being a morale booster, and about the people eventually learning how to win against the deniers, like Peter the Great did.

    However, you must know it is a defeat. Nothing sort of a series of extraordinary measures to be taken NOW was going to stop us going over 1.5 degrees. And the agreement is a shame, it's not even close.

    Your war analogy doesn't hold because of time. Peter The Great had it in his favour, because of increasing manpower from a growing Russian empire, he was going to win eventually. Time is against climate though, and it just run out.

    What was all that money good for? All those millions the deniers spent on propaganda? It was good enough for decades of subsidies for the fossil fuel industry. For decades of riches.

  6. I wouldn't give Poltrova or Midway so much importance beyond the psychological. Take a minute to examine the resources of Russia vs Sweden, and the industrial output (or number of aircraft carriers built) of the USA vs Japan, and you will see that the war was going to have the same outcome, eventually, no matter what the result of both battles was.

    Similarly the deniers and BAUs have won. They gave all those decades and untold trillions to the fossil fuel and car industries. The biosphere is not going to care whether the "movement" is going to "win" and convince society to take real action a decade from now. It is going to melt and burn all the same.

  7. Some people will make more money and some will make less. The propaganda of all types will continue. Hard (impossible?) to know how the agreement will play out in the mid-term or the longer term. Doubt it will impact climate much and even less so (positively) the large number of other environmental problems. (It could well worsen some) The Transpacific "Partnership" "Agreement" , the Transatlantic one, and the TISA all represent far stronger and more "sustainable" instruments "with plenty of teeth " for the CORPORATOCRACY which will undoubtedly bite and chew up badly both the peoples of the world and the environment ....notwithstanding the typical ample propagandistic protestations to the contrary. How come such scant (by comparison) attention was being paid to those three agreements? Who was watching what was sliding under the radar while all eyes and minds were focused on the Paris fanfare? Any lessons to be learned? ... even though it's probably too late to stop them...

    1. The TPP ++ real coup d'etat (of the world) ...

  8. When I saw the chunks of Arctic glacier they had thoughtfully transported to Paris in order to watch them artfully melt... it was clear to me, instead, that the "war" was lost. (How different on the scale of decadence is that from the Arabs' indoor ski-slopes?)

    The expensive trade-show booths, the irrational reduction of an already-impossible-to-maintain "target", the delusion that there is a "budget" and that we can control the planet's heat like a linear thermostat, and amidst all of this nattering nonsense the underlying dependency on fantasy massive-scale carbon extraction that doesn't and never will exist... I saw it as a kind of mass insanity. Even if the agreement had teeth, the TPP would obviate it anyway.

    I agree with ProvidenceMine and José/Meadows.

    COP21 was just another fun way of breaking down the energy gradients, as is our writing about it here.

  9. You have to laugh to keep from crying:

    Dec. 16: UK Parliament backs fracking below national parks, heritage sites and other beauty spots

    Dec. 17: UK Reduces Solar Subsidies Less Than Proposed After Appeal

    #winning in the Charlie-Sheen sense.. (o brother!)

    1. Here in NYC, it's going to be 67 degrees on December 24 Christmas Eve!

    2. Hi Lidia
      Much as I appreciate and support Ugo and his study and scholarship - in a small way I too try to connect - I must agree with you.

      I never expected much from the world of capital grown so enormously that it would need to dismantle itself to be effective. The trick will be to save what we can of civilisation (seeds for a future we will never know ourselvbes) while we have time. Counter-intuitively perhaps I see humane gesture now as the best chance for saving something of civilised life. I have supported Raul Meijer in his TAE campaign for the decent people of Lesvos, Greece, and other places.


  10. I'm astounded at the negativity here. If you're so convinced doom is imminent, which is not at all clear is the case, then keep your opinions to yourself and go over to Mcpherson's blog. There is hope, and SRM makes that hope glow brighter.

    1. Solar radiation management using either sulfates, diamond particles, dust, or aluminum. A potential last resort to rapidly cool the earth. I've corresponded with Ken Caldeira numerous times on it and what he tells me is really interesting.



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)