For a fortnight, COP21 dominated the news cycle. While the outcome was positive, its ascendancy obscured news that bodes badly for chocolate lovers.
As newly-weds, we shared a granny flat at the bottom of someone's garden. Obviously, Granny had carked it many moons before. The building was derelict.
Nothing worked. The water ran scalding hot and frigid but never in between, and a couple of times a week the fuse box would express its incompatibility with the twentieth century by plunging us into darkness. Before long we found a new place.
We went out to celebrate. In our haste, I neglected to switch off a bedside light. Dust, damp and dinosaurian electrics combined to strike a spark that ignited some tissues, which ignited my pillow, which ignited the rest.
Dinner was gorgeous. I had steak (well done) and she oysters. Soon signals promised that festivities would continue long into the night — or a couple of minutes of it, at least. As we strolled home hand in hand, the lights and screaming sirens of the fire engines hurtling by belonged to another world.
‘Some poor sucker’s in trouble,’ I said. And we smiled into each other’s eyes, luxuriating in the certainty that no matter how awful life was for others it could hardly get any better for us.
At that instant, we realised the lights and the noise and the hellish orange glow were coming from our place. We sprinted home and observed from behind a tape barrier as the flames lay waste to everything we had, chastened.
And so, just as fire fractured the illusion of our inviolability, we illuminate the theme of this article: joy in the positive can obscure the negative.
Kudos to Paris
With praise raining down like pieces of Russian planes, only the Heartland Institute — whose conference (also held in Paris) coincided with COP21 — would have the gall to brand the landmark deal a bad thing.
At long last there was recognition — even from that big stick-in-the-mud keeping the Atlantic and Pacific apart — that coal will die as soon as the economic drivers demand it. Once Solar and Wind are cheaper, businessmen will seize the opportunity and everyone will dance on its grave.
It’s not far in the future. But we shouldn't get too carried away. Before the world changes for the good, a lot of bad has to happen.
In Ivory Coast, failing rainfall due to global warming is decimating the cocoa crop. Farmers are harvesting smaller beans of lower quality. Limiting the warming to 1.5 C isn’t going to stop it.
Cocoa expert Christophe Douca says there is a risk that cocoa production will collapse. Understandably, he, the farmers and the country as a whole are worried. And we should be, too. If climate change has anything to teach us, it’s that we’re in this together.
Producers in the $80 billion chocolate economy are already among the most vulnerable people on earth. Typically, cocoa is grown alongside food crops by subsistence farmers. It pays the bills. But that’s it. Many live below the poverty line of $1.25 per day.
The pittance paid them is one of the reasons we can afford to decimate boxes of the stuff over Christmas. As we fill our faces, we might ponder the consequences as 33 percent of the world’s cocoa is lost.
The deal in Paris bodes well to recognise that economics will drive the world to sustainable practices, but we should nevertheless prepare ourselves for changes already in motion that might not be easy to swallow.
Not everyone is going to cop it sweet.
Executives at ExxonMobil knew the risks to the environment from CO2. Yet they misled the public, calling the science into question. The fact we knew it all along does not dilute the pain of the betrayal.
On my eighteenth birthday I hooked up with my girlfriend at a local tennis tournament. We weren’t a good match (ha!). For years a worm in my belly had been whispering that we shouldn't have been together, but I’d doggedly ignored its voice.
I hadn’t been there two minutes when she took off somewhere — I assumed to retrieve my gift. Half an hour later she had not returned and I began to think something was up. Eventually, I wandered home alone, monumentally miffed.
It was a typical Australian summer’s day, so I took the swamp route. Waterbirds speared the grass about my feet, gobbling up the deadly spiders as they thronged fang-first for my flesh. Falcons swept from the sky, clearing away the snakes, while mosquitoes tattooed my neck with my own blood.
Aah, the peace and harmony of nature…
Movement in the undergrowth caught my eye. Twinned shapes twisted and rolled. I thought for a moment of the geese that nested in those parts and I took a silent step sideways to improve the view.
Lo and behold, there was my truant sweetheart wrapped in another’s embrace. The cad was one of my teachers and, evidently, one of hers. She seemed to be learning quite a lot.
‘Happy birthday, AJ!’ she called.
Well, okay, she wasn’t quite that callous. To this day I don’t think she noticed that I noticed.
Fair enough. She was busy.
And so, just as truth met reality between sets of the Under 18s round robin, we meet the theme of this article. Yeah, we shouldn’t have been together. The fact I knew it did nothing to dilute the pain.
Inside Climate News has revealed that executives at ExxonMobil deliberately misled the public about the perils of CO2 emissions. Financial records, emails and the research of the company’s own scientists tell a sorry tale of what they knew and how it differed from what they told us.
The New York Attorney-General’s Office has opened an investigation and prosecution is expected to follow under the Martin Act. To gain a conviction the state must prove a company deceived the public by misrepresenting or omitting a material fact in the offering of securities.
It’s clear that Exxon’s scientists briefed executives on the risks of CO2 and that they chose to spread disinformation in response. For instance, one memo admits that ‘fossil fuels contribute most of the CO2’ causing global warming, while another declares that the company would ‘emphasize the uncertainty in scientific conclusions’ in public. Between 1998 and 2005 the company contributed around $16 million to organizations committed to creating the impression of scientific debate where there was none.
Of course, we knew it all along. The scientists were right about tobacco and they’re right about CO2 emissions. That we can’t trust vested interests is hardly revelatory, but that doesn’t make Exxon’s betrayal easier to accept.
We may be living with the ramifications of twenty-five years of manufactured doubt for years to come. Disturbingly, GOP candidates for President, Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul, all spout misinformation produced by ExxonMobil as if it were fact.
That candidates should disregard evidence for an ideological position does not bode well. Just imagine President Trumpet galumphing up to COP21 to bluster that this global-warming malarkey is nothin’ but a hoax…
Lord, save us.