There is a Climate Emergency
According to the latest U.N. assessment, even if countries fulfil their current pledges to reduce emissions, the world is on track to warm by 3 degrees Celsius by the end of the century—a catastrophic result.
In the face of this reality it is imperative that the language of a ‘climate emergency’ be maintained. In fact the language should further strengthened so as to convey that climate change is a greater threat to our security and well being than terrorism or the financial crisis of 2008. “Climate change” must be referred to as “climate catastrophe” or “climate threat” and “global warming” as “global heating”. The climate threat must be broadened to include not only the problem of global heating but other existential threats including ocean warming and acidification, species extinction, ocean plastics pollution, soil erosion, water shortages as well as dangers stemming from radiation.
The language has a political importance. If we faced a ‘military emergency’ or a “terrorist emergency”, or a financial crisis like that of 2008, government would be emphasising the urgency of safeguarding life and property, not fetishsizing about the size of its budget surplus.
Failure of Madrid Summit
The Paris Agreement (PA) established a framework for countries to submit their own greenhouse gas mitigation plans. It stated that each party’s action plan must be strengthened every five years starting in 2020, but with an exception for countries that craft plans with longer time horizons.
At Madrid, key signatories like China and India—the No. 1 and No. 3 global emitters, respectively—pushed back against calls to submit stronger climate plans. China appears to be back to building coal plants amid slower economic growth after years of freezing new coal projects
The United States, which formally began the year-long process of withdrawing from the PA last month, also opposed a range of proposals, from compensating developing countries for loss and damages from extreme weather events to the creation of an international carbon trading market.
A number of countries proposed loopholes that would weaken the PA.
Australia argued that countries should be able to carry over credits earned from the Kyoto Protocol, the PA’s weaker predecessor.
Brazil maintains it should be allowed to double-count its forests toward the trading scheme, so that it can sell credits for keeping forests intact, and as carbon sinks toward its national emissions cuts.
Unable to reach a compromise, negotiators shelved these issues until the next climate conference in Glasgow in 2020.
The rise of economic nationalism threatens to imperil progress in combatting the climate threat. This is why there is such a high correlation between right wing economic nationalists and denial of the existence of climate change, let alone a climate emergency.
The end point of right wing economic nationalism is the free rider problem- every nation has an incentive to exploit the atmosphere and rely on other countries to cut emissions.
Right wing economic nationalists are typically strongly aligned with well organised fossil fuel interests. The costs of cutting emissions falls heavily upon these interests that have a strong monetary incentive to fight back. But the benefits are broadly distributed across the general public.