Paris climate talks: where the story disconnects

I’ve listened with interest to the two very different narratives coming out of the Paris climate talks.

The dominant narrative is that at long last, significant achievements have been made in hammering out an agreement that will see world temperatures kept, at worst, to 2°C and possibly as little as 1.5°C above pre-industrial temperatures.

Doing the limbo at the Paris climate talks. How low can we go?

The other narrative, eloquently articulated by George Monbiot, on Democracy Now! on Monday December 14, is that even with the Paris agreement, if we take the time to do the math, world temperatures will increase by, at best, 3°C more than preindustrial averages and, at worst, by 4°C.

Where is the disconnect between these two narratives?

Let’s say you and I are both passengers in a vehicle driven by a very positive and optimistic driver. We are travelling at 100 kph. Our destination is 500 km away, and the meeting we are attending there begins in two hours. Our driver puts us at ease by announcing his commitment to getting us to our destination on time. However, he also confirms that his plan for getting us there is to maintain our speed at 100 kph.

The above is the best metaphor I can think of to describe the disconnect between the two narratives coming out of Paris.

While the accord adopted unanimously by all COP21 delegates clearly spells out a commitment to limiting the temperature increase to no more than 2°C and, if possible, only 1.5°C, it also specifies the actual number of tons of greenhouse gas emissions that will be produced by all member states provided they stick to their plans as outlined in the agreement. But when we add up all of these emissions, we end up with catastrophic consequences.

It took me a number of days to sort out this disconnect. For people interested in listening to these two contrasting story lines, articulated much better than I would ever be able to do, I urge you to listen to the debate between George Monbiot and Michael Brune on Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now!

I’m sad to say, as is almost always the case, George Monbiot is right. The future looks very dark even if the roadmap adopted in Paris is used.

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