Why net zero commitments are empty and dangerously misleading if we continue to burn fossil fuels. Talia Baroncelli speaks to retired physician and IPCC climate expert Peter Carter about how ongoing wars, illegal mineral wealth extraction in active conflict zones, and the plunder of resources by transnational corporations are literally killing the planet.
Hi, I’m Talia Baroncelli, and you’re watching theAnalysis.news. I’ll shortly be joined by Peter Carter to speak about climate change, as well as the military’s role in exacerbating the climate crisis. But first, please do go to our website, theAnalysis.news, and hit the donate button at the top right corner of the screen. You can also sign up to our newsletter; that way, you’ll be informed of all of our future updates and shows. Back in a bit.
Joining me now is Peter Carter. He’s a retired physician and founder of the Climate Emergency Institute. Peter has worked intensely on reports on climate change over the years and served as an expert reviewer for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, including their working assessment in 2014 and their special report in 2018. I’m very happy to have you here, Peter.
Thank you. It’s always a pleasure and a good opportunity. Thank you.
We’ve just passed the one-year mark of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It would be a good opportunity to speak about how the military and ongoing conflicts contribute to climate change.
Well, I think, firstly, I’m following this war because, for most of my life, I’ve been interested and involved in one way or another in disarmament and peace. The outbreak of this war was really a horrible shock to me. It’s just got more and more shocking. As you say, incredibly, this war is now one year long. It is, in the words of the Rand Corporation, and they should know, this is one of the most bloodiest wars in history. As you know, it’s degenerated into a World War I-type trench war, and as well as, of course, the most modern, horrible, heavy weapons being used in this. Ukraine is a large country in the middle of Europe.
There’s another reason for me to be interested in this, and more than a little alarmed, because we are not only at the brink, we’re beyond the brink with regards to our global emissions, CO2 emissions, of course, primarily from burning fossil fuels, and not being able to avoid in the near future, in a few decades, catastrophic climate change by surpassing the catastrophic limit of 2 degrees C global average temperature.
The IPCC, in their last assessment, repeatedly said that “to avoid 1.5 degrees C,” which is now too late, “and to avoid 2 degrees C, emissions have to decline immediately.” They repeated this over and over and on a rapid basis.
There could be nothing worse for our climate security and for our climate future and being able to avoid climate catastrophe than a hot war. The war is, of course, being fought with fossil fuels. The amount that the military burns in the way of fossil fuel is absolutely unbelievable. I think many people have heard that the United States military, as an institution, if you like, is the single largest source of CO2 emissions. You can add in tanks and how it serves and everything like that, but that’s compounded by the fact that we have to have unprecedented international cooperation in order to put global emissions into an immediate decline. The war has absolutely ruled out, made completely impossible, that type of cooperation.
We have the large emitters, we have China, we have the Russian Federation, and we have the United States in very unfriendly international relationships. The armaments industry, of course, has always been a big driver of warfare, as well as the big global banks. In this sense, warfare is at the same time the worst and the best of businesses because, of course, Raytheon, Northrop, and companies like that in the United States are making vast, vast profits now. They continue to make vast profits because, as you may have heard, Ukraine is running out of ammunition. We’re talking heavy ammunition. We’re talking big stuff. The United States weapons armaments producers are ramping up their production of these shells. It’s absolutely terrible. I mean, it is completely insane. It’s despicable. It is shocking to see all of these once beautiful towns and cities in the country of Ukraine being absolutely demolished. The longer, of course, this situation continues, and the more damage is being done, the less likely it is for us to have this international cooperation.
Right. Well, you mentioned the military and that report by Professor Neta Crawford from Brown University, in which she illustrated how the U.S. Department of Defense is the largest institutional consumer of fossil fuels in the world. Just by looking at how the United States and Europe write their climate change commitments and commitments to achieving net zero emissions by 2050, they often don’t include those military emissions in their commitments. I wonder, without including those huge numbers and the fact that the U.S. military emits more than I think Portugal and Sweden together or something insane like that. So how can we even meet those commitments without addressing the role of the military in greenhouse gas emissions?
Well, the fact is, and the IPCC, of course, has been reporting and telling us this for many years. Our buzzword target is now net zero. But the IPCC is very clear that net zero requires zero fossil fuels. The fossil fuel industry has to come to a close, and it has to come to a close very quickly. Of course, it can because we’ve also known for years and years and years that all of our fossil fuel energy polluting planet, future destroying fossil fuel energy, can be replaced 100% by this amazing clean zero carbon non-combustion energy.
The war also reminds me, certainly, that in the background of driving emissions, global emissions, emissions are, of course, at an all-time high again. Not only that, emissions are increasing at an all-time high rate. So we couldn’t be in a worse situation as regards to what we’re doing with our climate and our planet. We couldn’t be in a worse situation with regard to– this war is; frankly, it’s pretty obvious. It’s being encouraged. It’s being pushed. This is now seen as an insane competition between the United States and NATO, yes, and the Russian Federation. Of course, people are getting very reasonably worried about the nuclear threat yet again because both of these countries have large numbers of nuclear weapons, much less than they had 30-40 years ago, but certainly, enough to do our planet in.
Of course, the latest bad news is that President Putin has said he’s withdrawing from the nuclear weapons control treaty, which had been operating up to now. We really do have a risk of world-ending nuclear war, but we have a certain future of a world-destroying climate catastrophe. If the war continues and we don’t achieve peace, therefore we don’t have the cooperation necessary to put emissions into rapid decline.
Well, a few months ago, we saw world leaders meet at the UN Climate Change Conference, COP 27, in Egypt. My impression was that they were just patting themselves on the back for having all sorts of innovative strategies to combat climate change. I think they were overstating how innovative or successful these strategies are. I mean, you heard Biden saying that by 2030, they’d be able to reduce emissions by 40%, given what they’ve done with the Inflation Reduction Act. I mean, do you buy that?
Well, yeah, you’re totally right. The ideas and the proposals that the international community puts out, they’re good, also proposals that civil society puts out, but they are minuscule and have zero effect all the time we are emitting. Yes, it’s all very nice, but I think it’s rather time-wasting. I just can’t believe how these conferences go on every year. They last for two weeks, then they go into overtime, and they achieve absolutely nothing apart from a new buzzword. We’ve had road maps, we’ve had pathways, we’ve had action years, and it just goes on and on.
One of the media made a comment that the activity at COP 27 appeared to be more in the way of making deals with respect to primarily fossil fuel energy rather than making deals to put emissions into decline. There’s absolutely no political will to do what has to be done. The science is absolutely definite that what has to be done for us to have a future at all.
The IPCC’s sixth assessment, once again, was a brilliant assessment, but I don’t think the world’s got the message. They used terms like we now have to secure a livable future. When the IPCC, the highly conservative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is using that language, you know that we’re in dire, dire trouble, which we are. They’re unbelievable time-wasters. They can talk about net zero forever, frankly, but it means nothing without putting fossil fuel emissions to zero. The IPCC has been definite on that for many years now.
A lot of this is avoiding what governments must do, not only in the light of the Paris Agreement but also to comply with the 1992 United Nations Climate Change Convention. Not to mention their moral, ethical, and governing responsibility to provide today’s young people and the future with a livable future. They are going to live through terrible times. It’s too late for us to avoid that now.
The other thing that they talk about a lot is 1.5 degrees C. So we’ve heard since the very excellent 2018 IPCC 1.5 degrees C report, we’ve heard that global emissions had to be cut by 50% in 10 or so years, and we have to reach net zero by 2050. That, by the way, is the longest that the scientists think we might wait to get to net zero. So the institutions and organizations that say we have to get to net zero well before 2050 are absolutely right, and they’re right by the science.
One point five degrees C is we cannot possibly limit to 1.5 degrees C; that should be obvious pretty well to anybody that’s been following what climate change and the global temperatures have been doing. Pretending that we can limit to 1.5 degrees C is really, really, really, it’s unbelievably irresponsible. I guess people call it hopium. No, what we have to do is get together on the disastrous future that we have with 1.5 degrees C. It’s globally disastrous. According to the IPCC, we will be there around 2032. That’s no time ahead. So the years that we have, governments should be preparing the world to withstand 1.5 degrees C disasters. Here they are; instead of doing that, frankly, they’re making war.
Another thing that we could discuss is that we’ve never left the war economy. [Dwight D.] Eisenhower was so right. Since the huge ramp-up of the world economy, particularly the United States and also European nations, subsequently, after the Bretton Woods Agreement, we have stayed on a war-based economy. We’re now seeing how all of these countries have these awful weapons– they are all weapons of mass destruction, in my view. They’re all coming out of the woodwork now. So yeah, there is an economy and a consciousness of war and the paranoia of war that is driving the production of increasing amounts of fossil fuels and planning on continuing to have more fossil fuels. So we have to make peace.
But just to be clear, going back to what you were saying with 1.5 degrees warming, I mean, this is something that’s not reversible at this stage, right? We’re definitely going to make 1.5 degrees Celsius of global warming. The question is whether we can stop it from hitting 2 degrees Celsius. And then what happens after that? Is 2 degrees a tipping point that then leads to further disasters?
Well, I’ll tell you the international community has always realized that 2 degrees C is an end-of-the-world limit. Two degrees C was first proposed in the mid-1990s by the EU. It became formalized at the Copenhagen Agreement, in fact, the Copenhagen COP back in 2009– whenever the heck that was. But that’s where 2 degrees started and, in actual fact, where governments responded to the most vulnerable and least developed nations, Africa and the others, that they said they would look at 1.5 degrees C. So they’d been looking at 1.5 degrees for years and years and years. Then the IPCC was persuaded to do a 1.5 degrees C report, and everybody was shocked, absolutely shocked at how disastrous 1.5 degrees C is. Two degrees C is the end of our world. The research that’s been going on and on has shocked scientists because it is far worse. The tipping points, as you mentioned, are far closer than really the models had ever projected.
Recently, we’ve had several really good papers in so much as they’re hopefully very useful to drive the lackluster, totally irresponsible political will that we see. We have to look after today’s children. We have to look after today’s young people. That should be the focus. Focus should not be on war, and the focus should not be on economic benefits. The focus should be on humanity, which is our children and their young people. Their appeals, by the way, even legal appeals, have been fought by their own governments, and their appeals have been completely rejected. We see all emissions at record levels, increasing at record rates. Also, we are now in, the scientists have again been very shocked and confirmed that we’re now in the worst nightmare situation that environmentalists like myself, who have been around at least sometime, ever imagined because we’re now into methane feedback. That really is, again, an end-of-the-world situation if governments don’t put emissions into decline right away.
Hoesung Lee, who was Chair of the IPCC in the Madrid COP, which is two COPs ago– I was at that one. At the formal opening plenary, Dr. Lee stated quite definitely that to avoid 1.5 degrees C, emissions have to be put into immediate and rapid decline. He said the same thing a year later at the Glasgow COP. This time he said that in order to avoid 1.5 degrees C and 2 degrees C, we have to put emissions into immediate and rapid decline.
The media is not putting this out. They have been irresponsible and mostly unhelpful on that because there’s never been a more important scientific statement than that. It really isn’t out there. The war, the atmosphere, the media attention, and the fears and worries of everybody completely remove the planet-destroying situation of our accelerating greenhouse gas emissions with the warming wetlands around the world, tropical wetlands, and northern wetlands, because they’ve been warming up for years and years and years. They normally emit some methane, but they are now emitting more methane. Atmospheric methane has literally exploded. Literally, in the past few years, it has exploded. The scientists are doing very good work on this. They’re confirming that it is methane. They’re confirming where the methane is coming from. But of course, in the international situation that we are in, I don’t think anybody’s listening to them.
Methane is one of the most potent greenhouse gases, right? We just saw in September, we saw the sabotage of the Nord Stream Pipelines, which was a methane explosion. It released so much methane into the Baltic Sea by the sabotage of this pipeline. We could discuss who was responsible for that or who was behind that. Seymour Hersh has his theory, and it is highly likely.
It’s another shocking evidence of international insanity. I mean, whoever blew up the pipeline, is completely out of their mind. It settled down, of course, but we have excellent satellites now, particularly in Europe, by the way, a Copernicus program. NASA, of course, has excellent satellites too. They can now actually pinpoint where methane is coming from. Of course, we saw that massive amount bubbling on the surface of the sea there. So that was the largest single plume that’s ever been recorded. We have plumes all over the planet because we’re fracking the planet for natural gas and oil. Coal emits methane. So we have methane emissions from all three fossil fuels because natural gas is mainly methane. Of course, we’ve got, I don’t know how many hundreds of thousands of pipelines and stations they use to control the methane, but it’s large.
NASA, actually, very recently published a map that showed in detail fossil fuel methane emissions. It’s, of course, largely the northern hemisphere. The most focused concentrated amount of methane that’s coming out is coming from the Russian-European pipelines. It’s really quite dramatic. Not the total amount, but the fine concentration emission the satellites can pick up is very high indeed. That’s a big problem, a huge problem with natural gas, because, of course, all the countries thought that natural gas was a great thing. They’re fracking the heck out of the planet, including where I live, I’m afraid, in British Columbia. In our north, we have a huge so-called deposit of shale gas that is being fracked.
Well, big oil and big gas are huge proponents of certain techniques such as carbon capture and storage and sequestration, but they primarily engage in these different techniques in order to get more oil out of the ground or more gas out of the ground. Do you think that carbon capture and storage is a viable solution or mechanism to reach certain climate goals?
Well, CCS has been around for a very long time. The IPCC did a special report on carbon capture and storage. I think it was back in 2010. We’ve had scientific research. And as you say now, the fossil fuel industry is talking more and more about carbon capture and storage. You may remember that the Secretary of State that President Trump chose at the time was the CEO of Exxon, Mr. [Rex] Tillerson. Of course, when he was put through the vetting committee, he was asked whether he believed in climate change because President Trump had said it was a hoax. Tillerson said, “yeah, we believe in climate change. It’s a problem, but it’s an engineering problem.” So that shows you, doesn’t it? Right from the top. They don’t believe it. Nobody can believe that you can solve climate change by anything– carbon capture storage is the one that’s being mentioned– but anything all the time, we’re emitting 40 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide a year, year after year after year. It is more than stupid.
We forget in our scientific discussions, particularly, but also in our international relationship discussions, we forget the ethics, we forget the morality. The public isn’t really understanding what’s at stake here because it’s not being communicated. In 2018, I co-authored a book called–
Unprecedented Crime: The Denial of Global Climate Change. There’s been a lot more published in the way of articles on that climate crime, which is, of course, the continued deception by the fossil fuel industry and claiming that– oh, I think they’ve all jumped on the bandwagon of fossil fuel corporations of net zero, right? Because net zero just by itself, it could mean anything or nothing. It has to be zero combustion, by the way. The burning age is over. We cannot burn any more fossil fuels. My God, we’re going back to coal again.
I was about to say. I mean, Germany is burning coal.
The IEA, the International Energy Agency, which is– yeah, it’s completely unbelievable. Coal remains the single biggest fossil fuel source of CO2 emissions. So it’s by far the biggest source of CO2 emissions; that’s the burning of coal. It is at an all-time high. The IEA and the people that follow energy say that coal will stay at an all-time high at least until 2025. So obviously, of course, coal, as everybody knows, is the worst fossil fuel. Coal is a killer. Coal kills 10 million people a year; that’s the burning of coal. We don’t need to be burning anything, and we cannot be burning anything if we want to have a future, if we want to consider our responsibilities and our love, of course, to our families, to our children, and to the natural world. Life is dying around us before our very eyes. We’re in the sixth extinction already. Fossil fuel emissions– and I try to remind myself to talk about emissions rather than climate change all the time. The other problem is people are not connecting these dots.
Why do we have methane feedback? Well, we have it because we’re emitting CO2 and methane. We’re burning it in vast, vast amounts. All our plans are to increase the amount of fossil fuels that we burn. I saw a commander on YouTube just the other day. There are very brave reporters and journalists who have gone to the front to talk with the Ukrainian forces. They were saying that they think this is going to go on for years. What do you call them? Defense writers from the United States say that this war looks like it’s going to go on for years. If this war carries on, it’s devastating Ukraine. Ukraine had beautiful towns and cities, absolutely beautiful. It’s heart-wrenching. They’re being brought down to rubble, absolute rubble. I couldn’t believe a city that I saw in the east, which is still being contested in the east of Ukraine, there is no city left. It looked just like Hiroshima. You couldn’t see anything but rubble and dust and little black spokes pointing out of the ground, which used to be trees. It is absolutely unbelievable what’s happening in 2023 in the middle of Europe. People are talking about winning this war. They’re talking about who’s going to win. What we’re losing–
Yeah, exactly. What does winning the war mean in this context? I think the different scenarios I can play out are really brutal and disconcerting. But you would also hope that this war would present an opportunity for countries to rethink their economies. Russia, for example, is so heavily dependent on gas. It’s the way that it gets gas out of the ground and sells out to different countries now, primarily more to China and to India than to Western countries, as we know. But in Western Europe, Germany didn’t revert to renewables. They started burning coal and getting LNG from Qatar. Do you think that nuclear energy might be a solution here, or is renewable really the way to go?
Well, we’re in a most evil situation. Humanity has never been in a more dire, risky situation with climate change; that’s been said many times now. But with this war as well, and with our governments pouring subsidies into the fossil fuel industry, the IEA reported very recently that 2022 is a record year for subsidies by far. The governments gave the fossil fuel industry double the amount of subsidies in 2022 than they gave in 2021. That’s a strategy for planetary destruction and to leave an unliveable future for today’s children and young people. So just like war, that is the greatest of great evils. Terrible. Despicable. It’s unbelievable that the governments would be doing this.
So yeah, I take your point and think it’s a good one. If everybody could see the complete insanity, let alone, there’s nothing good going to come out of this war. All that’s going to come out of this war is destruction. So if countries could get together and negotiate a peace, and at the same time, this war should be driving them to get off fossil fuel energy much, much, much faster, but they’re not getting off fossil fuel energy at all. Also, as you point out, drive the industry to more renewable energy. But for that to happen, the people have to force the governments to stop their evil fossil fuel subsidies; that’s the absolute necessity. That’s unbelievable, too, because I did do a bit of research on this myself many years ago.
At least since 1990, there have been World Bank, OECD, and IEA, and they have all produced reports that there’s no justification for subsidizing fossil fuels whatsoever on an economic, environmental, nor a social equity development basis. They say that subsidies are damaging in all three sectors in all three aspects. So that’s why I say the war is certainly the sum of all evils, but giving subsidies to the fossil fuel industry is the ultimate of all evils.
We require two things. We require a huge amount of public pressure and political will to stop the war and then get back and establish a peaceful situation. There’s a huge difference between fossil fuels and renewable energy that’s been pointed out for many, many years. Fossil fuel energy, by its very nature, tends to encourage hostility and warfare because people are protecting their very localized but very huge deposits of fossil fuels and trying to, by using war to steal other people’s. Renewable energy is completely different. Renewable energy is distributed everywhere. Every house can produce renewable energy. So there’s no incentive to use warfare if you have a renewable energy-energized planet and civilization. This has always been a great hope of mine and many other people’s. It has to start tomorrow.
Well, I think, what’s also–
So we have to negotiate–
Sorry. I think what is also important, though, is that this is not the only ongoing conflict. I mean, of course, the war in Ukraine dominates the headlines, especially in Europe and in the Western world, because of the proximity. There have been conflicts going on in other parts of the world, in Africa and Asia, for decades. Also, the way that private militaries help transnational corporations go about wealth extraction must contribute to climate change. I feel that we need to be thinking about all these other conflicts that are funded by governments, big corporations, and also private military, such as the Wagner Group, and how they assist in these illegal wealth extraction endeavors. I think, hopefully, there will be a negotiated settlement at some point, but that’s not the only battle that’s ongoing. I mean, there are different forms of economic warfare that are going on as well. So I feel like we need to be thinking about all sorts of different issues and have a more holistic approach as opposed to a one-issue approach.
That brings me to what our strategy should be because oftentimes, you hear politicians say that consumers need to decide where they want to put their money. They have a certain amount of purchasing power, and they can make informed decisions to prevent climate change. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t become vegetarian or stop flying or whatever else it might be, but to me, that almost sounds like they’re trying to distract from the real sources of greenhouse gas emissions, which is the fossil fuel industry. So I wonder what you think of that messaging.
I think you bring up two huge important points there. It seems that there’s war everywhere. I agree with you. There’s conflict everywhere, particularly in the poorest and most climate change-vulnerable nations, because, as you point out, they’re being exploited. The nations where the worst conflict, of course, still carries on, like you say, are the nations that hold oil. Some of them are seemingly wealthy, like Saudi Arabia, but some of them are countries that are poor but they sit on oil.
I can remember, I think it was a military person from the United States who made a very rotten but telling joke during the Iraq invasion, which was, “why are those people sitting on our oil anyway?” Big, big economies like the United States, the EU, China, and the Russian Federation, these big economies who are big because they burn a lot of fossil fuels, which is making the future– every year we’re burning fossil fuels, we’re making the future worse for our progeny, for the future of humanity. We have to create a global civilization that says no more war. War is our human civilization’s greatest vice. We learn this over and over and over. But we’re learning it again, and yet we’re doing nothing.
We have to have a world free of war. You’re so right. It’s everywhere, and it’s being driven by investment, by big investment, and that’s being driven by the big banks. So the big banks who are– banks have only one function; that is to make the most money in the fastest time. There’s no other consideration whatsoever. So it’s not surprising that if we look back in history, the big banks have always been behind the big wars.
You mentioned the economy. The economy, of course, has to transform. We’ve known this for decades, and many people have written a lot of good work about that. It’s a destructive consumerist economy. Yes, they’re right in a sense. We’re all responsible. I’m responsible, but we all have to get together. The public has to drive the political will and say that we don’t want to have a world that is continually at war. When you say there’s war everywhere, you’re right. That means there’s war continuing everywhere. It never stops. It never stops. It’s time to beat those swords at the plowshares, which is the famous peace group based on the biblical quote.
I do remember an OCCPR report on corruption in Afghanistan and how Ashraf Ghani, the former Afghan President, his brother was basically involved in some illegal mineral extraction. They were coordinating with this company that had Paul Wolfowitz on their board. I mean, it’s just incredible how different private military groups and governments and security firms are all in cahoots and in bed with one another in conflict zones for the purpose of profit. So obviously, capitalism here and this lust for never-ending profits and wealth accumulation are behind a lot of climate change.
Yeah, we have allowed corporations and capitalism to grow into a global monster. It was David C. Korten who wrote the book When Corporations Rule the World, and they do. Primarily the big banking corporations, the big fossil fuel corporations, the big chemical corporations, but also the big agribusiness corporations. The nation-state is inherently a source of problems. The boundaries are all unnatural. The boundaries and the states are all produced by war, every single one of them, even Canada, although it was a tiny war.
Their function, what they see as the main aspect of their economy, is conflict and war. I remember you saying now that our economy is like a war, and that’s absolutely right. It’s called the competitiveness of national economies. But it’s hostility, and it breeds hostility and fear. We hear too much, and we think far too much about people who we call leaders, who are leaders in warfare, and who are leaders in emitting greenhouse gasses and continuing the emission of greenhouse gasses.
One of the things that the 1.5 degrees C 2018 report by the IPCC stressed was that we had to have a fundamental change in all sectors of society in order to control the temperature so it doesn’t reach 1.5 degrees C. That was a great paragraph that they wrote there. We have to change completely. There has to be a total transformation. Conversion is the only way to mitigate climate change. So doing less, like the corporations say, being more efficient like the energy corporations say, it doesn’t work for climate change. You have to stop and convert. That’s very obvious in the case of fossil fuels that we have to stop burning all fossil fuels. And the E.U., you have to stop burning wood on an industrial basis, too, and stop importing the forest from the United States; that has to stop. They’re emitting just as bad as coal, by the way, those big so-called biomass sources of energy.
One hundred percent renewable energy can be simply done by the governments not subsidizing fossil fuel energy anymore. One would hope, and I can’t see any reason why that can’t be turned around in one to two years. Everything else has to be transformed as well. Dietary habits have to be transformed. We do have to go vegan because we cannot afford to emit any more methane. Atmospheric methane has increased far more than any greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. It’s now running at 1,925 parts a billion; that is an increase on the pre-industrial by a factor of 2.6 times higher atmospheric methane than when we started with our fossil fuel civilization. As I say, it is absolutely skyrocketing. It is going ahead. We cannot put any more methane into the environment.
Those that are encouraging a switch to the vegan diet, yeah, all the power to you because of the cows. Unfortunately, there is a good trend to veganism, I think, in North America, maybe in Europe, but of course, in the so-called developing countries in Asia, they’re following our bad examples as they do in every other way– they are eating more and more and more.
Everything has transformed our construction. If you go anywhere in the world, I mean anywhere, you can go to the so-called poorest regions, and you will see only one form of construction: steel, concrete, aluminum, and glass. Nothing could be worse. We have excellent alternatives, some publicity being given to them as well. Multistory buildings being made with wood, with engineered wood that can last hundreds and hundreds of years. You can see sizable buildings in the U.K. and Europe that have been there for hundreds of years. We have to stop deforestation completely.
We tend to forget the scientific rules that we understood 10 or 15, 20 years ago. One of those rules was to stop deforestation. We’re not talking in that way now. We’re talking about, well, perhaps we can reduce deforestation. Perhaps it’s going to be better because we’ve got a more sane and sensible President in Brazil. The international community has to stop deforestation, and they can stop deforestation. We have to make these conversions.
The biggest conversion, which is out of my expertise to make, but the biggest conversion is the ethical, spiritual conversion. Pope Francis, who has been quite a champion on climate change, and that’s a very fine thing; he reiterated Pope Benedict’s statement made at the United Nations, which is that we need an ecological, spiritual conversion. I thought that was great. Francis has said it as well.
We keep setting the bar lower and lower in terms of what we want to achieve, and it’s pretty sad to see that.
Yeah, that’s totally what we’re doing. Yeah, we’re allowing the bars to be set lower; that’s a very good way of saying it.
My final question to you would be about the role of the Global South in terms of mitigating climate change. I think we’re all feeling the effects of climate change in North America, in Europe. This is something that’s not just affecting poorer countries; we’re all feeling it. In certain instances, poorer countries in the Global South are often hit harder by climate change. When it comes to food security, for example, we might see more people having to flee their countries and to seek refuge in northern countries, so to leave different African countries and maybe seek asylum in Europe in the upcoming decades. I think this was a recent item that was put on the agenda at COP 27, which is loss and damage. This is the first time where they’ve discussed potentially giving countries in the Global South some form of reparations for what they’ve suffered as a result of climate change. So I just wonder, what is their role, and can they potentially hold the Global North to account?
Well, they certainly tried hard. I remember, I think it was in Copenhagen, that the African delegation got together when they were continuing to try and persuade the Global North nations to drop the 2 degrees C limit and make it 1.5 degrees C. I remember they threatened to walk out of that conference, and they called what was going on in their countries; they called it economic genocide. It most certainly is.
We have a situation now, as you know, in the Horn of Africa. Millions and millions and millions of people are on the edge of starvation. The UN has only been, and this is unusual, has only been given 50% of its request to prevent famine in the Horn of Africa. Could the war in Europe have something to do with that? I damn well think so because the countries actually have always given in these situations, and they’ve always avoided the worst. We’ve seen some horrible starvations in Africa.
Now, of course, we’ve always known that Africa is the most vulnerable country to climate change. It’s a huge continent, but it’s absolutely tragic how vulnerable it is to climate change. It’s just a few percentage points, like 3% or something of those orders of Africa and all the countries as a rule, to what they’ve contributed in the way of emissions.
You mentioned the success of loss and damage at the last COP. I’m afraid it wasn’t a success for two reasons. One reason, of course, is they’re not following through with it. Governments are very good at making fine promises that they never follow through with. You know they promised at the Pittsburgh G-20 back in 2009 to stop fossil fuel subsidies. They’re still talking about how we will stop fossil fuel subsidies. The bar goes down by the limit being pushed back. So they say, “oh, we’ll stop them in 2025.” Loss and damage. Loss and damage are specifically, explicitly, in the 1992 climate change convention. It’s repeated over and over and over that the Annex 1, which was a long, industrially developed nations, had agreed and were required to provide all manner of means of assistance to the Annex 2 countries. So that goes way back to 1992. What happened? Annex 1, the industrially developed wealthy so-called high credit countries have just roadblocked, and roadblocked, and roadblocked, and prevented. Now they say suddenly that we’ve agreed to a loss and damage. Well, no, they haven’t.
In the 1992 convention, the vulnerable countries were listed. They were actually named and listed– the countries which the Annex 1 nations had to assist: technological assistance, damage assistance, damage assistance; that was anticipated in 1992. I’m afraid it’s not happening. You can look around the world and see it’s not happening.
I remember it was at the conference in Mexico, the COP in Mexico, there was a lady, human rights person, who was the delegation of Bolivia. She’d not been a delegate in COP before. Halfway through, she said, “this isn’t the climate conference at all. This is an economic conference. All they’re doing is arguing economic benefits with each other.” This monster of the economy which we’ve allowed to be created, we have to transform that beast, that’s for sure. We have to look back at the present and the past and the best of humanity. The very best of humanity is absolutely wonderful, individually, culturally, in groups. We’re looking at the worst because all our news tends to be the very, very worst. We have to raise our bar. As far as we know, we can raise it. We have to develop, construct, and negotiate a peaceful and peaceable world. If we don’t, we just have no future. We have no future at all. Our poor children have no future worth living.
As I say, when the IPCC says we have to secure a livable future for them, we have to do it. We have to feel the shame, in my view, of what world we have created. It’s a world that’s going downhill. Downhill with militarism. Downhill with the competitive economics which is ruling the world.
Another aspect that we should mention because it’s so important is that the corporations now have managed to relieve themselves of all constraints on their behavior. They’ve done this in my lifetime. I’ve seen it happen. When the world became aware of the WTO many years ago, we saw one of the greatest events in certainly my history. We saw the globalization of the human rights movement, massive marches, and peaceful marches. I mean, they were massive in major countries all around the world, year by year, when the WTO was holding these meetings. The people knew what the economics of the WTO was all about. They demonstrated very, very powerfully against it.
Now, those terrible constraints are still offered because we still have the WTO’s so-called free trade agreements in operation. There are dozens and dozens of dozens of those agreements now. What they do is they have– and the corporations have done this on purpose. This has nothing to do with the world’s people at all. Corporations brought this in by stealth. It’s an artificial quasi-legal arrangement that they have negotiated between their trade departments, whereby now corporations have the right to sue governments. They have, and they are. It’s already started in the case of governments who are talking about applying some legislation to reduce the fossil fuel industry and reduce fossil fuel emissions. The corporations are saying no, because we have this free trade agreement, you see. If you do that, we will lose future profitability, not just today, but in the future. We’re talking tens of billions of dollars that the corporations are suing our governments for; that is condemning the world to a zero future. That’s a death sentence for the world when we have fossil fuel corporations and chemical corporations suing our governments to make sure that they’re succeeding. It’s abhorrent. It’s another specific evil preventing our countries from doing what they’re supposed to be doing, which is protecting their citizens and ensuring a reasonable future for the next generation. These damn corporations over the past– NAFTA was the first one, of course, to remember, the North American Free Trade Agreement. Now we’ve got dozens and dozens of them all over the place, and they’re still being negotiated.
Well, it’s not just NAFTA but also CETA, the Free Trade Agreement between the European Union and Canada. It’s been an incredible opportunity for companies to unleash lawsuits against nation-states and for them to basically have a free hand in terms of crushing certain worker standards or basically increasing their own profits. So it hasn’t really been great for those workers and countries involved.
It’s the most powerful thing that we’ve got going on in the world, and it’s completely artificial and contrived. It’s of no legal basis whatsoever, but they have invented a law of economics. So, yes, and it exerts a chill effect. That’s the other big thing, which was anticipated years ago, that governments are afraid now to exert the legislation or apply the legislation that they’ve already got with regard to mining, pesticides, chemicals, but also fossil fuels. They’re afraid to do that because they’ve seen the fossil fuel corporations and other corporations win these cases. They have contrived what they call a dispute settlement mechanism. All that is, is that they hire retired lawyers and civil servants, and they make a panel of them. The panel gets to decide not under national laws, not international laws, but under these phony free trade rules, whether the corporation will prevail. Corporations have routinely prevailed, as you probably know. So that’s another transformation that had to be made. Something else that has to be kicked out with the corporations. Corporations are so powerful now.
I can’t believe how in my lifetime, I’ve seen the power of corporations increase from very little compared to the power of the nation-state. To now, corporations have power over the nation-state. The nation-states everywhere: United States, Canada, as you mentioned, European countries. It’s an awful, awful thing.
I hope that there are more people that actually write articles about this and get the information out again because we lost what we learned a decade ago. This is a monsterous, monsterous situation that the corporations have contrived in order to exert power over the people everywhere and power over our democratically elected governments to the extent that they’re democratically elected.
Yeah, it’s like the rules are rigged in their favor. In favor of corporate profits.
Oh, yeah. The deck is stacked. They sue. They bring a complaint against a nation-state, against the government. Then they set up these dispute settlement mechanisms, and they negotiate and arbitrate, and it takes time normally– this is a very expensive process, by the way. The corporations have unlimited access to credit from the bank when they make these shoots, so-called complaints. The governments don’t have unlimited funds in their government pockets to fight these cases. So the corporations are killing us, basically. The corporations are literally killing us and destroying our future. They pretend, they have the nerve to pretend, that the solution to climate change is engineering.
Well, Peter, thank you so much for joining me today and for sharing all your insights and vast knowledge on this topic. Thank you for watching theAnalysis.news. If you’re able to donate to our show, please go to theAnalysis.news and hit the donate button at the top right corner of the screen. Also, get on to our newsletter; that way, you won’t miss any future episodes. Thank you.
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“Peter Carter is a retired doctor, after nearly 40 years in practice as a family and emergency physician, first in England and then in Newfoundland and British Columbia, Canada.
As a founding director of CAPE (Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment), Peter presented on sustainable development and environmental health policy issues in Canada and the United States.
Peter has since launched the Climate Emergency Institute, which helps digest and summarize the climate change science research for laypeople.
Peter is also an expert reviewer for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 2014, 2018) and the co-author with Elizabeth Woodworth of Unprecedented Crime: Climate Science Denial and Game Changers for Survival, with Clarity Press.”