Barbarism Overshadows Climate Accord, But Can’t Stop Humanity’s Better Angels

Despite the overwhelming news focus of late on guns and terrorism in the wake of the terrorism in Paris, at Planned Parenthood and in San Bernardino, the fact remains that the greatest threat to the human race isn’t the backwards actions of misogynist religious conservatives, but climate change.

Sadly, the blood and barbarism of medieval modes of thought using violence to attempt to coerce the regression of modernity has helped overwhelm news of the better angels of mankind in their attempts to come to a significant climate accord. But it’s worth noting that some progress has been made:

Negotiators from 195 countries agreed Saturday on a blueprint deal aimed at reducing global carbon emissions and limiting global warming, a significant but far from conclusive step in the multinational effort to keep climate change in check.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) posted on its website a copy of the draft agreement, which officials have been working on intensively for some time.

The document addresses deforestation, food security, poverty and a host of other issues, with chunks of the document focused on what developed countries can do to reduce carbon dioxide missions by a yet to be determined level by 2050.

Far, far more work remains to be done, of course. The agreements are tentative, and even at best don’t put humanity on a fast enough path to reduce carbon emissions. That said, even a quarter of a loaf is better than no loaf at all, and it’s heartening to see world leaders make some progress on a matter of importance to the survival of the human race while the rest of the world obsesses over temporary violence.

In related news, pressure continues to mount on Exxon for its decades-long strategy of intentionally misleading the public by spreading doubt about climate change in much the same fashion as the cigarette companies did about cancer. Activists and authors Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein held a public trial of Exxon yesterday in Paris to highlight the issue:

Now, the pressure on Exxon is growing to pay for their crimes, with the #ExxonKnew campaign growing stronger everyday. In the United States, presidential candidates are calling for a formal investigation, the New York State Attorney General has launched a subpoena, and Secretary of State John Kerry has said Exxon could lose “billions” in a class action lawsuit.

If the nations of the world can stick to a timeline for carbon reduction, if the top oil company responsible for selling doubt about climate change can be held responsible for their actions, if scientists can keep moving the ball forward on cheaper renewable energies, and if activists can continue to mobilize to ensure that all three take place, we might just be able to head off disaster.

That job is made tougher by the actions of violent conservatives with guns and oil-rich conservatives with politicians in their back pockets. But we can still get it done working together.

David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.