Okay, here’s where it becomes basically impossible to give a ‘101’, but I’ll try to make a start - and then hopefully you smart writers will create new processes that will point the way to a liveable future.
Heard of COP 26 in Glasgow coming up in November ’21? That’s the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC (yeah, I’d change my name to an acronym as well). Basically a club where most of this planet’s countries send delegates to discuss how to stop climate change - or, by now, how to avoid the very worst and prepare for mitigation and adaptation. The only really promising agreement this club ever produced was the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, a commitment to keep global temperature rise to 2°C, ideally 1.5°C. (Watch the documentary Guardians of the Earth to see how that accord actually did not fail.)
At COP 26, countries are due to report on the progress made with their NDCs, the ‘Nationally Determined Contributions’ to keeping temperature rise down. Report, mark you, not set goals, which is what much of media reporting makes it sound like. Don’t kid yourselves, COP 26 will not solve issues. We are heading straight for 3°C warming. The four years under the Orange Menace ramped up this process, but even without him and his fossil fool cronies we are a far, far cry from where we need to be on this. Do we still need to make lots of noise about this? Hell yes!
There are examples for multinational agreements that have actually made a difference, most notably the 1987 Montreal Protocol that reduced FCC emissions (the stuff in hairspray and fridge coolants) and saved the ozone layer (and, literally, our skins, from skin cancer). So don’t give up hope quite yet.
Then there was the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, where the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ was formulated, in my eyes one of the most important principles in this whole debate: the rich countries have built their wealth on the back of the poor ones, triggering the whole climate crisis. It is every country’s responsibility to fight the crisis as best they can, but because of their huge historical responsibility, the rich countries must shoulder far more of the burden and help the poor ones they exploited for so long. Yes, this is a binding, agreed-upon principle of international law. But the rich countries tend to forget that.
Obviously, in a world that is interlinked on so many different levels, politically and in trade, you have to get everyone to agree on measures, which is basically impossible. But we must try - and we must tell stories where this happens. Read Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future; he himself calls it a ‘Utopia’, even if it a fairly grim one, and one that requires decades of not giving up, but in the end his protagonists do manage to preserve a habitable planet.
Renewables, E-Vehicles, Carbon Pricing, Geo-Engineering, Net Zero…
… there is lots more that is being discussed in various attempts to stop the climate catastrophe. Yes, there are plenty of solutions - and there’s plenty of greenwashing and empty promises.
Stuff for future posts. And for our climate stories. Watch this space.