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Our Final Exam in Madrid

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Why are we hauling giant container shiploads of Christmas decorations from Vietnam to England? Don’t the English know how to make decorations?

Greta Thunberg, after image by Adam Ferris

At this writing, negotiators struggle to get the most out of a relatively ambition-free meeting of the parties to the UN’s Paris Agreement. They’ll burn the candles late into the night as they attempt to craft something more press-release-worthy then what they have at the moment.

Draft Agreement 1/CP.25, for instance, calls for all Parties to revise and enhance their Nationally Determined Commitments — their mitigation and adaptation intentions — by October 2020. Regrettably, the draft is not framed as a mandate, merely as advice. It is possible to hope it will be revised to include at least a mandate for the Secretariat to calculate the size of the gap between all nations’ pledges in aggregate and the threshold for human survival, in time for pledge revision at the Paris-mandated 5-year “stocktake” at COP26 next year in Glasgow. In any event, public interest groups like Carbon Tracker and Climate Action Network will dependably be totaling the deficit.
Al Gore describes atmospheric rivers and how they fuel California wildfires.
It is good to see ocean ecosystems finally mentioned in some draft provisions. In his public slide show, Al Gore mentioned carbon farming and regenerative agriculture for possibly the first time. The scientific wing of the the UN, the IPCC, produced a trio of reports in the past 18 months to underscore why all of these areas require attention.
Missing from the discussions are any revisions to exemption for aviation and maritime emissions that represent the largest loophole in the Paris treaty. At a side event on shipping hosted at the airport Marriott, I learned that fuel efficiency for cargo ships had seen a 29% improvement between 2008 and 2015. Of course, one needs to keep in mind Jevons Paradox. Reduced costs bring greater use, and long-haul ocean shipping is expected to continue its exponential growth well into this century. It is unlikely it will be supplanted to any noticeable degree by sail cargo or by offshore hydrogen refueling stations. Asked about whether he thought e-ships would take over seaways the way e-vehicles are taking over highways, the spokesman for shipping giant BIMCO said that hauling Christmas decorations from Vietnam to England has different energy requirements than hauling marble from Brazil to France. Perhaps he is just not familiar with Archimedes’ Principle. The better question might be why are we hauling giant container shiploads of Christmas decorations from Vietnam to England. Don’t the English know how to make decorations?

Loss and Damage

Indemnity for humanitarian loss and damage to property continues to founder on the shoals of deeply divided views about historic responsibilities and a fair deal towards the victims. Personally I see the issue as the rage stage of grieving — blame the bastards who caused it, like the “wealthy,” “developed” countries who through slave trade, sea power, colonialism, and outright theft managed to become “wealthy” (read morally impoverished) and overdeveloped (with abysmal happiness quotients). The Two-Thirds world still seems to envy the One-Third’s addiction to consumerism, jingoism, and racist exceptionalism and want to make up for lost time if they can just get a few more loans or javelin missiles.
The First World players in this blame game have not done themselves any favors by stonewalling, claiming there is no such thing as historic guilt — it is all contextual to the period. I seem to recall Bill Cosby adopted a similar philosophy about sexual mores in the Sixties. How did that go?


Al Gore told a packed auditorium that only since the 1970s have fossil emissions tipped the scales into climate weirding. Before that, the main culprit auguring climate change was land use change. Recall Sumaria, Egypt, China, and other great powers laid low by bad stewardship such as cutting down their forests or salting their soils. We all bear historical, genetic responsibility for what has happened.
Instead of denying culpability, heel draggers like the US, Canada, and Australia might have put the better question: which nations are recklessly causing the climate emergency now? Which have uncontrolled population growth (Africa)? Which insist on more coal-burning power stations (India)? Which are opening trillion-cubic meter pipelines to ship oil and gas for the next 30 years (Russia and China)? Which nations are fishing the oceans to extinction? Cutting down rainforests? Over-farming fragile landscapes?
But honestly, this blame game is just a huge waste of time and effort.
Sure we all want to lend a hand to those in dire need, but having pulled a friend from the ledge what can we do if they keep running to jump off it again?
Can we resettle flood victims in flood plains or drought victims in soon-to-be deserts? Why do we keep spending aid money to dispense cheap plastic stuff like water bottles and tarp shelters that will eventually kill marine mammals?
Greenland and Antarctica right now have added the equivalent of 1 meter of water over the Iberian peninsula — the land area of Spain and Portugal combined. That will eventually erase low lying nations like Kiribati, the Marshalls, and Bangladesh. To ship aid like dike-building equipment to such disaster zones is a fool’s errand. Those folks need to move to higher ground.
This is an emergency and everyone has to get on the same page. We have to consider some rational limit to humanitarian aid; some element of triage. We cannot insure the unsustainable from unsustainability. Loss and Damage provisions need tough love.
Which brings me back to the little saint.

Captains Courageous

At a finance side event I listened to Rob Topol, the 5G project manager at INTEL quote Confucius: If you want to prosper in one year, plant rice. If you want to prosper for ten years, plant trees. If you want to do well over 100 years, teach a child. Maybe, like Sweden, you should teach them all fluency in a second language by the time they are 15 and educate them on climate science.
As I walked into the Blue Zone one day, I saw a huge convergence of journalists and delegates jogging towards a single location just past the place they give you free apples and chocolate bars and across from the Coffee Bike. There was a large crowd all reaching their cellphones up over the circle to try to get a picture of something at the center of the scrum. A little girl there, so lively and quick, I knew in a moment she must be St. Greta.
More rapid than eagles her coursers they came. Surrounded by her teenage cadre of School Strikers, and around them her UNFCCC escorts and a burly security detail, the human wedge tried to worm its way to an exit. And still the crowd pushed in, reaching for relics — a hair from her head, a thread from her hem, a look from her eyes into their iPhone. Eyes downward, head lowered, hood drawn over her brow, she was borne forward like the Beatles in A Hard Days Night. This is now her world — Gretamania.
Drawing on the interviews David Wallace Wells did for New York Magazine when Ms. Thunberg was in New York for the Climate Action Summit last August, David Roberts at Vox wrote a piece called, “Why the right’s usual smears don’t work on Greta Thunberg — she keeps the focus on science, and they hate it.”
Roberts says of Wallace-Wells, “He taps into the heady sense of a movement exploding but also offers a clear glimpse of the intently focused, achingly vulnerable teenager who finds herself at its white-hot center.” Roberts goes on:

Right-wing media’s first instinct is to smear the messenger, to find some behavior on which to hang a charge of hypocrisy or some venal motive that allegedly undercuts moral authority. They have done it to everyone who has stuck their head up on climate change (beginning, famously, with Al Gore) for many decades now, snooping through stolen emails, filing lawsuits, and ruining careers.

They have also been doing it to David Wallace-Wells.

But this is where Thunberg’s autism has proven, as she has put it, a kind of superpower. She has Asperger syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder that makes her indifferent, often blind, to social cues and incentives as well as inclined to focus intently on a single subject, a tendency Thunberg says is exacerbated by obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Joan of Arc heard voices, had supernatural premonitions, and, given command of the French armies at age 16, inspired the citizens of Orléans to raise urban militias and rally behind the troops, breaking a 2-year seige in 9 days, expelling the English, and crowning King Charles VII. Joan’s story does not end happily, however. She was captured and burned at the stake by the English at age 19. If we love our superhuman heroines, we also like to slay them.

As Wallace-Wells notes, Thunberg fell into a depression when she was younger, after she learned about climate change, and spent a few friendless years eating and speaking little, barely motivated to leave the house. In her own words, her climate activism gave her a sense of focus and meaning that helped lift her out of depression.


Witness Thunberg’s utterly indifferent reaction to the plaudits lavished on her by congressional Democrats. “Please save your praise,” she said. “We don’t want it. Don’t invite us here to tell us how inspiring we are without doing anything about it. It doesn’t lead to anything.”

She’s not intimidated or dazzled by social hierarchy. She just drags the focus, again and again, back to her fixation, what the grown-ups don’t want to talk about: the need for immediate action and their long-standing failure to take any.

C. Söderberg teaching biochar basics in the Green Zone
When Time picked her for its annual cover, President Cobblepot tweeted. “So ridiculous. Greta must work on her anger management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!”
“A teenager working on her anger management problem,” read a new version of her Twitter biography. “Currently chilling and watching a good old fashioned movie with a friend.”

“Trump hasn’t been roasted that thoroughly since the last time he locked himself in his tanning bed.” — JIMMY KIMMEL

After she delivered her “house on fire” speech at the United Nations in September, President Cobblepot tweeted a clip of her speech with the seemingly sarcastic message: “She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!”
Thunberg changed her Twitter biography to, “a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future.”

“That’s how you know that these are strange times. In one room, Trump is going after a 16-year-old on Twitter; in the other room, Melania is talking about the perils of cyberbullying.” — JIMMY FALLON

The author giving TV interviews in Madrid
When Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro called her a “pirallha,” (“brat”), Thunberg changed her Twitter description to Pirallha.

“She’s 16, so she’s used to handling temper tantrums from immature boys.” — TREVOR NOAH

Roberts continues:

But, in part through their indifference to social cues, people with autism have a unique capacity to face the facts clearly. And the facts about climate change are fucking terrifying.

This, I think, helps explain why Thunberg has inspired so many people, especially so many young people: There’s a kind of courage in ignoring the pervasive social pressure to calm down about climate change. She takes the facts seriously, even when very few adults are modeling how to do so, even when it’s uncomfortable or inconvenient for those around her. She’s vegan, she won’t fly, and she’s devoting her young life to prodding adults into action; the default right-wing accusations of hypocrisy and duplicity simply don’t stick.

The right has established a social environment in which speaking up on climate change leads to bullying and shaming, but those tactics just don’t seem to work on Thunberg. And without them, the right has nothing to fall back on (not one of the hundreds of attacks launched at her has the courage to directly dispute the IPCC report she submitted).

In ignoring social cues, Thunberg has become one: A signal to other young people around the world that, yes, this really is an emergency, and yes, they really can and should speak up.

At COP25 she looked and sounded more grown than one year earlier. Besides picking up a couple inches in height, she had gained experience in that year, including two hair-raising high-speed catamaran crossings of the Atlantic and speeches to many national legislative bodies and multilateral conferences, and it showed. She started her talk saying what she thought she had done wrong with her earlier style, drawing upon emotional triggers like “Our house is on fire,” “I want you to panic,” or “How dare you!” that then became the only 5 second soundbites most people heard or saw rebroadcast, over and over. This time she put the science out front, in clear terms, and it was impeccable.

Since the Paris Agreement, global banks have invested 1.9 trillion U.S. dollars in fossil fuels. One hundred companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions. The G20 countries account for almost 80% of total emissions. The richest 10% of the world’s population produce half of our CO2 emissions, while the poorest 50% account for just one-tenth. We indeed have some work to do, but some more than others.

Still, she drew upon at least one emotional point towards the end of her remarks, when she compared inaction on climate change to watching a child wander into a street.

If there is a child standing in the middle of the road and cars are coming at full speed, you don’t look away because it’s too uncomfortable. You immediately run out and rescue that child. And without that sense of urgency, how can we, the people, understand that we are facing a real crisis?

She also had a new point to raise, which was to say it is not necessary to wait for governments to act. We, as individuals, all have it within our power to act, without waiting to be told we have to. In this respect, her personal lifestyle changes and willingness to sacrifice her education and any career orientation are exemplary. She is not manipulated. She defies her parents wishes. She writes her own speeches. She speaks truth to power.
Global Ecovillage Network offers workshops to Burkina Faso
She has also shamed the major players into taking the emergency seriously. She turned down a large cash award from from the Nordic Council because she said Nordic countries had a shameful record on divestment and continued to explore for oil. Other investment banks listened. I attended a keynote by Emma Navarro, Vice President of the European Investment Bank in which she ticked off some impressive new goals for her institution:
  • One trillion in green investment over next 10 years
  • No fossil investment (including fracking) from 2021 onward
  • 50% of the investment portfolio will be climate directed by 2025
  • From this moment, no loans of any kind shall violate or impair the Paris Agreement.
Despite the hearty applause, all this new climate finance has yet to pull any parts per million of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which is Greta Thunberg’s only test of your honesty and intention.
Until we actually do that, it is just more talk.


You did it! You got me there and back safely — the COP summit in Madrid. Every day you encourage me to do more and then tell you about it. Help me get my blog posted every week. All Patreon donations and Blogger subscriptions are needed and welcomed. Those are how we make this happen. PowerUp! donors on Patreon get an autographed book off each first press run. Please help if you can.

16 Comments on "Our Final Exam in Madrid"

  1. Sissyfuss on Sun, 15th Dec 2019 8:56 am 

    The fact that emissions show no real sign of diminishment bodes very poorly for Greta’s future and for the future of her generation. What is needed will never be broached by the wealthier nations. They would as soon elect a megalomaniac then make the lifestyle changes necessary to stop the eventual destabilization of our natural system. Greta is becoming Cassandra, a prophetess who sees clearly the coming catastrophe and is infuriated by such an uninterested response promulgated by the consuming masses. We are not going to make the Great Change demanded by the living planet and as a result, we will be blind sided upon the arrival of the Four Horsemen.

  2. Duncan Idaho on Sun, 15th Dec 2019 10:28 am 

    “The fact that emissions show no real sign of diminishment bodes very poorly for Greta’s future and for the future of her generation.”

    Capitalism is death, with 7.7 billion homo sapiens.
    Not only capitalism, unfortunately.

  3. Cloggie on Sun, 15th Dec 2019 3:37 pm 

    “They would as soon elect a megalomaniac then make the lifestyle changes necessary to stop the eventual destabilization of our natural system.”

    Speak for your own club, Sissyfuss.

    At least EVERY nation on earth (minus the usual outcast) took climate change serious, although not all were prepared for a big step forward.

    Europe is the only political entity with the foresight, technological expertise and stamina to push this through.

    Oh, and afterwards, we’ll have all the industries as a deserved reward.

  4. Cloggie on Sun, 15th Dec 2019 4:05 pm 

    Princess Buttercup announces he will lay the impeachment dog to rest:

    “Trump impeachment: Democrats fume as Republicans rally behind president”

    Democrats have protested but on Saturday the South Carolina Republican senator and Trump ally Lindsey Graham stoked their wrath further, telling a CNN interviewer in Doha he was “not trying to be a fair juror here” and that “this thing will come to the Senate and it will die quickly, and I will do everything I can to make it die quickly.”


  5. Cloggie on Sun, 15th Dec 2019 4:08 pm 

    Who needs the media in the age of the internet?

    After Trump, Johnson will attack the globalist media as well.

    “Boris Johnson threatens BBC with two-pronged attack”

    Downing Street is threatening the future of the BBC by insisting it is seriously considering decriminalising non-payment of the licence fee, while boycotting Radio 4’s Today programme over the broadcaster’s supposed anti-Tory bias.

  6. JuanP on Mon, 16th Dec 2019 10:46 am 

    I can relate to some of Greta’s experiences, but I think this is nothing more than another show at the circus. She won’t achieve anything meaningful because nobody can; it is at least half a century too late. I hope her mental issues keep her from ever understanding how pointless all her actions are; if she ever wakes up to the real truth of our current human predicament, she will be brutally depressed.

  7. full woke supremacist muzzies jerk double rainbow all the way across the sky so intense whoa it begins to look like a triple rainbow OMG what does it mean WDIM omg on Mon, 16th Dec 2019 11:06 am 

    Gsupertard please be kind to one another
    Go trim ur goats

  8. Davy on Mon, 16th Dec 2019 12:05 pm 

    “I can relate to some of Greta’s experiences, but I think this is nothing more than another show at the circus.”
    LMFAO, cuntface thinks a privilege do nothing South American can relate to Greta. Cuntface is living in Miami beach surfing and fucking off whenever he wants all on daddy’s dime and he calls this relating.

    She won’t achieve anything meaningful because nobody can; it is at least half a century too late.
    BULLShit, JuanPee, she is making the issue a headline especially with the young who will live with the mess. Talking about a problem is the start. Sure, its likely too late but not too late to prepare.

    “ I hope her mental issues keep her from ever understanding how pointless all her actions are; if she ever wakes up to the real truth of our current human predicament, she will be brutally depressed.”
    Sounds like projections from the board chronically depressed lunatic who only cares about himself. You are a disgusting piece of shit juanPee. You have ruined the board for years now. I hope your depression crushes you to where you don’t have the energy to ruin this place anymore.

  9. Cloggie on Sat, 21st Dec 2019 4:37 am 

    2040 +1.5C
    2070 +2.0C

    “Climate change has now really begun”

  10. Sissyfuss on Sat, 21st Dec 2019 8:49 am 

    All vestiges of denial have been erased from Clogundos mental perspectives. Now if he could just understand the exponential function involved in runaway warming leading to a hot house Earth, we wouldn’t have to deal with his supercilious rantings of renewable BAU.

  11. Cloggie on Sat, 21st Dec 2019 9:17 am 

    “All vestiges of denial have been erased from Clogundos mental perspectives. Now if he could just understand the exponential function involved in runaway warming leading to a hot house Earth, we wouldn’t have to deal with his supercilious rantings of renewable BAU.”

    The only moral position, according to Siss, is to sit on a bench and watch the world go under. That’s to an American perspective to my taste. Complaining about “runaway climate change” and moch renewable energy efforts regardless.

    And what is “renewable BAU” anyway?

    I never have expressed any outright climate denial opinions. I have never read a book on the subject. My available time is already overbooked for professional programming, history, energy, geopolitics.

    By intuition I tend to be a “luke warmer”, yes climate change is real, probably man made, but I have yet to be convinced of the inevitability of total doom; I already burned my fingers at that peak oil superstition a la Heinberg, thanks but no thanks.

    The EU renewable energy 2050 is a worthy goal and we have the entire world on board, except for a few retard has-beens, like Trump, Siss, empire dave, to name a few, who claim that it is not going to work, an American opinion that, as a revanchist European, suits me fine, so we get all the industries.

  12. JuanP on Sat, 21st Dec 2019 9:48 am 

    Cloggie is a Nazi

  13. JuanP on Sat, 21st Dec 2019 9:52 am 

    Actually, I am a Nazi too but a closet type

  14. The Board on Sat, 21st Dec 2019 12:32 pm 

    Notice to all. Please do not feed the Davy troll.

  15. The Board on Sat, 21st Dec 2019 12:44 pm 

    There is only one troll we know of and that is the lunatic South American juanPee. Board ban the fuck

  16. The Board on Sat, 21st Dec 2019 12:45 pm 

    Do not feed the troll.

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