Last week marked the end of the 19th annual UN conference on climate change (referred to in bureaucratic UN-speak as the Congress of Parties) in Warsaw, Poland. As is par for the course there were no binding agreements hammered out and no decisive actions other than proclaiming that in two year's time in Paris the parties will reach an agreement about trying to reverse climate change. Of course that raises the question of why there's going to be another annual conference next fall if no one's going to agree to anything. But...
The biggest issue of contention is the idea that the developed world either needs to pay for, or provide sources of funding for, projects in the developing world that will allow continued development without increasing carbon emissions. The nations in the developing world like the idea because they would like to raise their living standards but new technologies - while beneficial to the planet - tend to be a bit more expensive than yesterday's "dirty energy" solutions. The governments in the developed world don't like the idea because, well, because it's the poorer nations' faults for being so poor and they just need to figure out how to carry out these changes.
Of course the developed world's point of view isn't put across so bluntly, but the fact remains the advanced capitalist countries and the (crypto-fascist) Chinese have fucked this planet up to an unimaginable degree but, since we can't put a price tag on clean air, clean water and the climate, we're not about to do a damn thing about it. It's the nature of capitalism, folks. If you can't monetize it - it just doesn't exist to be analyzed.
Since no one owns the air above us we have pumped tons and tons of hazardous materials into the sky without giving a second thought to the consequences. And because industry operated for decades on the model that you might as well pollute because it doesn't cost anything to do so, the governments that serve as bag men for the industrialists are downright hostile to any scheme that would cost their biggest campaign contributors a penny for their past sins.
In the meantime every new initiative aimed at fixing the mess we've made of the planet puts the burden on the developing world to keep their emissions down to a level that all but insures the largest corporations of cheap pools of labor for years into the future.
The simple fact of the matter is that we, through our consumption and way of life, have done far more harm to the environment than can be quantified. If we were forced to pay the true cost of environment degradation in the products we purchase, our lifestyles would change in a hurry. Yet our leaders aren't willing to concede that the decisions that have been made in Washington and western Europe have put the developing world in a can't-win position.
Until a plan is developed that takes into account the harm we have done to the planet and creates a mechanism by which the developing world has access to money (cash, not debt obligations) to raise their citizens' standards of living in an ecologically friendly manner, these conferences are a waste of everyone's time and money.