Would even an infinite fund on loss and damage be enough?

This is the Editorial of the final Deep Adaptation Quarterly of 2022.

The COP27 climate conference announcement of a new fund, of unknown quantity, for the loss and damage occurring due to climate chaos, means it might appear that politicians and bureaucrats are finally getting real about how bad the situation is. So could they be catching up with the ‘Deep Adapters’? Unfortunately, no fund will ever be able to recompense the loss and damage that is being suffered – and will be suffered – from the impacts of climate and ecological breakdown. No international currency, bank, or payment system will likely survive the extent of disruption when impacts of global heating really kick in. I am just back from my first and last climate conference, and not only experienced it as an exercise in denial but one that is made impenetrable by the numbers of people and resources maintaining it in myriad ways. Even critics of COP27, and climate policies more generally, have their budgets, wages, skills, and status tied to the story of ultimate salvation from climate chaos. A consequence of this denial is not looking at the root causes of our predicament. Which might also be a reason for the denial. So let’s go there…

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Capitalism Versus Climate Justice – thoughts on my first and last experience of climate COP

In the run up to COP27 climate conference, The Economist magazine declared it has become impossible to limit global warming to an average of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Many analysts of the relevant science have said as much for a few years. We were dismissed as too negative and so our ideas on what to do were therefore marginalized. Sadly, warming beyond 1.5C means that climate change will become far more damaging to societies. Even worse, due to a range of amplifying feedbacks that are impossible to have certainty about, no one can credibly claim anymore that human actions to cut and drawdown carbon, while still important, will certainly work to stop or reverse the changes. When people take that situation to heart, it can challenge the societies and systems that brought us to this point. For many, it is a fundamentally radicalizing realization. Although The Economist cited my views in one of their articles, rather predictably it didn’t provide space for the kind of criticism of capitalism and the global order that can ensue.

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When #ClimateScam is Trending –rethinking climate comms

Text of speech delivered at COP27, Nov 9th 2022, Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, by Prof Jem Bendell. Check against delivery.

“We have a communications problem. Just as political support for climate action is growing, so political resistance to climate action is also growing. The use of the hashtag #ClimateScam has exploded since July of this year. From never exceeding more than 3,000 tweets in any month up to June 2022, it has been used 70,000-100,000 times per month in the four months since. Compare that to the hashtag #ClimateJustice, which has averaged about 30,000 tweets per month for the last two years and almost hit 100,000 unique tweets in the month of COP26 in Glasgow, with all the world’s media attention. But now? #ClimateScam is being used two and a half times for every #ClimateJustice tweet throughout the last 4 months. These twitter trends are one indicator of a growing resistance to climate action.

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The Lamborghini-Loving Culture Kills Life on Earth, but the Conference of Profits (COP) is fine with that.

Today I co-hosted a panel of women activists from the Global South, at COP27 in Egypt. We addressed a half-empty press conference room. I closed the session by condemning the charade that these conferences have become. As the live stream link wasn’t provided to us by the UN, I used my camera phone.

The video of my closing:

The transcript of my comments:

“It is important to remember that charity is not justice. If one side has no power, then there is no negotiation. Which can’t lead to justice. Which then can’t lead to healing.”

“This is the only Lamborghini I’ll ever want to own. I’ll tell you why in a moment. Here we are at the epicentre of blah blah blah and failure. We even hear that now from the main speeches. But we don’t hear why. As if it’s just a failure of people not knowing enough or not enough charismatic leadership. I believe something else is to blame.

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Climate Honesty – are we ‘beyond catastrophe’?

This is an essay that responds critically to the widely read piece in the New York Times that appears to be calming the nerves of climate professionals at COP27 and beyond. It is a 20-minute read.

In the last couple of years some climatologists have been reassuring us that although the storms, floods, droughts, ice loss and temperature extremes are all worse and sooner than was predicted by the consensus science, the future for humanity might not be as bad as previously predicted. We are told it’s not so bad that it’s already so bad. The scientific basis for such a view was always a bit shaky, partly as it involved speculating that existing trends would not continue, while downplaying how natural feedbacks are already amplifying heating more than previously calculated. But another reason for those reassurances being shaky is that they have relied on the subjective and sometimes arbitrary choices by computer modellers, which are made within a context where colleagues, funders, bureaucrats, politicians and journalists all want to hear findings that they can work with. Instead, if we look at the geological records of past climates with greenhouse gas concentrations like today, we might expect a world average temperature rising from our current 15C to around 18C due to greenhouse gases that humanity has already added to the atmosphere. Or if we simply look at CO2 concentrations over recent years, we are tracking a graph that lands us at between 3.3C to 5.7C of warming by the end of the century, according to the cautious Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC). That would mean an uninhabitable Earth for most of the children being born today.

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4 years ago: “climate change is now a planetary emergency posing an existential threat to humanity”

4 years ago today, I gave a keynote speech at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Soon after, a section of the talk was featured by the campaign group Extinction Rebellion (before they became famous).

Here is a transcript of a section of that speech:

“The Sustainable Development Goals offer one framework on public need. And we will hear of a range of efforts on different SDGs from our panellists. But I’d like to invite us to consider something bolder, more urgent. Although climate change is included in the SDGs, the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change invites a reprioritisation. It implies that climate change is now a planetary emergency posing an existential threat to humanity. The artist who made this ceiling said he was inspired by a mirage in the Sahel where trees, donkeys and people all appeared to be melting up into the sky. We could take that a dramatic metaphor, in this human rights room, of the human face of climate change. So as our climate spirals away from one friendly to our civilisation, we need to face up to why we have been so incapable of changing our ways, collectively, at scale.

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Join some events with compassionate realists

Having founded the Deep Adaptation Forum in 2019 to help collapse-aware people to support each other and develop helpful practices and responses, this day two years ago I left, so that it would be an initiative shaped by its participants. It was heartening, therefore, to receive an update from them today, highlighting some of the participant-led activities that are coming up. In case you don’t know about what they do, here is that update. I recommend joining something, or even proposing something. As climate anxiety grows, yet experts denigrate us for compassionate realism, it is important we give ourselves opportunities to experience how brilliant human beings can be.

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Invitation to Sign an Oath to the Future

The following invitation is being sent to scholars around the world in the run up to COP27 in Egypt.

Dear Scholar,

Nearly two years ago over 500 of us from over 30 countries signed a public letter to coincide with the 5th anniversary of the Paris Climate Accord. We wrote:

“As scientists and scholars from around the world, we call on policymakers to engage openly with the risk of disruption and even collapse of our societies. After five years of failing to reduce carbon emissions in line with the Paris Climate Accord, we must now face the consequences. While bold and fair efforts to cut emissions and naturally drawdown carbon are essential, researchers in many areas now consider societal collapse to be a credible scenario this century… Only if policymakers begin to discuss this threat of societal collapse might communities and nations begin to prepare and so reduce its likelihood, speed, severity, harm to the most vulnerable, and to nature.”

Over the last two years we have seen climate impacts worsen, emissions climb again, methane levels jump, the science become more worrying, and the political mood darken in many countries. We have also seen the ongoing commercialisation of climate responses, the public sugar-coating of problematic science, and concerted denigration of people who focus on radical economic change to prepare for inevitable disruptions. The climate summits have morphed into career fests and trade shows at the end of the world as we know it. Although we are unlikely to change the huge systems that incentivise poor responses from professionals in this field, we can commit to learn and support each other in taking a different path.

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Towards a 5th R in the Deep Adaptation Framework?

In the last few years a few people have suggested additional “Rs” for the 4 questions that comprise the Deep Adaptation framework for reflection and dialogue within an expectation or situation of societal disruption and collapse. As the idea of DA is used with groups around the world, various new ideas on what it means and what personal and group practices are relevant are emerging. One new R that I learned about recently is “Reverence.” That is what Reverend Lauren Van Ham adds to the framework as she uses it for the past couple of years with seminarians and faith-based communities. In my recent Q&A I asked her what a question might be that relates to Reverence, as I think DA involves inquiry, rather than simple answers. That is because societies and people are diverse, and an environmental breakdown affects all of it and, ultimately, everyone, thereby making generalised recommendations somewhat problematic!

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Boring Averages and Climate Brightsiding – big mistakes in climate comms during #ClimateWeek

Do you know what the world’s average temperature was in preindustrial times? In absolute terms? If not, how does hearing of the subsequent 1.3C degrees of global warming make you feel? You have nothing to compare it with. We experience and talk about daily and seasonal highs and lows. Yet with climate we are asked to talk about incomparable averages of 1.5C or 2C degrees. People relate that to an existing cognitive frame of “warmth” which has dominated understandings of climate chaos. That is why people can say things like “I don’t believe in destroying the economy to stop just 1.5C of warming” and it make intuitive sense to others, despite being empirical nonsense. Even the people who work on these subjects can get completely confused and end up publishing extreme silliness such as a “best guess” that crops grown in Europe might cope with 15C of average global warming (making the average like the current Western Sahara – not known for its agriculture).

I write about this ‘average stupidity’ in a two-part essay on the biggest mistakes in climate communications. It is also where I provide the basic information on pre-industrial temperatures and suggest different ways to communicate about it.

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