Copout26: Cheap Shots and Red Herrings

by Thomas O’Dwyer

Great Thunberg at COP26
Activist Greta Thunberg at COP26 in Glasgow. Photo: AP

If the recent COP26 Climate Change marathon in Scotland was the last best hope for humankind, where can I reserve a seat on Elon Musk’s flight to Mars? With delegates jetting into Glasgow from around 200 countries, the event started to look like an episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus with a cast of thousands. To a chorus of “Blah, blah, blah!” from Greta Thunberg’s street warriors, the first dispatches out of the media paddock were mostly cheap shots at the idiocies the gathering spawned. Like the giant foot stomping on dissent in a Python sketch, the massive carbon footprint generated by COP26 squashed all previous records for a climate crisis conference. Its emissions of 102,500 tonnes of CO2 equivalent was more than double that of the last UN climate summit. About 60 per cent of that represented the international travel of the 39,000 official delegates to the talks. Many of those attending were bag carriers, aides, professional lobbyists and other hangers-on. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson flew by private jet to Cop26 from London, but after an outpouring of media scorn, he opted for the train on a subsequent visit.

As for cheap shots, a bloated delegation from impoverished Zimbabwe got theirs from a local supermarket, widely photographed loading up carts with hundreds of dollars worth of Scotland’s finest whiskies. They were later filmed celebrating President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s arrival at a raucous party on an Edinburgh beach, accompanied by much derision and anger on social media at home on the theme of, “Why are our leaders there, for whisky and T-shirts?” Many experts considered the event crucial for the future of our planet, but its geeky title remained mostly unrecognised by the public. Vox pop interviews on the streets in Scottish cities revealed that few knew what COP26 meant, and many seemed confused as to whether it was a climate or an environmental conference or what it was supposed to achieve. It’s a fair guess that this low level of public engagement was universal, explaining why many editors of popular media chose to run click-bait stories laden with those cheap shots and red herrings.

COP stands for Conference of the Parties, and it convened for the 26th time during the first two weeks of November. Read more »

Stop The Planet Killers

by Thomas O’Dwyer

Climate protesters cover a square in central London in fake blood and coins last week. They poured blood-red paint across Chartered Bank’s glass facade, to highlight the $31bn they say it had invested in fossil fuels since the Paris climate accords. Photo: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images
Climate protesters covered a square in central London in fake blood and coins last week. They poured the paint across Chartered Bank’s glass facade, to highlight the $31bn they say it has invested in fossil fuels since the Paris climate accords. Photo: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

Before we can save the planet, we need to expose and stop the willful planet killers. They’re not difficult to identify – it’s the usual science-hating suspects and their followers. Shortly after the United Nations released its shocking scientific report on climate change last week, one of my acquaintances who has a sharp eye for ready-made answers to inconvenient truths, forwarded me an email. These Fwd: Fwd: messengers never share their own researched and crafted opinions – there’s an industry that creates cookie-cutter thinking for its email warriors. The report in the news is from the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This UN climate-science organisation, founded in 1988, has 195 member countries and every seven years it publishes a state-of-the-climate update, summarising current, peer-reviewed research on the science of climate change and its effects. To write this latest IPCC summary, 234 scientists read more than 14,000 research papers.

The gist of the scoffing email I received was that the UN report was alarmist, exaggerated and too negative. UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ warning that the report was “code red for humanity” was an overstatement. Behind the entire effort was “a political agenda” in which “some” politicians falsely proclaim an existential threat to the world by mixing politics and science. The writer admitted that they had not read the report, only “a couple of articles about it,” but assured us that far from heralding planetary catastrophe, climate change would bring “great commercial opportunities” (which the email did not specify). This vague prediction did contain the grudging admission that climate change is real — a couple of years ago, these emails were in full Trumpian cry proclaiming it a left-wing hoax. Now there’s a shift among the former purist deniers —it exists but it comes bearing bounty (more wealth for the wealthy). Read more »


by Joan Harvey

If you can get the old voting against state-subsidized healthcare, and the poor voting in favor of cuts to inheritance tax, then democratic capitalism really is workable after all. —Malcolm Bull

As the objective view of the world recedes, it is replaced by intuition as to which way things are heading now. —William Davies

Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine /in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,/a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways  —Maggie Smith “Good Bones”

Photo by Cristofer Jeschke on Unsplash

Mark Twain, in his wonderful Letters from the Earth, nails the essence of human unreason. It’s not just the creation story with a talking snake, but how man has conceived of heaven, at least in Christianity.

[H]e has imagined a heaven, and has left entirely out of it the supremest of all his delights, the one ecstasy that stands first and foremost in the heart of every individual of his race—and of ours—sexual intercourse!

It is as if a lost and perishing person in a roasting desert should be told by a rescuer he might choose and have all longed-for things but one, and he should elect to leave out water!

A singing, harp-playing heaven is, as Twain points out, like the most boring church service ever, and for eternity. Yet this was the creative fantasy the main religion of the West landed on, and people for years somehow bought it. (The Islamic version is perhaps closer to what Twain had in mind, but still an extraordinarily shabby version of the imagined possible). If people are going to imagine an afterlife, not only could they be having sexual intercourse as much as they want with whoever they want with no negative consequences, but they could easily take it farther, giving themselves many more sex organs and erogenous zones and pleasures that put orgasms to shame. (I’m sure science fiction writers have gone there with no problem). Throw in some great powder skiing for me between bouts in the sack, and no knee pain. And for those who don’t like sex or don’t want it all the time, let heaven be whatever they like, endless gourmet meals with no weight gain, fantastic chess matches in Turkish baths, conversation with their philosopher heroes, horseback riding on perfect steeds. Read more »