The COP26 Climate Conference Kicks Off with Sound and Fury, Signifying Little

The two-week international conference on climate change, known as COP26 , has begun in Glasgow, Scotland. Over 130 national political leaders, including Joe Biden, attended the “summit” portion of the conference. Needless to say, there have been a lot of speeches. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that humans are “digging our own graves.” Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley said she and the other politicians should not “allow the path of greed and selfishness to sow the seeds of our common destruction.” Joe Biden tried to distance himself from Donald Trump’s denialism, saying, “Every day we delay, the cost of inaction increases.” But meanwhile, he has been unable so far to get the U.S. Congress to agree to his proposals.

Climate activists have demonstrated outside the conference. Activist leader Greta Thunberg said, “Change is not going to come from inside there. We say no more blah-blah-blah.”

And inside it was indeed blah-blah-blah. Some of the highlights noted in the press in the first couple of days included:

  • The Prime Minister of India, the world’s third-biggest carbon polluter, said it will try to stop emitting greenhouse gases by 2070, decades after what scientists say is necessary to avoid even bigger irreversible disasters than the world is already on pace for. Many of the other participants expressed disappointment.
  • Over 100 countries announced they had signed a global methane pledge to significantly reduce emissions of methane, a major greenhouse gas. But, like with the Paris climate accords of 2015, participation is voluntary. There is no enforcement built in. And major polluters like China, India, and Russia, have not signed on.
  • Over 100 countries also pledged to eliminate deforestation by 2030. (Forests absorb carbon dioxide and so counteract global heating.) But this is also a pledge without enforcement. Seven years ago, a smaller group of countries pledged to cut deforestation 50 percent by 2020 – and failed miserably. And this is not a pledge to restore forests, but just to stop further destruction.

But the scientific evidence is clear. Catastrophic climate change won’t stop if only half the world participates. And pledges won’t stop global heating. The governments of the world, representing the ruling class of their respective nations, may be getting a bit nervous about climate change. But they are still showing major resistance to acting to prevent an apocalyptic disaster. Blah-blah-blah. It’s up to the rest of us to save the world.