John Foran & Richard Widick (IICAT:4/20/2014)
THE INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE OF CLIMATE ACTION & THEORY is a public-facing climate-focused research network and media hub.
Our mission begins with the better understanding of global warming, climate change, and the ensuing international struggle to institute the just rule of law in defense of planetary ecology and its constituent peoples and species.
Toward that end, we work to render climate science, economic history, environmental governance, and the climate justice movement(s) accessible to the general public, while also striving to make such lay-knowledge available and useful to a wide range of interdisciplinary scientists, NGOs, scholars, theorists and activists — in the interest of fostering new collaborations and synthesizing new data and skills that together stand a better chance of contributing to the mitigation of global warming.
But the concept of mitigation means the lessening of emissions and thus future climate impacts, not their elimination, and so it implies a scenario requiring adaptation to global warming trends that are already locked in.
And the concept of adaptation itself leads even further—to the recognition that loss and damage from climate change is already occurring, especially among the least developed and poorest countries, whom for historical and geographical reasons stand most in the need of financial help and technological assistance in order to survive the coming social and ecological challenges.
Here we see how quickly the science of global warming and climate change raises questions of social justice, for the science currently predicts that carbon-fueled industrial development to date is on target to produce a minimum of 4 degrees Celsius warming this century, and more likely a 6 degree increase or higher, given the slow progress of the global policy response to the crisis.
This direct path from the science of climate change to the politics of social justice raises basic ethical questions about power and governance, demonstrating how the problems associated with global warming already require an interdisciplinary response from all interested parties.
At IICAT, we work to bridge the domains of academic science and the hands-on work of building appropriate legal, policy, program and social movement responses at every scale, local to global.
We hope users of this site will find resources and insights that help them develop solutions relevant to their specific jobs, projects, programs, and movements, as well as help them contribute to the global struggle for climate change mitigation and adaptation, sustainable development, and ethical climate governance.
IICAT: DEVELOPING KNOWLEDGE FOR CLIMATE ACTION & ETHICAL CLIMATE GOVERNANCE
What is at stake? The creation of a legal regime of global climate governance that limits the production of greenhouse gases and hence the magnitude of future global warming—in other words, the climate itself is at stake, and thus everything else as well.
By climate action we mean climate action planning for mitigation and adaptation to global warming and the social movements that demand climate action that is scientifically sound, prompt, and socially just.
By theory we mean critical theory: the production and synthesis of useful knowledge that negates the social and ecological failures of current social organization—and in this case that means knowledge informing and leading systematic social transformation away from unsustainable fossil fuel-driven industrial economic activity and toward sustainable development fueled instead by clean renewable energy sources.
By international we mean that IICAT moves in the space shared by the new transnational social movements, the global brainstorm of intellectuals and culture producers, and the contested institutions of global economic and environmental governance (the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, World Trade Organization, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, etc.).
By institute we mean a place, a space, and a goal – to bring people and ideas together to create and synthesize knowledge to inform climate action and advance climate justice.
THE INTERNATIONAL CLIMATE WARS
The international climate wars is our term for the ongoing public conflict over climate governance.
We use it to refer to the combined activities of the social actors in each of three relatively autonomous institutional domains of modern everyday life: the economic, public, and political spheres—insofar as those activities relate to climate governance and climate-related social movements, and especially as they relate to climate law.
Each sphere can be characterized according to specifically productive social activities that express themselves in the social world as objective forces: the economic sphere is the realm of market forces (capital; industrial associations; corporations; labor unions; and workers as individuals); the public sphere is the realm of communicative civil forces (media; peoples, labor, & environmental social movements; NGOs; religious organizations; citizens and civil society in general); and the political sphere is the realm of legal forces – the forces of Law (international governing institutions; states; courts; and voters).
The first principle of our analysis of the international climate wars can be stated simply: the planet’s climate, its world industry, its social movements, and even its nation-states and their global cities are not constituted prior to the social and environmental relationships and struggles in which they are embedded, but rather through them. Read more about our theory and methods >>>
Given recent observations of climate science indicating a rapid acceleration of warming and the approach of tipping points into irreversible climate change, we believe this struggle to slow global warming by regulating greenhouse gas production (Kyoto Protocol; Durban Platform) and to facilitate adaptation to climate change (UN Adaptation Fund, Green Climate Fund, Climate Technology Center & Network, etc.) already constitutes the defining social conflict of the dawning century, perhaps of all time.
EVERYDAY LIFE IN A CHANGING WORLD
We understand that modern industrial production and atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses is changing the climate—and that changes everything else.
It changes for example the conditions of planetary ecological wellbeing and thus human labor, public life and democracy—and so by extension our work as social historians, theorists, and activists.
It means we must put our ideas into action and do our part in shaping the new world that these changes are making.
It changes the logic of our inhabitation of earth with the introduction of a new axiom: sustainability.
The digital revolution. Modernization. Development. Communication. Production. Urbanization. Publicity. Governance. Movements. Education. Theory. Everything must be reconceived and rebuilt according to this new first principle.
With that in mind, IICAT takes the international climate wars to be emblematic of the more general question of modern everyday life and its compatibility with the earthly ecosystems upon which it is by nature dependent.
At IICAT we see these changes through the interdisciplinary lens of Global Studies and its constitutive concept of globalization—which we define, in general, as the current, ongoing integration of the world’s peoples, cultures, and economic systems.
Specifically, IICAT sees the current dominant tendency within post-cold war globalization to be the universal expansion and neoliberal transformation of the capitalist world economic (culture) system—the system of rights-based juridical economic, public, and state institutions that have been at the dynamic core of liberal western Euro-Anglo-American economic industrialization and governance for at least three centuries.
In the current historical moment of global economic crisis, in which return to growth appears to be the only economic strategy being offered by national and global decision makers, we see how global warming and triumphant neoliberal globalization have grown to be indelibly linked. This means that the politics of free market fundamentalism and the international trade and development policies of the 21st century (WTO, IMF, WB, UNDP, etc.) will be central to understanding climate change and the social struggle for an effective, science-based legal regime of global climate governance.
THE CLIMATE JUSTICE MOVEMENT
A crucial component of globalization is the transnationalization of social movements, including the Climate Justice Movement.
In the current phase of our research, IICAT scholars Richard Widick and John Foran are tracking the convergence of peoples, labor and environmental movements in the Climate Justice Movement (of movements)—and that means studying the various institutions of emergent global environmental self-governance with which they are in constant struggle: namely the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), but also numerous other UN organizations likewise promoting international economic, social, cultural and environmental cooperation. >>> read more on the movement(s)
CONVERGING SOCIAL MOVEMENTS IN THE INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC SPHERE
If the 1999 Battle in Seattle (between converging social movements and the World Trade Organization) signaled the arrival of a game-changing era of anti-globalization movements, the 2009 global convergence of movements at the United Nations Conference of Parties 15 in Copenhagen signaled the rise of climate change and thus climate governance to the apex of concern within these very same movements. In our view, this in another indication that climate change is now and will increasingly become the central figure in and through which both the human and natural sciences as well as the critical cultural imagination discover, explore and speculate about the ultimate social and ecological effects of fossil-fueled industrial modernity.
Please visit our page on Converging Peoples, Labor, and Environmental Movements, where under the banner of “peoples movements” we include indigenous peoples and peasant peoples and poor peoples and colonized peoples of every kind—what unites them is their common recognition that their hardships follow from the excesses of neoliberal economic globalization.
IICAT RESEARCH QUESTIONS & METHODS
Because good research is driven by good questions, we endeavor to continually refine our focus and revise the questions guiding our research, keeping abreast of the changing science of global warming as well as the broadening sphere of emergent global climate self-governance, by which for example United Nations climate initiatives extend themselves toward every sphere of economic, social and cultural activity.
How are the social movements and the UN agencies charged with managing climate change mitigation and adaptation responding to the increasing certainty of climate science? to the pressure of economic interests? to the demands of civil society? and to the social unrest associated with growing climate chaos (extreme weather—for example, rising sea levels, droughts and floods; heat waves and cold spells; collapsing food chains; melting ice and disappearing rivers, etc.)?
UN CLIMATE NEGOTIATIONS AS GLOBAL SPECTACLE
Reading our working papers (see sidebar menu), you will find that our principal efforts thus far are focused on the UNFCCC and its annual Conference of Parties—a ritual gathering that we see as crucial because it functions to convoke the corporations, the movements and the states in a planetary spectacle of conflict that dramatizes the basic social and ecological contradictions built in to the globalizing world economic (culture) system.
The spectacle of big UN international climate conferences thus serves the pedagogical function of educating us, the public and everyone involved, in the complexities of carbon-industrial modernity and its accumulating effects on the Earth’s basic life support systems—its air, water, forest, and ocean systems and its diverse multitude of living organisms.
The spectacular conferences, serving as meeting grounds for converging peoples, labor and environmental movements, thereby also serve as arenas for these movements to educate themselves about each other, to identify their concerns, and so to focus their combined attentions.
The yearly drama of UN Climate COPs therefore become more than just the target of global civil society—they grow increasingly constitutive of that global civil society. They are engines of global civic engagement, and their relevance must be appraised as such and not merely on the grounds of their own internal progress towards their own internal objectives.
The more we watch the world’s economic, civil society and state actors grappling over climate governance under the auspices of the United Nations climate negotiations, the more we believe that our collective future hangs in the balance of this model cosmopolitan experiment in international cooperation.
UNFCCC COP 19, WARSAW POLAND, 2013
At COP 19 in Warsaw (November 11 – 23) we saw the momentum shift toward the 2015 Paris Climate Accord (or whatever they end up calling the new treaty mandated by the 2011 Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, which launched the initiative)—all eyes are now set on COP 20 in Lima 2014, the last working COP before the Durban Platform is finalized and adopted in 2015 as the next universal climate treaty.
No longer are the parties mired in obscure, multi-track negotiations in which nations big and small, rich and poor, powerful and weak can hide behind questions about science and equity—on the contrary, now they face clear decisions under open scrutiny in transparent public talks concerning agreed upon science and indisputable procedures: make ambitious emission reduction and finance commitments now, for inclusion in the next universal climate treaty—the Durban Platform, to be adopted at COP 21 in Paris, 2015—or stand before the world court of public opinion as purveyors chaos, death and destruction on today’s least well-prepared peoples and on coming generations all over the planet.
On the science: in October 2013 the IPCC began releasing its 5th assessment, and the verdict is perfectly clear and essentially unanimous that we are nearly past the time when talking about a +2 degrees Celsius future will remain relevant—soon the hopeful target will be +4 degrees, and the tragic outer limit of +6 degrees or more is increasingly more likely. This point is supported by recent reports that CO2 emissions in the first decade of the 21st century increased on average about 2.9% per year (EU Commission report Trends in Global CO2 Emission 2013, p. 8).
The numbers are hard to dispute—just look at these figures for total global of CO2 emissions, in billions of tonnes, compiled by the same EU Commission report (pps. 18 – 19): 1990 (22.7); 1991 (22.6); 1993 (22.8); 1994 (22.9); 1995 (23.6); 1996 (24.2); 1997 (24.4); 1998 (24.6); 1999 (24.8); 2000 (25.4); 2001 (25.4); 2002 (26.1); 2003 (27.2); 2004 (28.5); 2005 (29.3); 2006 (30.3); 2007 (31.4); 2008 (32.0); 2009 (31.6); 2010 (33.0); 2011 (34.0); 2012 (34.5).
In addition to showing that the UNFCCC process has failed to actually reduce emissions over the course of its 20 year history of working to do just that, it also shows that the rate of emissions is increasing, and and that the rate of increase is itself increasing. The rate of increase increase in the first decade of the 21st century is approximately double that of the 1990s.
What we don’t and can’t know, on the other hand, is where we would stand without the UN process.
But here is something additional that we do know, and which should not be overlooked or underestimated: for twenty years the UNFCCC has been training civil servants, negotiators, countries, corporation, media, and activists to engage the problem.
At IICAT, we see this pedagogical function of the UN climate talks to be extremely important.
With the expertise and the structure it has build over these decades, it now has the capacity and knowledge to produce and enforce a treaty between the nations that could begin to bring CO2 production down.
But is the Durban Platform, which is presently on the home stretch on the road to Paris 2015, actually meeting this challenge?
Opinions vary—but our work inside the last three COPs documenting the process and engaging and interviewing folks from the economic, public, and political spheres indicates scarce reason for optimism.
On the contrary, what we see, with our own eyes and in the studied opinions of our research subjects, is an increasingly worrisome trend toward corporate capture over the process, as every initiative and program more and more starts to offer the world’s biggest carbon polluters new opportunities to profit.
Take for example the increasing financialization of Clean Development Mechanism; REDD+; LULUCEF; the NMM initiative advanced at COP 19 in Warsaw; the Green Climate Fund; and on down the line (in time we plan to provide links to each of these programs, and to the critical studies that show how each one is a site of contestation between both private sector state oil companies on one side and activists and academics on the other).
These programs intend to use financial markets and tradable pollution credits to incentivize polluters to cut back. But are they working? The data cited here and our research subjects agree—the answer is no.
At Warsaw, the social movements symbolically walked out in protest. That is one kind of answer.
Another answer would be to start using a stick instead of these financial carrots, but the trend is exactly the opposite at both the domestic and international level, as the nations move forward implementing Carbon Trading Systems and the UNFCCC gets increasingly more involved with the International Emissions Trading Association in trying to integrate the national carbon markets in a global trading system that will, if adopted and universalized by dint of the new treaty, more and more allow rich developed countries to offset their own carbon pollution costs and national emission reduction efforts on to developing countries.
Social movements demanding climate justice see this trend toward market mechanisms as ignoring the facts already stated, and remind us that markets are engineered to produce price efficiencies, not justice, not fairness, not equity.
In fact, because markets have already failed to capture the social costs of carbon pollution and internalize them in the prices of the commodities they produce, a situation leading to climate change for all while creating super-profits for the few, social movements tend to see global warming as the outcome of market failure.
For social movements reaching this conclusion, it is a painful irony to see the same kind of market-driven neoliberal ideology that produced global warming now increasingly offered up as the solution.
We tend to agree, but with this caveat: there are no such things as markets in general, only specific markets created by real historical individuals according to specific laws.
The idea of markets should thus not be the central object of our criticism—rather we should focus on specific markets, study them historically, and determine if they are failing to produce a desirable distribution of resources, costs, profits, and justice.
As we see it, the facts are speaking more and more clearly about this all of the time: the fossil fuel market as presently regulated is failing to capture the social costs of carbon pollution, and is instead externalizing those costs on society at large and global ecology, leading to massive increases in the costs of production in general for the 99% and super-profits for the vested 1%.
On equity: in Warsaw all nations agreed to erect a so-called third pillar of universal climate governance called Loss & Damage. Henceforth the negotiations will work toward mitigation of emissions, adaptation to guard against future warming already locked-in by emissions to date, and compensation for Loss & Damage presently attributable to anthropogenic climate change.
In this way, the path ahead has been cleared. At the Bonn intercessional meeting in March 2014 the first national submissions to the Durban Platform were gathered. Follow that story on the UNFCCC web site here. Read civil society analysis of the Bonn intercessional here.
The outcomes of Bonn have now set the stage for action at the UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon’s states & civil society convergence in New York on September 23, 2014.
The UN General Secretary’s world historic call for global civil society convergence in New York (September 23, 2014) is called BIG IDEA 2014 – check it out, get involved, and pack your bags, hopefully there’s gonna be a convoy! Connect with the counter-summit activities here.
There has to be, because we cannot expect the Nations to act together, in the universal interest of human kind and the species and ecologies we all depend on for cultural and economic sustenance, without massive direct action civil society pressure on the biggest and richest parties, who must lead the other nations and the United Nations itself toward climate justice.
UNFCCC COP 18, DOHA, QATAR, 2012
The year before Warsaw COP 19, we went to Qatar for COP 18 in Doha, seeking answers to several questions, including: how is the COP reacting to new data indicating massive increases in the YEARLY RATE OF CO2 EMISSIONS (see chart below)? to the great arctic melt of summer 2012 (see NASA image below)? and to the gathering storm of social movements and grass roots civil society attention to climate action, planning and climate law (see below links to essays and commentary on the changing attitudes toward global warming)? How are the movements coming to understand each other and their mutual relationships to the international climate negotiations? And how is all of this market, social movement and state political attention influencing the UNFCCC’s work on a new climate treaty for 2020 (see the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties 17 2011 decision launching the new treaty process — the so-called Durban Platform for Enhanced Action)?
At five official press conferences conducted at the Qatar National Convention Center, we asked a variety of scholars and activists, as well as a one-time climate negotiator, to reflect on the same in answer to this question: What must the Durban Platform do, and how should we go about getting it done? These press conferences are archived at the UNFCCC.
Throughout 2013, we presented our analyses and field research data produced at COP18. Our first appearance was on January 18, 2013, where we presented a photo and video seminar assessing COP 18. The event was part of the Carsey-Wolf Center’s year-long Critical Issues In America 2012 – 2013 program “Figuring Sea Level Rise” at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Our title for the open public seminar was ”Durban to Doha: Assessing the Latest Round of UN Climate Talks at COP18 in Qatar.”
For background on COP18 and the UN climate talks preceding those just conducted in Doha, we recommend the following histories and analyses up through Durban COP17 2011 and the interim Bangkok round just concluded (Sept. 5, 2012): The International Institute for Sustainable Development’s (iisd) summary report on Durban COP17; Patrick Bond’s “Durban’s Conference of polluters, market failure, and critic failure” (ephemera 2012); Third World Network’s (TWN) reports from the interim Bangkok negotiations, Aug. 30 – Sept. 5, 2012.
Our investigation of the UN climate talks began the year before in Durban, where we attended COP 17, concerning which we have published the following: Whose Utopia? Our Utopia! Competing Visions of the Future at the United Nations Climate Talks, COP 17 in Durban, South Africa, 2011 (Foran & Widick, revised for Culture & Nature, 2014, forthcoming); Breaking Barriers to Climate Justice (Foran & Widick), Contexts 2013); “Invitation to Durban: Ethnography and the Global Spectacle of UN Climate Negotiations (Widick, IICAT 2011).
THE IPCC 5th ASSESSMENT
Read all of the new reports here.
additional timely sources include:
QUOTE: ”We’re the largest general scientific society in the world, and therefore we believe we have an obligation to inform the public and policymakers about what science is showing about any issue in modern life, and climate is a particularly pressing one,” said Dr. Alan Leshner, CEO of AAAS. “As the voice of the scientific community, we need to share what we know and bring policymakers to the table to discuss how to deal with the issue.”
Quote: “What would fill the void if the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) were allowed to collapse? This briefing shows that ending the ETS would not leave a climate policy void. Emissions trading has awarded huge subsidies to some of the EU’s most polluting industries while at the same time failing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and undermining other environmental measures. As the EU debates a 2030 climate and energy package, it should seek ambitious targets for greenhouse gases, renewable energy and energy efficiency – but targets are not enough. The EU should take a greater role in directly regulating greenhouse gas emissions at source. The existing policy framework could be made more robust by extending the Industrial Emissions Directive to regulate greenhouse gases, strengthening the Energy Efficiency Directive, and reforming the Effort Sharing Decision to exclude the use of carbon offsets. There should also be debate on what role the EU can play. Returning to a patchwork of national legislation would weaken the EU’s ability to address climate change, with some countries’ inaction putting pressure on others to weaken their own policies. At the same time, citizens’
movements at local and national levels are key in achieving broader transformations. Germany’s Energiewende [energy transition], despite some serious implementation problems, shows the positive role that popular pressure can play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Recent efforts to remunicipalise energy supplies also serve as a reminder that public ownership of infrastructure is a key condition for creating the scale of shift required to address climate change.”
ON THIN ICE: How cutting pollution can slow warming and save lives (executive summary) a new report by the World Bank, 2013, quote:
“The science is settled and the problem identified. Now we must act in the smartest and most effective way we can. Our world is on thin ice.”
Download the full report here.
World Resources Institute - “Reflections on COP 18 in DOHA”
Global Risks 2013, a new report from the World Economic Forum quote:
“Recent scenario projections based on existing government policies and declared policy intentions predict that a long-term increase of more than 3.5 degrees Celsius is probable. The more pessimistic scenario assuming no change in government policies and measures beyond those adopted or enacted by mid-2011 talks of a conceivable increase of 6 degrees Celsius or more” (p. 18).
The EMISSIONS GAP REPORT of the UNITED NATIONS ENVIRONMENT PROGRAM, 2012
Read this 2012 report from the Climate Policy Initiative titled The Policy Climate, which details recent developments in US climate-related policy. The Climate Policy Institute is funded by an Open Society Foundations grant to support sustainable development and policy.
Read about how things are going according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s 2012 Climate Change Indicators report:
Please read the US EPA’s newly released report Climate Change Indicators in the United States, 2012, written to increase the US public’s understanding of how global warming and climate change are already impacting US ecology and social life, as well as what to expect over the coming century, during which the EPA expects to register between an average temperature increase of between 4 and 10 degrees Fahrenheit (which IICAT sees as a very conservative estimate, given that the World Bank sees a future defined by global average temperature increases of between 4 and 10 degrees Celsius this century, and perhaps as early as 2050).
Read about the coming + 4° C planet….
Download this November 2012 report for the World Bank, written by Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics:
QUOTE: “Scientists agree that countries’ current United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change emission pledges and commitments would most likely result in 3.5 to 4°C warming. And the longer those pledges remain unmet, the more likely a 4°C world becomes” (ix).
QUOTE: “The 4°C scenarios are devastating: the inundation of coastal cities; increasing risks for food production potentially leading to higher malnutrition rates; many dry regions becoming dryer, wet regions wetter; unprecedented heat waves in many regions, especially in the tropics; substantially exacerbated water scarcity in many regions; increased frequency of high-intensity tropical cyclones; and irreversible loss of biodiversity, including coral reef systems” (ix).
THE GREAT MELT OF 2012:
Consider this image comparing the Arctic Sea Ice Minimum of 1984 and 2012 …
NASA image - click to visit NASA and read the explanation
NEW DATA ON GLOBAL CARBON EMISSIONS
48% more carbon is now being emitted yearly than was being emitted in 1992, the year in which the first UN Earth Summit inaugurated the UNFCCC international climate negotiation process: 31.8 gigatonnes was emitted in 2010 (the latest available figures)—that is a 6.7% increase over 2009 emissions and 48% more than the 1992 figure.
Read it in the Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/jun/21/global-carbon-emissions-record
… and see the statistics here: http://public.tableausoftware.com/views/CO2Emissions_0/Emissions?:embed=y
See the comparable 2012 analysis of recent emissions data by the United Nations Secretary General’s High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability, whichputs the increase in yearly CO2 emissions between 1992 and 2009 at 38%. Read the report here (cite page 19 for the figure of 38%): Resilient People Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing.
For additional breaking climate change science and news, visit Climate Code Red, at which site the following US Dept. of Energy graph was published on July 9, 2012:
Please read Andrew J. Hoffman’s “Climate Science as Culture War” (Stanford Social Innovation Review, Fall, 2012), for a thoughtful analysis of today’s changing attitudes toward global warming, climate change and climate science.
Patrick Bond: DURBAN’S CONFERENCE OF POLLUTERS, MARKET FAILURES, AND CRITIC FAILURE
Please download Patrick Bond’s analysis of civil society and climate justice activism at COP17, Durban, South Africa 2011: http://www.ephemerajournal.org/sites/default/files/12-1bond.pdf
Please read renowned climate scientist James Hansen’s (et. al) recent 2012 analysis of public perception of climate change in the context of extreme weather events in the United States: “The New Climate Dice: Public Perception of Climate Change”
Click here to read how UC Berkeley Physicist Richard P. Muller describes his newfound convictions on the science of global warming: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/30/opinion/the-conversion-of-a-climate-change-skeptic.html?ref=opinion&pagewanted=all
2012: The Year Climate Change Got Real for Americans
— a video by greenman studio —