How ethically bankrupt politicians are paving the way toward ecocide
Imagine a world where Ernie never found Bert.
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It’s hard to imagine a world where someone didn’t think to pair Ernie with Bert, Simon with Garfunkel, or macaroni with cheese. Some things are just meant to go together and if they’re kept apart, we’re all worse for it. Climate science and climate policy are perfect examples.
In a recent conversation with my colleague Magnus L.H. Haslebo the Co-Founder of the Resistance Group Guerilla and the former Head of Communications for the Danish political party, The Alternative, it became clear that while sociopathic corporations’ greed is destroying the planet, it’s the corrupt politicians who are paving the way.
If you want to believe in fairy tales, go ahead. If you want to believe that a guy named Jack climbed a magic beanstalk to a land high in the sky — be my guest. But if you believe in an alternate environmental reality, one that rejects science and adheres to a fictitious climate plan called “2050 net zero”, that all but guarantees that we will overshoot our climate targets and put our ecosystems at risk of spiraling out of control…then you need to be removed from any political office that might allow you to influence climate policy.
Whether your views come from ignorance, ideology or you’re just so ethically bankrupt that you’ve allowed billionaire funders to turn you into a tool of corruption, it doesn’t matter, you’ve become a tragic hindrance to addressing our climate emergency. In fact, without science as a guide, you represent an existential threat to life as we know it.
Both Liberal and Conservative politicians are failing us right across the planet. They may sound different on some issues but if you look past the noise, it’s obvious that they’re both beholden to the same billionaires and corporate elite that are leading us towards a systems-driven ecocide. They would like us to believe that they’re honest in their efforts to protect the climate but the science is clear, and you can’t stand behind policies like “2050 net-zero” and say that you believe in climate science. Politicians can’t wiggle out of this one.
John Locke who is among the most influential political philosophers of the modern period said that politicians derive their legitimacy as the result of a social contract where people conditionally transfer some of their rights to the government to protect the rights of the people and to promote the public good. When governments fail to do so, the state’s legitimacy comes into question. I believe this is where we are today.
Successful Policies Needs Facts
In the video below, Billionaire investor Nick Hanauer argues for the need to have accurate data from which to build successful policy. He points out that for thousands of years humans believed that the earth was the center of the Universe and that one who still believes this would do some pretty terrible astronomy. Similarly, he argues that a policymaker who incorrectly believes that the rich are job creators and therefore should not be taxed will do equally terrible policy.
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When it comes to climate change, not only do we have unanimous science to work with, we also have a clear course of action that comes with a timeline and a horrific picture of the repercussions, if we ignore the evidence. With all the peer-reviewed data available you simply can’t be seen as a legitimate politician (or government) if you dismiss the science.
Is 2050 Net Zero Really So Bad?
Perhaps you’re thinking that “2050 net-zero” must be a worthy plan as nearly every so-called leader on the planet has embraced it. That’s true, they have, but don’t let that consensus fool you into believing that “2050 net zero” is a meaningful response to climate change. It’s not. It’s a scientific fabrication meant to appease and distract the masses. It’s a watered-down political target that is being pushed by billionaires, bankers, and fossil fuel companies to ensure that the predatory, exploitive, and wasteful system that created our climate crisis remains largely unchanged.
And if you don’t think that ethically compromised politicians are capable of behaving in this way, just remember that these are the same dishonest leaders who in 2015 signed onto the Paris Accords and failed right across the board.
Safety in Numbers
You remember the Paris Accords, the non-binding agreement with no oversight that required nothing of politicians other than their commitment to giving their best efforts to ideally keep emissions below 1.5 and not above 2.0 degrees Celsius. Yes, that’s the one, and we bought it hook line and sinker. It was a politician's dream, a chance to stand shoulder to shoulder on the world stage and bask in the glory of their leadership without actually having to make any difficult policy decisions. As of November 2020, 194 states and the European Union have signed the Agreement.
But as is often the case, the truth eventually comes out. It didn’t take long for a tidal wave of hollow promises to come crashing down. As of November 2020, every major economy, besides India (due to some questionable accounting), was nowhere near hitting their non-binding targets. But what’s really interesting about this unmitigated failure is that it ensures that no country can be singled out. This whole charade is something that I like to call “immunity via collective failure.”
Deja Vu…Only Worse
Fast forward to today and politicians are using the exact same strategy with “2050 net zero”, only this time the whole exercise is not only dishonest, but it’s also reckless and dangerous.
The IPCC is very clear on what needs to happen and when, to get our emissions down to a safe level, but apparently the science doesn’t work for the political ambitions of our leaders, so they’ve taken it upon themselves to change the timeline and urgency with which to act. Their approach this time can best be described as “immunity via collective failure” with a sprinkle of “lying by omission” on top. Let me walk you through it.
“Missing” Words Matter
The IPCC’s Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C — Summary for Policymakers, states in section TS.2 Pg. 33 that:
…to achieve the goal of reaching “2050 net zero” and limit a dangerous overshoot of 1.5°C we need to reduce net anthropogenic (human caused) CO2 emissions by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching net zero by 2050.
Did you see what happened? Politicians have conveniently chosen to skip the part that stresses the urgent need to “reduce CO2 emissions by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030…”
This is a huge omission and manipulation of the meaning in the IPCC report. It minimizes the need for urgent and immediate action which is so vital to protecting us from an uncontrolled overshoot of 1.5°C. It’s not, choose your preference A or B, 2030 or 2050; those concepts and dates go together — it’s a linear relationship. A reduction in emissions by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 is on the path to B…”2050 net-zero”…that’s how you get there.
We’re not getting the truth. At best, the whole “2050 net-zero” charade is dishonest and at worst, it’s a clear and present danger to life as we know it.
The Donor Class Has Spoken
The heavy lifting required to scale down fossil fuel use in only nine short years would cause massive disruption to the economic system. Governments would need to legislate decisive carbon-reducing regulations and initiate strict monitoring with the threat of heavy fines and even jail time for corporate executives who are caught breaking the rules.
Business models would need to be reinvented and corporations would be forced to make massive investments. The plundering system that has enriched the donor class would need to undergo “soul searching” change. Corporate profits and stock portfolios would surely face a difficult decade and all this would just be too much to bear for the .001% who are making it clear to politicians that they want nothing to do with it.
The donor class has spoken and if politicians want their contributions to flow, they have their orders; delay climate action and keep the environmental plundering system in place. So, against a mountain of peer-reviewed data, politicians (as a whole), protected by the cover of “immunity via collective failure”, have decided to mislead the public and roll the dice on a reckless strategy called “2050 net-zero”. A strategy that will delay emission reductions until 2040 or 2050 (while ecosystems continue to destabilize) with the hope, that we will be able to find some magic technology (nothing currently exists on any meaningful scale) to extract carbon from the atmosphere and then, magically, the planet will glide safely in towards “2050 net-zero”…of course by then the arctic ecosystem (among others) will have likely collapsed.
This is insane!! We’re sitting on the precipice of a cascading failure of ecosystems and psychopathic, power-hungry politicians are paving the way.
Need More Proof?
Bear with me while I take you on a small tangent to shine a light on how democracy really works and why climate policy never goes anywhere. Did you know that only 27 out of 249 Republicans in Congress are willing to say that Trump lost the election? Even Attorney general William Barr, a staunch Trump ally, said last week that there was “no evidence of fraud on the scale the president claims” and yet, most Republicans still stand with Trump.
Apparently, for Republicans, the peaceful transfer of power and the protection of their beloved democracy is not their primary concern. They have a more pressing mission, to represent the people, but is sending the country into a crisis the way to do it. Perhaps, but apparently, their convictions only go so far.
Last week, behind closed doors, Wall Street and the Republican donor class determined that a constitutional crisis would negatively affect stock portfolios (and democracy), and with that, a letter was sent by 164 New York business leaders to President Trump. The letter hinted that political donations could be cut off if he didn’t concede the election and allow for a peaceful transition of power. Within hours, fear struck the Republican party, politicians’ convictions about wanting to represent the people began to wither and President Trump’s tone suddenly changed.
Is this how every government around the world works? Of course not, but it is a window into the world of a politician’s mind and where their priorities lie. Lauren Martinchek looks at what caused Trump’s change of heart in her article; The Real Reason Trump Began the Transition Process.
Message for Politicians
Newsflash: Protecting billionaire stock portfolios to keep your donations flowing is not actually why you were elected and it’s certainly not what’s best for societal well-being. If your donors want to ignore climate science, that’s their problem but when you shape climate policy based on their greed and your own lust for power, it becomes our problem. No matter how hard you try and how much you’re prepared to showcase your corrupt morals, you can’t separate climate science from climate policy.
As a politician, you entered into your political office as part of a social contract to protect the health, safety, and general wellbeing of the people and in order to do this, you need to create progressive climate policy that is based on science. Failure to do so, by supporting the “2050 net-zero” fantasy that ignores the urgent timeline of a 40% reduction in emission by 2030, should immediately initiate a process where you’re deemed illegitimate as a politician, relieved of your duties, and tried as a criminal who has committed ecocide. And if enough clowns who contest the science are members of the same party, then that party as a whole should be deemed illegitimate and removed from the entire political system.
Playtime is over and there’s serious work to be done. Both Liberals and Conservatives are paving the way towards systems-driven ecocide and it needs to stop. We need ecocide laws on the books now and political criminals need to spend time behind bars where they can’t cause any further harm.
In past articles, I’ve written about how we as humans are poorly designed from an evolutionary perspective to prevent climate change, how our addiction to capitalism is a huge stumbling block, and how sociopathic business with its never-ending desire for profits is also a dead end. And if you’ve read this far it should also be quite obvious that I have no faith that the existing political system filled with corrupt politicians offers much hope either.
Is Liberal Democracy a viable option? Only time will tell but if the last three decades are any indication of our future, we should take time to consider the gravity of our predicament. And if democracy isn’t a pathway, can we expect authoritarian leaders to offer a better solution. Of course not, pointing the finger at minorities, the disenfranchised and further exploiting the environment is clearly another dead end.
The future is precarious but one thing is certain, while we may be able to live in a world where Ernie never found Bert, I don’t think that children born today will be able to live in a world where climate policy never found climate science.
Brad Zarnett is a Canadian sustainability strategist, writer, and speaker. He is the Founder of the Toronto Sustainability Speaker Series (TSSS). Brad writes about Corporate Sustainability and how our attempts to address it are a massive systemic failure and what to do about it. You can follow Brad on Twitter, LinkedIn, Medium, email, or website and now on substack.
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