What was the point?

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The power of words should never be underestimated. Certainly, those in the fossil fuel industry understand them. In the last hours of COP28, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change charged with drafting a new Global Goal on Adaptation policy to save humanity from creating an uninhabitable planet, failed. After opposition broke out over weak language in the initial draft which refused to use the term “phase out regarding fossil fuels, the authors went back to the table and chose an even more nebulous term, “transition away.”

Regardless of semantics, this report depends on the honor system from those with no honor, the drillers and spillers of crude oil, those who can’t be bothered to build pipelines that don’t leak methane, with no specific timetables, targets, or enforcement mechanisms. The agreement didn’t include a schedule. Instead, it calls on countries to transition away from fossil fuels “in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade, so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science.”

How delightfully unspecific. I’m filled with confidence. Who defines just, orderly and equitable? Sinking island nations? Drought stricken African countries? Or the biggest producers of murderous fossil fuels? We know the answer, do we not?

COP stands for Conference of Parties, nation states and accredited observers, who in theory are the supreme governing bodies of critical international laws and treaties. These agreements written to govern our sadly self-made threats to life on Earth include nuclear and chemical weapon proliferation, the creation and disposal of hazardous waste, biodiversity preservation, the trade of endangered species, the release of mercury into the environment, protection of wetlands, bioaccumulation of toxins in our food, desertification, the scourge of tobacco, and international corruption, which weakens or circumvents every subject on this list.

COP28 is over, the latest annual world meeting to discuss the end game called climate change, that is already affecting access to water, the viability of agriculture, world stability and very possibly continued human life on Earth. The first such conference held in 1995 took place in Berlin, Germany, a modest gathering of about 2000 delegates to discuss how the danger of global warming could be addressed. At that time, CO2 in the atmosphere stood at a few ticks under 361 parts per million (ppm). Today, that count exceeds 420 ppm, a steady and accelerating graph line, a powerful visual of the historical failure of these conferences. Pre-industrial CO2 was 280 ppm from the natural workings of the planet, and science has determined 350 ppm is the maximum concentration we can withstand without irreversible harm to the natural systems we depend on.

CO2 levels graph going back 1000 years. Explosive growth since 1900, ever accelerating.

An interactive version of this graphic can be found at

The luminaries in attendance

Attendance this year included 198 countries and over 80,000 delegates. The usual miscreants were welcomed. At least 2,456 fossil fuel lobbyists attended to push the interests of oil and gas companies such as Shell, Total, and ExxonMobil. The American Petroleum Institute was among a cadre of climate action obstructionists, and there were 475 carbon-capture lobbyists to tell tall tales of giant, pink unicorns sucking CO2 and methane out of the sky and storing it underground forever. The great environmentalist Bill Gates flew in on one of his four carbon dioxide spewing private jets.

In a true act of understanding and forgiveness, the United Arab Emirates even invited Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has overseen a twelve-year civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced 14 million, half of Syria’s population. He is subject to an international arrest warrant for the use of banned chemical weapons against civilians, but everybody deserves a second chance, right? Did I mention international corruption?

Here is what chemical weapons used on human bodies look like. Not for the faint of heart.

Also in attendance was the Prime Minister and Britain's Chief Weasel Rishi Sunak, a man defined by admirable moral fortitude and vision, as evidenced by his tax breaks and fast-tracking of drilling in the North Sea. Oil is good to the last drop.

Joe Biden couldn’t attend, probably hard-pressed to explain how America is the number one fossil fuel producer in the world as it burns and drowns, and busy working on massive liquid natural gas (LNG) deals out of the climate change hammered Gulf coast. When GDP is involved, a livable biosphere simply has to take the back seat.

Aerial view of New Orleans, submerged by water.

2005 Hurricane Katrina killed more than 1,800 people along the Gulf Coast, caused damage estimated between $97.4 to $145.5 billion, and left New Orleans changed forever. Conditions for such storms have only grown more potent since then. Photo: David J. Phillip/AP

Aerial view of a portion of obliterated Fort Meyers, Florida.

Hurricane Ian, Fort Meyers, Florida, 2022. Everyone on board for more fossil fuels? Photo: Wilfredo Lee/AP

Luminary leadership presided the conference

Presiding the event was Sultan Al Jaber, also the head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC). Jaber’s goal is to increase ADNOC's crude oil output from 2.7 million barrels of oil per day in 2021, to five million by 2027. According to a 2022 report from Oil Change International, ADNOC’s projected growth will lead to more than 2.7 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions through their production and burning, exceeding the yearly combined emissions of Germany and Japan.

But don’t despair. Fortunately, ADNOC and the world’s largest fossil fuel producers are also investing huge sums of money in carbon capture, you know, those magic pink unicorns sucking carbon and methane out of the sky, and farting them underground where it is claimed they will be sequestered forever.

Huh, and I thought only blood diamonds were forever.

To be clear, (as if I haven’t been) carbon capture is a cynical smoke screen for Big Oil to continue drilling and burning for as long as possible. The most favored technologies are carbon capture and storage (CCS), which removes carbon dioxide from highly concentrated sources like power plants, and direct air capture (DAC), which attempts to remove CO2 from less concentrated open air.

Realistic, if corny, illustration of pink unicorn galloping majestically toward you.

Carbon capture to the rescue.

There are four problems, however.

First, after decades of investment, research and development, existing carbon capture projects only remove a few seconds of yearly greenhouse gas emissions. Seriously.

Second, these projects are wildly expensive, costing thousands of dollars to remove a mere ton of CO2. Remember, the growth Jaber desires for ADNOC alone is projected to produce 2.7 gigatons of additional carbon dioxide. For perspective on that figure, one gigaton equals one billion tons. The world produced 41.46 billion tons of carbon dioxide in 2022.

Graph of CO2 emissons from 1850 through 2022, explosive growth since 1950.

Third, industrial carbon removal consumes enormous amounts of energy, meaning scaling these projects to effectiveness is ludicrous. Powering them with fossil fuels would add to the folly (as they are forced to clean their own pollution) and powering them with renewable or nuclear energy would be far less beneficial than simply using that energy to directly eliminate fossil fuels. Did I miss something here? Duh.

Fourth, storing massive amounts of carbon underground and under oceans is an incredulous assumption. One miscalculation, one leak, one shift of the Earth could result in a catastrophic release of years of greenhouse gasses and a disastrous near instantaneous rise of global temperatures, leading to the end of life on Earth. Proponents will tell you this is unlikely. Of course, they will. There are billions of dollars involved.

Naturally, Jaber and ADNOC have invested in the Habshan carbon capture project, which will triple the oil giant's carbon capture capacity. Sounds impressive until you know it’s a meaningless 2.3 million metric tons per year. The Biden administration is also investing billions into this spurious technology, as is Europe. In fact, the fading hope of limiting global warming to 1.5° C is in part predicated on the farcical assumption CSS and DAC will be successful.

Photo of Sultan Al Jaber in suit, smile and low wave to someone off camera.

This not a face you can trust. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino/File Photo

Carbon capture is pure greenwashing, a public relations ploy, and provides insight into the true goals of those that perpetuated yet another useless COP result.

Speaking of leaky

Further damning Al Jaber and ADNOC at the conference were leaked documents illustrating a plan to deepen third world nation’s dependence on fossil fuels. Even if the Global North could achieve Net-Zero, consigning poor nations to burning fossil fuels leads to the disaster we wish to avoid. Developing nations must have equal access to clean energy if we’re to have a chance to survive this crisis.

In this article from the Centre for Climate Reporting, it is revealed through more than 150 pages of whistleblower exposed briefings that Al Jaber used COP28 to push oil trade with foreign governments. Further confirmation of the authenticity of these documents can be found on The Guardian, Reuters, the BBC, and numerous other news outlets. These shady conversations included the UK, United States, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Brazil, China, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Kenya.

From the Centre for Climate Reporting:

Al Jaber, who has continued his role as CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) despite calls for him to step down during his COP presidency, has held scores of meetings with senior government officials, royalty and business leaders from around the world in recent months. The COP28 team has quietly planned to use this access as an opportunity to increase exports of Adnoc’s oil and gas, briefings prepared ahead of those meetings obtained by the Centre for Climate Reporting (CCR) reveal.

Highlights of two weeks of COP-OUT28

The conference got off to a good start, on the first day announcing a loss and damage resolution was reached, providing critical reparations to poor nations most harmed by climate change. This sounded great until my cat with a walnut sized brain examined it for twelve seconds.

Pledges were as follows. The hosting United Arab Emirates $100 million, Britain $51 million, the US $17.5 million and Japan $10 million. The European Union offered $245.4 million, which included $100 million from Germany. Figures from the UK and US seem to vary, I found numbers for the UK may be as high as $75 million and $24.5 million for the US. However, it doesn’t matter, because as you may sense these numbers are woefully low. Any way you add it up, it’s well less than $500 million or £395 million.

For comparison, one Gulfstream G650 like the beloved environmentalist Bill Gates may have flown in on (he owns lesser private jets as well) costs $70 million. The baseball player Shohei Ohtani just signed a contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers for $700 million. In terms of the costs of climate disasters, the US alone experienced twenty-three this year that exceeded $1 billion each. Currently, losses in developing countries from global warming, amount to $400 billion every year, a figure that only will increase as the world grows hotter.

In any case, the delegates erupted in applause. Drought stricken African nations and sinking island nations in the Pacific had been sent on a bagel run.

King Charles made an appearance, warning delegates the world remained “dreadfully far off track,” saying “dreadfully” the way only an Englishman can, contributing greatly to the dignity and gravity of the conference.

On day three, Kamala Harris on garbage detail for Joe, addressed the august body, and with utter brilliance pointed out this was a “pivotal moment” for the world, something I hadn’t realized. Representing the nation most singularly responsible for climate change, she was immediately pelted with beer bottles, rotten tomatoes and eggs, giving literal sense to the role of garbage detail, but fortunately her crack Secret Service team erected a chicken wire barrier before her entrance. Numerous delegates were overheard asking, “Who was that woman?”

Certainly, December 3 was the zenith of the event. That was the day the conference voted to honor their host Sultan Al Jaber, by changing his title to “Sulky” after going off script and exclaiming there’s “no science” to indicate a phase out of fossil fuels is necessary to limit global warming to 1.5° C. So much for that degree in chemical engineering from the University of Southern California, dude. Sulky Al also threatened the delegates with “taking the world back into caves.”

Sulky later apologized for his complete lack of imagination in trotting out the world’s oldest, dumbest fossil fuel trope, and admitted he was a failure on the Los Angeles comedy club circuit, which caused him to become a psychopathic, lying oil baron.

Day five was my birthday, so I decided to ignore it all and rock back and forth, facing my favorite corner. It was a good day. I heard Al Gore yet again said something no one paid any attention to.

Depressed person, knees drawn to chest, arms wrapped around them, head tucked, facing a corner.

My birthday. It was fine, really.

On day six, some joker on the UAE negotiating team expressed belief COP28 was gearing up to commit to phasing down fossil fuels over coming decades, maybe even ditch them altogether.

On day seven, OPEC Secretary General Haitham (pronounced “Hate ‘em” in American) Al Ghais called on members to block any climate summit deal to curb fossil fuels, saying “the undue and disproportionate pressure against fossil fuels may reach a tipping point with irreversible consequences.” How I hate discrimination. Apparently, he found no irony in using the term “tipping point.”

Being a slow day, Norway's Foreign Minister Espen Barthe Eide was also interviewed. With startling wisdom, he told Reuters, “phase out” is a tool to reach the goal. Shortly after, Hate ‘em Al was found over Eide’s unconscious body, brick hard, stale bagel in hand.

Day eight was a rest day, so the OPEC team celebrated by playing soccer with a paper maché head of Greta Thunberg.

At some point, the chronology is a little hazy, Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) pointed out carbon pricing would raise trillions needed to tackle the climate crisis, pissing off anti-climate politicians and parties world over. Fortunately, Hate ‘em Al, wandering without supervision and off his medication, was restrained in time.

On day ten, Ted O’Brien of Australia’s center-right Coalition Party announced opposition to tripling renewable energy sources, which over 100 other nations signed on for. Well, this is a nation that boxes with kangaroos and brought us Crocodile Dumb Dee.

On December 11, crisis hit as arguments over the supposedly overly specific words “phase out” commenced.

The next day Graham Stuart, the UK’s minister of state for climate change, exited Dubai, as the conference reached crisis point, shocking delegates and leaving junior civil servants to negotiate the last hours of language in an updated Global Goal on Adaptation policy. His departure may have been required to vote on Chief Weasel Sunak’s illegal policy to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, found by British Courts to breach domestic and international human rights laws.

Fortunately, Sunak ordered Stuart back to Dubai for the final hours to assist in adopting the words “transition away.” Upon great this victory for the world, Haitham Al Ghais spiked Greta’s paper maché head. Pacific Island nations received free inflatable dinghies, complete with paddles, and African nations were given plastic gallon jugs of water, impregnated with extra PFAS chemicals for no additional charge.

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