After giving the Paris Accord a veneer of respectability, bureaucrats returned to their electorates to balance the economy, employment and emissions. Coal is Australia’s most prized export, valued at $46 billion in 2018. In 2019, Australia’s LNG exports added $33.6 billion to the country’s economy. Australia accounts for 1.3 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and is the fourth-largest coal producer, behind China, India, and the US.
This means Australia is one of the world’s biggest profiteers from fossil fuels, and it continues to intensify its mining and sales. Including the emissions of these exported fossil fuels on Australia’s balance sheet pushes its share of global emissions up to 3.3 percent. And because its emissions are divided among just 0.33 percent of the world’s population, Australia has some of the highest per capita carbon emissions among key economies.
Alex Hawke, Australia’s minister for international development told members of the Pacific Islands Forum in 2019 that Australia would not be drifting from its policies. Hilda Heine, President of the Marshall Islands, who is the Greta Thunberg of the Pacific, was disappointed. But the reason of the fittest is always the best.
Voices from Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, the Cook Islands, Tuvalu and New Zealand were smothered until a land area twice the size of Belgium burned to the ground in Australia. Much of that land was covered in eucalyptus forest, although flames also razed farmlands, grasslands, and patches of subtropical rainforests. The net effect on the atmosphere, was the release of a brew of gases containing 400 million tons of CO2- which is roughly the same amount the UK emits in twelve months. The catastrophe created Australia’s first climate refugees.
We are entering the next phase of climate change – that is, increasingly frequent and severe weather events, occurring in places that have never been affected before. This creates an unavoidable requirement for a systematic approach to make more climate-resilient regions. With worsening extreme weather events insurance premiums are spiralling making some regions uninsurable. Moreover, traditional insurance models are no longer tenable. Large swathes of peoples living in diverse geographies have been displaced as outlying areas are now uninhabitable.
Smart Banks are developing “resilience investment” products. These will assist governments to build infrastructure such as emergency centres, seawalls and cavernous shrine-like cisterns given the scale of what is required to guarantee a reliable food supply, power, water, transport, internet and telephone and television communications systems, to be able to withstand extreme and prolonged climate events and to recover quickly with minimal external assistance.
Japan has built a floodwater cathedral twenty-two metres beneath Tokyo. It is a 6.3 km long system of tunnels with towering cylindrical chambers. The ceiling of this stone temple rests on imposing 500-tonne pillars. Entrepreneurs in India have opened “oxygen bars” as pollution in New Delhi reaches toxic levels. At “Oxy Pure” you can pay between $4 to $7 for a fifteen-minute session of fresh air flavoured with orange blossom, lavender, cinnamon, eucalyptus, lemongrass or peppermint. Delhi’s chief minister Arvind Kejriwal described the city as a “gas chamber”. The climate emergency is foreboding and this is why cynics find it easier to classify science and survivors as part of a “climate cult”.
Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s Chief Executive, created a Climate Innovation Fund that allocates $1bn over the next four years to accelerate the development of carbon removal technology. Microsoft intends to cut its carbon emissions for its supply and value chains by more than half by 2030 through a portfolio of negative emission tactics and technologies that include: afforestation, soil carbon sequestration, bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, creating new forests and direct air capture.
Michel Serres, at the University of Paris I, evoked La Fontaine’s fable of the sheep and the wolf drinking at a stream in his text, Hermes. Serres describes how the sheep positions itself downstream so as not to offend the stronger beast- not to “muddy His drink.” However, after some dialogue at the summit over who has what rights and powers, the wolf carries the sheep off into the sage green mountains and eats it “without any other form of ‘process’.”
The fable’s moral is: “The reason of the stronger is always the best.” Living by this proposition, says Serres, is to play a perilous game, for one must always be the best. It is possible that Greta Thunberg in her cerulean blue jeans and a scarlet hoodie may come looking for a lost sheep inside the plantation of fabrications planted by bureaucrats.
When she does not return home, her father the shepherd, goes with his hook and hounds in search of Greta and the lost sheep, (to upstream the wolf as it were), and then the wolf becomes the object eaten, not the one eating. Thus the “best” must always make “a maximal move,” one that “freezes the game-space in a single pattern of order and hierarchy,” because unbeknownst to the wolf, out of the blue, a shepherd will appear and upstream the wolf. The climate emergency is our shipwreck. Voyaging begins by burning boats but adventures, says Serres, start with a shipwreck.