Tuesday, June 12, 2012

RIO +20 - Watch Out, Fear is About!

Rio +20 will take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil between June 20-22nd 2012. It is a political meeting sponsored by the United Nations. According to the UN, “world leaders, along with thousands of participants from governments, the private sector, NGOs and other groups, will come together to shape how we can reduce poverty, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection on an ever more crowded planet to get to the future we want”.

Nothing is likely to happen, other than thousands of people increasing their carbon footprint and talking endlessly about things they are unlikely to agree on. All of the per-conference preparations suggest that there is no basis for an agreement and no basis for optimism about an agreement on a  process by which an deal can be reached. This process is dead and needs to be buried.

This is not the view of all. Those with a major vested interest in such events, like the World Wild Life Funds (WWF), see such meetings as important. It’s a chance for them to show its influence and showcase its thinking – after all, the WWF has hijacked many other UN processes, such as the International Panel Climate Change. Its also a chance for them to strike at the conscience of liberals and secure more donations – after all, their CEO is paid more than the President of the United States.

Despite the unlikely prospect for success, Rio +20 will focus on seven key areas for action. These are: jobs, energy, cities, food, water, oceans and disasters. Climate change – once seen as the most pressing issue facing the planet – is cast off into an underlying factor shaping the response to these seven issues. Not forgotten, not the center-piece.

A core argument will be that, unless urgent action is taken, then the planet and its people are in peril but national governments cannot deal with this international issues, so transnational governance is needed and the UN can create appropriate governance mechanisms to respond to these challenges. This has been the argument since the Club of Rome produced its first report and predictions of environmental doom were made in the 1970’s (none of which turned out to be accurate). The idea being that new governance models will only emerge if enough fear is created to generate demand for them. This was H L Mencken’s point:

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep people alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

So we can expect rhetoric like this:

“Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.”

“We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation.”

“Tt is already too late to avoid mass starvation.”

“Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make. The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.”

- all predictions made at a similar event in 1970 and repeated annually (only the dates and attribution change and we have gone from the threat of a new ice age to the threat of global warming) ever since.

Virtual science will be invoked to claim that there is a scientific consensus that disaster is just around the corner – all based on incomplete computer models of the future rather than data collected and analyzed from direct observation. In fact, there is no scientific consensus on all seven of the issues to be discussed.

So keep an eye on Rio +20 – after all, you are paying for it.

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