By Cindy Baxter 27/11/2015


The World Meteorological Organisation has now confirmed that 2010-2015 have been the hottest five year period in recorded history, and 2015 is shaping up to be the hottest ever. 

We’re heading into possibly the strongest El Nino ever recorded, with its full fury yet to really hit. Baton down the hatches people, it’s going to be a wild ride.

And it’s not just the weather that’s heating up.   With the climate summit underway in Paris, the meeting itself is now set to break a record, as negotiations started on Sunday evening, an unprecedented move for a climate meeting.

The French Government is doing its best to avoid another Copenhagen, carefully placing the 130 World Leader event at the beginning of the summit, not the end, to avoid risking the “agree to anything and call it a groundbreaking deal” situation that happened in 2009.

I was going to march through Paris on Sunday with hundreds of thousands, but that went out the window, after the awful attacks on the city a couple of weeks ago.  The Brits are now seriously considering bombing Syria, and the Turks shot down a Russian warplane. Syrian refugees are freezing in camps across Europe.

Hang on, weren’t we talking about climate change?   Let’s take a closer look at this security thing. As Prince Charles said the other day, in an interview recorded before the Paris attacks, the Syrian crisis absolutely has climate change in its roots.

Mounting evidence

Two scientific papers have been published in the last year about the years-long, crippling drought in Syria that destroyed crops, animals, and drove millions of people off the land into the cities. Of course Assad’s subsequent removal of food and fuel subsidies and a number of other elements contributed to the current crisis, but climate change was absolutely a factor.

Anthropogenic forcing, according to a paper published in PNAS earlier this year,

“made the occurrence of a 3-year drought as severe as that of 2007−2010 two to three times more likely than by natural variability alone. We conclude that human influences on the climate system are implicated in the current Syrian conflict.”

Peter Gleick, in a different paper about water scarcity in Syria last year, said:

The drastic decrease in water availability, water mismanagement, agricultural failures, and related economic deterioration contributed to Syria’s population dislocations and the migration of rural communities to nearby cities.”

The issue has been raised by US Democrat President hopeful, Bernie Sanders, and it was confirmed by the administration that climate change, in this situation, was a “threat multiplier.”

Someone I’ve long admired for his work in this area is Michael T. Klare, professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and the author, most recently, of The Race for What’s Left.

On 3 November, well before the Paris attacks, Klare posted an article positing that the Paris Climate Summit entitled “Why the Paris Climate Summit Will Be a Peace Conference.”

Combine the effects of climate change with already existing poverty, hunger, resource scarcity, incompetent and corrupt governance, and ethnic, religious, or national resentments, and you’re likely to end up with bitter conflicts over access to food, water, land, and other necessities of life.”

Joining the dots

It was ironic, I thought, that the G20 heads of state, meeting in Turkey the weekend of the ISIS hideousness in Paris, de-prioritised their focus on climate change in favour of discussing security and how to deal with the refugee crisis.   The sooner they join these dots, the better for everyone.

So the this climate and peace conference begins on Sunday night, after a weekend where hundreds of thousands, if not millions, will take to the streets to call for action.  It would be good if their calls could be heeded, if Goverments could rise above their corporate backers, and listen to the voices from the streets, from the world’s most vulnerable countries who are calling for the meeting to recognise that 1.5˚C really is what’s needed to survive.

The thousands of activists who have converged on the city, however, are not giving up – keep an eye on the Climate Games and the Red Lines that will still be drawn at the end of the meeting – worth watching out for.

But I’ll save all that for the next post.   And while I compose my thoughts about how to get into details of the negotiations for the next blog, I hope all of you in Aotearoa join with the rest of the world in creating the biggest global mobilisation on climate in history.  March for me, please people. Find your nearest march here.

A bientôt.