Duplicity And Human Delusion

How important are two words? Well, two words led to a sleepless night for COP28 delegates as arguments went back and forth: 'phase out' or 'phase down' of fossil fuels.

How important are two words?   Well, two words led to a sleepless night for COP28 delegates as arguments went back and forth:  ‘phase out’ or ‘phase down’ of fossil fuels.  The ones intent on keeping mean global temperature rise limited to 1.5 C in strict adherence to the Paris accord clearly wanted the former. 

COP28 was supposed to end on Tuesday, December 12th.  In the event, the final session went on until 4 am on Wednesday, and the words finally settled upon were ‘transition away from fossil fuels’.  The president of COP28, Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, who is also the CEO of Abu Dhabi National Oil Co., proudly boasted it was the first time the words ‘fossil fuels’ had ever appeared in a COP final report.

Why was the UAE selected as the host?  That too, is no mystery.  It is one of the top ten oil producers in the world, and documents leaked to the BBC showed that it planned to use the meeting to strike new oil deals.  The appalling duplicity (after all he was chairing an environment conference) and irony apparently eluded the good doctor — business is business, as they say, and his business is selling his oil. 

That may be, although it might account for the fact that the vaunted COP deal does not require anyone to do anything.  There are no specific goals, just the aforementioned ‘transition away.’  So another COP is over and the fossil fuel producers have again won .  Poor earth!

As an aside, the good doctor (Al Jaber) was caught on an open mic stating that he thought all this climate change was a lot of hooey.  The human capacity for self-delusion and self-destruction is legendary.  Looking at WW2 and Herr Adolf, for example, the bill was over 50 million lives.  At the time there were just two nuclear weapons in the world, now over 5000.  One may believe their use is unthinkable until one hears people like the right-wing politician in Israel advocate them against the Hamas tunnels in Gaza. 

One can also imagine all sorts of scenarios.  The Tom Clancy novel, “The Hunt for Red October,” is a gripping example that was made into a movie.  Then there was an actual real life incident during the Cold War when the Soviet early warning system Oko falsely detected the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) from the US with four more missiles behind it.  Had it not been for one Soviet officer, Stanislav Petrov, the world would have changed that day.

Yes, the Soviet Union no longer exists and Russia now is very different.  But what about China and India?  The latter is always on the defensive in its northern areas where China has a distinct advantage in lines of supply.  It also has very close ties with nuclear-armed Pakistan, India’s traditional rival.  Thus it is not difficult to envisage a scenario where India suspects a two-pronged attack to envelop, say, an Indian troop concentration of division strength or more.  Would India resort to a nuclear weapon?

We can only hope such a situation never arises and if it does, common sense prevails.  India has many divisions of troops but there is only one earth. 

Dr. Arshad M. Khan
Dr. Arshad M. Khan
Dr. Arshad M. Khan is a former Professor based in the US. Educated at King's College London, OSU and The University of Chicago, he has a multidisciplinary background that has frequently informed his research. Thus he headed the analysis of an innovation survey of Norway, and his work on SMEs published in major journals has been widely cited. He has for several decades also written for the press: These articles and occasional comments have appeared in print media such as The Dallas Morning News, Dawn (Pakistan), The Fort Worth Star Telegram, The Monitor, The Wall Street Journal and others. On the internet, he has written for Antiwar.com, Asia Times, Common Dreams, Counterpunch, Countercurrents, Dissident Voice, Eurasia Review and Modern Diplomacy among many. His work has been quoted in the U.S. Congress and published in its Congressional Record.