Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Climate, weather, and revolutions

Happy Anniversary
Today is December 16th, which means it's the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the revolution here, which began on this day, 1989 in Timisoara, before spreading to Bucharest and elsewhere. This is inevitably being covered by real journalists and media outlets, so I probably don't really need to go into it (and anyway, I wasn't here). Here are some of those news pieces:
I'm sure there will be more to come between today and December 25th, when Ceausescu was executed, ending the revolution (in the same sense of "end" as the war on Iraq "ended" when Bush appeared with a banner saying "Mission Accomplished" or when they pulled that statue down)

Hó Hó Hó
It's been snowing here for getting on for 36 hours now. It started sometime on Monday night (not really sure when, because you know I was all like asleep and that) and it's still going. It's not as deep as you might imagine after such an extended period, because it's not that kind of snow. I'm sure the Eskimos have a word for it, but in the less snow-based language of English I refer to it as that-light-powdery-snow-which-is-oddly-dry-given-that-it's-made-out-of-water-and-is-quite-difficult-to-make-into-snowballs-because-you-really-need-to-apply-a-huge-amount-of-pressure-to-it-to-compress-it-enough-to-stay-together-meaning-really-only-adults-or-older-teenagers-can-make-snowballs-from-it-which-exacerbates-the-already-slightly-unfair-military-strength-advantage-of-the-father-in-a-snowball-battle.

No hope
We're all going to die. Well, you knew that already I presume (if not, sorry to break it to you), but what I mean here is that as a species we might not be long for this world as we increasingly quickly destroy it. It seems likely that in the current talks in Copenhagen, virtually nothing is going to get done, with the developed world refusing to offer much help to the less developed bit (which is a little unfair, to say the least, as the less developed bit is the bit which is going to suffer the most from climate change, with some of it disappearing entirely, and it is also the bit which has contributed least to the problem), and the USA and China being particularly obstreperous in some kind of "we're determined to be the richest country when the world ends" fight-to-the-death.

Now in the grand scheme of things the amount of money that is being asked for to help out here is basically nothing. Currently on the table is an offer of $10bn a year, and there is debate over whether to try somehow to increase that to $100bn (which is very clearly the maximum it's ever going to be). Many rich countries are balking at this, and obviously it does sound like a lot of money. But let's compare it with the amount of money that has so far been thrown at or promised to the banking and financial services sector to bail them out in the wake of the credit crisis. Want to have a guess at how much that might be? Well, I'll tell you. You might need to sit down (you probably are already, but who knows in these days of iphones and the like). Oxfam estimates this figure to be...$8,424bn. Or, if you like, 84 times the absolute maximum that anyone is expecting to be promised at the current summit, and 840 times the amount that has been currently offered. As it stands the argument is whether they can come up with $40bn. 200 times less that what the banks got. (OK, the banks thing is supposed to be a one off and these are annual sums, but I think we're still looking at a massive disparity here).

So, as the sea levels rise, and the crops fail, and farmland turns to desert, and there is a massive global refugee crisis, and traumatic economic, physical, cultural, and environmental changes, at least you'll be able to go and make a deposit and know that the head of the bank will get a vast Christmas bonus. it's a comforting thought, isn't it? Isn't it?

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