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Friday, March 6, 2015

Aquino, Hollande, and the climate change circus


Let’s be clear: a half-truth cannot set us free.
It’s very disappointing that the first-ever visit to Manila by the president of France—the land of “liberty, equality, fraternity”—ended up as a deception summit.
President Aquino and French President Francois Hollande traded half-truths tit for tat.
The Frenchman needed a poster child for climate change devastation, the more impoverished the better. His Filipino counterpart eagerly agreed to play the part of victim, as long as there would be sweeteners to make the medicine go down.
Aquino misrepresented the Haiyan/Yolanda disaster by moving its epicenter from Tacoban City to Guiuan, Eastern Samar, so Hollande could make his symbolic visit there instead.
For his part, President Hollande hyped the significance of the Paris climate change conference beyond what science can bear, and exaggerated the role the Philippines will play in the meeting beyond our paltry contribution of carbon emissions.
The level of prevarication was not grave enough to disrupt Hollande’s visit. The lies were smoothed over by old-fashioned diplomacy (wherein a measure of dishonesty and deception is considered normal), and by the star power of French star and Oscar winner Marion Cotillard (she once employed a Filipino nanny).
Distorting the Yolanda disaster
President Aquino’s big lie was to move Ground zero of the Haiyan/Yolanda disaster from Tacloban City to Guiuan. This is the equivalent of relocating the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers from New York City to New Jersey.
The term “ground zero’ is technically associated with nuclear explosions and other large bombs, but is also used in relation to earthquakes, epidemics and other disasters to mark the point of the most severe damage or destruction, or for the geographic or conceptual epicenter of a disaster.
After Pope Francis’s emotional visit to Leyte last January and the administration’s erratic handling of the Yolanda recovery and rehabilitation effort, the Palace grabbed at the chance to direct president Hollande to Guiuan.
Changing the narrative when the nation and the world already know the real story seems perverse and foolish. The only thing it does is direct the planned French development assistance of about $50 million to the wrong projects and the wrong pockets.
It revives old wounds and bitter memories. Leyteños are seething with anger at the official attempt to downplay and make light of what they suffered. What rankles for them is the rewriting of the Yolanda story to suit the guilty conscience of the President.
Hyping the Paris summit
That President Hollande’s team accepted readily this false narrative about Haiyan is amazing, but they were sidetracked by their need to pitch their own narrative and spin on the visit.
This narrative consisted of inflating the importance of the Paris conference, exaggerating the role of the Philippines in the meeting and masking a major scandal that has erupted at the UN Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
While in the country, Hollande gamely lied that his visit to Guiuan and meeting some typhoon survivors would become an inspiration for the Paris conference. He said that his trip was part of a campaign to promote climate change issues ahead of the Paris meeting.
Paris will strive to seal a pact, which would enter into force by 2020, and which would limit global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels.
Hollande is personally determined to “leave a mark” on history by brokering a historic agreement to contain climate change
He views the Philippines as a frontline state in the battle against climate change, because it has been battered by major storms in recent years.
Anatomy of a scandal
The rhetoric and platitudes might have escaped scrutiny had France not played down a devastating blow to the UN climate change panel, that was announced on February 24, the day before Hollande arrived in Manila.
The setback concerns the resignation of the chairman of the IPCC, Mr. Rajendra Pachauri, under scandalous circumstances, and the parallel disclosure of malpractices in the work of the panel, which was instrumental in raising the international alarm over climate change
Pachauri tendered his resignation amid allegations of sexual harassment by a 29-year-old female employee of the Indian Energy and Research Institute which he has been running.
As in the Bill Cosby scandal, other women also came out to denounce Pachauri for sexual misconduct.     The scandal is considered a major blow to the IPCC and it will lead many countries to review their stand on climate change issues as the world prepares to forge a consensus in Paris in December.
Significantly, Pachauri’s critics have a different take on his predicament. They contend that the real shame is that he stayed in his position at IPCC too long (13 years) — and that he compromised the integrity of the panel and its reports.
The Inter-Academy Council, the network of the world’s national academies of science, declared last year that policy advocacy had hurt IPCC’s credibility.
One journalist, who has followed Pachauri’s career for 5 years and written a book on the doubts of scientists about IPCC’s reports on climate change, wrote:
“This latest scandal has profoundly undermined the credibility of the IPCC in the run-up to the UN climate change conference in December.”
A cloud now hangs over the 2007 Nobel peace prize awarded jointly to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Al Gore.
Poor Al Gore, nobody believes now that he deserves the prize as most of his predictions on global warming have not come about. The IPCC award is bound for the same limbo.
Some now say that climate change is “the worst scientific scandal of a generation” – a bid by researchers to hoodwink the public over global warming and to hide evidence showing fossil fuels were not really heating up our planet. The deception lasted so long because there was so much money to be made from sustaining the lie and the swindle. Many people are employed by the religion of climate change.
Common sense about the Paris conference
Before jumping into the cauldron that the Paris conference will likely become, it is best for our government to study carefully the issues and controversies surrounding the conference. It should not get carried away by the propaganda and the flattery.     Before our government commits to spend huge sums of money and align public policy with climate change, it is best for our government to take a deep breath and a long look at the scandal and controversy in the United Nations.
Prudence will spare our county and our leaders embarrassment and wasteful spending if the fears of analysts turn out to be true.
yenmakabenta@yahoo.com

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