I watched the highlights (lowlights?) of COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, and what I saw was neatly summed up by the Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg: “Blah, blah, blah.”

Mostly it consisted of worn-out promises from various nations indicating that at some time in the future — 2050 was mentioned often — those nations would be less dependent upon the burning of fossil fuels. Maybe 50% of the energy would be derived from “clean,” meaning nongreenhouse gas emissions, sources. Maybe not.

But as has been pointed out in this newspaper by columnist Jay Hasheider on global climate change, the time for action is now, not sometime in the future.

Most of the problem can be given to the fossil fuel industry in its effort to, literally, bleed this planet until it becomes clear to the most deluded person that continuing to rely up the burning of coal, gas and oil means that the Earth becomes uninhabitable for humans. At that time, only a few mice, rats and cockroaches will survive.

Even the most promised action of COP26 — the phasing out of dependence on fossil fuels — was changed to meaningless wording in the final report.

It seemed that COP26 was taken over by the fossil fuel industry objecting to any real promise of action in the final report.

What started out as an agreement by the attending nations to immediately limit and eventually eliminate the use of fossil fuels was converted by the fossil fuel industry into a resolution to, at some point in the future, reduce dependence upon fossil fuels for energy production, or as Ms. Thumberg put it, “Blah, blah, blah.”

That is also what I heard. To quote Shakespeare, “A tale told by an idiot ...” but in this case the idiots were the nations in thrall to the fossil fuel industry.

Maybe the name should be changed from COP26 to COPOUT26. For that is what it was — a cop-out to the all-important fossil fuel industry, an industry that is apparently all about the current economics and to hell with the eventual death of the planet.

The short-term quest for dollars has blinded the fossil fuel gurus to a time when the planet is dead and no dollars are in sight.

The same can be said of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, who is from a state that is, so far, relatively free from the adverse effects of climate change. That is the same attitude that could be said of those states in the mid-South and the Upper Midwest, but a recent bout of warm weather, followed by an outburst of tornadoes gave evidence that no one, nowhere, can escape the wrath of continued world dependence on fossil fuels.

West Virginia, Manchin’s state, has many coal mines. Indeed, Manchin’s pocketbook is filled with money derived from coal-mining companies, including his own.

He has objected to any provision in the Build Back Better plan that threatens the fossil fuel industry, going so far as to ask for removal of the section that would ban drilling along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and in an Alaska wildlife refuge. Several senators on the Republican side support that provision.

Other provisions that would rein in the continued warming of this planet have incurred the wrath of Manchin.

While it is true that he is the senator from West Virginia, what he forgets is that in his ill-advised attempts to root out any provision in the Build Back Bill, he is harming us all. While his actions seem to be orchestrated by the CEOs of the coal, gas and oil industries, what he overlooks is how his actions are resonating across this country.

From Glasgow to D.C., it appears that the fossil fuel industry has its hands firmly on the reins and is resolute in its efforts to worship at the throne of the almighty dollar. While cooler heads warn that at some time in the future, their efforts are doomed, in the meantime, it is: Blah, blah, blah.


About opinions in the Missourian: The Missourian’s Opinion section is a public forum for the discussion of ideas. The views presented in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Missourian or the University of Missouri. If you would like to contribute to the Opinion page with a response or an original topic of your own, visit our submission form.

Ken Midkiff, formerly the director of the Sierra Club Clean Water Campaign, is now chair the city’s Environment and Energy Commission and serves on the board of directors of the Great Rivers Environmental Law Center.

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