McKibben From COP 27 & A Rare Smile

You can read the daily news from COP27 on the official website, and it is useful information but not fully contextualized; for that we have our most reliable scribe who today is giving us one of his rare smiles:

Has the fever broken just a bit?

The view from Egypt: Trumpism, Putinism, Bolsonaroism finally on the defensive

Those of us who have been faithful in bringing the world bad news are perhaps excused if we seize occasionally on the the promising straws in the wind (though always aware that ill winds continue blowing, and not just in Florida where a rare November hurricane made landfall today). I’m thinking globally this afternoon, because I’m at the climate summit in Sharm al Sheikh in Egypt, where dozens of countries have pavilions (it’s the Epcot of carbon mitigation.) And the planet looks just a little better than it did a month ago.

The midterm elections went…really quite okay. Good people lost (Mandela Barnes would have been a superb Senator, and Val Demings too) and a lot of races were razor-tight: that Raphael Warnock has to go into sudden-death overtime against Herschel Walker should be maddening for anyone possessing either a brain or heart. But, since the New York Times had confidently informed me in a news story on October 22 that the “Democrats’ Feared Red October Has Arrived,” I was awfully heartened to read the overall results in a Cairo dawn. (And awfully glad I hadn’t let the Times persuade me to stop working—I’m all but certain that the hundreds of Reno apartment doors my Third Act colleagues and I knocked the weekend after that story came out were the difference in what looks like the possible re-election of Catherine Cortez Masto and a Senate majority no matter what Georgia decides. Thank you residents of Lodestar Drive!)

The midterms weren’t the autumn’s only good news. Jair Bolsonaro’s defeat in Brazil will translate directly into tens of millions of trees not being cut down or burned; Lula is coming here to the climate summit, and indeed offering to host one of the upcoming annual meetings.

And meanwhile Vladimir Putin has decided to evacuate Kherson, the one regional capital he’d managed to take in his savage invasion of Ukraine. The timing’s interesting; some speculated that the results of the midterms were the final straw, since it’s clear that even the slim House majority the GOP will hold won’t be enough to cut off military aid to the Kyiv government. If the Republicans had picked up dozens of seats the view from Moscow might have looked a little different.

There’s many reasons for these successes (the organizing done in the wake of the Dobbs decision was remarkable) but all of these developments are tied in some way to the climate story. Brazil under Bolsonaro has been the world capital of deforestation; Putin’s invasion is funded by gas and oil, uses gas and oil as a weapon, and has given his friends in the gas and oil industry room to push for a rapid expansion of fossil fuels—enough, according to a report circulating today on the conference floor, to by itself push the world past 1.5 degrees. And he had enlisted his friends in Saudi Arabia to run up the price of oil precisely in the hope of weakening the Biden administration in the run-up to the midterms.

But it didn’t work. Gas prices indeed remained high, thanks to Riyadh, the Kremlin, and the profiteers at Exxon et al, but it didn’t produce a red wave. And the Inflation Reduction Act, with its massive funding for clean energy, didn’t produce a backlash—indeed, very few Republicans campaigned against it, cognizant that solar panels have high levels of support across the board. The IRA seems set now—the GOP plan to refuse to raise the debt ceiling unless it was repealed seems unlikely given the thin margins Kevin McCarthy will enjoy in the House…

Read the whole newsletter here.

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