PARIS, THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA
Why the struggle to turn climate change into a ‘good news story’ could backfire.
Where do you stand on the climate change question du jour? Do you think COP 21 in Paris was a success? Or do you think it was a failure? Or are you simply perplexed, wondering why on earth there are such widely differing interpretations in the first place?
It’s tempting—depending on your perspective—to blame over-optimistic Candides or doom-and-gloom merchants for spinning the outcome the wrong way. But this curious tension is itself a significant outcome, which is worth looking at in much more detail.
Why? Well, when you start to unpack the reasons behind it, out tumble a heap of seemingly intractable problems relating to communicating climate change that have been—and still are—stopping us doing much about it. If we can figure these out, we might have a better chance of getting to grips with climate change, before the window of time we have left slams shut.
The main problem is that—for all the fanfare about COP 21’s successful conclusion—Paris was really a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea (as many people following the negotiations know only too well, even if they are reluctant to talk about it publicly).
Essentially, for many it was a desperate hunt for a ‘good news story’ with a happy ending—all countries finally on board, after more than twenty years of wrangling. What could be better? But behind the scenes a highly risky and unprincipled deal was struck, specifically to get that ‘good news story’. Unnervingly, it’s a deal that could stop us dealing with climate change at all. Could such a story possibly be worth the devilish compromises buried in the text?