COP28: The world’s biggest green mirage

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Its official name is the “United Nations 28th Conference of the Parties on Climate Change,” or COP28 for short. Given the news from the two-week gathering in the desert near Dubai, however, a better name might be “Shifting Sands, Shifting Blame.”

For example, “A staggering 88,000 people are accredited” to attend the meeting, noted Barron’s Dec. 4, with “another 400,000 registered to visit [its] ‘green zone.’”

How do half a million people traveling to an isolated emirate on the edge of a Middle Eastern desert resemble anything close to green? Barron’s wondered the same thing. It titled its story on the inbound swarm of climate-change pilgrims “COP 28: Trying To Save The Planet In ‘Disneyland’ Crowds.”

Since Dubai is 3,500 miles from London, almost everyone attending COP will arrive by air and many — too many — will arrive by private jet. That’s not a guess because at “COP27 in Egypt last year,” reported the website The Conversation, “around 315 private jet journeys took place.”

Most solo flyers were leaders in either politics or members of the — wink, wink — Do As I Say, Not As I Do Club. Many are members of both, of course.

For example, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, former British Prime Minister David Cameron and Great Britain’s King Charles each arrived on their own private aircraft despite the fact that “from London to Dubai, private jet travel is 11 times more polluting than a commercial aircraft,” explained the one news service.

Each stepped off their carbon-burning magic carpet in time for “(m)ore than two-thirds of the nations in the world,” explained FERN’s Ag Insider, “representing… 70 percent of global food production, [to sign] a declaration… assigning agriculture and food systems a role in combating global warming.”

While today’s heavily industrialized crop, livestock and poultry sectors (and their transnational corporate suppliers) have many environmental sins to atone for, making ag into a climate-change bogeyman is convenient buck passing.

At least that’s what the UN says on its climate change webpage: “Fossil fuels — coal, oil and gas — are by far the largest contributor to global climate change, accounting for over 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 90% of all carbon dioxide emissions.”

Big Ag, however, is striving to live up to its dirtier relatives. As previously reported, one of its newest efforts centers on a network of definitely not-green pipelines carrying pressurized CO2 from Midwestern ethanol plants to North Dakota’s frac oil fields to enhance crude oil recovery.

An even bigger hope is for ethanol to become a green, go-to aviation fuel. The cost for airlines to scrub their carbon-streaked reputation with this “sustainable aviation fuel,” or SAF, however, reported the Nov. 30 New York Times, is “potentially further damaging one of the nation’s more important resources: groundwater.”

This ag-based SAF idea is far from new. In 2008, British billionaire Richard Branson flew a Virgin Atlantic jetliner from London to Amsterdam using “fuel derived in part from palm oil and coconuts.”

Branson labeled the trip sustainable; critics labeled him nuts because had he used 100 percent coconut oil for the short, 220-mile flight, it “would have consumed three million coconuts.”

In late November, Virgin Atlantic tried again with “the world’s first 100% SAF flight” from London to New York. This time the jetliner’s SAF was cooking oil. Again, however, while the fuel might be considered “sustainable,” the math behind it was definitely finite.

“If every last drop” of the 600,000 tons of used cooking oil collected in the U.S. each year “were diverted to SAFs,” two British economists calculated, “it would meet at most 1% of America’s current aviation demand.”

Back at COP28, the president of Colombia, whose economy is based primarily on fossil fuel exports, offered a better, truly green idea: stop “the expansion of coal, oil and gas” and “reorient his nation away from such ‘poisons.’”

Wow, no hot air; how breathtakingly — and breath-giving — simple.

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