Oliver Tickell, website editor of the British magazine The Ecologist, wondered whether the ISIS attacks in Paris were motivated by a desire to undermine the UN climate summit opening next week, the 21st in the series of Conferences of Parties meetings – COP21 for short.
Reducing oil production, one of the goals of COP21, would not serve the interests of ISIS “which makes $500 million a year from oil sales – together with other oil producers.” In short, “is ISIS Inc. defending its corporate interest?” Or, more boldly, does a “coincidence of interests” mean that ISIS is just doing the dirty wet-work for OPEC? Tickell was concerned that world leaders might be “distracted from questions of climate” and waste time discussing terrorism instead.
Tickell may be an obsessed climate alarmist, but he is not alone. American economist Paul Krugman raised the same issue in the pages of The New York Times. He even quoted alarmist-in-chief Barack Obama, according to whom climate change, not terrorism, is “the greatest threat” to humanity. Apparently the president has said so on 23 occasions.
COP21 also describes itself with apocalyptic superlatives. This event, we are informed, is the “last chance” for nations to act on global warming. It is the “last effective opportunity” to protect “the poor and the vulnerable” from climate change “that gravely endangers their lives.”
Ever since COP6 in Bonn in 2001 there have been nearly a dozen announcements that this year, whatever year it happened to be, was the last chance.
Some perspective on what’s going on here comes, interestingly enough, from ISIS, another purveyor of an apocalyptic ideology. Its version holds that, after suffering great losses, led by the prophet Isa (Arabic for Jesus) ISIS will defeat the Crusaders at Dabiq, in Syria, and conquer the world.
By this logic the attacks in Paris were designed to provoke the French to declare war, which they did, and thus bring about the end times sooner. For those longing to do God’s work, right now, right here, the appeal of apocalyptic messages is great. The early battlefield success of ISIS added to its appeal. If the end is nigh, it hardly matters if infidels accuse you of terrorism and atrocity.
Such an understanding requires believers to ignore the commonsense reality that the rest of humanity grasps. It may be exciting for marginalized persons to find meaning in the slaughter of infidels but eventually the infidels respond. In the French example, turning the ISIS “capital,” Raqqa, into rubble was the result.
This is obviously not the end of ISIS but it certainly made their real life, as distinct from their apocalyptic fantasies, more difficult. Examples of other apocalyptic movements, from the European middle ages to the present, show the same pattern. Dramatic excitement is followed by painful disillusionment because the structure of reality does not conform to apocalyptic expectations.
Which brings us back to COP21 and the latest last chance for humanity.
Here, reality is even more in contradiction to the fantasies of the alarmists. Since February, 1997, about a third of human influence on climate since the industrial revolution has occurred. For the past 225 months, for 18 years and nine months, no change has occurred in monthly global mean surface temperature.
The notorious Pause goes on. And it goes on no matter what the delegates to COP21, or the computer models programmed to run hot, say.
So there is a connection between the ISIS attack on Paris and COP21, but it is not what Tickell and the alarmists think. Both are characterized by the non-recognition of reality.
Barry Cooper is a Political Science professor at the University of Calgary.