The power plays, the conflicts, the drama and the news about the weather: Diary notes as the world prepares for the United Nations COP26 climate conference in Glasgow.
"The cure for despair is action." – Actor and activist Jane Fonda.
The Scottish ark
Will the Glasgow conference be the ark of humanity? Scottish woodsman-artist David Blair made his own ark, although it isn't meant to last. "It's not permanent in the same way that humanity won't be if we don't take action on the climate," he told the local council when they asked about his intentions.
With help from the local chapter of Extinction Rebellion, he built the ark near the village of Tighnabruaich, about 50km west of Glasgow as the hawk flies, although it's quite a bit longer if you have to drive around all the lochs.
The skeletal ark is 20 metres long, six high and built from European larch. "It is a beautiful structure," he says, "and I hope it stands as a symbol of strength and urgency." He's thinking of leaving it there until 2045, which is when Scotland plans to have reached new zero emissions.
There's been lots of support, including from the local church, where the minister did his bit with a sermon on Noah and rising sea levels.
Global day of action
Today is a Global Day of Action: Fridays for Future and other youth groups across the world will be marching to demand an immediate end to the funding of fossil fuel expansion.
And there's progress. With financiers continuing to divest from fossil fuels, Wall St analysts and even the oil companies themselves have reported that new oil and gas projects are becoming hard to finance. On Monday, Goldman Sachs said it would join 60 other global banking firms in the Net-Zero Banking Alliance.
Locally, the NZ Super Fund, ACC, Government Superannuation Fund and National Provident Fund have all signed the Net Zero Asset Owners Commitment. That means the $110 billion controlled by these four Crown entities will be invested only in companies working towards net zero emissions by 2050.
India and Australia say no
Regardless, both India and Australia have affirmed their commitment to coal this week, albeit from very different perspectives.
India's environment minister, Bhupender Yadav, said his country will need to continue to burn coal in the foreseeable future, to ensure its energy security.
But he also pointed out that India has already reduced its emissions – in 2016, they were down 24 per cent from 2005 levels – and has done it without financial help from the developed world.
Despite that, India has become the world's third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, although it has contributed only 4 per cent to the cumulative build-up of emissions since 1850.
Because of this, said Yadav's senior official, Rameshwar Prasad Gupta, "Net zero in itself isn't a solution." It obscures the role of those who've caused the crisis.
Yadav called on developed countries to accept their "historic responsibility" and protect the interests of the most vulnerable countries. If India is to meet its 35 per cent reduction target by 2030, according to its finance ministry, the cost will be about US$2.5 trillion ($3.48t).
In the lucky country, meanwhile, they've released a new "long-term emissions reductions plan" that affirms the Australian target of net zero by 2050, but contains no new policies and no modelling. Nor will it be legally binding.
Projections by watchdog groups suggest our nearest and dearest will cut emissions by only about 1 per cent a year for the next decade.
It is, said Prime Minister Scott Morrison, "the Australian way". He reiterated his support for the coal industry and said the plan is to "respect" Australians so they can "achieve what they want to achieve".
Critics were harsh. "The Morrison Government's net zero by 2050 announcement is a joke, without strong emissions cuts this decade," said the Australian Climate Council.
It's a "scam", said Chris Bowen, the Labor shadow minister for climate. "I've seen more detailed fortune cookies than the document released by the government today."
Only two other G20 countries do not have net zero targets written into law. One is Italy, which will have to do it as part of the EU. The other is the US, where President Joe Biden is trying to do it but has not yet found a formula Congress will accept. Scott Morrison has stopped trying.
Australia is "the rich world's weakest link at COP26," said analysts at CNN.
Extinction Rebellion vs the Guardian
The Guardian has published a major feature on the role of climate activists. Called "Wrong side of the law. Right side of history: the activists arrested in the name of the planet," it tells the stories of 21 activists who've been arrested for their beliefs.
Many are ordinary folk, but there's also a bunch of Hollywood celebrities, including Rosanna Arquette, Ted Danson, Jane Fonda and James Cromwell, who's on TV right now in Succession, as media tycoon Logan Roy's eternally disappointed brother Ewan.
Online, it's an impressive feature. The print version, though, has caused a flurry of social media protest for "silencing" one of the activists, Elise Yarde.
Yarde was arrested last year with five others for blockading the printing presses of the Rupert Murdoch-owned News Corp's titles, including the Times, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and the Sun. Publication was halted for 24 hours and the papers lost an estimated £1 million ($1.91m).
The online version of the story shows all the activists holding signs explaining their views. Yarde's reads "Climate inaction = racism". But in the newspaper Yarde is shown in handcuffs, without her sign.
"Can't you see that not noticing when you treat black people differently = racism," said one tweet.
The nuclear option
The comments on the UN's draft climate report earlier this year, leaked to Greenpeace, continue to reveal what's perhaps best called a range of views.
Several eastern European countries, along with some others, argued the UN should be more positive about nuclear energy. The Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia all criticised a table in the report which suggested nuclear power has a positive role in delivering only one of the UN's 17 Sustainable Development goals. They argued it can help with most of them.
India went further. It charged that "almost all the chapters contain a bias against nuclear energy", even though nuclear is an "established technology" with "good political backing except in a few countries".
More about plastic
A US Congressional hearing today will interrogate Big Oil companies about the petrochemicals used to make plastic.
ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron Phillips and BP are all accused of misrepresenting the size of the plastics industry's contribution to global warming. But it's now known that during 2019 alone, global emissions for the plastic life cycle were equal to the emissions from nearly 200 coal-fired power stations.
And with oil for fuel in decline, BP expects 95 per cent of the net growth in demand for its oil, from now until 2040, will come from the plastics industry.
Meanwhile, the fast-moving consumer goods sector has ramped up its greenwash. In 2009, Coca-Cola announced that by 2015, at least 25 per cent of its bottles would be made from recycled material. In 2018, it increased the pledge to 50 per cent, by 2030.
But by last year, it still hadn't got to 10 per cent.
Glasgow Diary appears daily as an exclusive NZ Herald online feature.