Crew Commentary

COP 28: Hypocrisy, Failure and the Triumph of Fossil Fuels

David Houle - Futurist


Once again… a total failure. As I have written several times, I expected it would be. If the first 27 COPs had been successful, there wouldn’t be a need for the current one in Dubai.


The reason it is a failure is that its purpose since 1995 has been to lower GHG emissions, particularly CO2. Let’s take a look at how that has gone.



The Parts Per Million was at 360ppm for the first COP in 1995 and now it is at 417ppm for COP 28. PPM is a relative measurement over time. The failure is absolute. Emissions and the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere have only grown. 28 COPs and we haven’t even slowed the emissions.


I think that the total tonnage of annual emissions is a more relatable number as that is what humanity collectively emits into the atmosphere.



NOAA Climate.gov graph, adapted from original by Dr. Howard Diamond (NOAA ARL). Atmospheric CO2 data from NOAA and ETHZ. CO2 emissions data from Our World in Data and the Global Carbon Project


The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (blue line) has increased along with human emissions (gray line) since the start of the Industrial Revolution in 1750. Emissions rose slowly to about five gigatons (one gigaton is a billion metric tons) per year in the mid-20th century before skyrocketing to more than 35 billion tons per year by the end of the century.


The primary goal of COP is to lower CO2 emissions. All the COP conferences have been total failures. The emissions didn’t go down, they didn’t stay the same… they’ve been increasing at accelerating rates since 1750.


The widely heralded goal of the 2015 COP in Paris was to limit the warming of the Earth’s surface to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Again, a failure. The year 2023 was the warmest year in 120,000 years with the average temperatures up to a range of 1.4 to 1.7 Celsius for most of the planet.


Why such total and complete failure?


  1. All COPs are attended by politicians, corporate executives, bankers, fossil fuel companies and bureaucrats, who all have agendas, constituencies and self-interests. This is not a convening of scientists, though they keep knocking on the door to be allowed to set policy.
  2. Global issues and policy cannot be set by nation-states as they are nationalistic and not global.
  3. The generation of CO2 emissions for each COP conference is enormous… lots of private jets, sumptuous meals, cocktail parties, etc. (Although Dubai is a Muslim city-state, alcohol is served.)


This article will be posted and distributed on the last day of COP 28. As this is being written a couple of days before, there may be some last minute breakthroughs including true, enforceable commitments… but I’m not hopeful.


The simple measurement of success as stated by the United Nations, which sponsors these failures, is how much lower will emissions be in 2024 vs. 2023? If the past is prologue, they will go up! This is a foregone conclusion when, in the third to final day of the conference, the chairman of COP28 – Sultan Al Jaber, the CEO of a major oil company, tells the conference:

“We need to find consensus and common ground on fossil fuel.” 


Uh, hasn’t that been the goal since COP1?


The big debate at the conference, as this Crew Commentary is being written, is one considering language. The current discussion is a compromise by switching from “phase out” to the softer “phase down” and using adjectives like “unabated” and “orderly.”


Yup, that’s what’s being talked about. Oil-producing states want to continue to produce fossil fuels indefinitely and COP28 is bending to their will.


COP28 is a failure on the first order that is like an accelerating train racing towards a cliff of species extinction.


Al Gore, who naively thought that the Paris Climate Accord at the COP conference in 2015 was a turning point, is vehement about how bad COP28 is. Here’s the text he tweeted out on Monday December 11:


“COP28 is now on the verge of complete failure. The world desperately needs to phase out fossil fuels as quickly as possible, but this obsequious draft reads as if OPEC dictated it word for word. It is even worse than many had feared. It is “Of the Petrostates, By the Petrostates and For the Petrostates.” It is deeply offensive to all who have taken this process seriously. There are 24 hours left to show whose side the world is on: the side that wants to protect humanity’s future by kickstarting the orderly phase out of fossil fuels or the side of the petrostates and the leaders of the oil and gas companies that are fueling the historic climate catastrophe. In order to prevent COP28 from being the most embarrassing and dismal failure in 28 years of international climate negotiations, the final text must include clear language on phasing out fossil fuels. Anything else is a massive step backwards from where the world needs to be to truly address the climate crisis and make sure the 1.5°C goal doesn’t die in Dubai.”




If you would like to read columns I wrote about COP27 and 28, you can go here, here, here and here.


More on the horror of the 28 COPs next week.