A major international climate meeting recently ended in Egypt. It was the latest in a set of meetings aimed at tackling climate change globally. In earlier meetings at: Kyoto, a protocol was established for reducing emissions; Paris, nations promised individual goals for emissions reduction; and Glasgow, each nation’s goal was sharpened. The “Congress of the Parties” (COP) includes 192 nations, big and small. This was COP27.

Other groups attend, including fossil fuel companies, as well as many calling for “climate action.” All are aware that the major cause of global warming and climate change is the burning of “fossil fuels”…namely coal, oil and natural gas.

COP27 Climate Summit

Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif, prime minister of Pakistan, speaks at the COP27 U.N. Climate Summit, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

The Achilles Heel of burning these carbon-rich fuels is carbon dioxide. Yes, all animals exhale CO2 with every breath, and plants use it to grow. Yet, CO2 and the more potent methane function like an atmospheric blanket to keep Earth’s temperatures 60 degrees warmer, like glass does for greenhouses.

For most of the past 12,000 years of human development, atmospheric CO2 concentrations have been stable. However, since the start of the industrial revolution, concentrations of CO2 have increased 50%, and methane 150%. Together with other gasses their “global greenhouse effect” is causing glaciers to melt, sea levels to rise, while droughts, floods, wildfires and heat waves have hit new records in size and extent.

In Maine, climate change includes noticeable warming of the Gulf of Maine, with shrimp gone, lobsters in danger, and sea levels rising. On land we notice a decrease of winter snow.

Our ancestors managed pretty well without fossil fuels. However, coal, oil and natural gas are so useful for heating our buildings, generating electricity and powering our vehicles. Admit it, it seems we’re hooked! We can’t seem to do without the extra energy the fossil fuels provide for everything we do — unless we find alternatives.


COP27 was scheduled in a developing nation (Egypt) for a reason, with a focus on “Loss and Damage Finance.” It was noted that richer nations (USA, Europe, and now China and Russia) are responsible for the largest share of excess CO2 from burning those fossil fuels over time. Yet, many poorer nations, whose economies are tiny and emissions minimal, have been suffering the worst effects of climate change, including recovery costs.

Two recent flood events tell a tale. Pakistan was inundated by never-before-imagined floods this summer. Despite only contributing 0.3% to total global emissions, it is having to pay for damage and recovery costs caused by other’s greenhouse gas emissions. Pakistan’s emergency appeal for UN funds is still only 34% funded. In contrast, when Germany experienced record flooding in 2021, its government was able to instantly mobilize $31 billion to rebuild the town and infrastructure decimated by the flood.

The UN recently called for windfall taxes on fossil fuel giants to fund loss and damage payments. That was based on this consideration: just six fossil fuel companies made enough money in the first half of this year to cover total costs of recent climate-related disaster events in developing countries. Those six companies would still have nearly $70 billion remaining in pure profit!

So COP27 has been about money, about making polluters pay. That seems like a good idea. After all, we pay to have trash picked up roadside and disposed of in properly designed landfills. Though not perfect, it meets the need. In contrast, waste emissions from burning coal, oil and natural gas are allowed to dissipate for free. Others pay those externalized costs for recovery from greenhouse warming damage from a variety of devastating climate change events.

The good news: COP27 concluded with a historic decision to establish a Loss and Damage Fund. Welcoming the decision, UN’s Secretary-General António Guterres noted that much more needs to be done to reduce emissions. “The world still needs a giant leap on climate ambition. We can and must win this battle for our lives.”

Peter Garrett lives in Winslow. He is the Maine coordinator for the Citizens Climate Lobby.

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