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COP 26: Fun and games in the ‘Green Zone’

Glasgow, Scotland U.K.

Disregard the title: UN conferences are not fun and games, but a sense of humor is required to endure them. I drew on that mandate when visiting the booths of the many non-governmental organizations (NGO) located in what is called the event’s “Green Zone.”

The Green Zone is housed in the Glasgow Science Center, which probably is a mile walk from the Scottish Event Campus where the UN conference is held, which is labeled the “Blue Zone.”

COP 26: Fun and games in the "Green Zone" 1

Upon entering the Green Zone to visit the NGO displays, the first site is the posters on the wall that set the tone: “Don’t let the World Burn,” a hand with a cigarette lighter burning a globe (no text necessary), and “The House is on Fire and Not in a Cool Hip Hop Kinda Way.” Other message posters said, “We’re in the End Game,” “Rise Up Before the Sea Does,” and “Do It for Them” (them being cuddly polar bears). My personal favorite: “Don’t Know What You’ve Got Til it’s Gone,” with a drawing of a woman surrounded by tree stumps, echoing a line from the 1970 song Big Yellow Taxi by singer-songwriter, Joni Mitchell, which was a first generation environmental anthem (another line: “They took all the trees, put ’em in a tree museum…”).

COP 26: Fun and games in the "Green Zone" 2

Some passing perspective is in order: (a) an increase in average global temperature of 1 to 2 degrees since the late 1800s means the planet remains much cooler than warming periods of centuries past and does not mean it is soon burning, given the litany of computer models continually updated when their predictions fall flat; (b) sea level increase of a couple of millimeters per year is influenced by several factors having nothing to do with climate and do not matter regardless (including, evidently, to Barack and Michelle Obama, who purchased ocean-front property on Martha’s Vineyard island); (c) the polar bear population is thriving and increased as much as fivefold in the last 60 years; and (d) the tree stumps are more symbolic of what the climate industry is doing to forests, farmland and landscapes with the installation of more energy inefficient solar panels and wind turbines, e.g., the Green Mountain Forrest in Vermont, as shown in the moviePlanet of the Humans.

The more time I spend in the UN conference, the more obvious that it’s all about the money, and that climate issues are the means rather than the purpose. Among the examples of this objective came from the group, Fairtrade, one of the many NGOs in the Green Zone, represented by Adam Gardner and a sugar farmer from Malawi, Rachel Banda. They spoke of extreme weather conditions that have hurt farming in Africa that necessitates part of the $100 billion annual demand by developing nations. They also acknowledged that only about “2 percent” of climate aid thus far has trickled down to farmers. The other 98 percent? Bureaucracy, contracts, research grants, other NGOS – the list goes on. Mr. Gardner was not openly critical of this; rather, hopeful still.

Another NGO present is the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), presided over by its Senior Communications Manager, Rhiannon Shah. She discussed the Netflix documentary series, Our Planet, which is very much an alarmist production. She also distributed cards to “Become a Walrus Detective!” which is a WWF project using satellites to monitor the walrus population.

Ms. Shah stressed the need for climate action and said WWF was lobbying governments to force the private sector to invest in environmental social governance (ESG) funds. She further claimed the polar bears and walruses are at risk since the Arctic is in “meltdown,” and that we only have “10 years” before the climate crisis accelerates.

A couple of other stations had groups claiming that climate change was a threat to global health, though this nexus was dubious at best. Rising carbon emissions—the stated villain in global warming—are not a health hazard in contrast to, for example, particulate matter. Also, as the planet warms modestly, hotter weather is documented to be far less lethal than colder weather.

Then there was my favorite character, a man named Asher Minns, the executive director of the Tyndall Centre for COP 26: Fun and games in the "Green Zone" 3Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia in England. This is the same flagship research entity that was exposed in 2009 for falsifying temperature data to make it appear the planet was warming to a faster, alarming degree.

Mr. Minns was dressed for the occasion in what he called an “atmospheric suit” of sky blue slacks and sport jacket designed with puffy white clouds. We discussed the climate promises made by politicians over the last 20 years with vacuous results. The Tyndall Centre is a recipient of government funding and Mr. Minns seemed patient with this snail’s pace of politicians fulfilling climate commitments, in contrast to almost every other conference attendee. There is a “process” that must play out, he said.

It was a long walk to from the Blue Zone to the Green Zone. Both were very much a world apart from practical realities of climate, including having the ability to affect nature’s temperature trajectory.


  • Peter Murphy is Senior Fellow at CFACT. He has researched and advocated for a variety of policy issues, including education reform and fiscal policy, both in the non-profit sector and in government in the administration of former New York Governor George Pataki. He previously wrote and edited The Chalkboard weblog for the NY Charter Schools Association, and has been published in numerous media outlets, including The Hill, New York Post, Washington Times and the Wall Street Journal. Twitter: @PeterMurphy26 Website: