This article is part of the Climate Nerd Chronicles.
Once upon a time, on a blue planet, lived two twin dragons, El Niño and his sister La Niña. One could never be woken up while the other was. They regulated the climate of the great ocean, the first making the lands of the East wetter and the lands of the West dryer, the second doing the opposite. Their moods were so terrible that they threatened a large part of the planet disturbing its climate balances, spreading fires and floods throughout entire kingdoms. They spent years sleeping in their lair, only to awake again, never letting the people entirely forget them.
Awaking El Niño
And so it had been for years after years through the ages of (Middle) Earth. The small folk and the royals had learnt to live with the beasts moods, so much that they did not particularly pay attention as a group of brave Dwarf explorers dug into the depths of the planet to find a precious treasure. They called it black gold. It contained raw power, and magically helped the humans to rise above their conditions. It made them rich and the richer they got, the greedier they became.
Without realizing its effects, they released the fumes of the black gold in the atmosphere, while the dragons fed on it. Luckily, a council of seers discovered the terrible effects the black gold had on the Earth’s climate. They warned the royals and the small folk, they sent their heralds in every land known by men. The message took time to reach the audience, as their heart had been clouded by their new found power. It took them years to take the warning seriously.
Meanwhile, the dragons grew, feeding on the fumes, and as the biggest symposium yet on the problem arrived, El Niño rose again, more powerful than ever, its flame destroying the land of Indonesia, the clap of its wing creating hurricanes and typhoons, disturbing the global circulation, flooding the West Coast of America.
Indonesia in fall 2015
It made people homeless, and they desperately went to the rich explorers who feasted on black gold, selling its power to other kingdoms. The Dwarves did not hear the cries of the homeless people at the doors of their realm. They did not understand why they asked for a part of their profits to compensate for their loss and damages, for black gold had the power to darken the heart of the ones who used it and so they had forgotten what generosity was. This was a time when migrants were treated as strangers, not as brothers.
So what if the humans outside have no home since El Niño burnt or flooded their entire land out? As Thorin with Bael the Bard, the developed countries are not ready to open the gates of their beloved gold-filled chests. Then what if a few millions of people lose their home in the course of sea-level rise? The oil explorers will be very happy to exploit their petroleum until there is not a single drop left.
The reaction of developed countries negotiators when someone brings up loss and damages
Dragon sickness is a dark shadow on the upcoming symposium, called COP21. El Niño is there and we cannot defeat it, we cannot stop it. But we can still avoid making it more difficult to predict, to fuel its wrath with our black gold. We can still get cured from dragon sickness and welcome the people who have lost everything.