In December Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes” unfolded on the world stage as the representatives of 190 countries gathered together in Paris solemnly proclaimed they all saw the intricate fabric the climate warriors had woven — the “settled science” of global warming that forecast an uninhabitable planet if man did not scale back his use of fossil fuels to close to zero by the end of this century. Unfortunately there was no little child to prick the bubble. The Heartland Institute was in Paris with an alternate conference designed to do just that, but no one was paying attention. Too much money and hype had been invested in the global warming tailors. “Success” was ecstatically proclaimed far and wide as, by universal agreement, the 190 countries each pledged to sharply cut back carbon emissions and to meet every five years to up their pledges.
There were a couple of clear-cut winners at the conference. One was the rulers of the so-called developing nations who, as their price for signing on, held up the developed nations (notably the U.S. and the EU) for pledges of over $100 billion per year as penance for their historic responsibility in causing the supposed problem in the first place. In a specially absurd feature of the conference, Zimbabwe’s brutal despot Robert Mugabe, officially banned from entering the EU for his human rights record (and who has literally destroyed his once prosperous country), was not only in Paris, but as chairman of the African Union, the chief representative to negotiate Africa’s demands. One of those demands was for channeling those billions directly to African leaders rather than having them supervised by donor countries who might seek to make sure they actually went to the projects for which they were scheduled. To assorted African dictators all that money is a potential grand slush fund for everything from palaces to Maseratis to Hermes handbags (for the multiple ladies in their lives).
The chief winner, in a sign of the beyond-the-looking glass nature of the conference, actually saw itself as a loser. That inadvertent winner was the EU whose representatives badly wanted commitments to be “legally binding on all parties.” Instead, the pledges are voluntary, to be enforced through “shaming,” without any mechanism for punishment. The U.S. was mainly responsible for this, since Obama would have had to take legally binding pledges to Congress, where they had zero chance of passage.
So why was the EU the major winner? That’s because its member states, as Benny Peiser points out in a Wall Street Journal op-ed (Dec. 22) are now off the hook. Europe is liberated from the constrictions of the legally binding Kyoto Protocol, which EU countries had signed off on. It originally expired in 2012 (requiring cuts to carbon emissions to 5% below 1990 levels by that year) but the EU had voluntarily extended its Kyoto obligations until 2020.
The result of Kyoto, as I document in my Roosters of the Apocalypse: How the Junk Science of Global Warming is Bankrupting the Western World, has been to seriously handicap European industries by sharply raising their costs, as EU countries dial down on fossil fuels in favor of hugely expensive wind and solar energy. (Der Spiegel reported in 2013 that Germans paid $26 billion in subsidies to get just over $3 billion worth of electricity at market prices.) Gradually some European leaders have inched their way toward acknowledging the problem. While David Cameron had initially announced his would be “the greenest government ever,” in October 2011 his Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne told a Tory Party national conference “We’re not going to save the planet by putting our country out of business.” That same year even the EU’s Energy Department (in an intended-as-secret internal memo obtained by Dow Jones Newswires) admitted “there is a trade-off between climate change policies and competitiveness” and if other countries did not bind themselves to cut emissions the EU should reconsider whether to switch its domestic energy base from fossil fuels.
It’s no wonder then that the EU was determined to make the pledges in Paris legally binding so as to “share the burden” (as Mama Merkel proposes to do within the EU for her ruinous mass Muslim immigration policy). In September 2014, Peiser reports, then EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger declared that absent a binding commitment from countries like India, Russia, China, Brazil and the U.S., it would be a mistake for EU states to bind only themselves, for they would simply be exporting both their industries and carbon emissions. And the EU paid attention, offering the next month to cut emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, but only if all major emitters adopted legally binding targets. With Paris leaving it all voluntary, Peiser believes “the chances of the EU repeating its Kyoto mistake and adopting new unilateral carbon-dioxide restrictions are close to zero.” While the EU is not likely to renege publicly on its Paris 40% reduction pledge, given that there are no enforceable targets for individual member states, post-2020 the states will be free (if they can withstand the “shaming” and no doubt strong-arming) to make their economies competitive.
With Paris behind it, the EU can move on to laying low that other source of mortal danger to the planet—Israel. For the EU, labeling products from Judea, Samaria and the Golan is a moral mission second only to rolling back the temperature. If the EU (and the Obama administration) devoted to the very real and dangerous problems our civilization faces a fraction of the funds, energy and attention given to chimeras, we might be closer to solutions.