Copenhagen or Bust (Hint: Bust)
I hate to have to point out the obvious to the rosy-cheeked, starry-eyed eco-warriors heading en masse to the international global warming summit this week (OK—I love to point it out), but the fact is that the Copenhagen Climate Conference is going to be, on every level, a monumental failure.
As has been reported for months, the nations of the world have not agreed, and will not agree, to legally binding reductions or limits on carbon dioxide emissions at the conference. The biggest “polluters” are least likely to volunteer to give up their 21st-century living standards (the U.S., Australia, Canada) or their efforts to achieve such (China, India, Brazil).
As George Will noted, the U.S. population in 2050 will have risen to 420 million, which means that if we honor Obama’s pledge to reduce our nation’s “carbon footprint” by then to 80% below 2005 levels, emissions per capita “will be about what they were in 1875. That. Will. Not. Happen.”
Even climate change alarmists admit that pledges hinted at by Obama for Copenhagen and outlined in the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill passed by the House this summer will have barely any effect on the earth’s climate.
And even if Obama decided to place some of his rapidly swelling political capital on the line and make a pledge for emissions reductions at Copenhagen, it wouldn’t be legally binding, because any treaty must be ratified by the U.S. Senate, which has already demonstrated its hostility to the less ambitious Waxman-Markey bill.
If all of this isn’t promising enough, Copenhagen delegates’ support from their constituencies for making firm commitments to reduce emissions will be diluted by several other factors. One is the laughable hypocrisy on display in conference attendees’ lavish, luxury-filled, CO2 emission-intensive accommodations and entertainments. The UK Telegraph documents that the summit, including jet and limousine travel, “will create a total of 41,000 tonnes of ‘carbon dioxide equivalent,’” about the same as the daily emissions of 30 smaller countries. This is even after Al Gore canceled his talk in Copenhagen and the extra fuel required to fly him there was subtracted from the total.
Another lacuna in the alarmists’ scheme is that little matter known as “Climategate,” or, the fallout at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia from a whistleblower having leaked thousands of e-mails and other files documenting climate change “scientists” manipulating data, losing data, being unable to reconstruct data, and doing everything but counting “dimpled chads” to make the numbers come out the way they wanted.
Even before Climategate, polls showed that a majority of Americans believed climate change was primarily due to natural and not human causes and that such beliefs have been growing more common in recent years. Yet Yvo de Boer, the UN’s top climate official, is worried only about people’s “perception” of the e-mails, not whether they reveal compromised data analysis. Of the general public, he patronizingly states, “[W]hen they have the feeling… that scientists are manipulating information in a certain direction, then of course it causes concern in a number of people to say, ‘You see, I told you so, this is not a real issue.’” Yes, Yvo—when people realize that the UN’s top climate official cares more about whether the little people discover the truth than he cares about discovering the truth, it does cast climate change alarmists in a suspicious light.
Then of course there’s the science, which is too complex for most non-climate scientists to follow (and now, we know, most climate scientists), but which infiltrates the public’s awareness from time to time, due to the efforts of honest climate scientists and tireless, usually unpaid fact-checkers, statisticians, and bloggers. For example, these skeptics have helped publicize the well-documented Medieval Warming Period, during which temperatures were hotter than they are today, yet SUVs were still only in the test market phase.
Those over 40 remember the international scientific “consensus” in the early 1970s that the planet was cooling at an alarming rate and that humans were careening toward the next Ice Age. More recently, those over 15 remember the catastrophic, government-fueled, technology-related Y2K predictions, none of which came true. (Those over 9 months remember Obama’s promise that if we didn’t pass the $787 billion stimulus bill, unemployment might someday soar all the way to 8.0%.)
Acting in concert with Obama, the EPA on Monday released a declaration of intent to regulate and require permits from the largest U.S. emitters. The timing of the announcement on the first day of the Copenhagen conference, which was a total coincidence, was meant to goad Congressmen into passing cap-and-trade legislation, lest the EPA effectively do it for them.
This usurpation of the legislature’s function is not sitting well with many in Congress, including even such Democrats and moderate Republicans as Russ Feingold, Blanche Lincoln, Byron Dorgan, and Olympia Snowe. The working and middle classes will be none too happy, either: as Forbes’ Joel Kotkin notes, “Huge increases in energy costs, taxes and a spate of regulatory mandates will restrict their access to everything from single-family housing and personal mobility to employment in carbon-intensive industries like construction, manufacturing, warehousing and agriculture.” Who ever said Democrats don’t look out for the little guy!
So Monday’s EPA ruling does not help, but actually undermines, any Copenhagen pledge in two ways: (1) the ruling undercuts the necessity of Obama’s making any public commitment in Copenhagen, because it allows the administration to enact its schemes more stealthily, yet (2) the ruling will not withstand the inevitable, prolonged legal challenges from every corner of society, or the public’s anger at an administration that would allow such an authoritarian agency to make this ruling, which will undermine the administration’s ability to carry out any pledge it makes at Copenhagen. Paradoxically, Obama’s best prospect for restricting carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. is rescinding the EPA ruling and making no promises in Copenhagen, and taking his chances with Congress next year.
So in case it’s still not obvious to some, I’ll repeat it: Copenhagen will be a monumental failure on every level.
Bonus revelation: It deserves to be.