The meeting is Durban will likely follow the script of all past meetings. Self important government bureaucrats and special interest rent-seekers will spend the better part of rushing from meeting to meeting and wringing their hands over the lack of action and consensus. At the 12th hour of the last day, ministers and lead negotiators will cobble together some sort of agreement that claims progress but which in fact just papers over the lack of substance.
The best thing to come out of Durban will be letting the Kyoto Protocol die an ignoble death. It didn’t make economic, environmental, or technological sense in 1997 and it makes no sense today. Unfortunately, delegates have too much invested in climate orthodoxy to let the COP and IPCC processes end. Careers, research grants, and fund raising are at stake in keeping the illusion of a climate catastrophe alive.
Over the past several years, the weak scientific basis for an impending catastrophe has become even weaker. Advances in knowledge about ocean currents, solar influence, clouds, and water vapor in the atmosphere have highlighted how much we don’t know about the climate system and further demonstrated that the computer models used to project catastrophe decades in the future bear little relationship to reality. And now another email dump shows how desperate a small cabal of insiders is to defend climate orthodoxy.
Without a strong scientific foundation, there is little justification for the climate policies that promote alternative energy subsidies and fossil energy rationing.
In Durban, developing nations—which are now termed “vulnerable nations”—will lobby hard for developed nations to commit $100 billion annually to help them adapt. It isn’t going to happen and the fact that the effort is being made shows how detached from reality the COP process is.
The EU is on the brink of economic collapse and the US is struggling to recover from the great recession. National debts and deficit spending in the developed world have created a global crisis. The prevailing economic circumstances are leading to a retreat from bad environmental policies. That is a good thing but it comes at a very high cost.
The problem of vulnerability and adaptive capacity is important and needs to be addressed. But, the solution is not more aid to countries that are unwilling or incapable of helping themselves. Most of these nations are ruled by elites who enrich themselves at the expense of their citizens. They do not have the rule of law, democratic processes, or property rights that are necessary for them to get out of the depths of poverty. There is no excuse to ignore the almost 2 billion people who live in abject poverty, suffer high disease and mortality rates, and lack access to commercial energy. That is the globes most serious environmental problem. Ignoring it while promoting the illusion of a climate apocalypse in coming decades—which are always in the distant future—is immoral.
This article appeared in the National Journal’s Energy & Environment weblog on Nov. 28, 2011 http://energy.nationaljournal.com/2011/11/durban-climate-talks-whats-nex.php#2124483