It’s back to the future with shades of the Rio Treaty. Twenty years ago when Al Gore was promoting what became the ill fated Kyoto Treaty, many moderate people proposed what was called “Pledge and Review and No Regrets” strategies. They were ridiculed and since then 193 nations have participated in a charade called the Conference of the Parties to stop global warming and climate change. The scenario always plays out the same and not much gets accomplished. The US delegate should be embarrassed to call Lima a step forward. Steps imply progress, not running around in circles in pursuit of an illusion.
Looking back, most developed nations are fortunate that delegates and the climate establishment pushed their extreme agenda because the lack of agreement has allowed climate and economic realities to play out. For about 18 years, there has essentially no warming, although the models that underpin these negotiations have told the world otherwise. The predicted climate catastrophes have not materialized. We have had weather.
The IPCC five-year reviews, at least the Summary for Policy Makers, express greater certainty about attribution when, indeed, uncertainty still dominates. IPCC scientists are no closer to closing in on sensitivity, although they keep lowering, it to understanding water vapor, cloud formation, oceans, and solar affects. Billions of dollars have been invested in ever more complex and sophisticated models that do no better than their predecessors. Since climate is a chaotic system with millions of variables, it is probably time to call a halt on trying to make policy oriented climate predictions.
On the economic side, the world has had a chance to observe the economic realities of countries in the EU that marched forward with aggressive mitigation strategies. They have all suffered; some like Spain and Italy are still a long way from recovering from their folly. Even Germany the strongest of the weak has seen a flight of investment capital, soaring electricity rates, and jobs moving elsewhere. According to Daniel Yergin, vice chair of HIS, “Germany’s current path of increasingly high-cost energy will make the country less competitive in the world economy, penalize Germany in terms of jobs and industrial investment, and impose a significant cost on the overall economy and household income.”
If the time, talent, and resources that have been squandered chasing the climate change hobgoblin had been devoted to the more than 1.6 billion people who live in devastating poverty, more lives would have been saved and the overall environment improved. It is shameful that a real problem that could be solved has been relegated to a lower priority than climate change that can’t be solved.
Instead of continuing on a course to force high cost alternative energy systems into being, the self interest of nations would be better served by focusing on technologies and research to deal with whatever climate nature gives us. Sea levels have been rising since the end of the Little Ice Age and will continue to do so until the world enters into a new period of glaciation. The Dutch have demonstrated how to deal with them and building codes can be revised to keep construction from being too close to coastal waters. Investing in agricultural research to develop crops that can deal with a range of climates will help ensure that agricultural production continues to flourish. While there has been no increase in extreme weather events as routinely predicted, extreme weather fatalities have continued to decline because of the ability to adapt. Adaptation is clearly a more viable strategy than mitigation.
The sooner nations stop wasting resources on demonizing fossil energy and CO2 the sooner the world can focus on technology, innovation, and economic policies that will be needed to build a strong standard of living for a growing world population. Abundant and affordable energy is essential for achieving robust economic growth and fossil energy will remain the backbone of all but the most foolish nations. And, while bureaucrats have declared CO2 a pollutant, it is in fact a nutrient that is essential for plant live. The increase in CO2 levels that we have seen in recent decades has brought with it a greening of land areas and an increase in crop efficiency.
This article appeared on the National Journal’s Energy Insiders weblog at https://disqus.com/by/wokeefe/