mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
We've Reached the Summit
The Pointless Paris Climate Conference

The moment is finally here: This week kicked off the much-anticipated two-week COP21 climate summit in Paris that greens hope will be looked back upon as a watershed moment for humanity’s approach to climate change. From where we’re sitting, that kind of game-changing outcome doesn’t seem to be in the cards. Here’s why.

The great green hope—a binding international treaty limiting global greenhouse gas emissions—is dead in the water. Indeed, it always has been. The EU is one of the few blocs of countries that would actually sign on to such an agreement (though even the green-minded group lacks consensus on this), but it wouldn’t do so out of the goodness of its heart. Rather, it would sign on out of a desire to see the rest of the world put in place the sort of economically damaging green policies Euro leaders have already rushed to enact. For Europe, these Paris talks are a way to erase a competitive disadvantage the Continent placed on itself.

Unsurprisingly, moreover, the only way to convince other nations to sign on to a treaty isn’t by appealing to green morality, but rather by putting up cold, hard cash (or “climate financing” as it’s come to be known). This financing comes in the form of the Global Climate Fund, established at Copenhagen’s failed 2009 summit with the hopes of funneling money from richer countries to help the developing world mitigate and adapt to climate change. Here, too, the news is grim: The developed world hasn’t funded this project, leading poorer countries to look on this new summit with mistrust. And make no mistake, if the money isn’t there, the developing world loses all impetus to enact growth-restricting green policies.

The U.S. Senate is the final nail in the Global Climate Treaty’s coffin. Secretary of State John Kerry explicitly said Paris wouldn’t produce a treaty last month because he knew President Obama lacked the necessary support in the Senate to ratify any formal deal. True to form, Senators have threatened to attach to an upcoming spending bill riders that would stop America from contributing to climate financing, and have promised not to ratify any Paris treaty.

So we know what Paris won’t produce, but what can negotiators now accomplish? The key point of “progress” this time around has been the introduction of Individually Determined National Contributions (INDCs), a cumbersome moniker for national pledges to reduce future carbon emissions. True, most UN members submitted these plans ahead of the conference, but as Bjorn Lomborg points out, the sum of these INDCs would reduce global temperatures by just 0.048°C (0.086°F) by the end of the century. And that’s assuming that countries follow through with their promises, which is a big jump, considering there aren’t any enforcement mechanisms on the table.

Thanks to Wired analysis, we know that the Paris conference will produce roughly 300,000 tons of CO2, and we can reasonably expect plenty of hot air over the next two weeks. But while delegates fruitlessly toil for a meaningless agreement, others on the outskirts of these talks are making concrete progress. Bill Gates has unveiled the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, which extracted promises from 20 governments to double research and development investment in the next five years.

Gates gets it: Empty promises can’t save us from the effects of climate change, and today’s crop of renewable energy technologies aren’t up to the task either. Every dollar spent on staging these pointless summits or propping up current-generation wind and solar power is a dollar that could have gone towards the research of a breakthrough that could actually make a difference.

Features Icon
Features
show comments
  • CosmotKat

    “Gates gets it: Empty promises can’t save us from the effects of climate change, and today’s crop of renewable energy technologies aren’t up to the task either. Every dollar spent on staging these pointless summits or propping up current-generation wind and solar power is a dollar that could have gone towards the research of a breakthrough that could actually make a difference.”
    There you have it in a nutshell. Many thought Gates got it when he poured billions into education and for all intents and purposes made no meaningful progress, but he got a boat load of tax credits and left wing kudos in so doing. This will be no different although technology is supposed to be his forte let us hope he pours these millions into something new instead of trying t make what doesn’t work and never will a bit better. Could we be hearing the death knell of tax payer funding of the enrichment of politically connected green techies? Let’s hope so since they are stealing our money and all we get for it is insults and higher energy costs.

  • Nevis07

    I’m more than happy to look into new technologies to move away from fossil fuels, but in the meantime allowing more fracking is fine with me (as long as we’re not doing it on a fault line). But the great thing about investing in new technologies is that you can get spin-off technologies and businesses. Plus, we don’t need to be sending anymore of our money to countries like the Saudi’s and getting stuck in their ME conflicts – I’d much rather be self-reliant.

    As far as getting countries to follow through on their GHG commitments, goes, I would just point toward China revising it’s CO2 emissions from it’s coal plants – right after it made it’s joint commitment with the US to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Convenient timing if you ask me…

  • OdinsAcolyte

    Simply and excuse for spending, plotting and partying.

  • Fat_Man

    I don’t think it is pointless:

    “When in Paris… President Obama has a ‘working dinner’ at three-star eatery”
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/reliable-source/wp/2015/11/30/when-in-paris-president-obama-has-a-working-dinner-at-three-star-eatery/

    “As working dinners go, President Obama’s meal Monday night in Paris with French President Francois Hollande, Secretary of State John Kerry and others wasn’t too shabby.

    “No cartons of takeout — instead, the gang fueled up after a long day of climate talks at L’Ambroisie, the three-Michelin-starred temple of gastronomie in the Marais neighborhood.”

  • Rick Johnson

    Will this lovefest create more plant food flying all those people to Paris and with all their hot air than it will reduce with the measures implemented?

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    The worst part of all this, is that they are spending Taxpayer money on the Greatest Hoax in History “Global Warming”, when the Globe hasn’t warmed in 19 years. Real Scientists, not the fakes doing “Global Warming” science, now say the Sun is going into a Maunder Minimum which means “colder” temperatures. I’m thinking we will all be wishing for a medieval warm period when Greenland was colonized and they were making wine in Moscow. Maybe that’s the goal they should seek, once we can grow grapes and make wine in Moscow, then we will take action and not before. Muwahahaha

    • LA_Bob

      Although I agree with the thrust of your comment (I am an AGW skeptic — you know, “denier” or “heretic” to all too many — after all), but I do take issue with the notion that the AGW hypothesis is a “hoax”. It’s a perfectly reasonable hypothesis twisted, over-hyped, and bloviated into a crisis far beyond its underlying logic and supporting evidence.

      Plus, the notion of a coming Maunder Minimum is just as speculative, and any cooling effects will probably not be felt strongly in our lifetimes. It took a few hundred years for the climate which enabled the Greenland settlements to devolve into the ice-skating fests on the Thames. We shall see, though likely “we” excludes “you and me”.

      But, of course, Nature can be a Mean Mother, full of surprises.

      • LarryD

        I’ll just point out that the current non-trend, “the pause”, is 18 years and 9 months old. It has gone on longer than the warming trend that the AGW-crowd is all bothered about. And I’m old enough I remember the cold trend before that, that had people worried about the climate returning to an “ice age” (more accurately, a glacial expansion epoch).

      • Episteme

        I think that a major miscalculation (I’m going to be charitable here and presume true belief on all sides) was made in changing the discourse from The Environment to Climate, since there’s consequently this mathematical-modelling argument that ends up with actual issues of real human impact being neglected in exchange for heightened arguments over What Might Be if the numbers line up in X Number Of Years.

        Since industrialization (and widespread modern technological expansion), we’ve come to realize the elements of resource depreciation and the effect of human growth on the other parts of the environment around us. There’s a balance to economic growth and the truly conservative argument of conserving/preserving as much of that original environmental context (including trying to stop from accidentally helping drive extinctions – we’re not separate from ecosystems and every species dies off, but we have a unique capacity to realize if we’re having a disproportionate effect). It’s why I’ve always been a fan of things like National Parks, animal preservation (not to the level of throwing out towns for the sake of a spotted owl, but certainly building cross-highway “passways” to connect habitats, for example), and strategy in tree-cutting to prevent unplanned loss of forests.

        That’s the sort of thought process that protects against salinized rivers and dirty ice caps better than this sort of talk in Paris. If you look at how industrial London or New York cleaned itself and Chicago and Denver transitioned from overlogging, it was local interests looking at how the local environment was looking and coming up with solutions in technology and organization (Gates’s focus on Research & Development falls somewhat along this tradition, perhaps unknowingly, although he similarly played the role he did in private eradicatory work versus diseases of late working alongside the Rotarians). I remember after the whole ‘Cecil the Lion’ debate how I thought that the broader Right needed to really reclaim the conservation message from the technocratic Progressive argument that sort to divorce it from its very conservative and preservative roots both in respect of custom and economic understanding of what overuse/overspecialization of resources entail. Alas, the change in discourse by lawmakers to a less-assailable mathematical foundation where the models are basically hidden from those who “deny” them makes that much harder.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service