The 8th day of the Ninth Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP-9) — a UN meeting on climate change — was largely uneventful, yet offered a plethora of amusing asides. But more on that shortly. More interesting is the palpable sense, permeating the entire conference, of Kyoto’s demise, if not its irrelevance. Russian ratification, of course, is central to the treaty’s fate, but EU and UN officials conveyed, if not explicitly, the emerging difficulties and limitations that make Kyoto both impractical and futile.
Joke Waller-Hunter, the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), tried valiantly to remain optimistic, but, shockingly, was constrained by facts. During remarks that were tentative but hopeful, Waller-Hunter expatiated on a critical reality: “Although the intermediate aim of the convention, stabilizing the emissions of greenhouse gases in 2000 at 1990 levels, was largely met, this was mainly due to the decline in economic performance in the Parties with economies in transition.”
Put more simply, depressed economies mean depressed emissions; conversely, growing economies mean growing emissions. Some Kyoto proponents, though grudgingly, are beginning to recognize this, while Andrei Illarionov, Russia’s top economic official, emphasized this connection as essential to his opposition to the treaty.
Waller-Hunter still sees promise and informed the conference that “there has been encouraging progress on the Kyoto mechanisms,” including emissions trading schemes. But from whence are those signs emerging? Waller-Hunter sidestepped the fact that, despite Herculean efforts, the EU, as reported by its environment ministry last week, will fall well short of its Kyoto emissions targets for 2010.
Later in his remarks, in what was surely perceived by alarmists as apostasy of the most horrible kind, Waller-Hunter stressed technology solutions over mandatory controls. As he said, “It is evident that, if the objectives of the Convention and the Protocol are to be met, we need full deployment of existing technologies, and, in addition, active research and development of new, innovative technologies, that will have the potential to create the low carbon economy that we need to aim for over time.” Ironically enough, this is precisely the theme being stressed by the Bush Administration.
Again, these basic facts, along with a growing body of scientific evidence undermining climate alarmism, are ritualistically ignored with mind-boggling persistence in the U.S. This was readily apparent during a panel discussion hosted by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. As it often does, Pew boasted of the panel’s “broad perspective” on climate issues. This variegated and liberal-minded panel included staffers for Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman, a representative from NESCAUM (a supporter of mandatory emissions controls), and a vice president of Whirlpool, a Pew member. How is balance defined again?
The arguments were familiar, and, as always, erroneous. We heard of the infamous 2001 study by the National Academy of Sciences, which shows, according to one speaker, “that global warming is real, human beings are responsible for it, and that we must take action.” In actuality, the NAS report says nothing of the kind, but alarmists, with little evidence to support their view, repeat this falsehood religiously, as was demonstrated during the Lieberman-McCain debate.
We also heard about the “remarkable progress” on climate change initiatives in the states. “The states are starting to see the economic benefits and the economic opportunities of addressing this issue,” according to one speaker. There was no mention, however, of the energy sources, geography, and economics driving these measures. State climate policies almost exclusively a phenomenon of New England and the West Coast, and-again, keeping in mind the connection between carbon emissions and economic growth-arising in many states whose economies are in the doldrums.
The day’s most humorous event was a film sponsored by the Discovery Channel (Canada), called The Great Warming. Narrated by the great icons of the scientific establishment, Alanis Morissette and Keanu Reeves, the film was alarmist propaganda par excellence. In a demonstration of the producers’ commitment to sound science, a small child opened the film singing, “It’s raining, it’s pouring, the temperature is soaring.”
Viewers were regaled with denunciations of the “Age of the Machine,” and informed that the “signature of progress has been the smokestack” (how foolish to think that rising living standards defined the industrial age). The Great Famine of the Middle Ages was caused by, yes, global warming, raising the question of whether the producers acknowledge a Medieval Warm Period (highly doubtful).
In perhaps the most interesting segment, the film focused on a young Chinese family, shopping for its first automobile. Little did they know, Keanu told us, that “buying their first car may get them around city streets, but will be a small contribution that will accelerate the great warming.” Let’s hope they bought the car.