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Belmont Club

The logic of enlightenment

December 6th, 2009 - 3:13 am

One of the problems facing the negotiators at Copenhagen is what to do with the mountain of carbon credits that Russia threatens to put on the market. In a news report late last month, the Washington Post noted that under the formula reached under the Kyoto Protocol, “Russia is expected to post the largest absolute drop in emissions from 1990 levels of any of the countries that signed the treaty. But the decline is almost entirely the result of the 1991 collapse of the Soviet economy rather than environmental measures by the government. Critics say Moscow doesn’t deserve to keep its carbon credits because it didn’t earn them with any special effort. ” The West could retrospectively compensate the Russians for the collapse of the Soviet economy.

“You’ve got an elephant in the room that nobody is paying attention to,” said Samuel Charap, a Russia scholar at the Center for American Progress in Washington, arguing that the Obama administration needs to take up the issue with Russia’s leaders.

The Investors Business Daily says that this vast pile of computational credits would make Russia “the Saudi Arabia of carbon credits.” “Russia’s greenhouse gas emissions plunged in the 1990s as its economy collapsed. Moscow now sits on a potential treasure trove of unused carbon emission permits it could sell to other countries.” Where on earth is the poor Western taxpayer going to get the money to pay for this act of poetic justice?  A British peer believes he has has the answer. Just borrow the money.

“Borrow to the hilt to stop global warming, says Lord Stern”, according a report by the Telegraph. The British peer believes almost any price is worth it to save the planet, a project which may only cost $10 trillion dollars over the next 20 years.

The author of the 2006 Stern Review on the cost of tackling climate change said he was an expert in dealing with tough budgetary constraints and acknowledged that the current public debt was “worrying”.

But he believes that the irreversible nature of climate change means that extra pressures on the public balance sheet are justified.

“What I’m saying is that we should be prudent with public finances, but if we were to ask future generations: would you rather have a desecrated earth or more debt, then the answer would be they would like to have more debt,” he told The Sunday Telegraph, after giving a speech this week. “You can get out of debt, but you can’t get out of the other. It’s one of the few cases where there’s actually an argument for more borrowing. There’s a logical justification to it.” …

The International Energy Agency has estimated that the world will need to spend more than $10 trillion on low-carbon energy generation and efficiency measures by 2030.

What’s a few trillions between friends? Meanwhile the behavior of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper threatened to destroy that country’s image by balking at taking the plunge. “Canada’s name may be mud heading into Monday’s Copenhagen climate change talks”  newspapers warned. Harper said he would protect his country’s interests, an act which provoked commentators to call him Darth Vader.

While the world talks of helping the poorest and least able countries cope with problems from emissions in the developed world, self-interest rules the day with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Tories.

“This may be a shock,” Harper said last month in the House of Commons, “but the negotiators Canada assigns to international negotiations (like Copenhagen) are there to represent the interests of Canada, not the interests of Mali.”

The assumption that Copenhagan serves the interests of Mali and that is somehow better than serving the interests of the Great White North seems self-evident to some. But it’s unclear that the Third World countries are any keener on cutting emissions than Harper. The New York Times reported that “China, India, Brazil and South Africa this week rejected a Danish suggestion to set a goal of halving world emissions by 2050, saying rich nations which have burned fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution must first slash their own emissions. Many developing nations at preliminary meetings in Copenhagen on Saturday were lining up with the four in opposing the Danish proposals, delegation sources said. China is the top world emitter ahead of the United States, Russia and India.”  Which means of course that in the interests of cutting emissions, the US must lead the way.

The logic behind China’s pollution pass may not be immediately self-evident until the concept of Climate Justice is understood. It’s a movement to make First World countries morally and possibly legally responsible for centuries of defiling the Earth.  Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said, “Climate justice demands that the industrialized countries meet their historic responsibility for the accumulation of greenhouse gases. They must lead in ensuring that global emissions peak by 2020 -and fall by at least 50 percent from 1990 levels by 2050″. They’re coming after your wallet and you are going to admit that you deserve it.

But a survey by the Sunday Telegraph revealed why Copenhagen was becoming such a hard sell. Almost half of the British public were unconvinced that human activity was responsible for climate change. This was despite the fact that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown warned that catastrophe impended unless the money was spent to avert it. This, despite the fact that 20,000 journalists, delegates and conference staff were jetting to the Danish capital to stave off excessive carbon emissions. This, despite the impressive fact that the conferences will use 1,200 limousines and 120 private jets simply to ferry  participants.  It is hoped among other things that Barack Obama will commit to reducing the US carbon footprint to the level of 1910, and on a per capita basis to 1875.  Copenhagen itself is only a prelude to the 2010 Climate Summit in Mexico City. Climate justice indeed. The British survey showed that many were beginning to wonder whether this trip was really necessary:

Almost half of people in Britain believe there is no proof that global warming is caused by humans, according to a new poll. The survey revealed that 46per cent of those quizzed did not believe mankind was largely responsible for the global temperature rise.  Some 39per cent of those questioned said climate change was not proven to be man-made – and a further 7per cent of pollsters believed that climate change was not taking place at all.

And despite a contrasting message from many governments, less than one in four voters believe climate change is ‘the most serious problem faced by man’.

That’s bad news for Gordon Brown who warned that “those being hit first and hardest by climate change are those who have done the least to cause it”.  If “climate change” were a scam it would be even truer that the real assassins of the Third World –  would be the actors working on the objects. Which actors, which objects?  Just who are the villains? While figuring that one out, consider the tantalizing prospect of Russian carbon credits. Anyone interested?


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