UN Climate Delegates Failing Everyone, Developed and Developing Alike

For many years, our representatives to the United Nations climate conferences have behaved as if they could make dramatic, headline-grabbing commitments without causing serious long-term consequence for their home countries. Perhaps they hoped we would forget about their agreements as the years passed; perhaps they expected to be long out of office by the time their decisions’ impacts hit the public.

The UN climate conference taking place in Warsaw, Poland, over the past two weeks has clearly demonstrated that their chickens are coming home to roost. UN delegates are actually being held accountable for the “climate change” problems which those representatives years ago claimed the developed world to be causing.

Developing countries are now demanding that we have an obligation to pay them trillions of dollars for loss and damages, since much of the extreme weather and other problems they are experiencing are supposedly our fault.

Logically, morally, and perhaps even legally (though not scientifically), developing nations have a solid argument.

It would indeed be inconsistent with the normal standards of law and ethics as observed in most of the world if we did not compensate those affected by our misdeeds. So in unjustifiably accepting the blame for climate change and the extreme weather, rising sea levels, species extinction, and other calamities that would supposedly cause, our representatives set us up for the dilemma we now face: pay up, or risk the wrath of the developing world for our irresponsible and possibly criminal behavior.

The problem started in 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit, where representatives of nearly every nation agreed to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC). Under the Framework, which was eventually ratified by the governments of 195 countries including the United States and Canada, developed countries promised to “take the lead in combating climate change and the adverse effects thereof.” The FCCC’s “ultimate objective” was nothing less than “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”

That no one had any idea what, if any, GHG concentration level would cause “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system” was immaterial to national representatives seeking approval from green activists. They had the option of citing the UN’s own climate science body -- the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) -- which declared in their First Assessment Report in 1990:

It is not possible at this time to attribute all, or even a large part, of the observed global-mean warming to (an) enhanced greenhouse effect on the basis of the observational data currently available.

Yet they ignored this statement, as pandering politicians were more interested in proving their green credentials. With an election only five months away, President George H.W. Bush said:

I am happy to report that I have just signed the Framework Convention on Climate Change. Today, I invite my colleagues from the industrialized world to join in a prompt start on the convention’s implementation. … Let us join in translating the words spoken here into concrete action to protect the planet.

Since then, the FCCC has been the source document upon which the Kyoto Protocol, the Cancun Agreements that form the basis of current negotiations, and all other UN climate agreements have been based. Even the IPCC science reports were whipped into line, each one claiming greater and greater certainty that humans were the main cause of global warming. “The science is settled” became the new mantra.

Finally, at last year’s round of UN climate talks in Doha, Qatar, developing nations began to push hard for developed countries to pay for “loss and damage” caused by extreme weather events supposedly caused by our historic GHG emissions. Negotiators from developed countries balked, and the conference was on the verge of breaking down over the issue.

At that point, our negotiators should have explained that extreme weather events are normal, that there has been no worldwide increase in such phenomena, and that even the IPCC said in their March 28, 2012 Special Report on Extremes (SREX):

There is medium evidence and high agreement that long-term trends in normalized losses have not been attributed to natural or anthropogenic climate change.

Instead, our inept representatives agreed with the demand, promising to put in place “institutional arrangements” in Warsaw in 2013.

So this year, developing countries staged a walkout at the conference to bring attention to their demand for real action on loss and damage. With public sympathy on their side after Typhoon Haiyan’s devastation of the Philippines and the UN secretary general blaming the tragedy on man-made global warming, Prakash Mathema, chair of the Least Developed Countries group at the talks, threatened:

We are not going home without a loss and damage mechanism [within the FCCC]! They [developed countries] cannot postpone this forever and ever.

Representatives from developing countries asserted that adaptation efforts are overwhelmed by the supposed increase in extreme weather events, and so the FCCC must therefore address loss and damage as a standalone issue.