One of the best catalogues of human folly is the 19th century book by Charles MacKay, “Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.” MacKay chronicles a host of scams, superstitions and mass frenzies, including the South Sea Bubble, Tulipomania, Alchemy and Witch Mania. To this roster, some future historian may someday add the full tale of the early 21st century Climate Mania, in which a throng of politicians, United Nations bureaucrats, film stars and whatnot promised that if they were just given enough power over our use of lightbulbs, cars, planes, ships, oil, gas, electricity and energy in general, they would — for the greater good of mankind, mind you — arrange to control to within a few decimal points the temperature of the planet.
For the moment, however, this is not history we are talking about. We are stuck in the acute phase of Climate Mania. This Friday, “Earth Day,” brought the signing ceremony at the UN’s New York headquarters of the Paris Agreement on “Climate Change.” More than 170 nations signed on, including such curators of human progress and enlightenment as North Korea, Sudan, Cuba and Iran. Actor Leonardo Di Caprio spoke from the podium of the General Assembly chamber. Secretary of State John Kerry brought his infant granddaughter, and held her on his lap while he signed the accord. UN leaders planted a tree in the UN “Food Garden.”
General Ban Ki-moon called it “an historic day” (everything these days is “historic”) and told the assembled eminences, “The era of consumption without consequences is over” (if that’s true, then surely one of the first things to go should be the UN itself, complete with the recent $2 billion-plus makeover of its NY offices — except the UN has always enjoyed immunity from its own pronouncements).
For all the hoopla, the Paris accord is not yet a done deal. But it soon may be. For this agreement to enter into force, at least 55 countries, accounting for 55% of “global greenhouse gas emissions,” must now sort out on the national level how they plan to comply, and deposit their instruments of ratification with the UN. Fifteen have already done so.
And now we descend into some of the real dirt of this deal. In the U.S., President Obama — in spirit similar to his ramming through of the Iran nuclear deal — is preparing to slide right past such Constitutional requirements as acknowledging a treaty for what it is, and submitting it to be ratified by the Senate. Which, as Julian Morris notes, the current Republican Senate majority would not do.
In a background press briefing this past Wednesday, a senior State Department official was asked about the process by which the U.S. would join the Paris accord. The official replied, “we have a standard State Department exercise that we are currently going through for authorizing an executive agreement.” According to this official, the Obama administration has decided that because the U.S. joined the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change back in 1992, this new treaty is not really a treaty (never mind the “historic” festivities at the UN), but an extension of existing obligations, ergo merely a matter for Obama’s pen. (Never mind the potentially colossal cost to the average American.)
Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania take a very different view, writing for the Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal under the headline “Obama’s Violating the Constitution by Not Submitting Climate Treaty to Senate.” They note that under this climate accord the U.S. would be binding itself to a long-term framework, forcing it to choke its carbon emissions “for decades to come.” They also note that when the Senate ratified the 1992 UNFCCC treaty, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee “specifically reported that any future emissions targets ‘would have to be submitted to the Senate for its Advice and Consent.’ President Obama has chosen to ignore this directive.”
There’s also the disturbing question of whether President Obama will try to couple his costly climate projects with an end-run around U.S. law that forbids government funding to any “affiliated organization of the United Nations” that grants the Palestinians membership as a state. Quick background: When UNESCO (the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) admitted the Palestinians as full members in 2011, the agency lost its U.S. funding. Since then the Obama administration has been lobbying Congress to waive U.S. law in order to resume sending American tax dollars to UNESCO.
Last month, the UNFCCC allowed the Palestinian Authority to become a full member. The Palestinians have now signed the Paris Agreement. As Sen. John Barrasso reports, Washington gives money to the UNFCCC, and the White House has “unilaterally pledged $3 billion for international climate change as part of the Paris deal.” This week, 28 senators — including Barrasso — wrote a letter to Kerry imploring the administration “to hold the Palestinians accountable for their actions in circumventing the peace process, and to abide by current law prohibiting U.S. taxpayer funds for the UNFCCC and its related entities and other UN affiliated organizations that recognize the ‘State of Palestine.’ ”
Then we come to the Paris climate treaty itself, complete with its stress on “climate justice” and “making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.”
Allow me to translate: This is a framework outlining central planning for the planet. It is all about regulating energy use and redirecting wealth, around the globe, according to the preferences of such faceless international bureaucracies as the Paris treaty’s “Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice” and the “Subsidiary Body for Implementation.” There will be a largely unaccountable Green Climate Fund, and a prerogative for this Convention to proliferate lots more subsidiary bodies.
As a treaty, it’s nonbinding in its particulars. Countries would set their own targets, binding themselves according to their own laws and preferences, for such ventures as limiting carbon emissions and contributing (or soliciting) funds, as they strive, officially, to promote such goals as “environmental integrity, transparency, accuracy, completeness, comparability and consistency.”
Surely no one believes that this is how it will work for such signatories as North Korea, Sudan, or a great many of the unfree member states of the UN, where there is no real domestic accountability, and the rules boil down to whatever pleases the dictator, or enriches the corrupt bureaucracy.
But that’s the very point. The agreement would effectively license governments around the globe to set up toll gates — even more than they do now — for the production and use, in many forms, of energy. This is a license for authorities in developed countries, especially in Washington, to impose confiscatory policies on their own people, further regulating production and channeling wealth.
The way this works is, America as a whole will suffer, especially the little guy; but well-placed cronies will enjoy enormous opportunities to get rich. This will be justified in the name of directing, under the holy mantle of a UN-driven treaty, flows of money to less developed countries. The rubber-stamp rationale will be that this is to help poor countries “adapt” to whatever goes on with the climate. The Paris convention states: “Developed country Parties shall provide financial resources to assist developing Country Parties with respect to both mitigation and adaptation.”
Though no one should expect that much in the way of mitigating or adapting — whether to climate, or to anything else — would come of this treaty. As a rule, poor countries tend to be poor not because of climate (changing or otherwise), but because they are badly ruled. The tyrants usually do quite well for themselves. It’s the people living under them who get short rations and no power. At the extreme, the difference between North Korea and South Korea is not due to some abrupt shift of climate at the 38th parallel. Nor is the difference between income (and innovation and adaptability and electrical power) in Miami versus Havana a matter of climate.
Sending money, or funding projects, to help poor countries “mitigate” change in climate, or “adapt” to it, is largely a farce, more likely to fortify dictatorships than to help the people living under them. But controlling such traffic in money and resources can translate into a jackpot. This is why the Paris Agreement got so many eager signatories so fast. The UN is a conclave of governments, and for government officials and their pals, from Pyongyang to Paris to Washington, there’s a lot of potential cream in this deal — the skim milk goes to the more lowly world populace that the UN pretends to represent.
The real mechanism for adapting to changes in climate, or simply changes in old-fashioned weather, has always been ingenuity and innovation — from the use of fire, to the invention of clothes, housing, heating, air conditioning and all the other means by which mankind from Siberia to South Africa has arranged to survive. And for innovation, the best formula is capitalism; free markets, rather than state bureaucracies filing biennial reports to international capacity-building committees.
As for the limits on carbon emissions — the “science” of man-made effects on climate is about as settled as was once the idea that the sun orbited the earth. I’d recommend the recent congressional testimony of the intrepid and witty Mark Steyn, who describes the “climate of fear” now prevailing within climate science. The Paris agreement will not help.
But don’t take my word for any of this. Have a look for yourself. The Paris document itself runs to 29 articles. The version concocted in Paris last December was amended to produce a final version which you can find in the annex, pages 21-36, of the UNFCCC’s “Report of the Conference of the Parties on its twenty-first session, held in Paris from 30 November to 13 December 2015.” One of the grand aims of Article 2 is to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 [degrees] C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 [degrees] C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.”
This is to be combined with — this is just a sample — “country-driven, gender-responsive, participatory and full transparent approach, taking into consideration vulnerable groups, communities and ecosystems… with a view to integrating adaptation into relevant socioeconomic and environmental actions and policies, where appropriate.”
Once countries such as America have bound themselves to upholding this deal (courtesy of Obama’s pen), once the chokeholds have been imposed and the slush funds have swelled, all of the above is supposed to come together in the second half of the century to control the temperature of the earth, alleviate poverty and usher humanity into a brave new world of “climate justice.” What could go wrong?