Belmont Club

On the arm

Despite the lip service paid to curbing “carbon emissions”, many countries have been slow to pay up. Talk is one thing. Money is another. The WSJ reports that developing countries, the poorer European countries and even the richer European countries are puzzled over where the billions for “climate change” prevention are going to come from.

Cutting carbon costs money. Factories must be retrofit and industries must be prodded to buy more-expensive green technology. … But there is little consensus on how the bill should be paid, how much it will be, and who precisely should pay it. … The EU has led the industrialized world in pushing for a new treaty. Still, even Europe has had trouble sorting out climate financing.

The EU, which “could directly pay between 10% and 30%”, is like a host who has invited a party to a restaurant with only a fraction of the money for the expected bill in his pocket. Euractive says that “last October, EU leaders agreed on the need to provide €100 billion a year to fund climate efforts in developing countries, but failed to commit the EU to any specific sums, delaying their decision until after Copenhagen.” The hope is that when the waiter brings the check, enough nickels and dimes can be pooled from the diners around the table to keep the bouncer from visting unwanted attentions on the destitute patrons.

John Kerry plans to send Barack Obama to the party with an promissory note in his pocket. Euractive writes that “US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry presented a bill which provides international aid for forest preservation and creates a new programme to help deploy low-emission energy technologies in developing nations. It also authorises new adaptation aid.”

China has taken perhaps the most self-interested approach and decided to sell food items to the European and American guests while itself dining at the table. Then not only is China exempted from the financial burdens of “climate change”, it stands to make a pretty penny from them. The Wall Street Journal Blogs suggest that alone of all the major economic powers, China explicit understood that “climate change” was a pet rock business and went into selling the Westerners the worthless environmental indulgences they craved.

China has been the chief beneficiary of the U.N.’s Clean Development Mechanism, or CDM, which under the Kyoto Protocol set up a system of credits which can be sold and traded, and which are used by companies to offset their own emissions. Some 60% of all globally traded carbon credits originate from China projects.

China’s climate-change regulators have approved 2,232 CDM projects this year through October – but only 663 of those, or just under 30%, have received final approval by the U.N. to issue credits.

The basic idea is that companies in rich countries, to reach their own greenhouse gas quotas back home, pay for carbon abatement projects that wouldn’t have gotten built otherwise in poor countries.

But the system has come under attack, with critics charging that many of China’s projects such as wind farms or hydropower dams would have been built anyway, and that the carbon credit money would have been better spent elsewhere. The credits themselves have spawned a vibrant carbon market in Europe, but there’s uncertainty about what will happen after the Kyoto treaty expires in 2012.

It’s a wonderful arrangement in which Europeans and Americans pay the Chinese to send them a certificate of forgiveness for their carbon transgressions while supplying their competitors not only with the funds to undercut their domestic industries, but pollute the world into the bargain. Does it make sense? Does it have to? In a strange reversal of cultures the Chinese and the Indians seem able to see things for exactly what they are while the West engages in an elaborate game of self-deception. Recently, the German magazine Spiegel wrote an article entitled “Searching in Vain for the Obama Magic”, spoofing the apparent demand for Deus ex machinas solutions to problems. There was a time when colored beads were sold to the East and the West demanded gold. Today it is the West that is buying the colored beads. Gabor Steingart suggests that the Western public wants to be lied to and Barack Obama, in discussing Afghanistan, gave them what they wanted.

Never before has a speech by President Barack Obama felt as false as his Tuesday address announcing America’s new strategy for Afghanistan. … One didn’t have to be a cadet on Tuesday to feel a bit of nausea upon hearing Obama’s speech. It was the least truthful address that he has ever held. He spoke of responsibility, but almost every sentence smelled of party tactics. He demanded sacrifice, but he was unable to say what it was for exactly.

An additional 30,000 US soldiers are to march into Afghanistan — and then they will march right back out again. America is going to war — and from there it will continue ahead to peace. It was the speech of a Nobel War Prize laureate. For each troop movement, Obama had a number to match. US strength in Afghanistan will be tripled relative to the Bush years, a fact that is sure to impress hawks in America. But just 18 months later, just in time for Obama’s re-election campaign, the horror of war is to end and the draw down will begin. The doves of peace will be let free.

What those who are addicted to shambolism and fiction may resent the most isn’t the falsehoods they were told, but the fact that the politicians did not lie convincingly enough to carry off the illusion. As Nietzche once said, “I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you”. It’s a remark that properly belongs in the theater.  Try harder and get the magic back.


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