COPOUT 21

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Paul Danish

The United Nations is going to hold a big climate conference in Paris starting next Monday (and droning on until December 11) during which the world is really gonna get a handle on this global warming thing, by golly.

The confab is called the Conference of Parties 21 (or COP21), the parties being the 195 nations who have signed on to the UN Framework on Climate Change adopted at an international conference in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The agreement came into “full force” (whatever that means) in 1994. The most tangible thing to have come out of it appears to be the annual COP meetings.

The French government has announced that 138 world leaders are expected for the opening day of the conference. Wow.

Hey, these guys are serious about producing something meaningful this time (unlike the work product of the twenty previous COP Conferences). Why to that end, the UN has already extracted pledges of greenhouse gas reductions from scads of countries — 146 of them to be precise. Wow squared.

The UN is so thrilled by these pledges that it has even coined an official name for them with its very own acronym: Intended Nationally Determined Contributions or INDCs. (Needless to say, the most important word in the name is “intended.” You don’t have to be a climate change skeptic to be skeptical about the meaning of “intended” here. Hint: Like the value of X in algebra, it varies.)

What’s more, the French government has taken no kiddin’ around steps to ensure that those pesky Islamic terrorists don’t disrupt the proceedings. It has announced that it is deploying 30,000 troops and police to protect the 40,000 delegates, experts, journalists, observers and hangers-on expected to attend COP21.

It has also announced that it’s banning a protest march that was expected to attract 50,000 to 200,000 eurogreens on grounds that it would be too difficult to protect. (It may have a point there. The Islamic State has been raking in about $1 million a day from oil sales, so the prospect of shooting up a column of easily panicked green kafirs could appeal to it.)

Anyway, given all these preparations and precautions, we can undoubtedly expect the conference to be a thumping success. Especially if we are willing to ignore these five recent inconvenient headlines: “Atmospheric Greenhouse Gas Levels Hit Record, Report Says,” New York Times, November 10 

The story reported that global atmospheric CO2 concentrations breached 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time last spring and that the annual average is expected to pass 400 ppm in 2016. Most atmospheric scientists maintain that exceeding the 400 ppm limit will lead to average global temperature increases in excess of 2 degrees Celsius or 3.8 degrees Fahrenheit.

“World only half way to meeting emissions target with current pledges,” The Guardian, November 6 

It seems that someone at the UN added up all the INDCs it had received and concluded they amounted to only half of what was needed to keep global temperatures from exceeding 2 degrees Celsius — even if all 146 parties perform as they say they intend to. Don’t hold your breath waiting for the 146 to double down on their pledges. “China Burns Much More Coal Than Reported, Complicating Climate Talks,” New York Times, November 3 

It turns out that China has been burning about 600 millions tons more coal a year than it has let on until now. To put that figure in perspective, that oversight alone represents about 70 percent of the total amount of coal used in the U.S. Total Chinese coal consumption is about four times greater than that of the U.S. “Coal is dead? No one told China,” Mining.Com, November 11 

According to a study by Greenpeace, China has issued permits for the construction of 155 new coalfired power plants so far this year. “Climate talks in Paris: India to stay firm on use of coal,” The Indian Express, November 19 

Ajay Mathur, the director general of India’s Bureau of Energy Efficiency and a key member of India’s COP21 negotiating team, told The Indian Express that India would not agree “to any proposal that will restrict our ability to generate energy from coal or inhibit our efforts to ensure energy access to all our people in an accelerated manner.”

And so on.

What the foregoing means is that COP21 is apt to end like COP15 (the one held in Copenhagen) did — with a final communiqué filled with lots of words, music, happy talk and empty pledges signifying nothing.

The reason the COPs end in copouts is that the solutions that are proposed at them are flatly unacceptable to the major parties — and the delegates know it going in.

The Chinese and Indians are not going to curtail their use of coal, let alone quit using it, if doing so curtails their industrialization and pursuit of a First World lifestyle — which they obviously believe it would. Nor are the rest of the Second and Third Worlds.

China, India and the rest of the Third World are not choosing the fossil fuel path out of ignorance. They understand the choice they are making and the trade-offs it entails. If a warmer world is the price of their economic growth and modernization, it’s a price they are willing to pay in a heartbeat.

Until the First World pays a decent respect to that choice and to why they have chosen to make it, COP conferences are a waste of time.