The Mexican standoff has ended in Cancun. While some will certainly see Cancun’s redistributionist gabfest as a "failure" of "the world community" to address the "imminent disaster" of Anthropogenic Global Warming. I don’t share their pessimism.
Cancun may have been a failure to bureaucrats and inhabitants of the “climate crisis” Looking Glass world. Personally, I view the "failure" as a success, for it gives us an opportunity to understand what we must do to solve the real problem of two billion people still living on less than two dollars a day – and to take action. But first, we must answer two fundamental questions.
1) What hard, factual, empirical evidence do we have that humans are causing dangerous global warming, perilous climate change or global climate disruption?
Not computer models, assertions, assumptions, questionable surface temperature data or phony consensus. Actual evidence. If the alarmist camp has that evidence, it must share not just its pasteurized, homogenized, massaged data and conclusions – but its raw data, methodologies and computer codes. And it must be willing to discuss and debate its claims and evidence with people who are not convinced we are causing a planetary climate emergency.
2) How can we make plant-fertilizing carbon dioxide emissions RISE?
From 1900 (and even earlier), life expectancies, living standards, human health and all other key indicators of quality of life in the developed world have been improving. Since at least 1970, air and water quality have steadily improved, after decades when they arguably had declined, as the developed world built sanitation, transportation, manufacturing and other infrastructure that made these improvements possible.
In recent decades, China, India, Brazil and other emerging economies have followed this lead – and greatly improved their citizens’ lives. But meanwhile, in the impoverished Third world, life expectancies, living standards and other basic indicators of quality of life have remained awful … or gotten worse.
In every case where people’s quality of life has improved, they owe that change to one thing above all others: a massive increase in productivity through the use of technology – and thus to the abundant, reliable, affordable energy that makes that technology possible. In the vast majority of cases, that has meant access to hydrocarbons and electricity. Even today, with nuclear and hydroelectric power making huge contributions, hydrocarbons remain king. And because of that, people in developed nations today live better than even kings and queens did a century ago.
Today, China is providing a model for the rest of the developing world to follow. Ignoring the hypocritical calls from the West to rein in its growth, China has lifted millions of its citizens out of poverty and given them far better quality of life – and far more opportunities – by increasing the use of oil, coal and natural gas, and accepting many tenets of the free market.
We should be thankful that these talks to replace Kyoto are failing. Kyoto failed and with good reason: given our current technology (including expensive, land-intensive, unreliable wind and solar power), it is impossible to provide a healthy economy and affordable, reasonable quality of life without using oil, coal and natural gas. (Nuclear power would certainly help, but Greens oppose that too.)
As to “technology transfer” agreements, many talk about “incentivizing innovation” to “encourage” and “facilitate” transfers. However, UN bureaucrats do not realize that innovation cannot be generated by transferring taxpayer and consumer money to politically favored corporations. This leads only to mal-investment – the forced movement of scarce financial, material and creative resources into unproductive pursuits, like industrial wind farms. Too often, these “transfers” have meant loans, subsidies and mandates from Ottawa, Washington, Berlin, Madrid, the IMF and the World Bank, to pay politically correct and connected corporations to install expensive equipment. This is corporate welfare, nothing else.
If the EU and its member states want to "transfer" technology to the developing world, they should do it the old fashioned way – through free trade, fair trade, a fair exchange of money for the best, most efficient, lowest polluting modern technology available. They should lower barriers and let developed countries trade freely with the people of Africa and other poor regions, open EU markets to their agricultural and other products, and trade with them for what they want and need.
When it comes to deforestation and environmental protection, once again embracing the natural human “propensity to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another" would solve many problems. Taking care of the environment isn't cheap, and there is a connection that is not often noted by the greens: the richest nations also have the cleanest environments.
We in the developed world no longer need to cut down trees and destroy wildlife habitats to cook our food. We no longer endure the energy poverty – and consequent lung and intestinal diseases, malnutrition, misery and premature death – that infect billions of poor people all over the world.
There is a direct correlation between the quality of life that a country can provide to its residents and its per capita CO2 emissions. Trying to force an unneeded transition to renewable energy technologies that are not ready for prime time (and are not needed for “climate change prevention” reasons), in the name of ideologically driven goals, will lead only to unnecessary hardship for people in developed countries. It will perpetuate the economic and energy poverty, misery, disease and early death that still plague billions of people around the world who live on less than two dollars a day.
Humans are part of nature. The use of hydrocarbons is part of nature. Carbon dioxide emissions are a vital fertilizer that helps food crops and all other plants grow better and faster and with greater resistance to drought and disease, thereby making ALL life on earth possible.
We are the rational animal, and our creativity and ingenuity should not be stifled – nor should anyone seek to condemn half of humanity to a lives that shackle their ability to make full use of their gifts. Instead of worrying about carbon dioxide, we should ask: How can we make better use of the greatest resource we have yet discovered – hydrocarbons?
We should not ask, How we can reduce our CO2 emissions? Rather, we should ask, How we can raise CO2 emissions in the Third World, by giving them better access to the vast energy and opportunity stored in hydrocarbons – and thereby reducing their need to chop down forest habitats and burn trees in dangerous, polluting open fires?
The best commitment the United States and Canada can make is to promise that they will do all they can to relegate the Kyoto protocol to the dustbin of history, leave UN bureaucrats to tilt at windmills – and help all still impoverished people achieve their hopes, their dreams, their true destinies.