Cancun endgame: Kyoto II or climate talks of the living dead?

This article originally appeared in the National Journal’s Cancun Insider.
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COP16 has come and gone. Every COP drags through two weeks of impotent spectacle while the real activity takes place behind closed doors. COP16 was no exception. Deals are struck and then rushed before the plenary session at the 11th hour. In Cancun the real action started 7 PM Friday night and lasted until 3 AM.

On Thursday, the metaphor of the day was the climate talks zombie – an animated corpse which staggers along producing nothing, yet feasts upon the flesh of anyone constructive who blunders into its path. This was a terrifying moment for the global warming brigades. If Cancun collapsed like Copenhagen, this could have been their end – nothing left but zombie apocalypse.

By Saturday morning things had changed. Following the all night session we now heard talk of bridges built, forward steps and faith. Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UNFCCC proclaimed, “Cancun has done its job. The beacon of hope has been reignited, and faith in the multilateral climate-change process to deliver results has been restored.”

Did the warming folks get their successor to the Kyoto Protocol? Hardly. A more realistic assessment is that COP16 bought them another year. If there is to be a binding, verifiable climate treaty (with all the damage that entails) it will have to wait for Durban, South Africa next year. This will be a particularly harrowing wait for carbon traders whose markets expire with Kyoto. They’d best double down on their lobbyists or might yet end up out in the cold looking for real jobs.

If Señora Figueres could claim to have her faith restored with any credibility, it was because the warming camp had finally mastered the expectations game. During the run up to “Hopenhagen” there was no end to exuberance. We were all going to a great big global warming birthday party where every campaigner’s and profiteer’s dreams would come true. For Cancun they toned things down – way down – murmured, sighed and kept expectations low and under control. At the end nonverifiable, voluntary targets and a chorus of “we’ll meet again” smelled like victory (unless you’re downwind of China which will carry on building a new coal-fired generator every week).

If you subscribe to the notion that the globe’s thermostat can be reset by bureaucratic control of carbon dioxide emissions (don’t hold your breath) you came away with nothing that would meaningfully change how much people, burn or emit. Pablo Solon of Bolivia (which almost played the role of spoiler) somehow managed to be right about this, despite viewing the process through the distorted lens of Marxism.

Some of what was agreed to:

- Developed nations are urged to undertake ambitious emission reductions, but binding requirements are deferred to COP17.

- Verification is called for, but in effect remains elusive. China and India would only be required to verify emission reductions paid for by the U.S. and developed nations.

- The status of forests as carbon sinks was formalized and a plan called REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) put in place to fund forestry programs in the developing world with the U.S. and developed nations paying the bills. Watch for REDD to become the textbook example of corporate rent seeking and the law of unintended consequences for ECON101. See, Christopher Booker’s expose of the billions WWF hopes to rake in.

- $30 billion dollars was promised to developing nations reaching $100 billion dollars by 2020 with the U.S. and developed nations paying the bills.

- Geologic carbon sequestration was included as a clean development mechanism. Sequestration has been estimated to as much as double the cost of electricity for U.S. utility customers.

- Green technology was promised to developing nations. Technology is the best hope for progress. We should drop the ideological constraints and pass along some efficient technology as well.

All of this falls far short of a binding treaty in the image of Kyoto. There was supposed to be a treaty in Copenhagen. Cancun was a “do-over.” Now it’s on to Durban next year.

In the United States the balance of power has shifted dramatically. No nation wants to foot the global warming bill without the U.S. and no binding treaty is going to get past the U.S. Senate. The most memorable aspect of Democratic Senator-elect Joe Manchin’s campaign was his (literal) rifle shot at a cap & trade proposal. A binding treaty will not be ratified by a U.S. Senate where even the Democrats have taken up arms. If this makes a treaty impossible, Cancun was indeed the dawn of the climate dead.

Señora Figures said the agreement is, “not what is ultimately required but is the essential foundation on which to build greater, collective ambition.” We do not share her conviction that any of the massive redistribution and control she advocates will alter the climate in any meaningful way, nor do we share her faith in the good will of the “collective.”

CFACT does not take kindly to bureaucratic meddling, rent seeking, redistribution, cons, scams, propaganda, bullying, sanctimony, hypocrisy, waste, fraud and abuse. The Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow dreams of a world where EVERY man, woman and child on earth lives in a land of liberty, energy, technology, free markets, fair elections, productivity and the rule of law. Join us. “Dream other dreams and better.”

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EXTRAS:

- Norway’s Environment Minister Erik Solheim has drunk deeply of the climate Kool-Aid proclaiming, “signs that climate change is happening and with catastrophic consequences are there – flooding in Pakistan, heat waves in Russia, China…” We need a moratorium on equating natural extremes of weather with climate. That goes double for hurricane Katrina. Here are the rest of the things propaganda attributes to global warming.

- A climate campaigner took to the microphone at CFACT’s press conference and shrilly told us that thousands have already died from global warming. “Every man’s death diminishes” us, but even under the IPCC’s most extreme scenarios her assertion defies logic. We repeat – weather ain’t climate and as we explained during the event, in the real world cold takes a greater toll than heat.

- We do know the difference between climate and weather and so tongue firmly in cheek, point out that we were constantly beset by the “Gore effect.” Lord Monckton’s flight to Cancun was canceled when Autumn snow closed Gatwick. Throughout the conference Cancun weather kept hitting 100 year lows. CFACT’s Christina Wilson has still not been able to make it home to Minnesota as an Autumn blizzard shut down airports and collapsed the roof of the Metrodome.

- CFACT’s UNFCCC sanctioned display was the target of theft and vandalism. This also happened in Bonn. So much for the UN’s rules of civil society.

- Delegates attending CFACT’s tour of the village of La Libertad, where the people live without electricity, told us that they would have missed any session of COP16 rather than the miss seeing the village. Energy poverty is a real tragedy which we have the means to solve.

- We’ve been to enough UN conferences to report that eyes and minds are opening. Climate realism can yet prevail, but the fight will be hard. Nations continue to be bullied and bought into compliance. “And who shall be next to yield, good sirs, For such a bribe to yield?”

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About the Author: Craig Rucker

Craig Rucker

Craig Rucker is the executive director and co-founder of CFACT.