Global Warming

How Climate Change Activism Harms Third World Countries

The world can't avert climate catastrophe without climate injustice.

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You wouldn't know it from the happy spin emanating from the Oval Office, but a Third World revolt in Bonn,

Global Warming Censored
Fresh Conservative / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Germany, this week almost derailed the Paris climate change negotiations in November. Although peace has been restored for now, it only happened by papering over this fundamental conundrum: The world can either avert climate catastrophe or seek "climate justice," not both.

The revolt was triggered when 130 developing nations including India and China noticed that the draft action plan that is supposed to serve as the blueprint for the Paris negotiations had omitted their most important conditions about the "fairness and financing" of the final deal—in other words, who is going to take responsibility for the warming and who should pay to reduce it? The South African delegation condemned the omission as "apartheid" that would penalize poor countries for the sins of the rich.

It has a point.

The Paris negotiations are supposed to be the mother of all climate negotiations. It was convened to impose binding emission reductions on all countries—not just the West, as was the case with the 1995 Kyoto protocol—to hold global temperature increases to no more than 2 degrees centigrade over pre-industrial levels. To this end, each country has been asked to submit its own good faith reduction plan that includes both how much it will cut emissions and its plan for getting there. Once finalized after a review in Paris, the plans will be legally binding—although how precisely they will be enforced is anyone's guess.

Setting that aside, negotiations will boil down to an essential question: How much should each country cut and therefore whose idea of "climate justice," as Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi has termed it, should prevail?

All issues that require collective action, especially on a global scale, are difficult to resolve because they suffer from the free-rider problem, i.e. some parties seek to benefit from the "common good" without springing for it. But as Oren Cass, a Manhattan Institute analyst, notes, fighting climate change is a particularly vexing problem because the individual cost to each country, especially Third World ones, will be immediate and huge—and the benefits distant and uncertain. The notion that emission cuts can pay for themselves through increased energy efficiency is at best fanciful and, at worst, a lie.

There are no low-carbon energy technologies available today that can sustain the economic growth rates these countries need to lift their people out of abject poverty, let alone offer Western living standards at anything resembling an affordable cost. Over 300 million Indians still live below the poverty line, earning less than $1 per day. India's per capita energy consumption is 15 times less than the United States'. India has to keep boosting its energy use—and therefore carbon emissions—for at least another two decades to eliminate dire poverty, which is why its reduction plan only commits to slashing "emission intensity"—its emission rate as a percentage of its GPD—not emissions themselves.

Even this much, India claims, will require up to a $2.5 trillion investment over the next 15 years in renewable energy sources and adaptation technologies. Even if that figure is exaggerated, clearly this would be a challenge for a country that has yet to offer basic sanitation, transportation, and clean-water infrastructure to all its citizens.

But Western countries have to date pledged to raise only $1 trillion over 10 years ($100 billion annually) to offset the climate change costs of the entire Third World. Upping that commitment while simultaneously absorbing their own emission reduction costs will require Western government to take very radical—and very draconian—steps to pare back the living standards of their own citizens.

Whether Paris is able to keep tensions under control and hammer out something is an open question. Either way, however, if the world ever gets serious about enforcing it, the blame game will intensify. Every side will trot out arguments to show why it bears less moral responsibility to combat climate change than the other.

Western countries, especially America, have been arguing that China and India with their billion-plus people and dirty energy sources are a major part of the problem. Therefore, unless they do their "fair share" to cut—not just slow the rate of—their emissions, no amount of mitigation by the West will make a dent in global temperatures.

However, India and China counter by dragging out the West's historic emissions. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has determined that the planet can handle 2,900 gigatons (Gt) of carbon dioxide before the Earth begins to warm catastrophically. Third World countries insist that justice demands that every country get a quota based on its population. By that arithmetic, America's total quota would add up to 128 Gt (and the entire developed world's 406 Gt). But America used up over twice that amount between 1850-2011. As these countries see it, America (as the rest of the Western world) is in their ecological debt. It needs to put itself on a drastic energy diet—and effectively undo the industrial revolution that has generated untold wealth for it. Especially since India has used only 7 percent of its share. "For the sake of the world's future, American lifestyle can no longer remain non-negotiable," froths India's leading environmentalist, Sunita Narain.

When there is abundant wealth to solve a problem, moral accounting matters less. Whoever has the means will often step forward without caring too much about responsibility or returns. That clearly is not the case with global warming. The stakes are high for everyone so each side will vehemently assert the morality of its position. But the one most likely to prevail is not necessarily the one with superior claims, but superior force. Might, after all, makes right.

Indeed, notes Cass, if climate change will unleash an eco-catastrophe as claimed, then the harsh reality is that it might be more cost-effective for America and the West to impose their will by military force. Trade sanctions against non-complying countries that are being considered in Paris won't cut it for the simple reason that developing countries can band together and impose countervailing sanctions of their own. The upshot will be a full-scale trade war that won't reduce emissions (although the economic attrition that'll result will help).

Global warming warriors warn that inaction will produce political instability and civil war in Africa and elsewhere. But it is also conceivable that a really determined West could use the aegis of some UN-like global agency to create a standing military strike force to bomb or drone countries into compliance. Humanity's very existence would be at stake, after all. (President Al Gore, anyone?)

The tragedy of current efforts to combat global warming is that in order to avert a tragedy they'll cause one.

This column originally appeared in The Week.

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  1. I want climate justice and that includes fart free zones. Maybe even a trigger warning before you fart, it not only harms my nose but my feelings.

    1. That’s not climate justice. That’s olfactory justice.

      1. Not so fast. Methanes and aldehydes produce neighborhood effects, the excuse for all totalitarianism. (I refuse to be sidetracked into the free rider problem)

  2. “When there is abundant wealth to solve a problem, moral accounting matters less.”

    And we don’t have that as a result of the push for ‘economic equality’.

  3. “For the sake of the world’s future, American lifestyle can no longer remain non-negotiable,” froths India’s leading environmentalist, Sunita Narain.

    Fuck off, slaver.

  4. Just the other day I stumbled on this pants-wetting article

    Millions of firearms records languish at National Tracing Center
    http://www.usatoday.com/story/…../74401060/

    Of course, no one every considers to ask “So, how many of those traces lead to a suspect”

    1. The Thought Police will answer “all of them.” Wanna bet on this?

  5. Would be ironic if World War was triggered by a spat over climate change negotiations. Note that I didn’t say climate change because that’s not going to happen.

    1. Once finalized after a review in Paris, the plans will be legally binding?although how precisely they will be enforced is anyone’s guess.

      This line gave me the same thought. How many American citizens will be willing to subjugate the Constitution to global climate athoritah?

      1. The Constitution is already subjected to The Communist Manifesto (16th Amendment) and the Prohibition Party Platform (18th Amendment and somewhat weaker 21st Amendment). How many Germans “were willing” to oppose the Kristallnacht gun laws and Final Solution? Germans love Jesus, Goethe and Kant, just like Americans. Come to think of it, the French president who met with Herbert Hoover during Prohibition later ended up in charge of Vichy France. This does not look good…

  6. No doubt the trillions of dollars that would be thus extorted by the Third World would go to fund civil conflicts and state repression the world over! The progs would then suggest it was our fault somehow.

  7. So the answer for the West is to move ahead quickly with implementation of liquid salt reactors and Lockheed Martin’s new, small fusion reactors and then say, “Fuck off, slavers” to people like this Sunita Narain from India — right? I mean, if the scientists have finally been able to get a working model, then that is the rational way to respond to the threat, correct?

    Or is it all actually only about making citizens of the west suffer (but not their leaders, of course — the Top Men can still live comfortably), as “payback” for all gains realized by the industrial revolution that happened long before anyone reading this was even born?

    1. You sir have much to answer and pay for !

    2. There are no small fusion reactors that produce net, continuous power. The Lockmart disclosures are pure fluff.

      1. I’ve been watching and it looks like it’s just 20 years until it’s producing results.
        (Sevo, 1965, 1975, 1985, 1995, 2005, 2015)

    3. Canadian CANDU reactors keep the northeastern states from looking like the last chapter of Atlas Shrugged. Nobody can say this is venturing into the unknown. Even the old light water reactors kill thousands of times fewer people per MWh than any other source that can light up a city. I wonder if The Health Hazards of NOT Going Nuclear has been translated out of English…

  8. Non-industrial nations and industrializing nations have benefited greatly from technology developed by industrialized nations. From steam engines to jet engines and rockets; from telegraph to cellphones and the internet; and from the astrolabe to GPS; citizens the world over have benefitted from the Industrial Revolution. Now they want those who gave them all of this to pay them back?

    Many (if not most) of the 130 complaining countries could be as well off as affluent, industrialized nations if they would free up their people, introduce the rule of law, and stifle corruption. It is not some other country’s fault that these countries have yet to emerge from the Middle Ages. Indeed, their approach–one that assumes their problems stem from the actions of others–is the same as it has long been: to blame other peoples for their woes.

    Nonetheless, there won’t be any significant improvement from all of this because any climate change is almost completely out of our hands–anyway.

    1. Hyperbolical (wadair)|10.30.15 @ 4:22PM|#
      “Non-industrial nations and industrializing nations have benefited greatly from technology developed by industrialized nations. From steam engines to jet engines and rockets; from telegraph to cellphones and the internet; and from the astrolabe to GPS; citizens the world over have benefitted from the Industrial Revolution. Now they want those who gave them all of this to pay them back?”

      And those who have ‘industrialized’ (mainland China) have benefited by adopting the liberal market-based economies from the developed nations.

    2. I beg to differ. The looter argument is that the solar constant is constant (which it isn’t, but it is measured in units of power), and that the transparency of the atmosphere to “reflected” CO2 is increasing, and thus prevents more and more heat from escaping. If there were a shred of truth to this, they would use their infallible models to figure the power involved. It takes energy to produce heat, so knowing how much added heat per unit of time would yield a figure for how much incident solar energy would need to be deflected away to offset the hypothetical increase. Using this figure, engineers could find the diameter of, say, Mylar mirrors needed to deflect the incident energy and keep the power balance within specifications. The cost of that undertaking could be estimated and compared with the cost of the Herrison Bergeron scheme the mystics and socialists have in mind. The last time Americans failed to question these looter schemes we ended up with a communist income tax and a methodist prohibition amendment grafted onto the Constitution. This Kyoto policy requires either eliminating the personal income tax (no bait, no boodling) or proposing an engineering solution–assuming their premises are about the power balance are nonfiction.

  9. This sort of deal, if actually enacted and enforced (as it certainly would be here, at least as long as there’s a Democrat in the White House), is bad for everyone — except for the elites, who would still be able to get their increasingly scarce and expensive luxuries. That’s the purpose — allowing the aristocrats to be clearly superior to the commoners.

    1. But they are clearly superior to us !

    2. Huh? Dem or GOP, all the Prez does is what Congress orders. He can’t even appoint anyone without some serious bootlicking for confirmation.

  10. The South African delegation condemned the omission as “apartheid” that would penalize poor countries for the sins of the rich.

    Well, if there is one thing South Africa knows about…

    1. You’d think they of all people would understand how ridiculous that comparison sounds.

      1. Yeah, it’s not like they’re talking about carbon capture ovens or anything.

  11. It was convened to impose binding emission reductions on all countries…to hold global temperature increases to no more than 2 degrees centigrade over pre-industrial levels.

    What happens if, I don’t know, that giant ball of fusing gasses at the center of our solar system chooses to not allow that to happen? Who pays for that?

    1. “We’ll all have to pay for it, for Gaia will have judged and found us wanting.”

  12. I honestly don’t know if any religion in human history has produced a more comical and ridiculous event as the climate talks produced by progressive politics.

    1. As someone who experienced 9/11 worse then anyone else, I take offense to what you have just said

      -Chris Christie

  13. Nuclear energy is a low carbon option. At a much lower cost per MW then shit like windmills. There. I solved your problem, world. No thanks required. All part of the job.

    1. This^^^^it’s really the only option for what the watermelons want….yet animists that they are they hate it.

    2. The problem with nuclear energy is that it was developed by selfish Jewish scientists to thwart positive Christianity’s mechanism, National Socialism, which sought to make the world safe for altruism. Naturally, all “right-wing” mystical bigots fear what was developed to carbonize their Crusading efforts. Their ideological twins, left-wing mystical altruists, also failed to invent it first and therefore had to play second fiddle to the Americans, who, by their lights, “aren’t really” sincere altruists (because if they were they’d support communism all the way). A nuclear engineer in this environment is kind of like the student participating in the “Opinions and Social Pressure” experiment wherein everyone else in the room agrees to pretend to believe some sort of superstitious absurdity. MattFC and Petr Beckmann are right, but who besides Reason has the guts to admit it?

  14. Live Free[er]?

    Dear Reason reader,

    one of the most personal freedom- damaging beliefs you can have [one of many :-)] , is the belief in the necessity, and the effectiveness, of political involvement – to supposedly “improve” your own life and the lives of others via the political process.

    Fact: as an individual you will _never_ enjoy a freer life for yourself until you completely reject the “drug”, “religion” [ or whatever else you want to call it] known as “political activism” or “involvement”, in its entirety.

    It is nothing more than a trap- a dead end that dramatically _decreases_ your chances of ever achieving more personal freedom and happiness for yourself in this world.

    Regards, onebornfree.
    Personal Freedom Consulting:
    http://www.onebornfree.blogspot.com

    1. I recognize in DieChained’s rant the defeatist fallacy with which Mencken disappointed Ayn Rand and prompted her to develop a biocentric ethical system. Government is the forcible restraint of they who coerce, the idea being to minimize coercion. But altruist looters, convinced the initiation of force is the embodiment of all value and unable to produce anything of value themselves, seek to infiltrate government and turn its unjust power into a rent-seeking cornucopia of boodle to benefit their own tribe. If you let it happen, by the very definition of political power (dD/dt, where D is the death altruists worship) the monster increases past a tipping point of totalitarianism and you end up in a boxcar bound for Treblinka wishing you’d done something while you had the chance. Nihilism never changes…

  15. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go? to tech tab for work detail,,,,,,,

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  16. For one, “man made global warming” is a huge sham, and I don’t care what the fuck Ronald McDonald Bailey says. Its a ploy to control and manipulate people from control freak statists, do I believe in “sun effected global warming” or “natural global warming”? Sure, the climate changes all the time and has since the beginning of earth’s eco sphere and it will continue to do so. Global warming of any kind, yes even the fake ass “man made global warming” won’t be catastrophic, its a fear tactic meant to make people hand over their money and freedom. Don’t buy into it.

  17. The whole point of the Kyoto CO2 hustle was to get the relatively uncoerced (hence relatively wealthy) nations to impose a Harrison Bergeron guilt handicap for the crime of learning math, physics and chemistry instead of memorizing mystical dogma (as in the highly coerced, and hence backward and impoverished nations).
    So now Reason lets Shikha delve under the surface to the second most hated and feared question in all of Altruria: “At whose expense?” As long as the penitent sinners were paying for their own ball-and-chain, fine, but as soon as any part of the bill lands in front of the more virtuous (uncorrupted by selfish methods of inference), the whole thing derails. What a shame to see such an elaborate sham derailed by that one tiny pebble of a question mark.

  18. The tragedy of current efforts to combat global warming is that in order to avert a tragedy they’ll cause one.

    The tragedy of current efforts to combat global warming is that in addition to addressing a non-problem through massive crony capitalism, the poor of this world will be denied the opportunity to develop and become rich.

  19. Live Free[er]?

    Dear Reason reader,

    one of the most personal freedom- damaging beliefs you can have [one of many :-)] , is the belief in the necessity, and the effectiveness, of political involvement – to supposedly “improve” your own life and the lives of others via the political process.

    Fact: as an individual you will _never_ enjoy a freer life for yourself until you completely reject the “drug”, “religion” [ or whatever else you want to call it] known as “political activism” or “involvement”, in its entirety.

    It is nothing more than a trap- a dead end that dramatically _decreases_ your chances of ever achieving more personal freedom and happiness for yourself in this world.

    Regards, onebornfree.
    Personal Freedom Consulting:
    http://www.onebornfree.blogspot.com

  20. If you want to give heartburn to the CAGW & warmista crowds, have them watch this video.

    He spells out the reason why we need MORE carbon in the atmosphere, not less.

    http://www.thegwpf.com/28155/

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    This is wha- I do…… ?????? http://www.buzznews99.com

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