The Climate Summit Wasn’t About the Climate
When U.S. President Barack Obama arrived at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, he began by apologizing to the world for how America has helped cause global warming. He said he had come “as the leader of the world’s largest economy and the second-largest emitter to say the U.S.A. not only recognizes our role in creating this problem, we embrace our responsibility to do something about it.”
Two weeks later, a 32-page climate paper in hand, the president called the summit a “turning point” for the world—and a defining moment for his administration. “The American people can be proud,” President Obama said. “Because this historic agreement is a tribute to American leadership. Over the past seven years, we’ve transformed the United States into the global leader in fighting climate change.”
This climate change agreement may ultimately be very “transformational,” as the president said, but sadly, not in the way most people think.
What Did They Agree To?
The agreement calls for holding global average temperature to below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to adopt efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.
To accomplish this, countries agreed to “reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible.” Countries will monitor and report greenhouse gas emissions using a standardized global system. And they will submit action plans to reduce greenhouse pollution. Additionally, nations will come together every five years to report on their progress. They agreed to create a global monitoring committee to verify reporting. Rich nations also agreed to provide at least $100 billion per year to tackle the problem.
“[M]ake no mistake, the Paris agreement establishes the enduring framework the world needs to solve the climate crisis,” President Obama said.
But here is one big problem—that is, assuming that reducing greenhouse gas emissions will stabilize the global climate. The problem is that nations like the United States and those in Europe may be committed to reducing their carbon dioxide emissions, but much of the rest of the world is much less so—and there is no enforcement mechanism.
This much-heralded agreement is not legally binding in any way, except that nations have agreed to report how much greenhouse gas they emit. Nations can submit any emission reduction plan they like. They can be laughably low, like the Russian plan. Or they can be like the Indian plan, which basically amounts only to emission increases for the foreseeable future. India has said outright that it will not change plans to double its coal usage by 2020. India is the world’s third-largest greenhouse gas emitter. Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and the rest of the oil-exporting nations also have little interest in capping fossil-fuel usage. And China, although this time around it seems to have reversed its stance on reducing greenhouse gases (this may be part of the price it agreed to pay to have its currency included in the imf’s international currency basket—article, page 23), few people really believe it is serious about making significant cuts.
And here is the most absurd part: Developing nations like China and India are allowed to revise their goals as they go. In fact, every nation can.
So the question arises: With a deal this absurd, what was really accomplished?
Contrary to popular belief, stopping “man-made global warming” is only one aspect of the talks.
President Obama, for example, said that signing a climate deal to reduce carbon emissions was the best way to combat Islamic State terrorism in Syria and Iraq. He said it would be an “act of defiance” against terrorism.
But the talks were not really about stopping terrorism either. Or about saving polar bears, or stopping small Pacific islands from disappearing. They were about so much more.
These talks were about money, power, and mostly, about igniting a revolution.
Revolutionizing the System
In February, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change executive secretary Christiana Figueres revealed the real motivation behind the Paris climate talks. “This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution,” she said. “This is probably the most difficult task we have ever given ourselves, which is to intentionally transform the economic development model for the first time in human history” (emphasis added throughout).
The Paris climate summit was about revolutionizing the world’s economic system. What system is that? Capitalism.
Pope Francis said on the first day of the talks: The world is headed toward “suicide” if a climate agreement isn’t reached. “Africa is a victim,” he said. “Africa has always been exploited by other powers … there are some countries that want only the great resources of Africa. … Africa is [a] martyr, a martyr of the exploitation of history.”
As a result, Africa is “mired in poverty [and] social injustice,” he said. This has to change.
And what does Francis convict as the main perpetrator of exploitation, pollution and other misdeeds? Capitalism has increased inequality and caused the destruction of the environment for “profit at any price,” Francis told a crowd earlier this year. Capitalism is “the dung of the devil,” he said.
The pope was just one of the powerful forces behind the Paris summit.
Look at the various climate-change protests taking place around the world. They are filled with anti-capitalist, socialist and openly Communist activists. And these people are not just hangers-on; they are the protest organizers.
Ecosocialists or Ecocommunists?
“What seems to have happened,” the National Post reported, “is that the international far left, having been decisively routed with the collapse of the Soviet Union and of international communism, has attached itself to the environmental movement, usurped the leading positions in it from the bird-watching, butterfly-collecting, and conservation organizations, and is carrying on its anti-capitalist and anarchist crusade behind the cover of eco-Armageddonism” (Dec. 5, 2015).
“System change, not climate change,” is the message behind this movement. This is a call for revolution. Many of these activists call themselves “ecosocialists.” And their demands are revealing (sidebar, page 22).
Many of these demands are coming from the highest levels of government.
Consider Van Jones. He was President Obama’s “special adviser” for “green jobs.” He was the face of the movement responsible for helping create more environmentally friendly jobs or convert environmentally destructive jobs. That was his official agenda.
But Jones had a very different unofficial agenda (past tense, since he was forced to resign once some of his more radical views became public). Jones is a self-admitted Communist. He promotes social justice (using the power of government to forcefully redistribute wealth and to give special privileges to minority groups to make up for past wrongs) and talks about eco-apartheid (how white people get all the benefits of green energy).
Speaking at the Power Shift youth climate change conference in 2009, Jones said America needed to completely revamp the whole economy to create justice for all. “[W]e are going to change the whole system,” he said. “We want a new system. … We are going to change the whole thing.”
For current policymakers in Washington, creating a green economy is so much more than stopping global warming. Global warming—or climate change, as it has now been renamed—is just a catalyst. The real agenda is far bigger.
The agenda is partially revealed in Jones’s résumé. He is a founding member of storm (Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement), a radical Marxist organization. In one of its publications, storm asserted that it looked “towards the revolutionary traditions of Third World communism and found valuable and inspiring models for revolutionary change.”
It is very telling that such a radical was personally chosen by President Obama to help green America’s economy. He was chosen for a job that was a perfect fit with his résumé. That job is revolutionary change.
System Change, Not Climate Change
As one keynote speaker at last year’s massive People’s Climate Rally in Oakland, California, said, “What we are facing is a systemic problem. A conflict between two systems. First is the environmental system, which sustains life on Earth. Then there is the economic system of capitalism that is attacking the stability of our environment. Capitalism and a healthy environment cannot coexist! …[W]e’re going to have to disrupt and transform the capitalist system. That is why we say, ‘System change, not climate change’”!
In these words, the communistic coopting of the environmental movement becomes shockingly obvious. There was a movement that argued that corporations should pollute less. It has been taken over by people who say there should be no corporations. Someone recognized something valuable in the environmental movement: power. Power to overthrow the entire Western system.
According to some environmentalists, and even many of America’s top leaders, America’s economic system is rooted in colonialism and slavery and based on exploitation. And it needs to be completely destroyed before a new system can be rebuilt.
It is this blatant anti-capitalism/anti-American climate change movement that led previous administrations to reject the Kyoto Protocol talks and other environmental agreements.
America has nothing to gain at these talks—unless you believe its system needs to be completely torn down and revolutionized. Unless you believe that America is a force of evil in this world—that it is defined by systems of oppression. Unless you believe something more collectivist—more authoritarian—would be an improvement.
From a global economic perspective, this Paris summit will produce no winners. That’s because any deal would involve transitioning away from fossil fuels to more expensive, less reliable, less powerful green energy. The costs will be in the trillions. And there is no guarantee the cuts will be enough, or that they will have any effect on the climate at all. And sadly, the poorest of nations will be coerced into borrowing vast sums of money from China and the West to build unaffordable green-energy projects. Once again, Africa and South America will have their resources exploited to pay for all their debt.
But there will be relative winners and losers.
Winners and Losers
The United States is an economic and energy powerhouse. It is a world leader in coal, oil and natural gas resources. Energy supplies are so abundant that costs are near multi-decade lows. Of the world’s 3 billion barrels of available petroleum inventories, more than 2 billion are located in the U.S., according to the International Energy Agency. This inexpensive and abundant energy gives America a huge economic advantage over other nations. It keeps heating and transportation costs down; it fuels industry; and it subsidizes living standards. And perhaps just as importantly, the cost for all that oil, gas and coal stays mostly at home in America, building the economy and providing jobs.
From a competition standpoint, limiting fossil-fuel usage makes little sense for America. But for Europe, it could be a big advantage.
For resource-constrained Europe, fossil fuels are expensive and imported—meaning the money goes to the Saudis or Russians. This is partly why Europe has generally been quicker to embrace higher-cost, less-reliable green energy. It is just switching from one high-cost energy source to another—except, instead of sending euros to Russia for gas, it sends them to Germany or Spain for wind turbines.
European businesses are already paying high energy prices. In Germany, electricity costs are roughly triple those in America. If America wants to voluntarily handicap itself, so much the better from a European economic competition perspective.
But what about the Chinese? China imports a lot of fossil fuel at prices much higher than in the U.S. So, like Europe, for them, there would be less of an economic hit to make a switch. Additionally, China has become the world’s premier solar manufacturing center. So reducing dependence on imported coal from Australia, for example, would come with the benefit of spending the freed-up money at home on domestically produced solar products. China is also becoming a leader in wind-power turbine manufacturing. So this industry would also benefit.
But there is no way China will sacrifice economic growth in order to reduce carbon emissions, especially if it risks social unrest.
China has hundreds of millions of very poor people who cannot afford more expensive and less reliable electricity. According to the Institute for Energy Research, China is currently building one coal-fired power plant every seven to 10 days. This is an astounding pace. Even if it slowed the construction of these plants, it currently uses almost four times as much coal as the United States. And with China’s economy dramatically slowing in recent months, any switch will not be easy.
From an economic perspective (excluding hypothetical costs due to theoretically worsening weather), the Paris talks don’t make much sense for America; it is a lose-lose proposition. Europe and China, America’s two biggest competitors lose too, but they lose a lot less. For them, the economic playing field will be leveled. So from their geopolitical perspective, there is an upside.
We all need clean air. Pollution is not a good thing. And America has made huge strides in protecting the environment. If the global warming/climate change movement were only about finding ways to reduce and eliminate pollution, it would be a worthy cause. Capitalism and conservationism are not mutually exclusive.
But the movement has been hijacked. It is now being piloted by activists, including many powerful Americans whose main goal is to bring down the American system. Talk about an inside job.
There is an acute danger in the global climate change movement. This movement may once have been about improving the environment, and theoretically stopping ocean levels from swamping coastlines, but it has morphed into something that seeks to completely upend the global economic system. And that means starting with America.