On the eve of the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, the Brussels Business
Group on Risk of Climate Deal, issued the statement, Reported in the
New York Times, December 12, 2015:
“Unless other regions increase their level of ambition now in line
with what the E.U. is already doing, it will not be enough to solve
the climate challenge. As long as the E.U. is doing a solo run, our
competitiveness remains at risk.”
That statement reveals much about the current international
situation regarding "climate change" (aka "global warming", with
which it is often conflated).
What the E.U. is already doing is not much. Nowhere near the
ambitious goals of the Climate Treaty. France is committed to
nuclear power (until they have an accident). Germany has announced
they are phasing out nuclear power and going to wind or solar. We'll
see how that works out with their climate. It has also just
announced a deal to accept natural gas from Russia via pipeline,
which produces greenhouse gases at the Russian end, unlike U.S.
frack-derived natural gas we could deliver by ship to their ports as
LNG at a comparable cost.
In only a few countries is it possible to enforce international
treaties in domestic courts. The U.S. is one, but even there the
treaty must not require government officials to exercise powers not
delegated to them by their constitutions. The rest are mostly the
northern members of the E.U. or the UK. In these countries it seems
accepted that national sovereignty can be transferred to a
treaty-created organization. That is not the case with the U.S. The
only way provided for the U.S. to expand is by the admission of new
Nevertheless, the Climate Accord was nearly derailed by the use in
its language of the imperative word "shall", and delegates yielded
to demands that the word be changed to the hortatory and
aspirational word "should", as though the treaty might be considered
to have legally-binding effect. This is typical of treaties (or
would-be constitutions) negotiated in the European diplomatic
culture. See the so-called "Constitution of the European Union",
which was rejected by French voters, for good reason. It was not a
true constitution, which has to be a supreme law, defining specific
powers, duties, and rights, enforceable in courts.
What is happening in climate science?
I read and understand the scientific literature personally. I used
to write computer programs to model climate. So is the science here
"fake" or a "hoax". No, but it is certainly "herd" science, workers
in the field huddling into the herd and avoiding nonconformist
positions. Is that in part ideological? Yes, I'm afraid so. That
doesn't make all the conclusions or warnings wrong. Herds can also
come to correct positions. But in this field the degree of
uniformity is at least troubling. If we can't trust scientists to
come to divergent positions, and then debate them, then scientists
are not doing their obs. The herd is just too tight.
So what is the correct conclusion? The strongest evidence for human
causation is the isotopic profile of atmospheric CO2,
that is consistent with the burning of fossil fuels. Whether it
comes more from coal-fired power plants or from motor vehicle
emission is less clear. There is also a component from things like
timber cutting and burning, and from soil tilling and runoff down
streams. One must also account for vulcanism, which is still a
There is also the issue of changes in solar output (insolation).
There is evidence of warming on Mars. The ice ages are thought to be
the result of earth orbit changes, or changes in solar activity with
long cycle times. There is reason to think that but for global
warming, we might be headed toward another ice age, in which case it
could be a good thing.
So is global warming human-caused? Probably, in large part. Could
dire effects of global warming be imminent? Yes, they could. They
might also be hundreds of years further into the future. But
short-term weather events are almost certainly not indicative of the
long term. Weather, like climate, changes.
It is the willingness to attribute short-term events to global
warming that is the strongest indication of the politicization of
the climate field. The other is to leap from finding it to be human
caused to be treatable by treaties and laws. Human treatable?
There is a distressing tendency for national leaders who attend
diplomatic conferences to either pretend or believe that the
treaties they make are either magically self-enforcing or that they
have the power to enforce them. The answer is neither. They can
debate all they want, but in the end what they produce is likely to
only be a scrap of paper. Unless people can be fined or imprisoned,
there is no enforcement, assuming everyone can be found to fine or
imprison. The fact is that violations do not happen at the higher
levels of government, but by millions of individuals in every region
and at every level, most of whom cannot be found much less punished.
Governments and laws are not as effective as some would like to
Shut down a few power plants? All that would do is reverse more than
a century of industrial progress. Some radical environmentalists
might think that would be a good thing. They are wrong. It is only
that industrial progress, in a few enlightened nations, that avoids
having the world descend into general warfare and chaos. War is not
good for the environment, either.
If human caused, so what?
The difficulties of enforcing any Climate Accord have already been
examined, but the surest sign of climate science being politicized
is the way analysis of the causes of global warming leap to making
recommendations for how to treat it. Most of those recommendations
are for the industrial countries to de-industrialize. They don't
call it that, but that would be the practical effect. Of course no
such recommendations are made to the industrializing countries, like
Brazil, Russia, India, or China (BRIC). (it seems strange to include
Russia in that group, but by comparison to North America, Europe,
and Japan, it is not very industrial. Of course, such countries are
not willing to retard their own industrial expansion, and more
likely to ask for foreign aid to pay for their compliance. (Which
would be more likely to be spent on scenic resorts for those
countries' leaders. Never underestimate human corruption.)
So regulatory solutions won't work. What about new, competitive,
energy technology? The main contenders are nuclear, solar, wind, and
geothermal. There are two kinds of nuclear: uranium and thorium:
Only the first is in use, but it is dangerous and enables
proliferation. Thorium needs to be developed, fast, and China is
working on that. The costs of ground-based solar are coming down,
but they still need expensive batteries for when the sun isn't
shining. Space solar power is promising, but the systems are
vulnerable to coronal mass ejections and solar proton flares. They
could be sited on the moon, but would need a system off fast-closing
shutters to shield them from solar emissions.
In principle it should be possible to extract geothermal energy
almost anywhere on Earth, but the costs in most locations is
high. Biofuels are mainly an indirect variant on solar.
The solution is not regulatory suppression of greenhouse emissions,
but the development of alternative forms of energy extraction that
can compete in the market.
Act, H.R.1536 — 115th Congress (2017-2018). Provides for
protecting the U.S. power grid from coronal mass ejections and
EMP attacks. But it neglects to protect other electric and
electronic equipment vital to our economy.
Environmental degradation illustrated by Hispaniola. It is
also instructive to examine the map
of the island of Hispaniola from space, divided by a
national boundary between overpopulated Haiti on the West and
the Dominican Republic on the East. The border can be easily
seen from space. To the west the land is largely denuded of
vegetation. To the east the land is covered by forests, and
there is even a national park. The nearby waters are
largely devoid of fish, Do the people of Haiti not understand
their predicament? Many of them do, but they can do
nothing about it, other than to try to survive one more day.