Climate change experts from more than 190 countries are said to be on the verge of forging a binding international accord that will reduce humanity's CO2 emissions to a level sufficient to stave off future global warming. The details of the agreement will be negotiated this December in Paris, France at the 2015 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), aka COP21, short for "the twenty-first session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) -- to distinguish the futility of the Paris summit from that of the previous 20 such conclaves, the first of which was held at the Rio Earth Summit, by the climate shamans of 1992. Who knows? The 21st time might be the charm.
President Obama thinks so, and is counting on it. According to Politico, Mr. Obama has been working furiously behind the scenes (and the backs of Republican climate deniers in Congress) to "seal his environmental legacy," by creating "the broadest, farthest-reaching deal in history, reworking environmental regulations for governments and corporations around the world and creating a framework for global green policy for decades."
As with the Iran nuclear weapons deal, Obama's objective is the agreement, not what the agreement will accomplish. His goal is to obtain any "broadest, farthest-reaching deal in history" that enshrines his name at the top of the signatory list. The goal of the Paris agreement, which is to reduce global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to a level that prevents the average global temperature from increasing more than 2 °C by 2100, is an irrelevant, environmentalist dream, impossible to achieve -- even if Obama possessed Congressional endorsement or public support, both of which he does not.
Obama's Clean Power Plan (CPP) and his cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline were not designed to curb global temperature increase. They were merely symbolic gestures contrived to invoke similar gestures from countries such as China and India. The CPP (15 new EPA regulations, estimated to cost Americans $230 billion) will have essentially no affect on global temperature. The Iran agreement will: from four to five million barrels per day of new Iranian oil unleashed into the atmosphere -- a glib concession just to secure an agreement, any agreement. Apparently, that was not "the moment" that Obama spoke of in his 2008 nomination speech, "when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal."
To hear Obama tell it, securing an agreement in Paris will be a simple matter of establishing an emission reduction commitment for each nation, a process that will now be less contentious because of his encouragement and leadership. Last month, after a five-day climate session was held in Bonn to draft the blueprint of the Paris negotiations, Obama took credit for persuading India and China to reduce their emissions. He hopes to use their pledges "to leverage the entire world for the conference." Once the Paris deal is reached, the nations of the world will begin the task of fulfilling their commitments by replacing fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) with renewable energy (solar and wind) -- right after Obama proclaims victory for the planet, and, of course, for himself.
Of the climate negotiations, Mr. Obama might tritely say that the devil is in the details. But the real devil is in what he has not mentioned in his crusade to promote the deal. China and India (who, together, are responsible for 30% of the world's CO2 emissions), only pledged to reduce their emissions. A pledge is not a commitment, and no mention was made of the revolt at the Bonn meeting by 130 developing nations, who rejected a preliminary draft because it omitted their most important concern: climate justice -- aka reparations for damages done to poor countries by rich countries, whose wealth has been obtained through the rampant injection of CO2 into the atmosphere since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. That protest, which has now expanded the negotiations into the realm of extortion (of money and technology from rich countries), was led by China and India. Obama may have "leveraged the entire [third] world" to line its pockets with climate justice money from the industrialized world.
Developing countries will not install the solar and wind farms that Obama incessantly praises as earth's only salvation. They can't afford to do so -- not if they want to raise their burgeoning, destitute populations from what is by Western standards abject poverty. The energy they need will be generated from cheap, abundant fossil fuels. As he blatantly flaunts a storybook promise of renewable energy, Obama is obstinately silent about its harsh reality. Despite technological strides, renewable energy remains prohibitively expensive and woefully inadequate for generating the quantity of clean energy required to stave off global warming. After decades of development and untold billions spent (more than $150 billion by the Obama administration alone), solar and wind power combined generate less than 4.5% of US electricity, and both industries would immediately collapse without taxpayer-funded subsidies.
Nor has he mentioned the global carbon budget, which sets an upper bound on the quantity of CO2 that humanity can emit without pushing the average global temperature over the 2 °C threshold before 2100. According to Oren Cass of the Manhattan Institute (Leading Nowhere), under optimistic assumptions regarding energy efficiency and the adoption of renewable energy, total emissions by the end of the century are projected to be almost five times greater than the quantity budgeted to save the planet. What is the point of committing the US to costly emission reductions of 26% to 28% by 2025, when the global carbon budget will be consumed by the early 2030s?
No matter what the US does by 2025 to reduce its emissions, by 2030 it will already be too late to "save the planet" -- a tidbit of climate change knowledge that Obama is reluctant to divulge. Indeed, no matter what wealthy nations collectively do is futile. Observes Cass,
If developed-world CO2 emissions ceased tomorrow, the developing world would still need to instantly slash its emissions by more than half—and hold at that level indefinitely—to remain within the carbon budget until 2100.
Any success that Obama has in Paris, therefore, will depend on his ability to "leverage" developing nations into meaningful emissions reductions. His chances are slim, if he even cares to try. As Cass notes:
In short, no evidence—distant or more recent— indicates any willingness by developing nations to make even nonbinding pledges to slow the growth of CO2 emissions, let alone accept the dramatic reductions required to substantially alter the trajectory of atmospheric concentrations.
To climate catastrophists such as Mr. Obama, the solution to this conundrum is simple, self-evident, and not to be discussed in public: an enormous transfer of wealth from rich nations to poor nations, where the money will be used (a) to buy solar panels and windmills, (b) to create decent jobs and lives of dignity, (c) to defray the cost of adapting to the coming storms, droughts, floods, famines, terrorism, rape, and innumerable other products of the Industrial Revolution.
The idea is not new, and has captured the effusive support of Hillary Clinton, Pope Francis, and other climate change experts. In his encyclical on climate change, the Pope asserted that wealthy nations owe an “ecological debt” to poor nations and argued for “mechanisms and subsidies which allow developing countries access to technology transfer, technical assistance and financial resources.” As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton proposed a Green Climate Fund that would provide at least $100 billion annually to developing nations. Last year, at COP-20 in Lima, Peru, Alex Rafalowicz of Friends of the Earth (FOE), demanded that rich countries pay poor countries more than $1 trillion annually.
Obama can be expected to agree. After all, there's not much distance between social justice and climate justice. But he has not indicated what concessions he would be willing to make to the clamoring bloc of 130 developing countries (representing more than 85% of the world's population) who insist that climate reparations must be the centerpiece of the Paris negotiations.
FOE has developed a method of allocating the global carbon budget in a manner that it believes should be adopted by climate treaty negotiators. Known as Climate Fair Shares, it calculates the emission reduction commitments and reparation amounts that must be allocated to each nation to preserve Earth through 2100. Beyond the appeal to planet salvation, it no doubt has political appeal; what nation could object to paying its fair share?
To illustrate how the negotiations would work out under the FOE scheme, China would be allowed to increase its GHG emissions from its current level of 12.1 billion tons to 16.2 billion tons by 2030. It would also receive $604 billion annually in climate justice payments from rich countries. In contrast, the US would be required to reduce its emissions from its current level of 6.7 billion tons to 1.8 billion tons by 2030 -- a reduction of 73%, even though Obama has thus far commited the US to only a 26% to 28% reduction by 2025.
The US cost to achieve a 73% reduction would be many trillions of dollars, and require that all coal- and gas-fired power plants be replaced with extravagant solar and wind farms. On top of this immense cost are climate justice payments, $810 billion per year, by 2030. According to Climate Fair Shares, these payments, compliments of US taxpayers, will "create 24,291,600 new decent jobs" and "deliver renewable energy for lives of dignity to 810 million people" -- in other countries.
The developing world expects the Paris negotiations to produce an agreement along the lines of the Climate Fair Shares scheme. Mr. Obama has not addressed that possibility, nor has he indicated where the money will come from if it materializes. The US, which is in much better shape economically than most countries, is more than $18 trillion in debt, not to mention the crushing debt of Medicare and Social Security, enormous programs that will be insolvent by the early 2030s -- right around the time when humanity blows it's entire carbon budget, and irreversible, hellish climate catastrophe begins, 70 years ahead of schedule.
These are some of the obstacles that face Mr. Obama, in his quest for prominence in the annals of climate history. He has dismissed most of them, or chosen not to bother the American public with their stark realities. Then there is the warming pause, now in its 18th year (which threatens the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis motivating the Paris charade), that, ironically, Obama denies. To secure his environmental legacy and fulfill his promise to heal the planet, the desperate Obama must find common ground between rich and poor countries. But in the Venn diagram of possible treaty outcomes, the intersection of planet salvation and climate justice is the empty set. The negotiators from developed nations and the negotiators from developing nations have only one thing in common: both parties seek a goal that they know, and have known all along, is impossible to achieve.