December 20, 2009

Fiasco in Copenhagen: The Winners and the Losers

After the American Century Posting 203

The Climate Summit has been an enormous disappointment to just about everyone I know. But such failures are not merely misunderstandings. Some people want them to happen, because it was to their advantage that no meaningful agreement be reached.

Who benefits when there are no real controls on carbon emissions? Nations that produce oil, gas, and coal. This turns out to be Russia Venezuela, Nigeria, and of course the Middle Eastern oil states. Norway gets high marks for taking a stand for CO2 controls, but then, the Norwegians are a moral and democratic people who produce 99% of their electricity from hydro. One can certainly not say all three things about any of the other oil producing states.

Other beneficiaries are all those who doubt the reality of global warming, notably a large contingent of the Republican Party. Sarah Palin is presumably also delighted. But has Palin asked herself why she is siding with the Chinese government on this issue?

China surely regards itself as a winner at this summit. It refused to budge at all on what it sees as its right to increase CO2 emissions by at least 40%. It is investing in solar power and windmills, and building lots of atomic plants, but being efficient is not yet on its agenda. China also got to throw its weight around and show it could not be forced to do anything it did not want to do, such as allowing inspectors in to see just exactly how much CO2 it is producing. (I wonder if before long we will have some sort of remote sensing devices that might remove this particular objection.)

The opposition to the current Danish government also is a potential winner in this fiasco, as the Danish Prime Minister earned low marks for his behavior. With the two political blocs in a virtual dead heat, this magnificent display of diplomatic ineptitude might tip the balance. One can only hope.

Curiously, I think President Obama emerged as a bit of a winner too, in the sense that for the first time he brought the US into an active discussion of global warning and looked for ways to create a compromise. He was hampered, however, by the scientific stupidly of the Republican Party, which seems genuinely challenged by such things as the theory of evolution, physics, modern biological research, and of course global warming itself. But then, these are the sort of people who, in the State legislature of Indiana, passed a law saying that Pi should not be 3.1417. That clearly is a silly number, and so they decreed that Pi should instead be 3.2. Indiana's pilots and civil engineers did not take note, fortunately. Fools with that sort of self assurance are a genuine menace.

Strange bedfellows are these "winners": Danish socialists, Middle Eastern dictators, Hugo Chavez, the American Republican Party, the Russian oil interests, the Nigerians, the Chinese oligarchy. A wonderful bunch, really. Perhaps they should hold their own summit and see if they have other shared interests. I would love to see Sarah Palin "paling around" with the Russians.

As for the losers, that would be everyone else, particularly low lying nations, most of Africa, the Arctic regions. Quite possibly nations will disappear beneath the waves and millions of people might die because of this failed summit. But no one will be called to account.

So let us blame 2009, a rotten year for many people, and hope that 2010 will be a year that does not benefit anyone who "won" in Copenhagen.