Why Watchful Waiting Is the Best Response to Climate AlarmismAlan Carlin | October 23, 2015
Developed countries have taken two basic approaches to the fears raised by climate alarmism. One is to attempt to negotiate a worldwide agreement under which all countries would make similar reductions in CO2 emissions. Another approach is to attempt to “set an example” by unilaterally reducing their own emissions and hoping that other countries will follow their example. A third possible approach is to await improved scientific understanding of climate before doing anything. Until recently, the US has followed the first approach while the European Union has pursued the first two approaches simultaneously.
The Unilateral Approach Simply Leads to Relocation of Energy Intensive Industries and Their CO2 Emissions to Other Countries
The unilateral approach has proved disastrous where followed since it results in very large costs and produces little in CO2 emission reductions. Rather, it results in making energy intensive industries less competitive and in either going out of business or relocating to other countries with lower energy prices as well as continuing their CO2 emissions in their new location. The latest casualty is the European steel industry, particularly in Britain. It simply cannot be competitive in the world market when its energy costs are a multiple of the costs paid by their competitors elsewhere.
Surprisingly, the damage in Britain was inflicted primarily by Labor Party governments, which generally represent labor interests in Britain. In Britain, as elsewhere (as explained in my new book, Environmentalism Gone Mad, available from the book website), it is the political left which is pushing climate alarmism, which usually results in higher energy prices. An interesting question is why the labor unions have allowed this to happen in Britain and elsewhere, when it is their members who most often end up losing their jobs.
Obama and the USEPA have now added the US to the list of developed countries taking unilateral actions to reduce CO2 emissions. They are doing so initially through their “Clean Power Plan,” but will undoubtedly try to force the US to further reduce CO2 emissions in as many ways and to as great an extent as they are allowed to do so.
Stalemate on UN Climate Negotiations
The long-running UN climate negotiations are currently stalemated since the less developed countries are demanding assurances that the developed countries will actually deliver on their vague promises of $100 billion per year in climate assistance. The developed countries do not want to burden their taxpayers with such payments, and would probably undergo a change of government at the ballot box if they seriously tried to do so. It is becoming ever more clear that unilateral action by some developed countries, particularly the European Union, are not producing significant CO2 emissions reductions or similar CO2 reductions by other countries and are primarily burdening their energy users with astronomical costs and a shift of energy-intensive industries and their CO2 emissions to other countries.
So the international negotiating approach has reached what currently appears to be a dead end (although alarmists are unwilling to recognize this and the coming COP21 meeting will no doubt issue a positive press release) while the unilateral approach is exacting a significant toll on those countries attempting to follow it and shortly on the US. The obvious conclusion is that both of the first two approaches should be abandoned as hopeless.
One of the remaining possible approaches is to wait and review new climate science as it becomes available. This makes sense anyway since as explained in Environmentalism Gone Mad, the current alarmist “science” does not satisfy the scientific method and thus is not science at all. The other two approaches assume that we are certain that CO2 emissions must be reduced, even though we are far from it.