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Somebody open a window

17 Jul 2019 | News Roundup

Climate Home News runs a headline that ought to put even a committed enthusiast into a deep sleep. “It looks more likely than ever the EU will up its medium and long-term ambition on climate change in the next political cycle.” So it’s not a story about something that happened, or even that might happen. It’s a story about something that might happen if something else happens. It’s a story about nothing, because the big issue isn’t European nations’ “ambition on climate change” going forward. It’s their ability to deliver on past ambitions, on what they already promised in previous political cycles.

The climate debate has gone stale. If you look at the promises, and predictions, from governments 30 years ago, they’re almost impossible to tell from those being made today. And a vital reason why is that climate activists, in keeping with Thomas Sowell’s analysis of the “unconstrained vision” in public policy generally, simply don’t understand that to solve real problems you need effective methods rather than just good intentions and pious words or, to be unkind, smug virtue-signaling. So they win the debate and then set out to win it again. But as an old Spanish proverb has it, “Love is deeds, not fine words.”

That the alarmists largely won the debate two decades ago, and have since delivered so little that they’re recycling their pledges along with their plastic water bottles, has made amazingly little impression on them. Thus the Climate Home News story here, such as it is, is that “Ursula von der Leyen, the nominee to take over as European Commission president, backs hiking the bloc’s carbon reduction target from 40% to 50% by 2030 and going carbon neutral by 2050.” Target? How about “accomplishment”? Nope. Not a concern.

What is a concern, at least to hear Climate Home News tell it, is that, “the diffuseness of European power has left the world’s third largest emitter struggling to fill the climate diplomacy vacuum left by the US when Donald Trump entered the White House – particularly with respect to China.”

“Climate diplomacy”? What’s that supposed to mean? That nobody can make China stop building coal plants because it’s a villainous tyranny with nuclear weapons? Or that some magic verbal formula can transform reality without anyone having to break a sweat? Apparently it’s the latter, in a truly dismal display of the pernicious habit in certain quarters of sending words to do the work of deeds.

For instance consider the habit of declaring a “climate emergency”, as Senator Bernie Sanders and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are now hoping the United States Congress will. When somebody asks “So what?” they are met with blank stares. We don’t need to do anything, we just need to say stuff.

Such an attitude seems childish in principle. And fatuous in practice given that we supposedly face a civilization-threatening crisis in which even a child would understand that if it’s as bad as we’re told, somebody needs to act rather than just strut about pretending they’re Demosthenes.

As we have already noted, much lofty talk of reducing emissions has accompanied a global trend toward their increase. Virtually no country is even on track for its Paris Accord commitments, for reasons we explained in our video on the subject. So what is urgently needed is to let some fresh air into the debate, especially on the vexed question of whether the Paris approach is worth the cost, instead of engaging in endless bloviation and seeking to repair one broken promise by making an even bigger one.

If we can’t get to 40%, can we ask what achievable target would actually make sense and build from there? Evidently such questions are beneath the jet-setting global elite, who think if we can’t get to 40% let’s pledge 50% in 11 years and 100% in 31.

Alas, they seem to be beneath Climate Home News as well. They conclude this sorry piece of semi-journalism with “Chloé Farand looks at what that [the “climate diplomacy vacuum”] means for UN chief Antonio Guterres’ hopes of spurring a race to the top, with his landmark summit this September.”

There’s no race to the top here. And there’s no landmark. There’s just a bunch of gassing on in a sealed room.

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