President Obama believes that climate change is an existential threat that worries him more than ISIS and global jihad. He displayed his passion on this issue while attending a summit meeting in Paris launching the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21). In Obama’s mind, as he put it in his speech in Paris, the climate change conference represents “an act of defiance” against “those who would tear down our world.” ISIS leaders must have been shaking in their boots when they heard Obama’s soaring rhetoric.
The COP21 conference is being heralded as the last opportunity for the world’s nations to come together and deal meaningfully with the deleterious impacts said to be caused by man-made climate change. Obama used the opportunity to hold the United States responsible for its “role in creating this problem” as the “world’s largest economy and the second-largest emitter.” After declaring that “we embrace our responsibility to do something about it,” Obama then proceeded to boast of “the ambitious investments in clean energy, and ambitious reductions in our carbon emissions” undertaken by the United States during his administration. That would include, of course, the draconian federal limits on power-plant carbon emissions that he has set down by executive order.
The COP21 conference is built around the premise that all countries, rich and poor, should state in writing their individual targets for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. Each of these submissions, referred to in UN parlance as an intended nationally determined contribution (INDC), would also be expected to include the country’s plans for achieving such reductions and for adapting as smoothly as possible to weather disasters and other harmful events allegedly caused by climate change. More than 180 countries accounting for at least 95% of global carbon emissions have submitted INDCs in one form or another.
Although the INDCs themselves are not legally binding, President Obama and some other world leaders are pressing for certain process mechanisms, such as periodic monitoring, reviews and upgrading of the INDCs, to be legally binding.
Developing countries are looking for the COP21 conference to produce legally binding commitments for massive redistributions of wealth from the United States and other “rich” countries to help pay for the implementation of the “poor” countries’ carbon reduction and adaptation plans.
So far, industrialized nations have agreed voluntarily to jointly mobilize $100 billion per year by 2020, from a variety of sources, to address the mitigation and adaptation needs of developing countries. It was also agreed that a major share of new multilateral, multi-billion dollar funding should be channeled through the UN-established Green Climate Fund. But $100 billion annual contributions are not enough, according to the Global Climate Fund’s executive director. In an address last June at the United Nations, she said that more than $400 billion annually in incremental financing will be needed. Developing countries agree. Over and above the $100 billion per year allotment, some are looking for additional monies to cover weather-related disasters and pay for a “displacement coordination facility” for “climate change” refugees.
The huge climate fund giveaways would be in addition to Official Development Assistance commitments and other foreign aid outlays to developing countries that already amount to many billions of dollars a year.
President Obama said at a press conference before departing the Paris meeting that he is seeking “an agreement that makes sure developing nations have the resources they need to skip the dirty phase of development if they’re willing to do their part, and that makes sure the nations most vulnerable to climate change have resources to adapt to the impacts we can no longer avoid.”
One of the nations that is looking for such a hand out happens to be Iran, whom President Obama has already favored with his loophole-ridden nuclear deal. In its INDC, Iran conditioned two-thirds of its meager intended greenhouse gas emission reductions by 2030 on “termination and non-existence of unjust sanctions” and the “availability of international resources in the form of financial support and technology transfer.”
Iran has diverted enormous economic resources to its nuclear program and funding of its global terrorism campaign. Yet it is trying to extort sanctions relief, infusions of capital and transfer of advanced technologies from the United States and other industrialized countries as the price for some limited far off reductions in its greenhouse gas emissions. Notably, if Iran were to actually achieve the greenhouse gas emission reductions it is promising by 2030, it will be at just about the same time that key restrictions on Iran’s uranium-enrichment capacity and its stockpile of enriched uranium will expire. By 2030, the danger to the world from Iran’s ability to rush ahead with production of nuclear bombs will far outstrip any benefits from its greenhouse gas reductions. But such details do not bother the Obama administration, which enjoys reaching multilateral agreements – no matter how bad – for their own sake.
Indeed, President Obama has followed his usual pattern of making commitments on behalf of the United States that potentially damage the national interest in return for very little. He believes, for example, that he forged milestone understandings on climate change with China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, and with India, the world's third biggest greenhouse gas emitter.
China does appear serious, acting in its own national interest, about addressing its horrendous pollution problem, caused in large part by its reliance on coal. It is undertaking ambitious plans for conversion to alternative energies such as solar and wind. It has also announced plans to launch a carbon market in 2017 and has made pledges of financial aid to poorer countries. However, while Obama committed that “America will reduce our emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels within 10 years from now,” China is aiming merely to “achieve the peaking of carbon dioxide emissions around 2030,” according to its INDC. In other words, Obama has ordered drastic cuts in the use of coal by executive fiat with potentially serious dislocations to the American economy. China, which operates by single party government fiat, is taking things much more slowly to ensure as little adverse impact on its own economy as possible. This is Obama’s idea of an historic understanding.
At least China recognizes there is a greenhouse gas emission problem for which it bears some responsibility to solve. India, on the other hand, remains defiant, despite claims of a deep friendship that has developed between Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Modi said on November 30th, the first official day of the COP21 conference, that climate change was not India’s fault. He said the richer nations were responsible for the problem and had benefited from “the prosperity and progress of an industrial age powered by fossil fuel.” Modi added that “we in India face its consequences today.” India’s endemic corruption and poor governance problems are never mentioned.
India’s INDC states that it is up to the people residing in developed countries to “bring down their emission intensity by moderating their consumption, and substantially utilize their investments by employing them for development activities in countries housing a vast majority of people barely living at subsistence level.”
Indian Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar stated his country’s position in even blunter terms last September: "Others are responsible. We are not. We are the sufferers. We are the vulnerable countries, and they [developed nations] are paying part of it. I can call it reparations."
It is amazing how countries like India whine about the costs they say the fossil fuel-based Industrial Revolution has foisted on them, but fail to acknowledge the free ride they have received over the same period of time. They have received huge social benefits, for which they have not paid a cent, from the innovations, improved health, agricultural productivity and higher standard of living made possible by the Industrial Revolution.
If India and other developing nations try to hold out for “reparations” to reimburse them for the harmful climate effects of the Industrial Revolution, it would seem only fair that these countries pay for at least a portion of the technology and other economic benefits they have been free riding on for so many years. None other than Cass R Sunstein, President Obama’s former regulatory czar and husband of US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, raised this very point an article he wrote for the Chicago Tribune entitled On Climate, the Duty to Poor Nations Isn't Clear.
In his Paris press conference, President paid lip service to recognizing “the danger of free riders.” However, he is encouraging it. He is willing to trade the risk of real harm to the American economy from ill-advised executive orders and the redistribution of billions of dollars of American taxpayers’ money in additional giveaways for mostly hot air from the likes of Iran, India and other self-proclaimed victims of fossil fuel.