June 28, 2011


The Failure of Al Gore: Part Deux (Walter Russell Mead, 6/27/11, American Interest)

The global green strategy was a comprehensive, unified and coordinated one. Green activists around the world, in some countries empowered because proportional representation gives fringe groups disproportionate political influence, would unite around the push for a single global solution to climate change. The global solution involved a treaty to be negotiated under UN auspices that would be “legally binding” and subject the emission of greenhouse gasses to strict global controls. Developing countries would receive massive transfers of official aid ($100 billion or more a year) to compensate them for the costs they would incur in meeting carbon targets; developed countries like the United States would face stricter targets still. The target for the treaty was to cap global emissions at levels believed to keep the global temperature rise this century to two degrees centigrade.

To reach this Valhalla, a political strategy was put in place; it is the strategy that the former vice president is still gamely trying to push in his Rolling Stone article. It has failed.

The idea was to develop and present a scientific case that global warming was happening, that it was caused by human activity, and that its consequences in the near future were so devastating that a binding and effective GGCT (Global Green Carbon Treaty) was the only way out.

Politically, the framers of this approach could count on the support of green movements worldwide, on diplomats and UN officials constantly looking for new missions and new budgets, on anti-capitalist or anti-growth forces who want to slow down or reverse the process of capitalist economic development reshaping the world, on Europeans and others concerned about the rapid rise of Asia and the shift of political power from west to east, and on a group of economic interests and financial market wizards who stood to make hundreds of billions if not trillions of dollars from the massive reorientation of the world economy the green program would require.

To make the case for a proposition like this, one needs to make the following argument: that the cost of inaction is unacceptably high, that the proposed measures are both feasible and effective, and that there are no easier or cheaper methods of accomplishing the goal. This is no special set of high hurdles invented for the purpose of frustrating the greens; it is the basic test that any proposal in any arena must pass.

In the global warming debate, this involves arguing first that the evidence for rapid and destructive climate change is rock solid, second that the global green agenda can be put into place and will work if it is, and third that there are no less costly, less intrusive or more workable alternative policies to the green agenda as it is now understood.

From the beginning, the movement was dogged by what proved to be a fatal flaw. That problem was and is the sheer expense, complexity and unwieldiness of the GGCT. The political goal of the global green movement is so enormously complicated, so economically expensive, so administratively difficult, so dependent on the coordination and cooperation of so many different powerful political interests with radically different agendas that its adoption was extremely unlikely.

Any serious discussion of the merits of the GGCT would be fatal because the more the world reflects on the topic the more the world’s diplomats, policy makers and opinion leaders realize just how utopian and unworkable this “strategy” really is.

The global green treaty movement to outlaw climate change is the most egregious folly to seize the world’s imagination since the Kellog-Briand Pact outlawed war in the late 1920s. The idea that the nations of the earth could agree on an enforceable treaty mandating deep cuts in their output of all greenhouse gasses is absurd. A global treaty to meet Mr. Gore’s policy goals isn’t a treaty: the changes such a treaty requires are so broad and so sweeping that a GGCT is less a treaty than a constitution for global government. Worse, it is a constitution for a global welfare state with trillions of dollars ultimately sent by the taxpayers of rich countries to governments (however feckless, inept, corrupt or tyrannical) in poor ones.

For this treaty to work, China, India, Nigeria and Brazil and scores of other developing countries must in effect accept limits on their economic growth. The United States must commit through treaty to policies that cannot get simple majorities in Congress — like sending billions of dollars in climate aid to countries like Iran, North Korea, Syria and Pakistan, even as we adopt intrusive and expensive energy controls here at home.

The green plan is a plan for a global constitution because the treaty will regulate economic production in every country on earth.

While the surrender of sovereignty required for such a scheme was certain to be fatal, the fact is that the Climatistas failed at the very first hurdle: people simply do not believe that climate change is primarily a function of human behavior.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 28, 2011 3:54 PM
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