The environmental lobby gradually succeeds in promoting "the environment" to the "Golden Calf" of the 21st century. Rationality and sense of proportion have vanished from the environmental debate. Whoever questions Al Gore's climate alarmism gets labeled as "negationist" worse even than Holocaust deniers. Even human rights, democracy and prosperity give way to the new idolatry.
Recent research however learns how much the climate alarmists exaggerate “global warming” an its effects. Anti-globalist motives seem to dominate the Copenhagen Climate Conference rather than environmental concerns. This hidden agenda is likely to distort global trade and inflict development and the environment far more bad than good.
Misleading Climate Alarmism
There is growing controversy about the causes and the Kyoto approach to "Global Warming". Growing numbers of scientists affirm that human activity has but a limited impact on the climate. Climatologists increasingly link global warming to natural processes and particularly to increased solar radiation, which passed its peak since 1998. Human activity accounts for barely 4% of the total CO2 emissions, natural processes and volcanoes for all the rest. The greenhouse effect of water vapor is even 900 times larger. As reduction of human activity proves extremely difficult and the proportion of human CO2 in the greenhouse effect so low, climate realists argue that the climate plan can produce minimal effects only and at a very high cost.
Leading scientists of the Copenhagen Consensus Centre including five Nobel prize laureates agree that Al Gore’s scenario’s featuring drowning polar bears and 6 meter rising sea levels are wild exaggerations. Even the UN’s ownIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates the potential rise of sea levels at one foot only. Al’ Gore’s arguments and calculations are one sided and misleading. The alarming death toll from killer heatwaves disregards lives saved due to the reduction of far deadlier cold waves. The fact is that during the Middle Ages man and nature survived higher temperatures than today’s worst case scenario remarkably well. The warm climate allowed even for increased food production and prosperity. Sea levels did not rise notably then nor did polar bears extinct, so we need not fear such imaginary catastrophes now.
Bjorn Lomborg and the Copenhagen Consensus Group argue that the UN Kyoto-style reduction sheme as it is conceived today is the most costly and most ineffective way to reduce emissions while it will have minute effect. Other research and development programs provide a much larger contribution to the environment and human development at a fraction of the cost. They fear that the UN climate plan will crowd out most other programs from the agenda and from development budgets and that even health care programs which are 200 times more efficient in saving human life are at risk.
Inefficient use of development budgets is therefore not only wasteful but even immoral. One single water pump at the cost of a couple of solar panels can spare hundreds of Sahel women the daily journey to the source and prevent infections and lives. A mini-investment in mosquito nets can save thousands of malaria lives. Lomborg worries that Al Gore's populist propaganda conceals the overall development picture. He calls for a global consensus on a list of priorities on basis of rationality founded on risk and cost / benefit analysis which are totally lacking in the climate debate at present.
Protectionism and Distortion of World Trade
The UN climate plan as it is conceived now would have devastating effects on World Trade. The aim of the climate round is to reduce CO2 emissions through a“Cap-and-Trade” scheme whereby government sets a total limit on greenhouse gas emissions and arbitrarily distribute allowances through exemptions and auctions. Developing countries, including countries like China, India, Brazil and even the oil states of the Middle East, would largely be exempted from the obligations. As an excuse for their exemption The UN plan introduced the deceptive concept of “climate debt” thereby improperly incriminating industrial nations for their very existence and disregarding the benefits of their environmental expertise for the world at large.
As a consequence the cost of CO2 reduction will weigh on manufacturing costs of industrial nations only. As these nations use the least polluting production processes, the UN climate plan creates the contra productive incentive to misuse budgets on sophisticating technologies with the least marginal CO2 reduction potential. The plan also gives business new incentives to outsource production to countries with low environmental standards, with contra productive ecological effects.
The decoupling of production costs from the market reality leads to distortions of world trade, particularly so in Europe where also Eastern European transition economies acquired vast exemptions. The distorting protectionism related to the climate agenda is likely to paralyze world trade just as it did during the thirties. Rather than protectionism it is free trade that can provide the answer to the global challenge. It is free trade that allows countries to benefit reciprocally of thecomparative advantages of other countries, particularly so in the field of environment and ecological expertise. The biggest victims of a shrinking world trade would therefore be the climate itself and developing countries with the most vulnerable economies. But even industrial countries cannot afford a contraction of the world trade at a moment when growth is indispensable for economic recovery, for the sustainable funding of their welfare states and development of new technology.
The fallacy of the environmentalists is to assume a linear relationship between growth and emission levels. This belief is erroneous as per capita emissions prove to decline as income grows. It is growth that allows for the technological advancement, and such progress contributes to the cutback of emissions much more efficiently than reduction of human activity. Only sustained growth is capable of assuring the growing world population a dignified existence such as guaranteed in human rights treaties. A protectionist return to a pastoral past provide no prospects whatsoever in that direction.
Market Oriented Alternative
State monopoly on the supply of the virtual but obligatory raw material of emissions allowances has a triple risk; scarcity, distortional allocation and high price volatility. Because the UN scheme collects CO2 taxes (which are eventually passed on to consumers) untransparently through business, politicians are likely to regard this unseen taxation as an inexhaustible source of income and make CO2 allowances as scarce and expensive as they wish. Just as artificial scarcity of building permits already inflated prices of residential building land to an unsustainable bubble.
Under the UN Cap-and-trade sheme, the price of CO2 allowances would become the plaything of political caprice and unpredictable compromises. Prior knowledge of the political decisions and favoritism for privileged sectors or constituencies is likely to degenerate the emissions trade into a swindle. Under the European emissions scheme CO2 carousels already turned European Emissions trading into a pricey debacle.
National governments can just as well raise existing national taxes on fossil fuels and achieve the same emission deterring effect without the expensive and fraud-sensitive UN bureaucracy. The administrative cost of such tax increase is zero, while a shift of the tax burden from income to consumption restores the incentives to productive behavior and stimulates the economy, in the meantime avoiding distortions of the world trade.
The advantage of a national eco-tax is that all the income thereof remains national. Unlike the UN Cap-and-Trade allocations scheme under which governments arbitrarily attribute emission allowances, such pigovian tax is directly proportional to the emissions. It therefore gives incentives to direct efforts and research to projects with the best CO2 reduction potential. Under free market conditions competition continually obliges entrepreneurs to weigh costs against potential gains. When governments engage in the central planning of emissions reduction, political motives come into play. Demands from special interest groups, from the environmental industry or green lobbyists, all invariably distorting the economical allocation of resources and leading to wastage. The examples are common: although solar panels in northern countries have by far the lowest energy yield per invested Dollar, the eco-industrial complex engrossed the lion's share of Europe’s eco-budgets. Demands from the agricultural lobby originate subsidized bio-fuel projects with catastrophic consequences for the global food production.
Behind the Copenhagen Climate Conference hides an agenda of global dirigisme aimed at withdrawing policy maneuver from national sovereignty. Self feeding supranational organizations escaping democratic control such as the UN World Climate Organization, OECD, G20 with increasing arrogance push their dirigist agendas aimed at global control over national policy. The incriminating OECD list of “tax shelters” was the most brutal example. The question should be answered where this incestuous circle of supranational organizations (and the present generation of politicians) got the democratic legitimacy to decide fiscal policy of future generations and imposing them new taxes for decades in advance. The Copenhagen Climate Round is a dangerous step towards a fascistoid "New World Order". The arbitrary Cap-and-Trade Scheme brings into the specter a dangerous World Government under UN dictate.