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COP17: Let’s ban fire

Ivo Vegter is a columnist and the author of Extreme Environment, a book on environmental exaggeration and how it harms emerging economies. He writes on this and many other matters, from the perspective of individual liberty and free markets.

In an amazing case of self-preservation, the thousands of professional worriers at COP17 published a deal of sorts in the hope they wouldn't be written off as lunatics and failures. In short, they agreed not to ban fire.

I read a lot. I’ve read quantum physics, literary theory, advanced mathematics, and the turgid prose of 19th-century economists. I’ve read laws and bills and gazetted regulations. I’ve read Jane Austen, Bertrand Russell, and Winston Churchill. I’ve read the Bible, Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, Friedrich Nietzsche’s Also Sprach Zarathustra, and The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

But never, in all my life, have I read such turgid bureaucratic garbage as the recycled waste paper that emerged from the COP17 beach party in Durban. It’s enough to make even the most dedicated critic of the UN’s eyes glaze over. No doubt this was the intention.

The 10,000 government delegates didn’t agree on much.

In the end, they extended the Kyoto Protocol by another few years. Few countries that signed it were able to meet its targets and of those even fewer could be described as successful economies that had decent records in 1990 against which to compare.

Overall, participating nations’ emissions have continued to rise steadily, despite the treaty supposedly being “legally binding”. Never mind that even if everyone had met its commitments, it would have done absolutely nothing to change the climate, for better or for worse.

Late into overtime, an agreement of sorts was reached at 5:00 on Sunday morning – reportedly badgered through by an EU delegation which said individual clauses weren’t negotiable, and overriding protests from some delegations who quite naturally complained that they didn’t understand the documents.

In effect, the compromise resulted in a solemn promise that some time in the future, after another few luxury sea-and-cocktail cruises, they’ll come up with something more substantial.

The inability to agree on anything of substance was not surprising, given that quite a few of the delegations had been infiltrated by active members of environmental lobby organisations. That means they were lobbying for a legally binding treaty that would tax the life out of what’s left of the global economy and curtail all productive use of energy for development.

Lest you think that my paraphrasing is an exaggeration, have a peek at the draft from 7 December. It contains the intention, in both clauses 17 and 18, to “[r]educe global greenhouse gas emissions more than 100 per cent by 2040”.

Let’s ignore that “more than” 100% is an arithmetic impossibility, and go with 100%. So by 2040, no activity that produced any CO²? at all (or any other greenhouse gas, for that matter) would be legal.

That means until last week, the ecomentalists wanted to ban fire.

Stop. Think about that for a minute. And then tell me these idiots are sane.

If climate sceptics had infiltrated COP17 with the aim of sabotaging it, they’d have thought such an idiotic proposal to be over-the-top.

If, in the absence of fire, eating grasshoppers and moss scrapings gave you gas, you’d risk being hauled before the International Climate Court of Justice, which was another eco-fascist idea that had to be cut out of the final document to reach a “deal”.

Many promises fell by the wayside. One would have granted the wishes of all those beauty queens and pop stars who pine for “world peace”. Clause 81 of the draft would have delivered: “The guarantee that all Parties shall cease destructive activities that contribute to climate change, in particular the activities of warfare, production of materials and services that support warfare, and to divert associated financial resources and investments into the shared global effort to combat a common enemy: climate change.”


In total, 82 pages of this sort of puerile idiocy were ripped out of the document between last week and Sunday, leaving only 56 pages of impenetrable waffle to reinforce a vast and powerful global climate bureaucracy.

The most significant outcome appears to be the establishment of a Green Climate Fund, to be paid for by developed countries, to help developing countries fund mitigation projects – those designed to fail to influence the climate – and adaptation programmes – those that might be needed because mitigation failed.

These programmes are very, very expensive, but who’d put a price on avoiding the apocalyptic horrors promoted by the fire-banning ecomentalists?

Oh wait, they did put a price to it.

It used to be an unspecified amount in the draft document, “equivalent to the budget that developed countries spend on defence, security, and warfare”.  As climate blogger Anthony Watts points out, that would have come to a tidy $1.6-trillion.

The final document shows what a little haggling can do. It reduced this starry-eyed idealism to a mere $100-billion a year.

This is clever advertising. In contrast to trillions, anything is “a compromise”. But to put $100-billion a year in perspective, that is almost 1,000 times what the oil and gas industry spent on lobbying in 2011, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

If the Green Climate Fund were a listed company (and don’t be surprised if one day it becomes one, with the likes of Al Gore, James Hansen, Michael Mann and Kumi Naidoo on its board), its market capitalisation would displace IBM at number 18 on the Fortune 500.

Of course, you can’t fund things with mere market capitalisation. You need the cold, hard cash of profits to tax. And who is more deserving to have their profits taxed away? Oil companies, of course.

Problem is, if you confiscated the profits of all the oil companies in the top 100 of Fortune’s list of America’s biggest companies, you’d fall short of your target by $35-billion.

If you take the total profit of the top 10 companies in the Fortune 500, you still wouldn’t have enough. If you don’t count the loss-making firms, of which there are two on that list (Fannie Mae and Bank of America), you’d need the total profits of Walmart, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, General Electric and Berkshire Hathaway to pay for the Green Climate Fund for one year.

Only one of those companies has indicated it would be okay with having its profits confiscated, and I urge President Obama to do so forthwith and send the money to Africa. (Bank account details of a trustworthy financial facilitator to follow upon receipt of your confidential email.)

Given the scale of wealth redistribution this COP17 lot are after, anyone who says that environmental activism isn’t about the money is clearly on a taxpayer-funded retainer, living it up in Bali, Cancun and Durban.

True, the cash bonanza for developing countries sounds like great news if you live in South Africa, and even better news if you have cosy relationship with the politicians who award the tenders. Who knows, despite the fact that agricultural interests were sidelined, some of the projects may even help with real adaptation to a problem that is as old as the Earth itself: climate changes and weather can kill us.

More likely, however, it is just a bribe to get developing countries to sign on to the draconian global treaty to ban all greenhouse gas emissions – complete with its extra-legal, supra-sovereign court – that the ecomentalists and UN bureaucrats are really after.

And whenever you think you should give the professional party-goers the benefit of the doubt, because they’re just a naïve, well-meaning lot who are speaking their conscience, just remember: they thought it a great idea for modern civilisation to ban fire. DM


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