COP26 Cables: Nothing Is Quite as It Seems in Glasgow

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My Competitive Enterprise Institute colleagues and I are filing brief cables on COP26, the international climate conference being held in Glasgow, Scotland. Below is our second dispatch.

TL;DR — Look beneath the surface, and all is not as it seems. Contentious relations between street activists and official delegates to COP26 are theater. Claims by many countries about emissions reductions don’t stand up to scrutiny.

There is a symbiotic set of relationships just beneath the surface at the COP26 meetings between the delegates’ negotiating targets for implementing Paris climate commitments and the activists’ marching and banging drums in the streetsgiving fire-and-brimstone interviews on TV, and generally taking any opportunity they can get to criticize the delegates for doing too little, too late. The mutually reinforcing and necessary relationship between activists and delegates is not obvious on first look, yet it is key to understanding the proceedings.

The official delegations rely on the activist protesters to help create the political conditions necessary for the introduction of ever more centralized programs to “fix” the problems of climate change.

The politicians in charge serve as a useful foil. They are the object of most of the fury, not least because is it easier to rail against them than against society as a whole or against modern conveniences such as electricity, refrigeration, and mobility. For their part, the politicians are dependent on this fury and pressure, which helps them to institute policies that everyone at COP26 understands — as much they may refuse to admit it — will exact painful costs on the people they represent. All is not what it appears on the news. The protesters, while putting on a fierce face, are ultimately dependent on the delegates to deliver the policy concessions they demand. The delegates depend on the passion and increasingly shrill demands of the protesters to move their reluctant colleagues toward the agreement they seek.

Today’s Headline

While British papers are focused on allegations of sleaze surrounding the Johnson government, a team of six reporters at the Washington Post broke the story revealing the climate scandal of the COP26 conference: Self-reported emissions data tend to be wildly off-the-mark for many countries, and not in a good way. The key lines: “At the low end, the gap [between reported and actual emissions reductions] is larger than the yearly emissions of the United States. At the high end, it approaches the emissions of China and comprises 23 percent of humanity’s total contribution to the planet’s warming,” the Post found. Things are not always as they seem.

What You Won’t Read in the Next Day’s Papers

Former President Obama made an appearance on Monday and spoke to a plenary session as a “private citizen.” He said, “The most important energy for this moment is coming from young people,” before sharing some advice that his mother used to give him. “Don’t sulk. Get busy. Get to work, and change what needs to change.” Perhaps start with permitting for new nuclear-power plants, which are safer than traditional power plants and (once constructed) have minimal carbon footprints. Better still — and most important — unlike other “zero carbon” energy sources, they have the capacity to power the grid without delay.

Today’s Takeaway for Free-Marketers

Frédéric Bastiat made famous the notion of the seen and the unseen. A broken window may be good for the glazier, but it is bad for the shopkeeper and a net social loss. America’s greatest living economics teacher, Thomas Sowell, wrote a book about the distinction between a person’s intentions and the actual outcomes of the policies that he promotes. Last month the Nobel Prize for Physics was awarded to Suki Manabe “for the physical modeling of the earth’s climate, quantifying variability, and reliably predicting global warming.” Manabe’s work is among dozens of models aggregated by the U.S. Department of Energy that are incorporated into the scientific assessments of climate change produced by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. These are the reports that inform the COP meetings. Unfortunately, it has been shown in peer-reviewed literature that the direct descendants of Manabe’s models perform the worst when compared with actual observations over the earth’s tropics, a critical data point. Again, things are not always as they seem.

Read the full article at National Review.