Paris Climate conference: The right way to view it
The Paris climate conference has been viewed by much of the world as an absolutely critical event to save the world from catastrophe. That may be partly self-interest, because it looks like most of the world attended. At any rate, the last conference in Copenhagen, six years ago or something, didn’t produce a comprehensive plan to cool off the earth, so it was time to round up the 200 countries and take another crack.
There are the obvious problems involved; getting 200 nations to agree on anything that directly impacts their ability to govern is pretty much impossible. It takes years to decide where the next Olympics will be, a process that is fraught with politics, bureaucrats, and countless minor obstacles like deciding whose bribes are best. So imagine the nightmare of trying to get agreement amongst the likes of, for example, China, who is building coal fired power plants by the dozen to agree with Germany, who is pulling a blanket of solar cells over itself , is pretty far fetched.
And yet they’ve done it, sort of. An agreement is in place, and while it has holes large enough to drive Brazil through, it is an agreement. The plan is to limit greenhouse gases to what can be absorbed naturally, by trees, plants, fuzzy animals, etc. The goal also is to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees by the turn of the next century. I’m not sure if one trumps the other or what, as with other climate warming doctrines, it’s really hard to figure out what’s smoke and what’s mirror. The timeframe, for instance, is to have things under control “sometime between 2050 and 2100”, which is like making a statement on what you’ll be up to 42 years from next Tuesday.
There is a reason for vagueness; how on earth would you ever get all those countries signing on if everything was crystal clear and enforceable? In order to get this agreement ratified, it had to be a mix of binding and non-binding targets. For example countries agreed that they would start measuring emissions, but with no numbers carved in stone. In sum, just one step this side of pointless.
However, the whole process does bear fruit if looked at in another way. Think of the Paris conference as a means to raise awareness that pollution is bad, efficiency is good, and that maybe we’ve been sleepwalking through our gluttonous usage of cheap energy. The conference and accompanying hoopla will have been worthwhile if people and businesses decide to make their life more efficient, which can have secondary benefits like less stress on strained resources, less fuel being burned, less ecological footprint.
Don’t think of the Paris conference as a boondoggle for bureaucrats and environmentalists (though it certainly was; it was no coincidence the conference wasn’t in South Sudan), think of it as a reminder to turn out the damn lights when you don’t need them.