Tag: Climate history

The Climate Treaty That Isn’t

The liberal blogosphere is all aflutter because the US and China have agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions:

China and the United States made common cause on Wednesday against the threat of climate change, staking out an ambitious joint plan to curb carbon emissions as a way to spur nations around the world to make their own cuts in greenhouse gases.

The landmark agreement, jointly announced here by President Obama and President Xi Jinping, includes new targets for carbon emissions reductions by the United States and a first-ever commitment by China to stop its emissions from growing by 2030.

Administration officials said the agreement, which was worked out quietly between the United States and China over nine months and included a letter from Mr. Obama to Mr. Xi proposing a joint approach, could galvanize efforts to negotiate a new global climate agreement by 2015.

A climate deal between China and the United States, the world’s No. 1 and No. 2 carbon polluters, is viewed as essential to concluding a new global accord. Unless Beijing and Washington can resolve their differences, climate experts say, few other countries will agree to mandatory cuts in emissions, and any meaningful worldwide pact will be likely to founder.

Here’s the thing. This agreement means nothing. It’s not a binding treaty (which is why Obama doesn’t have to send it to Congress). Nor does it lock us into any policies. It’s a statement of goals to achieve things that may or may not happen long after both men are out of power. It’s symbolism, plain and simple. And such agreements will always be symbolism because the only way greenhouse gas emissions will ever fall — as they have in the United States — is when the right technology comes along.


China’s 2030 emissions target is set in terms of a date but says nothing about the level at which emissions will peak.

China’s target for primary energy consumption is expressed in terms of “non-fossil fuels”, which means a big increase in nuclear power as well as wind, solar and hydro.

And of course, US has seen its emissions drop 10% below 2005, but this is mainly because of a recession and fracking. The next reduction will be much harder, and likely not coming, as 2013 showed an *increase*, not further decrease

Normally, I would let this sort of stuff slide. But there was a very illuminating statement from Friends of the Earth that came out after this:

“The cuts pledged by President Obama are nowhere near what the US needs to cut if it was serious about preventing runaway climate change. These US voluntary pledges are not legally binding and are not based on science or equity,” said Sara Shaw, Friends of the Earth International Climate Justice and Energy coordinator.

“This agreement deliberately ignores the issue of equity. Industrialised nations, and first of all the world’s largest historical polluter, the US, must urgently make the deepest emission cuts and provide the bulk of the money if countries are to share fairly the responsibility of preventing catastrophic climate change,” she added.

“The good news is that China is taking the fight against climate change ever more seriously and intends to peak its emissions in next 15 years. We urge China and all nations to urgently switch from emissions-causing dirty energy to community-based renewable energy.”

You catch that? Friends of the Earth bashes Obama for pledging a 25% cut in CO2 emissions while praising China — which currently emits 50% more CO2 than the United States — for promising, maybe, to start curbing their emissions in 15 years.

I’m convinced that global warming is real. I’m also convinced that the so-called green organizations see this danger as a vehicle for anti-corporatism, anti-Americanism and anti-capitalism. How else do you explain a green organization praising the world’s biggest polluter?

Ignore the greens. And ignore this agreement. Concentrate on the technology. That’s the real battle.