A green Wood­stock

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Don’t be fooled by the lav­ish me­dia at­ten­tion given to rau­cous antiglob­al­iza­tion types at the 15th Con­fer­ence of the Par­ties to the United Na­tional Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Cli­mate Change in Copen­hagen, Den­mark. I’ve seen only scant traces of that riffraff.

In­stead of Seat­tle 1999 — the site of mas­sive ri­ot­ing at a World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion meet­ing — COP-15 is more like a green Wood­stock. Thou­sands of naive young en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists have come to Copen­hagen to revel in eco-har­mony.

The UNFCCC clas­si­fies par­tic­i­pants to the COP-15 three ways: ob­servers, me­dia and ne­go­tia­tors. Of the three, ob­servers are by far the largest group, and they mostly fit a sim­i­lar pro­file. They are younger than 30, they work in the non­profit sec­tor in the United States or West­ern Europe, and they pas­sion­ately be­lieve the world needs to fight global warm­ing.

Yet ded­i­ca­tion to the cause isn’t the only rea­son they trav­eled to Copen­hagen. They also came for the vibe.

Con­certs are con­stant in the huge tem­po­rary sound­stage erected in city square. At the end of the first week, seem­ingly every­one was ex­cited for the “NGO Party” on Satur­day at Vega, Copen­hagen’s fore­most dis­cotheque. The party flier screamed in bold, “Free En­trance/Con­fer­ence Badge Re­quired!” Ac­cord­ing to the hash ped­dlers in Chris­tiantown, an any­thing-goes com­mune in the north­ern part of the city, busi­ness has been brisk dur­ing the Copen­hagen con­fer­ence.

To be sure, I don’t be­grudge any­one a good time, and I ad­mire th­ese young peo­ple’s pas­sion for their cho­sen cause. My main prob­lem with this gen­er­a­tion green is that not very many of them seem to have thought things through. When en­coun­tered by the nu­ance of a na­tion’s in­ter­est or the com­pro­mise in­her­ent to demo­cratic pol­i­tics, they re­vert to slo­gans and chants. Like most ide­al­ists, they are all too read­ily mugged by re­al­ity.

It is also true that this green corps isn’t in­ter­ested much in in­tel­lec­tual con­sis­tency. Out­side the COP-15 Satur­day night, a vigil marked the end of a march from the Dan­ish Par­lia­ment build­ing. The crowd cheered when a Bri­tish rocker called for a “revo­lu­tion,” and it cheered five min­utes later when an In­dian aca­demic urged sup­port for China’s re­jec­tion of emis­sions tar­gets. Th­ese are mu­tu­ally exclusive ex­hor­ta­tions, mind you.

Gen­er­a­tion green doesn’t rec­og­nize the trade-offs of costs and ben­e­fits. In­deed, they don’t seem to rec­og­nize costs at all. This is likely the fault of politi­cians in West­ern coun­tries. Con­sider Pres­i­dent Obama, who re­fuses to ac­knowl­edge that his re­new­ableen­ergy poli­cies are ex­pen­sive en­ergy poli­cies, for the sim­ple rea­son that re­new­able en­ergy costs more than con­ven­tional en­ergy. In­stead, he trum­pets the cre­ation of green jobs. The pres­i­dent surely knows bet­ter, so he is pre­tend­ing that his en­ergy poli­cies are all gain and no pain. The prob­lem is that the youth are lis­ten­ing, and they be­lieve him.

Per­haps the big­gest in­dict­ment of the young ide­al­ists who de­scended upon Den­mark is the mere fact that they came. Af­ter all, world leaders con­ceded that COP-15 would be a fail­ure a month be­fore it even started. Since 2007, the Copen­hagen cli­mate con­fer­ence was sup­posed to have been the dead­line for a legally bind­ing, mul­ti­lat­eral treaty to fight global warm­ing.

Af­ter two years of in­tense ne­go­ti­a­tions, how­ever, diplo­mats have made ex­actly zero progress in an­swer­ing the al­limpor­tant ques­tion: Who is go­ing to pay the $45 tril­lion that the In­ter­na­tional En­ergy Agency says it would cost to cure the cli­mate of its sup­posed ills? De­vel­oped coun­tries refuse to pay without sig­nif­i­cant par­tic­i­pa­tion from de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, which refuse to pay any­thing. In the face of this diplo­matic grid­lock, world leaders an­nounced at Novem­ber’s Asian Pa­cific Eco­nomic Con­fer­ence Sum­mit that COP-15 would fail to pro­duce a treaty. As such, thou­sands of young peo­ple spewed un­told tons of green­house gases fly­ing to and liv­ing in Copen­hagen for a point­less cli­mate con­fer­ence. The only last­ing im­pact of COP15 will be its huge car­bon foot­print! By par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Copen­hagen cli­mate con­fab, gen­er­a­tion green ex­hibits the same sort of mind­less con­sump­tion that it came to protest.

All the time I’ve been here in Copen­hagen, I have kept think­ing about the op­por­tu­nity cost of gen­er­a­tion green’s quixotic ded­i­ca­tion to “do­ing some­thing” about global warm­ing. What if they cared this much about home­less­ness? Or men­tal ill­ness? Or breast can­cer?

For a decade, tem­per­a­tures on Earth have re­mained the same, but hu­man be­ings still suf­fer much the same as they al­ways have. Gen­er­a­tion green’s pas­sion is com­mend­able. Its pri­or­i­ties, how­ever, are abom­inable.

William Yeat­man is an en­ergy pol­icy an­a­lyst at the Com­pet­i­tive En­ter­prise In­sti­tute and a con­trib­u­tor to Glob­al­warm­ing.org.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.