CHRISTO­PHER BOOKER THE LAST WORD

For all the hot-headed talk of cli­mate change, the world is still build­ing coal-fired power sta­tions

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Back Page -

How beau­ti­fully sym­bolic it was that, when those 22,000 of­fi­cials, politi­cians, green lobby groups and oth­ers de­scended on Ka­tow­ice in Poland last week for the UN’S lat­est mam­moth cli­mate con­fer­ence, they should find its ex­hi­bi­tion cen­tre dec­o­rated with neat stacks of coal, and were greeted by a band from lo­cal col­lieries.

Ka­tow­ice is the cen­tre of Poland’s coal in­dus­try, which pro­vides 82 per cent of all its elec­tric­ity; and, with the back­ing of the Pol­ish gov­ern­ment, the con­fer­ence is jointly spon­sored by lo­cal coal com­pa­nies, of the kind the UN wants to see driven out of busi­ness.

Truly, this con­fer­ence is a tale of two plan­ets. It was opened by Sir David At­ten­bor­ough warn­ing that the world is now fac­ing “a man-made disas­ter of global scale: our great­est threat in thou­sands of years”. Un­less we “act now”, we face “the col­lapse of civil­i­sa­tions, and the ex­tinc­tion of much of the nat­u­ral world”. Ac­cord­ing to At­ten­bor­ough, “the world’s peo­ple have spo­ken”, and the world must re­spond.

The con­fer­ence’s main purpose is to “get back on track” the 2015 Paris Ac­cord, de­signed “to pre­vent world tem­per­a­tures ris­ing more than 1.5C above pre-in­dus­trial lev­els”, by elim­i­nat­ing fos­sil fu­els, and per­suad­ing richer na­tions to pay $100 bil­lion a year into a Green Cli­mate Fund, to bribe “de­vel­op­ing” na­tions, in­clud­ing China and In­dia, to do the same.

As usual in the run-up to such UN gath­er­ings, the cli­mate in­dus­try has again gone into over­drive with all its fa­mil­iar scare sto­ries: van­ish­ing Arc­tic ice, dis­ap­pear­ing co­ral is­lands, “ex­treme weather events” and the rest – all of which, ac­cord­ing to proper sci­en­tific data, are ei­ther not hap­pen­ing as claimed, or are largely ex­plained by nat­u­ral causes as part of the over­all Mod­ern Warm­ing since the world emerged from its Lit­tle Ice Age 200 years ago.

The lat­ter is true of claims that the past four years, co­in­cid­ing with an­other record El Niño, have been “the hottest on record”. But as be­fore af­ter these nat­u­ral events, global tem­per­a­tures have fallen back by 0.4C, nearly half their over­all rise in the past 200 years.

Much more sig­nif­i­cant than this is what is hap­pen­ing in the real world out­side that con­fer­ence cen­tre (turned into a hot­house by lo­cally dug coal). Not only does Pres­i­dent Trump want to pull his coun­try, the world’s sec­ond largest CO2 emit­ter, out of Paris, but now Aus­tralia and Brazil look set to fol­low.

The fact is that, led by China and In­dia, the world’s largest and third largest emit­ters, the rest of the world (out­side the EU) is giv­ing a mighty two fingers to Paris, by con­tin­u­ing to build thou­sands more coal-fired power sta­tions, ex­actly as it de­clared was its in­ten­tion be­fore Paris. As for that Green Cli­mate Fund, it has so far raised only a few bil­lion dol­lars, mostly pledged by Pres­i­dent Obama be­fore his suc­ces­sor turned off the tap.

So, for all those hys­ter­i­cal at­tempts to pre­tend oth­er­wise (led as usual by the BBC, which tries to hide what China and In­dia are re­ally up to), Ka­tow­ice, like Paris, Copen­hagen and other sim­i­lar UN events be­fore it, is just an­other colos­sal act of col­lec­tive wish­ful think­ing. Next year’s re­peat, sched­uled for Brazil, has al­ready been can­celled by that coun­try’s new gov­ern­ment. The one con­so­la­tion from all this dreary and lu­di­crously costly make-be­lieve is that none of it will have the slight­est ef­fect on the world’s cli­mate. My wife re­minded me last week of that poem by John Donne which be­gins “No man is an is­land, en­tire of it­self ”. But how many of us re­mem­ber how it goes on: “Ev­ery man is a piece of the con­ti­nent, part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less”.

That might to some seem ap­pro­pri­ate to our present plight. But, filled with fore­bod­ing, as some of us have in­creas­ingly been over the past two years, I can re­call no words more so than those fa­mously spo­ken to the House of Com­mons in March 1938 by Win­ston Churchill: “I have watched this famous is­land de­scend­ing, in­con­ti­nently, feck­lessly, the stair­way which leads to a dark gulf. It is a fine broad stair­way at the be­gin­ning. But af­ter a bit the car­pet ends. A lit­tle fur­ther on there are only flag­stones, and a lit­tle fur­ther on still, these break be­neath your feet.”

Cer­tainly in re­cent days we have more than ever felt those flag­stones break­ing be­neath our feet. Only the dark gulf re­mains. 2

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The Green Cli­mate Fund has only raised a few bil­lion dol­lars

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