Three weeks ago, President Joe Biden declared that “in our bones we know democracy is at risk.” He attributed the threat to Trump acolytes “running for every level of office in America.” Well, no mayhem ensued after November 8.
However, a bigger threat that probably few heard of did arise soon after. On November 6, 2022, the world’s elite once again gathered at the 27th annual United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP27). This time, the conference’s focus was on methods by which the 197 participating countries, including the U.S., should implement the ambitious UN-prescribed climate action plan.
And therein lies the threat to U.S. democracy.
Delegates to the COP27 gathering implicitly agreed to accept the prescribed science behind the climate action plan, identify and remove barriers to implementation of the plan, require changes in corporate behavior to advance the plan, and compel changes in investment to finance the plan. Specific examples were given during the conference:
* Climate science is what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) prescribes based on its research.
* Barriers to implementation of the climate action plan include oil and gas industry lobbying, dominant modes of transportation, and counties without sufficient capital.
* Corporate behavior in need of change include compensation based on production rather than climate action, lack of specific means of accountability for lack of climate action, resistance to a universal repository for listing specific corporate advances in climate action, and the mere existence of fossil fuel industries.
* Investment needs to move away from fossil fuels and into renewable energy. Developed nations need to pay into a fund designed to assist climate action by less developed nations. Financial institutions need to reduce barriers to financing climate action, such as interest rates or development plan characteristics.
Most of the action points above cannot be binding but are implicitly accepted by delegates. The more explicit point is the establishment of a fund to help poorer nations deal with the costs of climate-induced disasters. At COP27, there was agreement to establish the UN Loss and Damage Fund, details of which will be worked out next year.
Why is this seemingly intelligent climate action plan a threat to U.S. democracy?
The COP27, regardless of any sincere and worthy intentions of participants, is nevertheless a body not chosen by or even widely known to U.S. voters. The bedrock of democracy is the vote of the people. Through their vote on candidates and issues, voters express what they want their country to be.
Since the birth of the United Nations, concerned individuals have expressed uneasiness. We the people do not chose the delegates we send to UN conferences, we do not choose the issues the conferences discuss, we do not have any say on what our delegates commit us to do. We can vote on proposals on our ballots but may or may not readily associate them with UN pledges.
Concern in some circles extend even deeper.
A threat to our political structure – call it democracy or representative republic – for the sake of saving us from climate disaster is bad enough. However, a threat disguised as climate action for the sake of ideology is worse.
Here are a couple of interesting excerpts from recent publications:
* The Lew Rockwell blog on November 2, 2022, published a piece by Thomas DiLorenzo that well encapsulates some people’s concern about the relentless talk of climate action. DiLorenzo says,
Years ago my friend the late Murray Weidenbaum, the chairman of President Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisors, told a story of how he had a conversation with Barry Commoner, one of the founding fathers of the modern enviro-commie movement. (I believe they both taught at Washington University in St. Louis). Weidenbaum said to him (paraphrasing from memory): You guys are against oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear power. Without energy, you cannot have a capitalist market economy.
Commoner’s response was to sit back and smile. Weidenbaum told me that he interpreted Commoner’s expression as saying “exactly right.“
* Greta Thunberg, the high-profile teen climate activist, attended a Southbank Center event to promote her new collection of essays, The Climate Book. During her speech and subsequent interview with journalist Samira Ahmed, Ms. Thunberg stated that it is too late for individual action, and saving the planet now requires system-wide transformation.
We need to change everything because right now our current system is on a collision course with the future of humanity and the future of our civilization.
[the current system is] “defined by colonialism, imperialism, oppression and genocide by the so-called global North to accumulate wealth that still shapes our current world order.
As an aside it is useful to note that Greta Thunberg is aware that changes are unlikely without people’s (supposedly including voters’) demand for such changes. She made that point several times during her interview with Samira Ahmed. Whether COP27 participants were equally cognizant, is not clear.
Additional concerns regarding ideology include a perception of bias.
Bias is an unavoidable feature of the human mind. Sometimes it is unintentional and unperceived, and at times it is intentionally baked into ideologies.
Right-leaning ideologues tend to dismiss the negative impacts of carbon dioxide and/or ignore the association between the rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the rise of industrialization. Left-leaning ideologues tend to blame climate change for events that could be ascribed to other causes (residential encroachment into fire zones during the last decade as contributors to forest fires, for example), and tend to limit themselves to prescribed remedies.
At present, left-leaning ideologies have the upper hand on matters of climate change.
Left-leaning bias focuses on elimination of fossil fuels. But the plan lacks sufficient focus on the thousands of products derived from fossil fuels. Lots of talk there is about wind turbines, solar panels, and electric vehicles; but not much talk about effectively replacing polyester clothing, PVC pipes, nylon ropes, plastic toys, or small appliance casings.
Also, left-leaning bias ignores the harm derived from disposal of the large energy-storage batteries required in renewable energies and electric vehicles. It is hard to tell percentage of components that are recycled, although some say 5%. The rest is buried and left to sip into soil and waterways.
Left-leaning bias against capitalism and its profit motive fails to acknowledge that government cannot produce capital. People (including those that work or invest in corporations) produce capital from the profits they make. Focusing on climate action instead of profits will reduce capital. That is fine, as long as we all agree that climate action is more important than the standard of living to which some of us have grown accustomed.
Faced with the conundrums listed above, do we simply do nothing?
Doing nothing about the documented acceleration in the level of global warming since the start of the industrial revolution is not a wise choice. However, neither is risking democracy – which we keep claiming is so important to us – for a promise of safety from anticipated climate disasters.
That is not to say that people who are willing to exchange democracy for a promise of safety should be prevented from seeking that option. They must be free to do so if democracy is to be upheld!
Those who prefer democracy need to be free to choose that preference as well, which is not something by which climate activists like Greta Thunberg abide, or which our “official” climate experts want to allow. And, by the way, who are these official experts?
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was created in 1988 to provide policymakers with regular scientific risk assessment on climate change, formulate options for adaptation and mitigation, and determine the state of knowledge on climate change. In other words, the IPCC is the poo-bah of climate science. Suggest other scientific avenues, and risk accusation of spreading misinformation.
But there should be competition with the IPCC
Elon Musk, who seems to be rapidly catching up with former president Donald Trump as the Left’s most prominent thorn, on February of 2021 funded through his foundation a four-year global competition to award innovators that demonstrate ways to pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or oceans and sequester it durably and sustainably. The idea is not only to fund work on carbon sequestration, but also to incite other investors.
It took NASA only 10 years to figure how to put a man on the Moon and safely bring him back to Earth. It has been 57 years since the first climate conference in 1979 (Geneva, February 12-23, 1979), and according to COP27 participants, global warming is still taking place, disasters are increasing, and not much has been put in place to reverse the trend.
COP27 participants and experts are correct in their assertion it is time for structural changes. However, given the UN’s 57-year failure to bend the curve of global warming, perhaps such changes could include giving up on the UN and focusing more on hyping the work NASA has done on carbon conversion and sequestration, and the awards EPA has established for credible sustainable methods of reducing and sequestering carbon.
If U.S. voters wish to help poor regions with mitigation of disasters due to climate change, voters can choose candidates that promise to do so. Primary focus, however, should be on developing cost-effective technology that nations poorer or richer can use if they choose to do so to curb emissions and sequester carbon dioxide already present in the atmosphere.
Pictured: YouTube excerpt of COP27 Recommendations of Expert Group on Net-Zero Commitments of Non-state Entities. Non-state entities include private businesses, agencies and financial institutions. The panel of experts recommended guidelines for explicit, required, equitable and just actions. It also recommended transparency via a central repository where progress could be viewed and evaluated.