December 21, 2009
Global Warming's Forlorn HopeBy J.R. Dunn
Back in the days when war was a form of romance, there was a tactic called the "forlorn hope." When an army reached the end of its string while laying siege to a fortress or walled city, a single unit of several hundred men would be selected for a final attempt at overcoming the walls. Artillery would fire one last series of rounds to make a breach, and the forlorn hope would make its mad dash toward the walls, to try to overcome by muscle and will what months of patient strategy had failed to do. As for the level of success...
Well, the name says it all. While a small proportion of such attempts succeeded, most forlorn hopes wound up being annihilated, after which the besieging army would pack up and seek a softer target.
Copenhagen was the Green left's forlorn hope, their last chance at breaching the wall of public suspicion and stubbornness to impose environmentalism as a governing system through the threat of global warming. Within those walls lay the promise of lifetime sinecure positions, total social control, absolute power, and unlimited free money. One final push, one blind rush up the ladders, and it would be theirs. They had all the big artillery -- the legacy media, "science," the U.N., the international NGO bureaucracy -- on their side. The walls had already been deeply breached. How could they possibly fail?
But they did fail. What's that, you say? They have an agreement! So they do: an agreement that has brought about the loudest keening and caterwauling from the environmental aristocracy that we've heard in quite some time. This "accord," as it's being termed, is not quite what the Greens ordered. Before looking closer, we'll consider what Copenhagen was supposed to produce.
Now how much of this did they get? None of it, really. What they got was a nonbinding agreement stating that further discussion and negotiation will take place at some time or other. The Copenhagen accord requires all signatory countries to "list" actions taken to cut CO2 emissions. It asks these states to think very hard about limiting the global temperature rise to 2 degrees Centigrade. It promises at least $30 billion -- and maybe more -- to poor countries to aid in the warming struggle, without any clear notion as to where this money will be coming from.
That, pretty much in toto, is the document that Barack Obama, who scuttled away to Air Force One before the signing occurred, calls an "unprecedented breakthrough." Years of planning, two weeks of effort, over 35,000 delegates, 193 countries represented, a carbon footprint equal to that of the state of Texas (or alternately, Al Gore's Tennessee mansion), and here's our breakthrough. The whimper that ends the AGW story.
Don't get me wrong -- we haven't heard the last of it by any means. There will be no end of chatter concerning climate change, rising temperatures and seas, and threatened species, particularly over the next few weeks and months. We will be told that something is bothering the coral. That the Madagascar Fringed Weevil is suffering from heat prostration. That ice is melting in the summer. That the oil companies don't want Phil Jones to get his job back. But it will all be echo, not even amounting to sound and fury, no more than a faint susurrus slowly fading to unintelligibility
As any conman can tell you, you get one opportunity to talk your way into the bank vault. You can't flub it and then try again next week. The Greens had their chance, and they fumbled it, and it is gone. Al Gore may speak hopefully about the July meeting in Mexico City. He won't be lonely there -- with talk of billions in the air, plenty of delegates will show up, at least from the undeveloped zone. (Among them will certainly be Lumumba Di-Aping, who accused the West of utilizing the agreement to carry out a Holocaust against Africans, debuting a new corollary to Godwin's Law: anybody who attempts to aid his cause by degrading the Holocaust has already lost. We'll pause here to mention -- since nobody else has seen fit to -- that Di-Aping was the delegate from Sudan, which has been engaged in genocide in Darfur for a good dozen years now.) But the money is all they'll be willing to talk about. AGW will be a secondary issue at best from here on out.
We have a number of factors to thank for this outcome. The East Anglia CRU e-mails, in which Phil Jones and company revealed to the world exactly how to load the temperature dice, played a huge role. The brave whistle-blower responsible certainly deserves whatever prize is created to replace the Nobel. The Russians, who politely waited until the Copenhagen proceedings reached a crescendo before revealing that the British Meteorological Office's Hadley Centre had been for years misstating the temperature readings from Russia's vast network of weather stations, also rank high on the list of people to thank. With that revelation, the carpet has been well and truly pulled out from beneath the discipline of climatology. Not a single major institution in either Europe or the U.S. remains untouched by scandal. Climatology is now an empty shell, and it will have to be rebuilt from the ground up.
But the true killer, the real silver bullet, was fired by whoever got the brilliant idea of using AGW as yet another means of holding up the West. That's what put warming to sleep -- one from which it is never going to awaken.
In the old days, barbarians would simply leap into a longboat or mount a shaggy pony, make their way to civilized lands, and loot to their heart's content. Today, they have been reduced to going to the U.N. to whine with their hands held out. The decision to introduce the possibility of Western industrial states funding anti-warming efforts in the Third World turned the entire AGW campaign into another whimper-and-loot raid. Now that AGW has been connected with such figures as Hugo Chavez, Robert Mugabe, and Evo "Bagel Hat" Morales, it is doubtful that the movement will ever shake them off. Just as the e-mails assure that it will always be associated with fakery, so Copenhagen has sealed the link between AGW and attempts to extort danegeld on behalf of the world's tramp leaders.
As for serious world leaders -- for our purposes defined as those whose countries pay their own bills -- they didn't even bother to wait for their pictures to be taken. When's the last time a roomful of politicians failed to do that? No further evidence is needed to demonstrate that all sense of expectation has fled the AGW movement. It is dead in the water, and requires only a final torpedo to send it to rest.
It won't get one. AGW remains useful in a limited sense and in a number of quarters. Warming will become one of those eternal grievances endlessly discussed at the U.N. Al will continue to sell carbon indulgences -- he needs enough loose cash to put up his own space station so he can get away from the courts and Interpol. The grants engine will continue to funnel money to researchers engaged in rapt study of a phenomenon that for all practical purposes exists in theory, but not in reality.
For the rest of us, AGW will simply become one of those weird things that people used to get caught up in, like flagpole sitting, hula hoops, or more to the point, the Dutch Tulip Craze of 1636-37, in which the entire Dutch nation went utterly mad for tulip bulbs, selling them back and forth to each other for astonishing sums, until the bottom inevitably fell out, leaving Holland in a deep depression with millions of tulip bulbs cluttering the landscape.
We have not progressed much in 370 years. It's a sobering thought in a world featuring nuclear weapons and looking forward to the prospect of synthetic biology, nanotechnology, and similar treats. It would be a smart move for someone to set aside a little AGW grant money to study this class of phenomenon. After all, it doesn't seem to take much to trigger one of these chiliastic crazes. All you need is a threat that is:
...not to overlook the money you can make off it. There's some big money there, as Tennessee Al can tell you. So human nature being what it is, the next doomsday campaign will be upon us soon enough. Climate's been used twice in the last forty years and is pretty much worn out. But biology's always good, particularly when you throw in genetic engineering. I'd vote for something scary involving microbes. What do you think?
J.R. Dunn is consulting editor of American Thinker.