Today, U.N. negotiators will begin two weeks of meetings in Cancun, Mexico, looking for a way to move the climate action agenda forward, impose global carbon emissions caps and compel countries to pay a series of new international taxes to underwrite environmental programs. Maybe they’ll get what they want when hell freezes over.
The mood of climate alarmists going into Cancun is decidedly downbeat. The sense of impending doom they had cultivated over the last decade or so has largely evaporated. The Climategate scandal took a severe toll on the credibility of some of the climate theology’s leading high priests, and subsequent investigations into some of the more outlandish claims on which their doomsaying was based found them to be either exaggerated or fabricated. The November demise of the Chicago Climate Exchange - which sought to transfer billions of dollars to political insiders trading in government-rigged carbon markets - signaled that there was no money in the game anymore. Last week, even Al Gore admitted his fallibility when he retracted his earlier support for ethanol fuels. The god bleeds.
Last year’s Copenhagen confab was intended to seal a comprehensive global climate deal but turned into an exercise in humiliation. The imagined 2009 treaty - originally billed as “the single most important piece of paper in the world today” - would have instituted global governance of carbon emissions enforced by an international body with the power to levy taxes to force countries to impose its will. But the final, hastily written three-page agreement contained none of those controversial proposals and was simply a nonbinding statement regarding voluntary emissions caps. The most significant event at last year’s summit was when the leaders of China, India, Brazil and South Africa unceremoniously snubbed President Obama, who was reduced to barging his way into their meeting uninvited. It was a low moment for the president personally, and a poor showing for what is under most circumstances the strongest country in the world.
The principal goal of this year’s meeting seems to be to hang on to the meager gains made in 2009 and to discuss what to do about the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which is set to expire at the end of 2012. The green utopians are up against more immediate problems than their imagined impending climate catastrophe. The debt crisis in Europe will blunt the enthusiasm of countries in the Eurozone to underwrite expensive new international initiatives. China, India, Brazil and South Africa, among others, will be even less willing to agree to cut back growth than they were when they scuttled the Copenhagen deal. The United States delegation will have to accept the fact that whatever schemes they would like to agree to, any treaty language would have to meet the approval of the incoming more conservative Senate, a highly unlikely proposition. Cancun will be dead on arrival.
One benefit of meeting in Mexico is that the conference will avoid the embarrassment last year when the Copenhagen meeting ended in an unexpected blizzard. It’s harder to sell global warming to world leaders who have to flee the city before their flights are grounded by an ice storm. The worst the Cancun conferees will have to deal with is the threat of being kidnapped by heavily armed gangs of drug dealers.