- - Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Abody doesn’t need an advanced academic degree to practice common sense. That’s why working folks who carry the nation on their backs have grasped the limits of the renewable energy revolution more quickly than those enthralled with the promise of a fossil-fuel-free future.

The United Nations’ 24th annual climate-change conference concluded the other day in Poland, where the 196 signatory nations squabbled over the details of a rulebook meant to referee the arguments over the effects of greenhouse gases released by human activity. In the end, agreements for reducing carbon emissions and raising money were reached, but only sort of. Compliance with climate-change rules is to be voluntary, and it’s hardly surprising that some participants — Saudi Arabia, Russia, Kuwait and the United States among them — have been well aware that some rules are meant to be broken.

President Trump took a look at terms of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2017 and withdrew U.S. participation. Since then, the U.N. campaign to shift energy use from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy, like sun and wind, have lost political support. The Green Climate Fund, set up to collect reparations from developed nations to pay for clean energy projects in underdeveloped countries, is falling far short of its goal of collecting $100 billion per year by 2020.

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The global body’s climate lobby had counted on China as the leader of the renewable energy revolution, but the Beijing government is equivocating. “The Road from Paris: China’s Climate U-Turn,” a white paper published by the British-based Global Warming Policy Foundation, says a year after the U.S. pullout from the 2015 climate agreement China has gone its own way. “China’s energy policy is focused on the Communist Party’s two primary domestic needs, securing the energy to fuel China’s economy and reducing the smog that undermines public confidence in the party. Failure to accomplish those two goals would represent an existential threat to the party.”

Although China has invested heavily in renewal energy projects, wind still only supplies 2.7 percent of the nation’s energy needs and solar energy even less, at 0.5 percent. While the Chinese have labored to clean their dirty skies by bringing more natural gas plants online, their primary source of power necessarily remains affordable coal. Who can blame Chinese leaders — or President Trump — for giving precedence to the needs of their nations?

Some signatory nations are witnessing social unrest over policies that saddle working families with the extra costs of going green. France has become the canary in the coal mine. A month of riots that paralyzed France’s political, economic and cultural capital forced President Emmanual Macron to rescind a tax that drove gasoline prices above $7 a gallon. Mr. Trump, who was scorned when he nixed the climate deal last year, now appears to be the needed prophet to warn against the consequences of forcing working families to dig deep to pay for expensive alternative sources of energy.

Across the Channel, Britons monitoring the Poland climate-change summit have seen more of the same policy misfeasance that has driven their own Climate Change Act over its 10-year duration. The law was meant to steer a transition to clean energy by mandating an 80 percent reduction in British greenhouse gases by the year 2050. The transition to renewables has succeeded, after a fashion, reducing the nation’s total carbon-dioxide emissions by 38 percent of 1990 levels. This has, by some reckoning, left somewhere between 10 percent and 17 percent of households in poverty. It’s sad when some households must spend more than 10 percent of their income just to keep the heat and the lights on.

Even in California, where they’re ever on the scout for a new trend, 200 civil rights leaders representing working-class residents are suing the state over the consequences of its climate-change policies. Californians pay heavy taxes for their Air Resources Board to fight smog by exercising strict control over automobile emissions and other sources of air pollution. Residents of tony Bel Air can afford to pay a dollar more than the national average for a gallon of gasoline, but for residents of Van Nuys, for example, it’s not so easy. Neither rich nor poor are spared the danger from choking smoke of wildfires each fall that lay waste to their state’s expensive clean air initiatives. Throwing out the foolish rulebook and unleashing human innovation is the way to get to a bright future.

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