World leaders will meet in Paris in the coming weeks to negotiate a global agreement on carbon emissions, but there are seven good reasons to believe the talks will fail.
The 21st United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21) is supposed to achieve a universal agreement on CO2 emissions in an attempt to limit the temperature increases from global warming to only 2° Celsius by 2100.
Environmentalists have put a lot of hope into the upcoming negotiations, as exemplified by a recent article listing the top 6 reasons the negotiations will be successful on Al Gore’s Climate Reality.
So here are the top seven reasons the 21st Conference of the Parties is likely doomed.
1: India and China Still Won’t Get On Board And Any Agreement Is Pointless Without Them
Mathematically, CO2 reduction plans are futile without global participation. China is, by far, the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide and has been since 2006. India has long accounted for the largest share of global emissions growth. According to a 2014 study by the European Union, China emits 29 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide while the U.S. is only responsible for 15 percent of the world’s emissions.
China only agreed to stop increasing its emissions footprint by 2030. Even the deal’s supporters agree that it alone is “very unlikely to keep future warming below 2 [degrees] Celsius”, the benchmark beyond which they say climate change will be “dangerous.” China is planning to build one new coal plant every two days, meaning its previous commitment to capping emissions is unlikely to actually occur.
Under its proposed Paris commitments, India can triple its CO2 emissions by 2030. Even with that, India has expressed disappointment in the draft text of the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris with its climate change minister saying he was “not at all happy” with the draft for reasons of “equity.” The country has made it clear that emissions reductions will only happen if India receives substantial assistance from Western countries, equivalent to $2.5 trillion over the next 15 years in direct aid, grants, and cheap financing.
An estimated 400 million Indians, 31 percent of the population, lack access to electricity so the country is reluctant to adopt any policy which could slow down growth.
2: Solar And Wind Power Still Don’t Work Well
Solar and wind power would require an estimated $90 trillion of energy investment to make a substantial impact on global warming according to the International Energy Agency.
Solar or wind power plants don’t work effectively because the amount of power they provide changes over time and generally doesn’t coincide with peak generation times. Peak power demand tends to occur in the evenings when solar power is going offline. Since power is nearly impossible to store economically, plants which only provide power at intermittent and unpredictable times makes the power grid more fragile.
3: Previous Summits With Just As Much Hype Failed
During a previous round of climate talks in 2009 at Copenhagen President Barack Obama made an enthusiastic appearance at the conference in an attempt to show just how serious the United States was about getting a treaty. The Copenhagen conference failed. The Kyoto Protocol, a previous summit which actually came to a meaningful agreement, also failed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
“You have to judge Kyoto to have been a failure. Just on the merits of what was done as a result of the agreement and countries not actually living up to their commitments or staying with the agreement,” said Kenneth P. Green, an environmental scientist at the Fraser Institute in an interview with the National Post.
4: Natural Gas Prices Are Very Low Globally
Natural gas prices are incredibly low in both the United State and around the world, making it much more difficult for “green” power to become cost competitive. That makes environmentalists’ hopes that COP21 will cause massive green energy growth extremely unlikely. Low gas prices make “green” power a much less attractive option. Natural gas is already passing coal power as the most used source of electricity.
“The transition from coal to natural gas for electricity generation has probably been the single largest contributor to the … largely unexpected decline in US CO2 emissions,” according to analysis by the research organization Berkeley Earth and the Department of Energy.
5: No Additional Agreements Are Likely
With opposition from developing countries and no clear agenda, the Paris conference is unlikely to achieve a substantive agreement.
“There is not really a whole lot substantive to talk about in Paris,” said Chip Knappenberger, a scientist and energy policy expert at the libertarian Cato Institute, in a previous conversation with The Daily Caller News Foundation. “There will not be a binding agreement on countries’ emissions targets, and not a binding agreement on the green climate fund.”
“The writing is already on the wall — the climate agreement in Paris will be ineffective, at best,” Knappenberger said. “It’ll be interesting to see how this will be handled by the spinners.”
6: Countries Aren’t Sure What They’re Negotiating
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has stated that the Paris climate change talks will not deliver a “treaty” that legally requires countries to cut carbon dioxide emissions. However, European Union has asserted that the deal will be a legally binding treaty, contradicting Kerry’s direct statements.
E.U. officials acknowledge the Obama administration wants a deal that contains no legally-binding measures, because this would strengthen legal arguments that the agreement needs the approval from a hostile U.S. Senate, which must ratify all treaties.
7: Reducing CO2 Emissions Enough To Combat Global Warming Is Really Expensive
The cost of reducing carbon dioxide emissions is incredibly high, comparable to the cost of fighting a major war. A fully-implemented version of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan would cost consumers and businesses a staggering $41 billion or so annually. That’s comparable to the $40 billion or so the U.S. spent on fighting the Iraq war annually.
Yet according to analysis by the Cato Institute using models created by the Environmental Protection Agency, all that spending will only advert only 0.019° Celsius of warming by the year 2100 — an amount so small that it couldn’t be detected.
Attempts to reduce the emissions of developing economies have proven very ineffective, as they are inevitably costly and impact economic growth.
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