Apart from the Middle East, there can have been few more depressing places to be in the world last Tuesday than the UN General Assembly in New York, where an endless queue of world leaders, including Barack Obama and David Cameron, treated an increasingly soporific audience to leaden little appeals for humanity to take urgent action to halt global warming.
The purpose of this special meeting, summoned by that dim little nonentity Ban Ki-moon, was to issue a desperate last-minute call for a legally binding treaty in Paris next year, whereby they would all agree to save the planet through an 80 per cent cut in those CO₂ emissions, which are inseparable from almost all the activities of modern civilisation.
For days the usual cheerleaders, such as the BBC and Channel 4 News, had been beating the drum for this “historic” and “important” gathering. Hundreds of thousands of activists from all over the world, joined by Mr Ban in a baseball cap, on Sunday brought the streets of New York to a halt.
When the great day came, The Guardian published a 43-page running blog, reporting all the speeches from the likes of some Bosnian telling us that his country has had more rain this year than in any for more than a century (did global warming really start that long ago?). The President of Kiribati said, “I’ve been talking about climate change so long I’ve lost my voice”, although he was still somehow able to explain that his tiny island nation in the middle of the Pacific is sinking beneath the waves, despite satellite studies showing that sea levels in the area have actually been falling.
As one speaker after another overran their allotted four minutes, even The Guardian could not hide the fact that no one had anything new or interesting to say. “The most powerful speech” apparently came from Leonardo DiCaprio, which recalled a claim made more than 20 years ago by that other Hollywood star, Robert Redford, when he said, on global warming, that it was “time to stop researching and to start acting”. This prompted Richard Lindzen, the physicist and climate-change sceptic, to observe wryly that it seemed “a reasonable suggestion for an actor to make”.
The biggest excitement of the day was the news flash from England that a gaggle of Greenpeace activists had hijacked a train carrying coal to a Nottinghamshire power station. Part of the meeting’s purpose was to demand that the world’s richer nations must honour their pledge at Cancún in 2010 to contribute $100 billion a year to help poorer countries combat climate change. When The Guardian’s blog totted up the cash promised – and despite $5 million pledged by Luxembourg – there was nothing from Obama or Cameron.
Most notably absent among the 120 “heads of government” present were those from China and India, two of the biggest CO₂ emitters in the world. And, of course, this conveyed precisely why Mr Ban’s shindig was as much an empty charade as that far greater fiasco in Copenhagen in 2009, when it became evident that there will never be a global treaty, because the world’s fastest-developing nations, such as China and India, have never had any intention of signing one.
As I showed in my history of the great climate scare, The Real Global Warming Disaster, published just before Copenhagen, the scientific basis for this scare was already falling apart, as temperatures were not rising as the computer models had predicted. The real disaster from all this, I argued, was not the imagined apocalypse of the world frying, as ice caps melted and sea levels soared (thanks to Antarctica, there is more polar sea ice today than at any time since records began). It was the response of all those deluded politicians who had fallen for the scare.