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Lorrie Goldstein: How The UN Could Get Its Mojo Back On Global Warming

Accept reality. Stop making energy more expensive. Start telling the truth.

The United Nations seems perplexed that its fight against global warming isn’t going well these days.

Canada, under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has been explicit in breaking with the UN in its decision to pull out of the Kyoto accord.

But the U.S. never even ratified Kyoto, which expires at the end of this year, Russia and Japan aren’t enthusiastic about possible successor agreements and China and India don’t want to participate unless they don’t have to do anything.


UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon speaks during a closing ceremony of the Rio+20 United Nations Conference in Rio de Janeiro on June 22. UESLEI MARCELINO/REUTERS

As for the rest of the world, concerns over global recession have pushed worries about global warming to, you should pardon the expression, the back burner.

So the UN is clearly frustrated with its lack of progress on the climate change file.

This was evident from statements by various officials in the wake of the recent UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, also known as the Earth Summit and as Rio +20, since it was 20 years since the first such conference was held in Rio.

In that context, here’s my advice to the UN about how to get its mojo back on global warming.

(1) Stop holding sustainability conferences in the world’s most exotic locales, like Rio, and stop booking yourselves into five-star hotels on everybody else’s dime. People’s BS detectors are pretty much set on “high” all the time these days, given the beleaguered state of the global economy.

When you preach that everyone else needs to adopt a more modest lifestyle while living high off the public teat and emitting enough greenhouse gases to choke a whale, you undercut your credibility.

(2) Stop organizing conferences attended by 50,000 people. Seriously, 50,000? That’s a fuster cluck, not a meeting.

(3) Stop pushing ways to make fossil fuels more expensive (through carbon taxes and the ineffective and corrupt cap-and-trade market in Europe) and start pushing ways to make renewable energy less expensive.

The economics are simple. Tell people your entire plan for saving the planet means they have to go into fuel poverty and sell their first born to pay their electricity bills, and they’ll tell you to go intercourse yourself.

On the other hand, make it economically worthwhile for them to help save the planet and, just as if you’d invented a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door.

(4) Accept reality. For now, admit wind turbines and solar panels aren’t ready for prime time, meaning mass use in developed, industrial economies. They can’t supply enough power, they can’t supply it reliably, they only last as long as the government subsidies do and they have to be backed up by fossil fuel energy, anyway.

The real fuels of the future, as Robert Bryce explains in his book Power Hungry, are low-emitting natural gas (from both conventional and shale sources) and non-emitting nuclear power, at least until renewable energy advances to the point where it is cost competitive with fossil fuels.

(5) Stop confusing weather with climate, or at least start disassociating yourselves from greens and “environmentalists” with degrees in political science and feminist studies, who do. Start explaining to people that just because they experience a hot summer or a cold winter in their neck of the woods, that’s not proof of climate change, that there’s a difference between global and regional warming and cooling, and that North American auto sales have nothing to do with hurricane frequency.

(6) Stop trying to guilt people into using less energy. It’s one thing to campaign against the greed of oil companies, whom everyone knows fix the price of gasoline, no matter how many government competition bureaus claim they don’t.

But it’s quite another to tell someone who has no other way of getting to work than driving his car, so he can pay his taxes, so his government can fund the UN, that he’s a planet killer for doing so. After a while, people just stop listening.

(7) Finally, start telling the truth. That man-made global warming is a problem, but not an existential one and only one of many global problems we face, that can all best be addressed by rational, economically sensible policies, and not by running around like Chicken Littles with our heads cut off, screaming “the sky is falling” or rather, “the planet is burning”, while bankrupting ourselves in the process.

Anyway, United Nations, you don’t have to thank me.

Just get busy.

Toronto Sun, 29 June 2012