We can expect the usual last-minute “agreement” — to keep talking — from the UN climate conference in Doha, which comes to a close Friday evening. These massive Conferences of the Parties (COPs), of which this is the 18th, have descended into ritual farce, as naked money-grabbing on behalf of poor countries contrasts with finagling impossible solutions to what is likely a much-exaggerated problem. We may be sure that one issue that has not had much play at the conference is the absence of global warming for the past 16 years, which undermines the computer models on which alarmism is based.
A successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which is set to die an ignominious death at the end of the year, continues primarily as a source of massive bureaucratic make-work. Developed countries such as Canada insist that no agreement is possible — or would be effective if what alarmist science claims is true — without commitment to binding emissions targets by the major developing countries, in particular China.
One leading question is how dubious science, shoddy economics and tried-and-failed socialist policies have come to dominate the democratic process in so many countries for so long. The answer appears to be the skill with which a radical minority — centred in and promoted by the UN, and funded by national governments and, even more bizarrely, corporations — has skilfully manipulated the political process at every level.
Last week, it was reported that the U.S. chief negotiator for climate change, Jonathan Pershing, reminded environmental NGOs — at a closed-door meeting — of who paid for their presence at shindigs such as Doha. This was treated as outrageous pressure. More intriguing is just why governments would be paying for organizations to go to conferences and criticize them. The only explanation, apart from sheer governmental schizophrenia, is that perhaps governments quite like the idea of agitators whose whole raison d’être is to justify more and bigger government. One government that is a conspicuous non-supporter of radical ENGOs is that of Stephen Harper, who has targeted both their funding by large foreign foundations, and their role in holding up Canadian resource development.
Earlier this week, the Polaris Institute, a left-wing NGO, released a report that purported to demonstrate, via public lobbying records, “how some of the biggest companies in the world are using well-oiled lobby machinery to directly manipulate policy making in Canada.” The report focused on the alleged “gutting” of environmental legislation in Bill C-38. But then Polaris and its ilk wouldn’t be happy until legislation strangled development completely. Meanwhile, Polaris’s claims beg a question: If oil companies are so all-powerful in the political process, why are the oil sands under siege? How was it that Keystone XL was blocked? Why is Northern Gateway’s future looking so rocky?
The simple answer is hugely effective campaigns of misinformation supported by organizations such as Polaris. For example, two years ago Polaris supported the “Rethink Alberta” campaign designed to disrupt the provincial tourism industry on the basis of peddling Big Lies such as that the oil sands were destroying an area “the size of England.”
This and similar campaigns — which put pressure on corporations via direct threats and do-not-buy campaigns — bore job-destroying fruit when President Barack Obama nixed Keystone XL at the beginning of this year (although the pipeline is hoping for approval of a modified route).
It is ironic that Polaris should note how little official lobbying there has been by ENGOs, because it draws attention to the fact that the radical environmental movement has sought to bypass the traditional democratic process, partly because it knows it has so little support. There was much noodling after recent byelections about the possibly brighter prospects of the Green party, but it is important to remember that the party has just one seat in the House of Commons.
Since the Rio conference in 1992, the radical green movement has mounted a pincer movement to pressure democratic governments both from above, via vast UN agreements on biodiversity and climate, and from below by a deliberately seeded and ever-proliferating group of ENGOs, which were sold as the voice of “civil society.”
While one should always be wary of corporations having excessive influence over government policy, as Polaris suggests with its report, any wise policymaker has to hear from industries affected. They, unlike ENGOs, create jobs. But corporations have also funded their ENGO persecutors by buying them off as “consultants” and kowtowing to a business model analogous to that of the Acme Window Smashing and Glazing company: create environmental hysteria, then offer your services on how to deal with hysteria.
If one wished to look at a truly dangerous example of the influence of non-elected groups on public policy, one might point to the 7,000 NGO “observers” at Doha. The conference website claims that through these groups “the citizens of the world have a channel for their voices to be heard.” In fact, they represent a relatively small number of voices with an obstructive and destructive agenda.