Lawrence Solomon: It’s ‘game over’ for global warming activists

(February 12, 2016) The presidential election season can only add to environmentalists’ funk.

This article, by Lawrence Solomon, first appeared in the National Post

Environmentalists’ faint hope that they can get international action on climate change gets fainter by the day. This week the United States Supreme Court added to their despair by kiboshing President Obama’s pledge, at December’s climate talks in Paris, to lead the world on climate change. “This could be the proverbial string which causes Paris to unravel,” The New York Times reported.

At the heart of Obama’s Paris pledge was his Clean Power Plan, an executive order hyped as “the first-ever carbon pollution standards for existing power plants.” The plan, rolled out with much fanfare prior to the Paris meetings to create a sense of momentum, was designed to shut down America’s fleet of coal-powered generating plants. The White House boasted its plan would help reduce CO2 emissions by 32 per cent by 2030 and lead to 30 per cent more renewable energy generation in 2030.

Except it was an empty boast based on an unconstitutional plan, said 29 states and state agencies, which successfully argued that the Obama plan needed congressional approval to proceed. The Supreme Court agreed to an immediate halt of Obama’s plan, sending it to a lower court and all but guaranteeing that, when Obama leaves office in 2017, the plan will remain in deep freeze.

India, China and other countries that were cajoled into making carbon-cutting commitments at Paris are now under no pressure to cut emissions either. As one adviser to China’s Paris delegation put it, “Look, the United States doesn’t keep its word. Why make so many demands on us?” U.S. environmental groups concur. “If the U.S. isn’t moving on climate action, it makes it really hard to go back to other countries and say, ‘Do more, we’re delivering,’” admits the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Not that any of the carbon reduction demands were binding, or even meaningful. The Paris talks succeeded only in continuing the pretense that the countries of the world were morally committed to action on climate change. Now even that pretense is vanishing. Seven years after Obama declared that, under his transformative presidency, the oceans would stop rising, it is dawning on environmentalists that his entire contribution to the debate amounts to no more than lofty rhetoric. Obama’s climate change legacy will be remembered for two terms of hope without change.

The presidential election season can only add to the environmentalists’ funk

Environmentalists last year had more than a transformative president going for them — they had El Nino, the Pacific Ocean phenomenon that periodically brings unusually warm weather to us, and opportunities for propaganda to global warming enthusiasts. Yet the public yawned at the claims that the Earth was experiencing its hottest year in record — people have tired of this mantra, as polling consistently shows. And environmentalists must know that, if they can’t be persuasive in an El Nino year, what are their chances in subsequent years, during which La Nina typically brings unusually cold weather?

The presidential election season can only add to the environmentalists’ funk. With the Democrats fielding either an unpopular Hillary Clinton or an unelectable, socialist Bernie Sanders, the Republicans are widely believed to be favoured to win, landing a deathblow to climate change activism. With both Republican front-runners, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, considering global warming claims to be outright shams, funding for the climate change industry will dry up. Cruz promises to defund the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s premier global warming lobbyist, along with every other program promoting climate change alarmism. Trump likely would, too, given his belief that global warming policies hurt American business.

Even if a Democrat should win the presidency, the climate change industry has no hope for a comeback. Republicans will still hold the purse strings through their control over the legislature — that’s why Obama resorted to an executive order to impose his Clean Power Plan, in a faint hope of his own that he could further the agenda he so passionately believes in.

So much hope in that fount seven years ago; so little left today. For those environmentalists still clinging to climate change beliefs, hope does not spring eternal.

Lawrence Solomon is executive director of Energy Probe. Email Larry at: LawrenceSolomon@nextcity.com.

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About Lawrence Solomon

Lawrence Solomon is one of Canada's leading environmentalists. His book, The Conserver Solution (Doubleday) popularized the Conserver Society concept in the late 1970s and became the manual for those interested in incorporating environmental factors into economic life. An advisor to President Jimmy Carter's Task Force on the Global Environment (the Global 2000 Report) in the late 1970's, he has since been at the forefront of movements to reform foreign aid, stop nuclear power expansion and adopt toll roads. Mr. Solomon is a founder and managing director of Energy Probe Research Foundation and the executive director of its Energy Probe and Urban Renaissance Institute divisions. He has been a columnist for The Globe and Mail, a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, the editor and publisher of the award-winning The Next City magazine, and the author or co-author of seven books, most recently The Deniers, a #1 environmental best-seller in both Canada and the U.S. .
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