When it comes to climate change, our leaders
would do well to follow Buddhist advice: when
struck by an arrow, first remove it before seeking out your assailant.
Otherwise, you will die.
But most governments and charitable
foundations today do exactly the opposite. They try so hard to appease climate
activists — who seem more concerned about the possible plight of people yet to
be born than those suffering today — that millions of people have been
abandoned to misery and early death in the poorest parts of the world.
The Canadian government is providing what
might appear to be a generous $142 million to help victims of drought and
famine in East Africa. Australia has also committed over $103 million. That is
certainly far more money than either China or Saudi Arabia — the latter
situated just across the Red Sea from the disaster area — are contributing. But
it pales in comparison with what Canada and Australia are paying to fulfill
their entirely voluntary Copenhagen Accord climate change commitments.
Australia committed $599 million and Canada $1.2 billion between 2010 and 2012.
Both nations have already donated the first
third of this commitment, an amount that is almost exactly the current
shortfall in the international Horn of Africa Drought fund, a deficit that may
lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people if it is not rectified.
The Copenhagen Accord specified that
contributions should be split 50-50 between helping people adapt to climate
change and stopping (or “mitigating”) climate change. Australia is generally
following this formula, but 90% of Canada’s first $400 million donation is
dedicated entirely to mitigation.
This undue focus on mitigation of a
hypothetical human-caused dangerous warming that has yet even to be measured
comes at the expense of the urgent needs of the world’s most vulnerable
peoples. For example, ClimateWorks Foundation — an American climate activist
group that has donated millions to Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection —
received over $500 million from charitable foundations when they launched in
2008. This was twice as much as foundations contributed to the World Health
Organization, and over seven times as much as they donated to UNICEF in that
Over the last two decades ending in 2009, the
U.S. government spent a total of $68 billion for climate science research and
climate-related technology development. Worldwide, it is estimated that Western
countries alone are pouring at least $10 billion annually (2009) into global warming
related research and policy formulation.
There are untold amounts being spent by
corporations around the world on greenhouse gas reduction schemes, the costs of
which are passed almost entirely on to consumers.
On October 27, the Climate Policy Initiative
issued a report showing that at least $97 billion per year is being provided to
“climate finance.” Tragically, just $4.4 billion — about 5% — of the total is
going to help countries and communities adapt to climate change.
All the while, aid agencies remain
drastically underfunded, even in the midst of East Africa’s worst famine in
decades. Developing countries are pressured by eco-activists, media, and the UN
to enable impractical “climate-friendly” energy policies that even developed
nations cannot afford. At the same time, millions of the world’s poor lack
access to electricity, running water, and basic sanitation.
And what is the world getting in return for
this sacrifice? If the science being relied upon by the governments and the UN
were correct, and all the countries of the world that have emission reduction
targets under the Kyoto Protocol actually met their targets, then 0.05 degrees
Celsius of warming might end up being prevented by 2050. In other words,
trillions of dollars of expenditure will be wasted for an impact on climate
that is not even measurable.
Clearly, the time has long since passed to
take an entirely different approach to the climate hazard issue. We need to
pull out the arrow, address the real wound, and leave learning more about the
possible assailant to another day.
Despite the demonstrated failure of the
hypothesis of dangerous human-caused global warming, a very real climate
problem does exist. It is the ongoing risk associated with natural climatic
variations. This includes short-term events such as floods and cyclones,
intermediate scale events such as drought, and longer-term warming and cooling
That such climate change is natural does not
imply it is benign or gentle. Coming out of the last glacial period, during
which sea levels were over 100 meters lower than today and kilometer-thick ice
sheets made Canada, the northern U.S., and northern Eurasia uninhabitable,
warming and cooling many times faster than our 20th century changes occurred.
Even as recently as the 1920s, the “average annual temperature” rose between 2
and 4 degrees Celsius (and by as much as 6 degrees C in winter) in less than
ten years at weather stations in Greenland.
Such natural changes have serious impact on
human societies. From the demise of the robust Greenland Vikings to the sudden
disappearance of the powerful pre-Incan civilizations of the Moche and the
Tiwanaku, history is littered with examples of what happens when societies are
unprepared for or unable to adapt to climate change.
Even when civilizations do not completely
collapse due to extreme climate and weather changes, great calamities often
ensue. Witness the extreme hardship and famine in Europe during the most severe
phases of the 1250-1875 Little Ice Age, and similarly in the 1930s Dust Bowl
event in America. Or how about the 1998 ice storm that paralyzed much of
Eastern Canada and the Northeastern United States?
We need to prepare for such events by
hardening society’s infrastructure through activities such as burying
electricity transmission lines underground. Had this been the norm, the freak
October snowstorm that just hit the northeast U.S. would not have caused
widespread power outages.
Similarly there is a need to “waterproof”
southeastern Australia, which can be expected to experience irregular drought
periods in the future naturally — quite irrespective of speculative human
causation. This could be accomplished through pumping fresh water into the
Murray Darling Basin from northern rivers, by recycling of waste water, by the
construction of new dam reservoirs or desalinization plants, and by the
prevention of water waste through evaporation and leakage from irrigation
There is no question that climate change
adaptation measures can be expensive. But unlike today’s completely futile and
even more expensive attempts to stop the world’s climate from changing,
expenditure on preparation for and adaptation to dangerous climatic events will
pass on a more robust and wealthy society to future generations.
And perhaps some of the billions of dollars
that we choose not to squander on futile mitigation measures can instead be
committed to helping populations already living at the edge of survival.
For the cast-iron reality is that all
countries need to have available to them the financial resources to cope with
the natural climatic hazards that nature will inevitably continue to throw at
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