- John C. Thompson
31 May, 2017
News comes this morning that President Trump intends to get the United States to withdraw from the 2015 Paris Agreement on Global Warming. For environmentalists, there may be a silver lining to this cloud.
Notwithstanding furious – and inaccurate – claims that the science on global warming was “settled”, the pursuit of a global mechanism to prevent it has been boondoggle since the 1992 Rio de Janeiro Conference. If serious work needs to be done, it is usually best not to leave it in the hands of the UN, and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change will probably be a case study for decades to come on dysfunctional policy-making.
In the last 25 years, a towering edifice was built on cracked foundations, and all President Trump is doing is giving the faulty tower a good shove. So now what?
For international diplomacy and consensus-making, there is nothing like naked self-interest to come to an agreement; especially if the great powers agree on something. It also helps if the science truly is settled and well-established… by way of example look at the Montreal Protocol of the Vienna Convention on the destruction of the Ozone Layer. We’ve reversed its decay and expect it to heal.
Now, while all sorts of time, money and expense was wasted on the pursuit of a Global Warming regime (in every sense of the word), humanity has continued to wreak all manner of other havoc on the environment.
The first priority has to be tending to the oceans – the real lungs of the planet. We’ve noticed the massive buildup of trash, particularly plastics, bobbing around and a number of simple but effective solutions already suggest themselves. When tackling massive projects, an enjoyable sense of progress can ensue from accomplishing easy tasks.
What is more problematic is the growing acidification of the oceans. If this doesn’t scare the world’s policy-makers, they don’t deserve to hold office anymore. Confirming the scientific accuracy of the problem should be easy enough, and if we all share one point of self-interest, it is that we like having oxygen in our air.
The overuse of nitrogen fertilizers is another major problem and is leading to severe destruction in several key littoral ecosystems like the Black Sea, South China Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and so on. Again, this problem can be easily confirmed and easily fixed.
No doubt, many people are itching to tackle the Law of the Sea Conventions in the UN, which will inevitably lead to a similar slow boondoggle which accomplishes little. Something more modest like international agreements on over-fishing, illegal dumping of toxic wastes, and a robust enforcement regime would be much more achievable.
There is a point that soldiers understand, but which many diplomats and politicians seem to have difficulty with: Do not reinforce failure, exploit success. Stop trying to prop-up the Global Warming architecture and start working on more urgent deliverables.
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