Message to UN and enviro-activists: Try another way

Many moons ago, in one of my previous “incarnations”, I was quite involved in the field of services to people with developmental handicaps (formerly known as “mentally retarded”). As with many other fields, the jargon and gurus of the day were constantly changing. But one of the gurus who probably had a very practical and lasting impact was the late Dr. Marc Gold, who developed a method of training called “Try Another Way” (TAW).

The premises of TAW are quite simple:

everyone can learn but we have to figure out how to teach;

students with developmental disabilities have much more potential than anyone realizes; and

all people with disabilities should have the opportunity to decide how to live their lives.

I happen to believe that all people – with or without disabilities – should “have the opportunity to decide how to live their lives” … but let’s set that aside for now!

In an article in yesterday’s issue of Foreign Policy, Dr. Roger Pielke Jr seems to advocate that environmentalists “Try Another Way”:

Climate of Failure

Environmentalists are just now waking up to the reality that if we’re going to stop global warming, we’re going to have to be a lot more politically savvy.

The heady days of early 2009, when advocates for global action on climate change anticipated world leaders gathering later that year around a conference table in Copenhagen to reach a global agreement, are but a distant memory. Today, with many of these same leaders focusing their attention on jumpstarting economic growth, environmental issues have taken a back seat. For environmentalists, it may seem that climate policy has dropped from the political agenda altogether.
Every major projection of future energy consumption foresees growth in energy demand around the world, which makes sense when you consider that today 2 billion people or more lack basic access to energy. Energy demand is skyrocketing in China and India, and eventually will in Africa. But even letting your imagination go wild and envisioning a future world that consumes half of the energy we do today would still require that more than 80 percent of our energy supply be carbon-free. This isn’t a statement about the feasibility or desirability of improved energy efficiency; it’s just math.

Consider this: If the goal is to stabilize the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at a low level by 2050 (in precise terms, at 450 parts per million or less), then the world would need to deploy a nuclear power plant worth of carbon free energy every day between now and 2050. For wind or solar, the figures are even more daunting.
For several decades, the dominant view among climate specialists was that imposing a high price on carbon emissions — whether through a tax or a traded permit system — would create the economic incentive necessary to stimulate the green energy innovation needed. Unfortunately, the track record of such schemes is not encouraging. Any policy that depends for its success on creating economic stress on consumers (or voters) to motivate massive change is a policy doomed to fail.
Efforts to secure a high carbon price to create incentives for change still have staunch advocates in the environmental community, despite the little evidence that it can work. Advocates for carbon pricing typically argue that the costs are low or even nonexistent.
The evidence that a high carbon tax is politically infeasible seems irrefutable, based on experience and common sense. Yet, even so, to try to push the debate forward, advocates constantly seek to demonstrate that climate change is taking place with high tangible costs, as if to try to rebalance the cost-benefit math. Such efforts to stoke alarm have no apparent limit, no matter how tenuous the science.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, who seems never to have encountered a UN failure that could not be buried and/or papered over by a ceremonial high-profile “appearance” (how on earth did he merit a place of honour carrying the Olympic flag, anyway?!) and/or the appointment of yet another of his “High Level Panels” (HLP) – with the “support” of Gaia knows how many UN personnel appointed/seconded to the requisite “UN System Task Team”.

So on the heels of the Rio+20 flop at which the “vision” of the High Level Panel turned out to be considerably far off the mark for any Future We [might] Want, on July 31, 2012 Ki-Moon (who may or may not have abandoned his “Sustainable Energy for All Initiative“**) has bestowed upon the world a “High-level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda”. This HLP has a cast of 26 including three “Co-Chairs”: President Yudoyono of Indonesia, President Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Prime Minister Cameron of the United Kingdom. The panel will be “supported by” personnel from no less than 58 UN “entities“. Needless to say,

The UN is working with governments, civil society and other partners to build on the momentum generated by the MDGs [Millenium Development Goals -hro] and carry on with an ambitious post-2015 development agenda.

I’m not sure how this might tie in with UNEP head honcho, Achim Steiner’s announcement (which I wrote about here) of the:

launch of Future Earth, a 10-year initiative aiming to deliver knowledge to enable societies to meet their sustainable development goals,

But rest assured that these consultations will be “inclusive”. No doubt as “inclusive” as the innovative bridge at Rio+20 … IOW, you and I, dear reader, are probably not included in their all-encompassing “inclusive”.

[** This document was prepared at Ki-Moon’s behest by a “High Level Group” (HLG); I’m not sure at this point whether an HLG takes precedence over an HLP or vice versa! But this particular HLG’s work can be found at Sustainable Energy For All]

So how did we get to this point?! We already know that – in no small measure thanks to the dedicated work of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and its “revolving door” – the voice of “civil society” (UN-speak for Non-Governmental Organizations aka NGOs) has been greatly magnified over the past twenty years.

And, of course, there are the “funding” myths and memes. The most prevalent (and least true) are those perpetuated by the self-aggrandizing Michael “thou shalt not question my hockey-stick” Mann. Certainly not one to be shy to “Try Another Way” (when it comes to defending his indefensible “hockey-stick” icon), Mann doesn’t seem able to apply the principles to his standard recitations of scary stories and fact-free assertions about those who are allegedly funded by “big oil”.

But let’s take a little stroll down the “Agenda 21 sustainable development” funding history-lane [h/t Vivian Krause via twitter] Five years after the original Rio Summit, two UNEP associated chaps**, Norman Myers and Noel Brown, put together a document: “The Role of Major U.S. Foundations in the Implementation of Agenda 21: The Five-Year Follow-up to the Earth Summit”.

[** My thanks to Peter Bobroff, the wizard behind AccessIPCC whose latest project – which I hope will be coming soon to a monitor near you – made it so much easier for me to track down these authors’ affiliations and history]

According to the authors, this document, a report to the Earth Council, was sponsored by: Ford Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, W. K. Kellogg Foundation, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The document does not indicate who or what this “Earth Council” might be. Google, however, did yield the following potential candidate:

The Earth Council is a non-governmental, non-profit organization founded in 1992 on the initiative of Maurice Strong to support and empower people in building a more secure, equitable and sustainable future. The Earth Council in Geneva was established in 2001 as a vehicle for the Earth Council’s mandate to partner in developing the capacity of governments, business and civil societies in the practice of sustainable development.

Norman Myers’ greatest claim to fame is that of creator of the infamous “50 million climate refugees by 2010” paper. A map of which the UNEP quietly (but ineptly) “disappeared” circa April 2011; although according to Berkeley’s Harry Kreisler, Myers is:

an environmental scientist who has been called the Paul Revere of the environmental movement

Noel Brown has a somewhat less distinguished public profile. He once served as “Regional Director for North America, United Nations Environment Program” but along with Myers, he is affiliated with the Climate Institute. He is currently President and CEO of “Friends of the United Nations“.

In their Introduction to this circa 1997 paper, Myers and Brown note:

The central objective of the Earth Summit, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio in 1992, was to move the joint environment and development issues into the center of economic policy and decision-making and to lay the foundation for the transition to a sustainable way of life on our planet.

To this end, UNCED, the largest international conference ever held, adopted a series of concrete measures, including two historic documents: a declaration of basic principles for the conduct of nations and peoples to ensure the future viability and integrity of the Earth as a hospitable home for humans and other forms of life; and Agenda 21, a plan of action establishing the agreed work program of the international community for the period beyond 1992 and into the 21st century in respect of the issues addressed by the Conference.2

Although Agenda 21 was adopted by consensus, there was no real consensus on the critical question of implementation and the financial arrangements through which this was to be effected. The proposed budget of $625 billion – never intended to be definitive – proved to be elusive and $125 billion of that sum, to be provided largely by increases in Official Development Assistance (ODA), remains as yet an unfulfilled expectation with equally diminishing prospects. In any event, the developing countries remain firm in their insistence that “new and additional” financial resources be provided by the developed countries who are largely responsible for the degradation of the planet and who should bear the main responsibility for its restoration and rehabilitation, and lead the process of sustainability.

As the United Nations prepares for the fifth anniversary of UNCED, the question of financing, especially in the light of declining levels of ODA during this period, is likely to dominate the discussions with the need for new and additional resources assuming a new urgency.

It could provide new opportunities for serious exploration of new and creative ways of financing sustainable development. It is here that the non-profit and philanthropic sector, with their long-standing experience in “giving” and supporting a wide variety of human and environmental concerns, could assume a new leadership, the more so as the citizens’ sector begins to take on ever-widening responsibilities for action at the grassroots level in addressing environmental problems where the impacts are the most real and most immediately felt. [emphasis added -hro]

Along the way, a decision was made to put a significant number of eggs in the “reduce C02 emissions” basket. As Pielke has noted, this has not worked out too well (nor is it likely to). Yet billions of taxpayer funds have been expended in the – to-date – fruitless and unconvincing attempts to convert a belief (in human generated C02 as “primary cause” of climate change aka global warming) into an incontrovertible “scientific” fact – upon which we, of course, must act now (if not yesterday).

But let it not be said that Big Philanthropy (particularly in the US) has been remiss in answering the enviro-activist call to arms, as envisioned by Myers and Brown. As Rachel Swaffer reported last month for NetRightDaily [h/t reader, DavidR]:

Environmental Extremists Exposed as Political Goliaths

In 2010 the Center for Responsive Politics reported that in the past 20 years corporate oil interests had spent a combined $250 million dollars on political activism. Environmentalists were, as was intended, outraged that the philistine big oil interest was buying and bullying its way into a political advantage.

But if liberals claim that this big oil money is buying political outcomes and muzzling environmentalists with an average of $12.5 million a year, how much political clout do they think $100 million dollars a year will buy?

They of all people would know – in 2010 $100,000,000 was donated to the environmental advocacy organization ClimateWorks by a single progressive funding organization: the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation.

[…] According to tax records, in 2010 the aforementioned Hewlett Foundation gave a total of $135,203,199 to environmental advocacy groups. Similarly, Pew Charitable Trusts gave out $18,494,516 in grants to the green movement, and Tides chipped in a little over $10 million as well. Environmental advocacy group The Sierra Club Foundation even donated an astounding $33,789,753 to fellow environmental organizations. In fact, the top 30 “Green Movement” funders donated a combined total of $286,861,331 to groups concerned with climate, environment, and sustainable energy, according to 2010 tax information.

The disproportionate expenditure of funds on behalf of environmental extremism drowns out rational discussion on the state of our planet. Instead, these jaundiced millions, are used to guilt trip ordinary Americans into squandering their wealth on pointless projects under guise of saving Mother Earth.

The constant careening from environmental disaster to environmental disaster allows these very prophets of global doom to raise even more funds to promote their latest scare.[emphasis added -hro]

All this money being thrown at a far from proven “problem” and twenty years after the first “Environmental Summit” those who are the movers and shakers behind its formulation are still stuck with the same conundrum they started with:

Agenda 21 was adopted by consensus, there was no real consensus on the critical question of implementation and the financial arrangements through which this was to be effected.

Yet, the scary stories get louder and flimsier by the day, while the so-called “research” seems to have evolved into a series of “science by press release” announcements delivered well before they were ready for prime-time live – with the most notable practitioners being NASA’s James Hansen and BEST’s climate chameleon Richard Muller, whose exercises in self-aggrandizement equal those of Michael Mann!

Dr. Roy Spencer began a recent article by noting:

Post-Normal Science: Deadlines, or Conflicting Values?

“Never have so many scientists forecast so far into the future such fearful weather with so little risk of consequence for being wrong.”

And he concluded by observing:

Deadlines…or Conflicting Values?

In [Steven] Mosher’s essay he eloquently argues that it is the deadlines which largely lead to not-so-scientific behavior of climate scientists.

But I would instead argue that the deadlines were only imposed because of competing values. Some political point of view had decided to misuse science to get its way, and those supporting the opposing point of view are then dragged into a fight, one which they did not ask for.

Regarding deadlines (the need for “immediate action”), there is no reason why the objective and truthful scientist cannot just say, “we don’t know enough to make an informed decision at this time”, no matter what the deadline is. It’s not the scientist’s job to make a policy decision.

Instead what we have with the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change -hro] is governmental funding heavily skewed toward the support of research which will (1) perpetuate and expand the role of government in the economy, and (2) perpetuate and expand the need for climate scientists.

To the extent that skeptics such as myself or John Christy speak out on the subject, it is (in my view anyway) an attempt to reveal the evidence, and physical interpretations of the evidence, which do not support putative global warming theory.

Sure, we might have to shout louder than a “normal scientist” would, but that is because we are constantly being drowned out, or even silenced through the pal- …er… peer-review process.

Our involvement in this would not have been necessary if some politicians and elites had not decided over 20 years ago that it was time to go after Big Energy through an unholy alliance between government and scientific institutions. We did not ask for this fight, but to help save the integrity of science as a discipline we are compelled to get involved.

So Mr. Ki-Moon, Big Philanthropy, Big Green NGO’s and “climate scientists” who belong to the IPCC in-crowd – and who mistakenly believe it’s their job to advocate for their favourite “policy” – perhaps it time to “Try Another Way”. And, to slightly paraphrase the late Marc Gold, the first “value” you need to understand and embrace is that:

All people – with or without disabilities – should have the opportunity to decide how to live their lives

With this in mind, perhaps you will learn that we really don’t need your Agenda, “initiatives”, your HLPs and HLGs putting their John Henry on bureaucratic word-salads conjured up by un-named “sherpas” drawn from the ranks of your “UN System Task Teams” and/or the philanthropically funded plethora of NGOs who are driving this Agenda on your behalf, not ours. Besides which, if after 20 years you still have:

no real consensus on the critical question of implementation and the financial arrangements through which this was to be effected.

Surely common sense dictates that it’s definitely time to Try Another Way.

2 thoughts on “Message to UN and enviro-activists: Try another way

  1. There’s a parallel, I believe, with the EU’s struggle to keep the euro going. The options are limited – either total/partial failure, or further (and probably ever more draconian and unpopular) political integration, which is why the process seems to be mired in endless summits and bailouts which merely postpone dealing with the problem.

    Likewise, the movers and shakers of the UN’s environmental programmes are up against an intractable reality – that especially in times like these, national governments will tend to go for economic growth above other considerations. Again, the options appear limited – either failure, or further (and probably ever more undemocratic and unfeasible) attempts to extract guilt money to fund these grandiose projects, which, again, is why the process is stalled in endless summits and negotiations that do little more than keep the wheels of bureaucracy spinning.

    • It may just be more than a parallel, Alex :-) It’s not something I’ve looked at in any depth, but my hypothesis is that there may well be far more “cross-pollination” between the “EUro-crats” and the “UNo-crats” than meets the eye!

      My guess is that while there may be some “degrees of separation”, it may well turn out to be far fewer than six ;-)

      Some recurring patterns make it really challenging to maintain one’s insistence on not subscribing to the “conspiracy theory of history”!

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