Daily Alpha: What We Really Need from the Paris Climate Conference? Accountability

Daily Alpha: What We Really Need from the Paris Climate Conference? Accountability

Garrett Baldwin

Alternative Thinking on... the Paris Climate Summit... COP21

“Should the United States fight climate change by giving billions of dollars per year to countries that make no binding commitments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions?”

That's the question brought to us this week from Politico as the latest gang of centralized planners attempt to save humanity from itself at The Paris Climate Summit (COP21).

Events like this are  also known as the reasons why I drink. This is the only subject for today because it's really the one I approach differently than most.

H.L. Mencken once wrote, “The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule."  

And, here we are again…a gathering of world leaders – many of whom are the world’s largest personal carbon emitters themselves – but all of whom have probably never read Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions or understand why it's the single most important book anyone should read before completing coursework in Climate Economics or Environmental Policy – arrive on personal jets to argue that carbon emissions are the single biggest threat to humanity – over – say terrorism, deforestation, rampant poverty, economic calamity due to obscene debt levels produced by the same leaders, or just good-old fashioned 20th century authoritarianism.

Countries like Venezuela and Zimbabwe are demanding that the West pony up trillions of dollars to pay them for the "damage" caused by the largest emitters.

They claim that capitalism is the reason why they are poor -- and the world is burning alive. Unfortunately, our President, who has a habit of tilting to windmills, would agree and call anyone who disagrees with his vision for your future a "flat-earth," "oil-lobbying," "climate skeptic."

Now, I am not a “climate skeptic.”

The world has a complex environment, and man has a large impact on it, particularly as we spread across the land and sea mass....

They study of climate change is tilted right now on how and why carbon affects the planet -- not whether it does. That's part of understanding how scientific revolutions transpire. [Hint: Read Kuhn...]

That said, regardless of whether the 97% of climate scientists are absolutely correct or if some new revolution occurs and a new scientific consensus forms... there is only one thing you need to know about me...

I am a “climate solutions skeptic.”

How we address this issue requires even more scrutiny than the science itself...

Aside from the fact that the earth is going to outlive us all -- the entire idea of trading hundreds of billions of dollars -- even trillions -- to some countries that are demanding it for "climate justice" makes no sense to me… for one reason.

Evidence A: The Heritage Foundation Economic Freedom Index. 

Isn’t it funny that the leaders of the world’s most underdeveloped and oppressive economies are demanding that advanced nations give them money?


We tried this -- many times in fact.

Western nations have spent more than $1 trillion on aid in Africa alone to address food shortages and poverty, but no economic or social reform ever developed on a broad enough scale to justify such a plan again and expect a different result.

If President Obama is actually going to just hand the world a blank check with my taxpayer money, I want something in return for it.

I want transparency on how it’s spent, accountability for every single dollar to be tracked through the International Monetary Fund, and I want significant economic liberalization of these nations that give people freedom to pursue their dreams and policies that enhance trade and cooperation against tyrannical pressures. Otherwise, not a cent goes into these top-down programs, which are so heavily prone to massive, massive, massive levels of corruption... (See below)

If we believe they will take our money and still oppress their people, then we need to walk away from this deal… right now. 

And, I’m dead right about these leaders being oppressive and manipulative.

In 2010, I wrote a paper in graduate school that essentially argued how to bridge any agreement between such absurd levels of payment and technology transfers and the oppression these leaders in Bolivia and Zimbabwe exert on their own people… Inside, you'll notice a few key numbers that show just how much bang for the buck we can get from economies rated "oppressive" that will likely never provide any economic or social benefit given the regimes in charge.

Unfortunately, the people who run our purse strings will end up going along with it, because their legacy is more important than rational thought. 

Anyway, here is an excerpt from that paper – I’ve updated it to simply point out that this concept is just as applicable now as it was back when the Climate talks collapsed in 2010 in Copenhagen.

An sample from:
Climate Debt, Economic Reform, and Multi-Lateral Accountability
Repurposing the Copenhagen Climate Treaty to Achieve Greater Global Stability and Reduce Conflict 

Any climate debt program is the assurance of transparency and accountability by the recipient governments of the proposed debt. The global transfer of trillions of dollars must not only prevent debt allocation for projects associated with “assumption-based” threats, but it also must ensure a transparent process that prevents corruption, increases economic freedoms, and ensures the reduction of aid requirements over time. However, the social and moral crisis of climate change has manufactured many “climate justice” messages similar to other historical calls for government-to-government aid for struggling nations. Nowhere is this more apparent than the growing coalition of African nations supporting Angelica Navarro’s message of “climate debt” as a means to help create sustainable economies and help lift citizens out of poverty. “We need a Marshall Plan for earth,” Navarro told Naomi Klein in 2010. “This plan… must get technology onto the ground in every country to ensure we reduce emissions while raising people’s quality of life. We only have a decade.”[1]

The semi-alarmist statement that the world only has a decade to save particular countries carries many of the same messages calling for aid to Africa over the past half century. While their demand for justice is noble, the claim that aid and redistribution of capital will “improve people’s quality of life” has been exhausted by African leaders over the past half century.

In the past 50 years, governments have provided more than $1 trillion in development aid to African nations in order to help spur economic growth and reduce poverty, yet most of the continent remains highly underdeveloped.[2]  Certainly, both government and private aid has saved lives and increased awareness of AIDS and other diseases; however, government aid has failed to achieve its original goals of widespread economic and societal transformation. Instead, aid has done little more than fuel wars, famine, corruption, inflation, and debt. Since 1970, the continent has hosted more than 30 wars and accounted for more than 50 percent of the world’s war-related deaths in that time. Despite $1 trillion in aid, the World Bank reports that Africa maintains the “largest share of the world's absolute poor”.[3] Meanwhile, one should question who has been in charge of allocating aid and the reasons for the failure of government programs. One logical conclusion is that widespread corruption remains the principle contributor. The continent loses $148 billion to corruption each year, according to the African Union's own estimate.[4] However, this factor alone cannot account for a $1 trillion boondoggle. Given the failure of Western economic aid in Africa, members of the global community should question what other factors are leading to the systemic breakdown and economic stagnation in underdeveloped countries.

Aside from measuring corruption, many diplomats could better understand the reasons for aid failure by examining other parts of a country’s economic climate and its citizen’s access to additional economic freedoms. Naomi Klein writes that 49 of the least developed nations are calling for counties like the United States to pay climate debt. But Klein fails to understand why these countries are underdeveloped in the first place. For example, Bolivia, the home of climate debt champion Angelica Navarro, currently ranks 123rd on the Heritage Foundation Index of Economic Freedom. The Foundation’s Index is annually compiled to evaluate the “important relationships between economic freedom and positive social and economic values such as per capita income, economic growth rates, human development, democracy, the elimination of poverty, and environmental protection.”[5] Bolivia’s ranking is only three spots ahead of China, one of the most historically oppressive countries in modern history.[6] Klein cites a number of other underdeveloped countries that have joined the climate debt coalition. It should be no surprise that the countries mentioned have low rankings on the Economic Freedom Index as well. Klein praises the calls of Malaysia (ranked 50th), South Africa (61st), Paraguay (79th), Sri Lanka (111th), Bolivia (130th), Ethiopia (135th), Ecuador (137th), the Maldives (143rd), Bangladesh (160th), and most notably Venezuela, which ranks 174 out 179, for their “rightful” demands for climate debt.[7] [8]

It should also not be a surprise that the concept of climate debt is supported by the leaders of countries such as Venezuela. The belief that “Northern” carbon emissions are in any way responsible for a country’s underdevelopment and prevent Southern leaders from improving rising unemployment, decreasing GDP, and failing infrastructure, is a tired and recycled argument against Western capitalism and a shot in the arm to leftist leaders seeking to justify their own economic oppressions. Without economic freedoms that encourage private property, business development, and investment practices and rules that discourage high taxation and official corruption, it is fair to conclude that massive economic debt transfer will not solve the societal ills of these emerging nations and will only lead to an increased spiral of poverty, fraudulency, and domestic fallout.

Provisions that encourage citizenry access to economic freedoms and the necessary resources to solve climate problems in a free-market environment are largely absent from past United Nations treaties. Therefore, this reality is not on display to the global audience on the eve of Copenhagen. Without accountability and the addition of economic reforms in these recipient countries, climate debt could quickly transform into yet another massive government-to-government aid program that will in time be judged by intentions and not by success rates. In turn, the threats of climate destabilization would fail to be resolved.

In a 2010 recent editorial in the Financial Times that defended long-term investment and attempted to redefine capitalism, former Vice President Albert Gore and David Blood wrote, “Disclosure and transparency are critical to the optimal allocation of capital.[9] Supporters of a climate debt program in the Copenhagen treaty should place this statement on the cover page of the final document. Climate scientists should read this passage prior to conducting any future experiment. By adhering to a promise of disclosure and transparency, countries and diplomats can create a working treaty that helps mitigate climate change and threats of conflict, lifts billions out of poverty, and educates the world populace on additional, critical environmental dangers, unrelated to carbon emissions, that threaten societies.

While the United States and other global polluters debate policies that have led to climate instability and resource depletion, it is clear that economic and technological redistribution is not acceptable without global transparency, reform, and accountability by the recipients of climate debt. The United States should demand greater transparency into the distribution of not only these reparations, but also into the disbursement of all United Nations government-to-government aid practices moving forward. By holding the United Nations and other leaders accountable, the United States will ensure the proper delivery and investment of these monies and technologies, help prevent the crippling levels of corruption that continue to plague Africa and South America, and provide validation toward the larger goal of mitigating climate instability and its related factors.

For the full text of this paper, please contact me directly. 

[1] Klein. "Climate Rage."

[2] Moynihan, Michael. "The Failure of African Aid." Reason Magazine Aug. & sept. 2009. Web. 24 Nov. 2009. http://reason.com/archives/2009/08/03/the-failure-of-african-aid.

[3] Goodspeed, Peter. "The Failure of Altruism." The National Post [Toronto] 2 July 2005. Odiuous Debts. Reprint. Web. 26 Nov. 2009.http://www.odiousdebts.org/odiousdebts/index.cfm?DSP=content&ContentID=13295.

[4] Goodspeed, Peter. "Corruption's take: $148B." The National Post [Toronto] 4 July 2005. Odiuous Debts. Reprint. Web. 24 Nov. 2009.http://www.odiousdebts.org/odiousdebts/index.cfm?DSP=content&ContentID=13294.

[5] "Frequently Asked Questions about the 2009 Index of Economic Freedom."The Heritage Foundation. Web. 25 Nov. 2009.http://www.heritage.org/Index/FAQ.aspx. The Heritage Foundation defines economic freedom on through this same citation on the same Web page as “the fundamental right of every human to control his or her own labor and property. In an economically free society, individuals are free to work, produce, consume, and invest in any way they please, with that freedom both protected by the state and unconstrained by the state. In economically free societies, governments allow labor, capital and goods to move freely, and refrain from coercion or constraint of liberty beyond the extent necessary to protect and maintain liberty itself.”

[6] "Country rankings for trade, business, fiscal, monetary, financial, labor and investment freedoms." Ranking the Countries. The Heritage Foundation. Web. 25 Nov. 2009. http://www.heritage.org/Index/Ranking.aspx.

[7] IBID

[8] Klein. “Climate Rage.”

[9] Gore, Al, and David Blood. . "Time is up for short-term thinking in global capitalism." FT.com. The Financial Times, 26 Nov. 2009. Web. 27 Nov. 2009.http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/1b1067b2-dacd-11de-933d-00144feabdc0.html.


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