The Green Unreality Show

  • Date: 23/04/16
  • Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., The Wall Street Journal

Politicians from 175 countries agree to keep doing whatever they intended to do anyway

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hosted a signing ceremony for the Paris Agreement on Climate Change on 22 April at the United Nations. More than 165 Member States were expected to attend the signing ceremony, including an estimated 60 Heads of State and Heads of Government. U.N. Messenger of Peace Leonardo Dicaprio addresses the opening segment of the signature ceremony. (United Nations photo)

The climate deal negotiated in Paris and signed in New York Friday is not a treaty. It is not enforceable against the U.S. or anybody else. It waves vaguely at the idea of a $100 billion adjustment fund for poorer countries, to be filled in later by somebody else, maybe.

Like all such international agreements, it’s a giant PR exercise designed to put a global imprimatur on what domestic politicians want to do anyway. In China and India, that’s grow their energy output any way they can. In President Obama’s case, it’s continue to dish out green mandates and subsidies that please his entourage.

Economist Bruce Yandle coined the term bootleggers and Baptists for political coalitions of true believers and their more self-interested fellow travelers. The climate movement is the ultimate example.

Having ginned up a climate “crisis” in the first place, it’s almost as if the movement has ginned up a fake victory to keep the game going. This week’s signing was preceded by an outpouring of fishy studies in the press about how renewable energy is on the verge of solving the problem.

The most paradoxical claim, regularly aired in the New York Times, is that the fate of the planet depends on how you vote in the U.S. presidential race because solar power is falling rapidly in cost and is now competitive with fossil fuels.

Well, then it doesn’t matter how you vote. Cheaper solar energy will displace fossil energy for purely economic reasons.

The fragment of truth here is that the cost of solar collectors has come down thanks to Chinese production, but this represents a small fraction of the actual cost of integrating solar into the power system.

Solar is free; the sun does not send us a bill. But solar is only competitive to the extent that fossil-fuel plants remain on hand to provide backup power when the sun is not shining. Unfortunately, fossil-fuel plant economics deteriorate rapidly when plants must stop and start to make up for fluctuating wind and solar.

This is why, for instance, Germany managed to increase its use of renewables and its output of carbon dioxide at the same time—because it resorted to cheap coal to keep the lights on at a price its people could afford.

This is why states like Iowa and Texas, which brag about their wind production, have more stubborn emissions output than do states that simply followed market signals to switch to gas from coal.

Full op-ed