Global Warming and
China and India
China, India and other newly industrializing countries (NICs) don't dispute the threat of global warming but they have concluded that the benefits of economic growth far outweigh it. As they don't accept any of the catastrophe scenarios, this isn't an irrational position, but rather the conclusion cost-benefit analysis has led them to. Even if one disagrees with them, or even if their position were irrational, what would it matter? China's emissions alone make global emission reductions impossible.

There is nothing in the 1992 Framework Convention to alter the will of the NICs to put growth before emissions. It isn't, despite what [Paul] Kingsnorth says, that the Convention isn't binding. It is. But far from containing an agreement on global emissions reduction, it gives explicit permission to developing countries, including China, India and other NICs, to prioritize growth. These countries would never have signed the Convention otherwise. All subsequent climate change negotiations have been predicated on this, which is why they have gone nowhere and why no agreement of any value will be reached in Paris in 2015. China and India have been utterly consistent in their diplomatic stance, the last display of this being their refusal to send their heads of government to the UN's Climate Summit in New York on 23 September, despite the strongest requests having been made to them to do so. Narendra Modi of India was actually in New York on the day of the summit, but had other business.

The choice for those who acknowledge the threat of global warming is not between mitigation (prevention is no longer thought possible) or doing nothing. It is between mitigation or adaptation. The Stern Review concluded that mitigation was by far the cheaper course of action, but it did so with very little thought being given to the question of whether the institutions necessary for mitigation could be created. Naomi Klein's fantasies of world government notwithstanding, the position of China, India and other NICs has always meant that such institutions can't be created, making mitigation impossible.

The trillions which the developed countries have spent and plan to spend on mitigation have been and will be wasted, as there have been no global emissions reductions and there never will be. The failure of the collective brain of environmentalism to look this in the face will erode the goodwill which is its principal resource when its role in causing the immense waste becomes indisputable. This will be another very regrettable result of international climate change policy.

David Campbell
Letter to the London Review of Books
6 November 2014
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