Adieu, Paris!

So, farewell then, Paris. Trump has called it, and it’s an out. The details of which are yet to emerge, and hopefully not to disappoint.

Cue outrage from the likes of Channel 4 news, no doubt. For instance, take this particular illuminating tweet from the UK Green Party’s only MP – Caroline Lucas.

Hmm.

Polls are… well, polls. But the consensus of the UK’s election polling nonetheless spells trouble for Lucas’s party that may make her rejoinder seem a tad premature.

It looks like next Thursday’s election will return Lucas to Parliament, but the party nationwide will see its slice of the vote slashed from 3.8% to around 2%.

Which raises the question, of course… Which “global movement for climate justice” does Caroline Lucas believe she is speaking on behalf of. While she can claim to speak for a local movement, she cannot claim to speak for a region, much less a nation, let alone a globe, on those percentages.

Two per cent… after close to half a century of campaigning. In the same time, the Labour Party had from almost nothing, gained sufficient political capital to nationalise almost everything, create social insurance and the National Health Service, and established the political consensus that lasted until at least 1979.

In half the time, the UK Independence Party, while barely even having a presence in Westminster, but with widespread support, forced one of the most fundamental shift in British politics ever.

The history of the Green Party is, by contrast, completely mediocre, like its membership.

Similarly, arch-global-climate-bignob, Geoff Sachs tweets this morning.

And yet the politicians have a mandate, whereas all Sachs has is a Chicken Little story.

So today’s big event and reactions to it, tells us two things I have long been banging on about.

First. Environmentalism is not now and never has been a political ‘movement’. Not a popular one, anyhow, with any chance of securing its values in politics through democratic process or weight of numbers. Environmentalism is instead — and it always has been — an elite gesture, aimed against popular democratic politics.

Second. In order to become an environmentalist, it is necessary, as per Lucas and Sachs, to completely lose one’s sense of perspective. I mean a complete and total loss, such that the first point completely escapes you, and that you believe, without any foundation, that you represent a ‘global movement’, even though most people think you’re a bit nuts.

As the irrepressible Pete North puts it…

Time will tell, of course, if this is a complete and thorough shattering of the consensus — a moment of triumph for climate scepticism. And whether, in the era of Trump triumph and post Brexit, climate alarmism fades back into Brighton bourgeois bullshit boutique niches.

I suspect that North is right, though not simply because Trump’s cancellation of the Paris Agreement has caused as much as symbolised the moment. After all, the Paris Agreement itself stood for nothing, in any case. Detached, global, elite and undemocratic politics has suffered three massive body blows in the last 12 months. We are in a new era — it is different from the one in which green politics festered, though how that slime will adapt or die remains to be seen.

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UPDATE.

Speaking of political has-beens and nobodies. Former SoS for Energy & Climate Change, Ed Davey is back via his party’s Twitter account…

Ed Davey lost his seat. And his party lost nearly 50 MPs, such was their humiliation at the shitshow they took part in. Now he presumes to lecture the PM, and the President of the USA, what they should do, in spite of the fact that they have mandates, and he simply doesn’t.

Is there any case of a climate alarmist who does not fit this pattern? Or am I right that the more someone bangs on about climate change and the fierce urgency of fixing it right now, the less business they have, in fact, in politics or public life.

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UPDATE II.

Friends of Dearth have weighed in…

It’s a curious response. To what extent were international trade agreements ever predicated on FoE’s approval? FoE, of course, are against such things as trade more sophisticated than exchanges of turnips for nettle soup. So their disapproval of any future trade agreement was surely already a given.

FoE were behind the Big Ask campaign in the mid 2000s, which aimed to effect the appearance of popular public support for the Climate Change Act. Knowing, however, that a real world demonstration of political support was beyond their means, FoE recruited miserable pop stars…

… to lead a ‘web march’. Dubbed the ‘Big Ask Web March’, members of the public would surely follow where pop stars had led them, as thick-in-the-head as those pop stars (And their mummies) surely were.

be.com/watch?v=68ZW3glUSzY

It was a radical idea. Which is perhaps why it appealed to tiresome twangy agitpop tossers, The Levellers, who took their name from the seventeenth century radical political movement. Though it must have been disappointing to see that, rather than levelling the political landscape, all their web marching really achieved was the elevation of green NGO hack, Bryony Worthington to the House of Lords.

The point being, again, that the masses were only an afterthought to self-serving environmental schemers, or at best an instrument. Which is why young people, and people at drugs at festivals, are over-represented in green NGO’s attempt to produce a ‘movement’ behind them. They are in no position to support, nor to withdraw their support, from any trade agreement between the UK & USA.

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UPDATE III.

So it turns out it may have all been fake news, and that we’ll have to wait until 8pm UK time, to find out what Trump really wants to do with Paris.

That’s what you get for taking tweets from Leo Hickman at face value. Always check!

Nonetheless, the world has reacted. Elon Musk has threatened to take his subsidy black hole elsewhere.

But it’s not all good news…

In the FT, Pilita Clark claims that

China and the EU have forged a green alliance to combat climate change and counteract any retreat from international action by Donald Trump.

In a stark realignment of forces, documents seen by the Financial Times show that Beijing and Brussels have agreed to measures to accelerate what they call the “irreversible” shift away from fossil fuels and the “historic achievement” of the Paris climate accord.

Which was about as meaningful as the Paris agreement in any case — i.e. nought. Moreover, China’s non-binding non-commitment under the terms of the non-agreement allowed it to continue increasing emissions until 2030, whereupon per capita emissions remained static, while total emissions fall with projected population decline.

In other words, China’s status as new climate champion is about as real as Europe’s status as new industrial powerhouse. Greens project their fantasies onto the world.

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UPDATE IV.

There are just a couple of hours to go until Trump will either disappoint, or confirm his view on the Paris agreement. Multimultimultimultimultimultimulti-millionaire Tom Steyer, who financed the weaponisation of the climate change issue in the hope to defeat Trump, has added his… tuppence worth…

The billionaires are really lining up against Trump. Which is interesting, if you take the view that Trump’s mandate apparently came in no small part after promising to rid politics of that tendency. Upsetting the likes of Steyer and Musk would likely earn Trump much respect. So one has to ask what Steyer and Musk think they are doing, except encouraging his to abandon the Paris agreement.

92 thoughts on “Adieu, Paris!

  1. Non, je ne regrette rien… unless it’s too many eclairs.

    If the warmists want to keep the scare alive, they’re going to have to do some better science but I’m betting they’ll just whinge, move to France to get an over paid and over taxed job (eh Macron?) and be still be blubbing by the next US election, hoping that a sympathetic leader will get in.

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  2. Ben, thanks for this.

    What I %100 agree with: environmentalism is not and has never been a mass movement.

    What I’m unsure about:

    Time will tell, of course, if this is a complete and thorough shattering of the consensus — a moment of triumph for climate scepticism.

    As are you.

    As you and Pete North imply there’s great symbolic value in taking Paris, a vacuous symbol in itself, with the power only to impoverish, and chucking it in the wastepaper bin of history.

    If Trump does this, and with his other steps on energy, he is already 10000% better than Obama in this benighted area.

    It also means he’s prepared to go against Ivanka and Jared. That could help with dealing with al-Qaeda propaganda videos from Syria.

    Beyond that, though, I find where we’re headed incredibly unclear.

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  3. Ben, You need to be more prescriptive to cater to our North American cousins. The correct name is Paris, Fraaance. Otherwise you risk confusion with the county seat of Lamar County, Texas (home town of John Chisholm of trail fame), as well as possibly offending Parisites from Arkansas, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin – although in several instances “Adios Paris” might be more appropriate.

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  4. Trump is keeping us all in suspenders at the moment. Will he or won’t he? Hence we’ve yet to see the full fury of climate change believers.

    As I suspected, the EU and China are being lined up to step in to America’s shoes as world leaders on climate, but they will fail miserably, even in partnership. It’s over if Trump pulls out. The pressure on him not to must be intense.

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  5. TINYCO2 (31 May 17 at 2:40 pm)

    Non, je ne regrette rien… unless it’s too many eclairs. If the warmists want to keep the scare alive, they’re going to have to do some better science but I’m betting they’ll just whinge, move to France to get an over paid and over taxed job..

    What job? Unemployment is 10% here and rising. And support for the Greens, who are all over the media and whose biggest star is number three in the new Macron government, is at 2-3% in the opinion polls for the forthcoming elections, just like in Britain.

    RICHARD DRAKE (31 May 17 at 3:31 pm)

    As you and Pete North imply there’s great symbolic value in taking Paris, a vacuous symbol in itself, with the power only to impoverish, and chucking it in the wastepaper bin of history.

    This has enormous implications in France, where COP21 has assumed the significance of the Maginot line in 1939. If Trump breaches it, Macron’s reputation, based on his ability to shake hands like real man with the likes of Trump and Putin is “fragilised.” The pro-European media are pushing the line that Europe and China will assume the leadership of the free climate-conscious world. But half Europe is burning coal like it’s not going out of fashion at all:
    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2017/05/30/east-european-states-mount-revolt-against-paris-agreement/

    A little-understood aspect of global climate policy is the postion of the European Unicorn, which signed the Paris accord on behalf of its 28 member states. If you followed the recent meeting of the G7 in Sicily (which is in fact the G8, except tht Russia has been put on the naughty step for having regained some territory from the Ukrainian fascists – how dare they?) you will have noted that for the photo op it was in fact a G9, with Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker on the edges under flags of the European Unicorn – seven elected heads of state or government flanked by two heads of nothing, one recently rejected by the electors of Poland, the other by the electors of Luxemburg.

    But the EU is the signatory of the Paris Agreement, not the member states, four of whom are members of the G7. So if the Brits decide to follow Caroline Lucas into the candlelit past, the Poles are free to use up the carbon credits thus liberated to provide their impoverished citizens with cheap coal-fuelled electricity.

    I’m all for giving the Poles and the Africans a free pass to a better future. Unlike Caroline Lucas, I’m honest about what it means. Hospitals open when the wind blows. When it doesn’t, you die like Africans. Go on, citizens of Brighton Pavilion. Vote for that.

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  6. But….but… Geoff, Macron promised all those displaced climate scientists a job? Or are you saying that when Macron thinks about the issues, he’ll discover he doesn’t need climate scientists any more than he needs snail sushi.

    I think the BA incident should show everyone what a life relying on batteries and diesel engines is like.

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  7. Ben you may be entirely correct in your assessment of environmental NGOs, yet the fact that you feel the necessity to denigrate their aims and methods is itself an acknowledgement of their significance and influence. Their political power remains relatively unaffected by being opposed. Their ability to influence policy within the EU cannot be dismissed. No matter how they are opposed for some of their stupid policies or for their methods, their supporters are legion and are constantly replenished as youngsters acquire political awareness. “Saving the Earth” and opposing industry and globalization are rights of passage for much of western youth. Sadly it’s a by product of the economic success of that which they oppose.

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  8. Jaime, yes, Trump is really trolling, or controlling, the media at the moment, as he’s done before, leading to the current hysterical frenzy.

    The official announcement will be at 3pm, 8pm our time.

    The Paris agreement means nothing of course, there’s nothing legally binding and all countries are supposed to do is to make their own pledges and review them every few years, with a get-out clause for developing countries (Brad Plumer here, me here). It’s just symbolic of the mindset of the authoritarians: everyone must have the same opinion, and everyone must publicly declare their adherence to that opinion.

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  9. Alan, NGOs “power” is always predicated on a compact between them and government, i.e. UK or EU — or UN, more pertinently. There are some ‘interesting’ discussions of what role NGOs should play in increasingly global, and increasingly green “governance” (as they like to call it) in Brundtland’s Our Common Future. The reasoning is simple enough; there is no global demos (in the same way, many observed the non-existence of a European demos) to consent to global government (hence ‘governance’), and NGOs are appointed to fill that function, to make it appear accountable, democratic, responsive. Similarly, the EU lavished NGOs with Euros and positions at important tables. NGOs are a construction of that form of politics.

    In that respect, I believe you get this upside down: “Their ability to influence policy within the EU cannot be dismissed. No matter how they are opposed for some of their stupid policies or for their methods, their supporters are legion”.

    They really are not legion. Environmental NGOs in particular neither appeared nor ascended by popular will, as historical political movements did, out of a convergence of interests and awareness. They were created and installed almost by contract, and their connection to a public is insubstantial — in many cases it is nonexistent, being entirely funded by philanthropic gestures from wealthy capitalists (living and dead). E.g Carbon Brief, ECIU, E3G, Green Alliance, and good parts of the “big green ten”, including the WWF, FoE, who enjoy substantial funding from governments. (See Chris Snowden’s Sock Puppets report from a few years back).

    Hence, I suggest that, NGOs being a unique artefact of the existing political order, they will fade away with it. *IF* that is what Trump and Brexit, and other signs of global institutions weakening represent, and *IF* that order cannot regroup.

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  10. Ben. I am unapologetic for my statement that support for (certain) NGOs is legion. Designate a cause, identify an environmental threat or an enemy and they can rely upon thousands, tens or hundreds of thousands to rise to the challenge, come out in support, raise funds or do whatever is required. For me the power of NGOs became evident when they opposed the disposal of Shell’s drilling platform in the North Sea and forced a more expensive (and less efficient) solution.
    Create a cause and watch a legion of support materialize – many of whom have little idea of all the issues involved. Identify an environmental enemy and watch a legion of celebs mobilize and relentlessly attack. Want funding? There are legions who will cough up or proselytize for you. Some NGOs are multiheaded Medusas. Those supporting environmental concerns are especially potent. Are you perhaps underestimating them?

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  11. Perhaps, Alan, NGOs can/could make a fuss over what to do with a junked oil rig.

    But not Brexit. Not Trump. Not GE17. And I suspect, not Paris.

    The appearance of strong NGOs, able to embarrass large transnational corporations is a misapprehension. Corporates are simply too willing to fold over, and reinvent themselves “Beyond Petroleum”… They are as fickle as the politicians, as unsure of themselves in the world, and in fact, ultimately as dependent on the regulations that NGOs seek as the NGOs are dependent on the regulators.

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  12. Ben. Power is relative. I think you just conceded my point. If you believe corporations are weak, then NGOs’ strength, relatively, is great. The point I was trying to make is that NGOs have the support of people willing to act and it is that which confers Lyon them their ability to persuade and influence. The whole climate change scare was instigated and fashioned by NGOs, without them eventually it would wither. I note that Trump has conspicuously not gone after NGOs. Do you think this is because he thinks they are impotent or because he believes them to be powerful? How come the USA does not regulate gun ownership, whereas neighbouring Canada has strict controls? Could it be the influence of very powerful NGO lobbying?

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  13. Alan, I understand your point. This, however, is simply mistaken:

    If you believe corporations are weak, then NGOs’ strength, relatively, is great. The point I was trying to make is that NGOs have the support of people willing to act and it is that which confers [upon] them their ability to persuade and influence.

    NGO’s like FoE can only draft legislation if legislators ask them to — as was the case with the UK Labour Party and the CCA2008. They have none of their own. They attempt to embarasses corporations, for sure. And even some politicians. But this is PR, not political *power*.

    This, too, is mistaken…

    The whole climate change scare was instigated and fashioned by NGOs…

    Go and read Brundtland, and then go and read the UN’s machinations on the environment in the 1960s. It is a script. It predates NGOs in their current form, and certainly the popular appeal you imagine they have today. See this film, for instance…

    Do you think this is because he thinks they are impotent or because he believes them to be powerful?

    They are irrelevant.

    Could it be the influence of very powerful NGO lobbying?

    It is people who hold the Constitution close to their hearts/minds. “NGOs” — in the extremely broad sense you use it here — do not invent such sentiments out of thin air, so as to channel them. An “NGO” in your schema might be a trade union in the earlier part of the last century… Indeed it did have power. It represented its members interests, and bargained on their behalf, with actual political muscle. Green NGOs in today’s world are not constituted in this way.

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  14. Ben. I think you are merely scoring debating points. By your arguments, trade unions have (or had) no power because they cannot enact laws themselves. If NGOs didn’t exert undue influence, why do you spend your time writing about them or arguing with me about them?

    With respect to gun control, I specifically made comparison with Canada because, in many respects the need for guns during their expansion was similar. When that need relaxed, Canada (or its constituent Provinces) enacted gun control, whereas in the USA proto-NGOs arose to protect gun ownership.

    I think Trump will find that ignoring environmental NGOs will be a bad move, and I believe your belief that they are essentially toothless to be mistaken. However, I doubt if you can persuade me to your views as I seem to be unable to get you into “my” camp.

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  15. Eric Holthaus has a hilarious series of tweets on Trump withdrawing from Paris.

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  16. Jaime, yes! I particularly like the next one:

    since if Trump’s withdrawal is meaningless, he’s acknowledging that the so-called agreement is meaningless as well, except as a gesture of goodwill.

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  17. The accord might well be meaningless in reality but environmentalists and their many supporters don’t believe it is meaningless. Thus they view the rejection of the Paris Accord by the Trump Administration as very meaningful indeed. Furthermore, there is a multitude of commentators (governments, NGOs, academics, the media) who are telling all and sundry that it is a BIG THING. Consequently it becomes so.

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  18. Exactly Paul. Paris is nothing more than a ‘we all agree that the earth is in danger of overheating because of us and we all agree that we should do something about it’. A virtue signalers’ fest framed as an international ‘treaty’, a do-gooders’ global love-in. If Trump walks away, he will destroy the ‘ambience’ of the whole party. It will be like turning off the hi-fi, flinging open the doors and windows and letting the fresh air in to replace the cannabis ‘like, hey man, we’re like saving the planet here’ haze. The hippies are gonna be mad.

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  19. As usual, the Paris Agreement is an example of where the alarmists have lost the plot. If one truly believed in man-made global warming, one would point out all the weaknesses and follies contained in the Paris Agreement, and its absolute irrelevance to the issue. Instead, most of them seem to see it as a big deal. As has been pointed out, in that context, the Holthaus tweets are hilarious.

    Many alarmists seem incapable of joining the dots when it comes to adopting policies to achieve what they claim to want to achieve. This is, and always has been, my biggest difference with them.

    More bias from the BBC today: “China climate vow as Trump decision looms” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-40118690). I thought the BBC is supposed to report the news, not express an opinion, yet the choice of the simple word “looms” (with all its dark connotations) amply illustrates that the BBC thinks Trump announcing a decision for the US to leave the agreement would be a bad thing.

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  20. Every now and then I get a particular bee in my bonnet and have to speak (or rather blog) out about it. It is that we sceptics are a minority, and probably a small one at that. The effect of this commonly is that what may be obvious to us, we expect to be agreed by the general public. Well, unfortunately it isn’t. The general public, apart from a very few, either have no opinion (oh I leave that to the experts) or follow the consensus (again probably because they defer to “experts” or what the media tell them). If I went into my Norfolk town and asked locals about what Trump should be doing, I guarantee that the overwhelming majority who gave an opinion would support the environmentalists’ position. If I went into Norwich, with its relatively large Green voting population, the anti-Trump position would be even greater. It takes a great deal of chutzpah to stand against the crowd, especially when you are bombarded by spin day after day, even when you are sufficiently informed to recognize the spin for what it is and be able to identify contained falsehoods.
    Expecting the general public to become aware of the false news about climate change is not very sensible. Some recent expectations (like the May government being willing to dismantle the Climate Change Act) I have always thought to be unlikely. I’m still uncertain just how successful Trump will be in draining the climate swamp, given the forces arrayed against him.

    Bonnet now Hymenoptera-free (for the time being).

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  21. NGOs are the symbiant parasites of the bureaucratic state. NGOs provide the loophole for bureaucrats and tiny committed fanatics can get past law and democracy and voters and impose their extremist agendas. They are parasitic, producing nothing of objective value and receive significant “grants” from bureaucrats and special standing in court and media, but benefit the bureaucratic state by helping increase bureaucratic power. Think of the EU or the EPA. Paris is incredibly dangerous, giving an opening for courts to create by fiat rulings to impose the voluntary agreement as a binding treaty.

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  22. Much too strong Hunter – do you really think that standardization agencies (an example of a certain type of international NGO) are “loophole for bureaucrats and tiny committed fanatics can get past law and democracy and voters and impose their extremist agendas”. How about certain Centres for Disease Control?

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  23. Alan – By your arguments, trade unions have (or had) no power because they cannot enact laws themselves. If NGOs didn’t exert undue influence, why do you spend your time writing about them or arguing with me about them?

    Unions were able to assert political power in particular disputes, either with government or business. That’s a point of a union — collective bargaining — even if it is without the legislative process. NGOs do not wield that power. What can they do — ie threaten — by withdrawing, or otherwise mobilising their membership? They are in this respect, impotent. As they themselves found at COP meetings they found themselves barred from. Unions were able to bring the entire country to a standstill when their *economic* interests were not served (or when they wanted to win a wider political battle… and the rest is history).

    I spend my time writing and arguing about them because they allow us to pick apart green ideology. I take issue with their dominance much more over the *development* rather than domestic political agenda. Notably, one-time development agencies increasingly identify themselves as climate champions, which speaks in turn to a degraded understanding of development across the political sphere.

    I questioned their proximity to policymakers — for e.g. David Cameron giving his presser in 2006, on top of Greenpeace’s London HQ. The point here, again, is not Greenpeace asserting itself on UK politics, but Cameron seeking to establish his green credentials, thereby creating Greenpeace’s niche.

    Actually, I think Hunter is correct to say “NGOs are the symbiant parasites of the bureaucratic state”.

    Your rejoinder — How about certain Centres for Disease Control? — is interesting, because controlling disease is of course a great idea at face value. But to the extent that disease control is the business of non-governmental organisations or even organisations with mandates, they have surely exceeded and expanded their mandates, as well as the definition of disease. The most recent of which has been some crazy stuff on air pollution. NGOs, variously attempting to use these figures to force “action”, however, have only been able to do so with the likes of Saddiq Khan, for instance, whereas Theresa May is allegedly, dragging her feet on writing the UK’s clean air plans to conform to EU (and possibly UN) legislation… My point here being that Khan needs the green NGOs much more than May, his agenda being so much more hollow (which is no defence of May’s agenda), and he struggling to identify his purpose.

    Your remarks about scoring debating points are childish. Take them elsewhere. If you want to take the points seriously, however, I explore them in more depth at http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/11068#.WTA_0-vytGE , http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/the_green_crap_hits_its_fans/14332#.WTBA7OsrJGE , http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/12456#.WTBA9esrJGE

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  24. Ben. You argued that NGOs were not politically powerful because they could not pass legislation and I repost by citing trade unions. Now you exempt trade unions on the grounds that they can exert power by withdrawing their members’ labour, making my point but somehow arguing that you are still right. These are debating tricks (changing the focus of a dispute OKA changing goalposts).

    I still argue that the fact that you are willing to research, write about and debate NGOs is an acknowledgement that you consider them important. If they had little influence would you still be interested? It is the very fact that they are influential (some for good, others much less so) that gives them power and makes them significant. Without influence (= power) they would not be of any interest.

    You also fail to acknowledge that many involved in NGOs , unpaid or paid significantly less than they can get elsewhere, do their work for altruistic reasons. If you are right, they cannot be doing it to gain power because you are indicating NGOs have no power. On this we seem to fundamentally disagree.

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  25. I agree that there is a symbiosis between NGOs and bureaucrats as demonstrated by the EU’s funding of them. I also think there’s a link with the left. They maintain the myth of the perfect society and superior beings making decisions for the flawed capitalists and their uneducated following. They swirl together in a great mass, spending a lot of money and achieving very little.

    They have power because people give it to them. It’s almost superstition. Nobody measures value for money, success or even corruption. The Right should be able to fend them off, if not ignore them totally but most MPs of all colours are paid up members of the elite idiots society. Cameron’s total stupidity towards The Kids Company was a classic example of supposedly intelligent people parking their brains in exchange for feeling good about themselves. Camila Batmanghelidjh couldn’t have signified her dodgy abilities any more unless she’d worn a sign.

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  26. Alan — You argued that NGOs were not politically powerful because they could not pass legislation and I repost by citing trade unions.

    In fact, the conversation went like this:

    —-
    Alan: If you believe corporations are weak, then NGOs’ strength, relatively, is great. The point I was trying to make is that NGOs have the support of people willing to act and it is that which confers [upon] them their ability to persuade and influence.

    Ben: NGO’s like FoE can only draft legislation if legislators ask them to — as was the case with the UK Labour Party and the CCA2008. They have none of their own. They attempt to embarasses corporations, for sure. And even some politicians. But this is PR, not political *power*.
    —-

    Political power can be expressed in different ways, and towards different ends, by different organisations. I say NGOs have no power, because they’re effectively extensions of state machinery, rather than, as they would have it, exist in opposition to unchecked authority. This point can be demonstrated WRT to the climate issue most neatly by looking at the campaigns which emerged as the CCA2008 was being drafted & debated. E.g. http://www.climate-resistance.org/tag/pastiche-politics and http://www.climate-resistance.org/2011/06/trouble-at-miliband.html :

    —– —– —–
    But NGOs are neither democratic nor accountable. Their influence is not legitimate. But there’s worse news for Miliband. The idea that NGOs can mobilise popular support is a proven failure. Back in 2009, Miliband, conscious of the fact that the government’s climate policies lacked democratic legitimacy, asked the environmental movement to come up with some bodies,

    When you think about all the big historic movements, from the suffragettes, to anti-apartheid, to sexual equality in the 1960s, all the big political movements had popular mobilization. Maybe it’s an odd thing for someone in government to say, but I just think there’s a real opportunity and a need here.

    The result was a shambles. Miliband grew closer to the Age of Stupid director, Franny Armstrong, who established the 10:10 campaign and the couple made many public appearances together in which she’d hector him about not taking climate seriously enough, and he’d whinge that there wasn’t enough support. What Miliband hadn’t noticed is just how totally the 10:10 campaign was incapable of generating public support. For starters, the message of Age of Stupid is profoundly anti-popular, and expresses contempt for the unwashed, ever-consuming masses and their desires for more, better, faster, cheaper. This was epitomised in their attempts to ‘connect’ with the public with an advert depicting the violent and bloody murder of individuals — including children — who didn’t appear to be taking the climate message seriously. Climate sceptics, for all the rumours that oil companies give $millions to ‘deniers’ to ‘distort’ the public perception of the climate debate could not have created anything that so succinctly captured the nastiest side of the environmental movement and its character.

    The 10:10 campaign’s ill-judged attempt to ‘communicate’ across the divide demonstrated that NGOs serve as outsourced government departments. What this relationship reveals is that, for the likes of Ed Miliband, the legitimacy of his role, and the basis for the policies he creates are after-thoughts. He’s found himself as the leader of the opposition, and is now thinking ‘ok, I’m leader of the Labour Party, now how can I make myself as popular as I need to be to be the leader of the Labour Party’. And it’s as though he’s decided which policies he wants, and now wants to set about making those policies legitimate without actually debating them — call in the NGOs. This is politics upside down. It should be popular support which brings political leaders and their ideas to power. Instead, we see bland and hollow managerial politicians in bed with NGOs employed as public image consultants in some mutually self-serving play for power. Miliband’s programme can only make it a more ugly spectacle, assuming, that is, anyone is even watching.
    —- —– —–

    NGOs (of the kind we are interested in here and now) speak to governments for governments. Their ability to speak to people, much less mobilise people, is only proven to be a failure. This is because NGOs are as isolated from ordinary life as politicians are, they inhabiting the same bubbles.

    I still argue that the fact that you are willing to research, write about and debate NGOs is an acknowledgement that you consider them important.

    They are interesting as a peculiarity of politics in the current (and passing) era. I don’t say they are insignificant. On the contrary, I claim they are an indictment of contemporary politics. The point is not, as you put it, ‘influence’ — the influencer and the influencee are all but the same thing. NGOs are, essentially, what is produced when a political body sticks its head up its arse. They dominate ‘civil society’, and public debates, with the established agenda — they’re puppets, in this respect, as Chris Snowdon observes.

    You also fail to acknowledge that many involved in NGOs , unpaid or paid significantly less ….

    And significantly more. And let’s not further confuse volunteering at a charity with activism at NGOs. People in NGOs get paid very very well indeed — much more than they could hope to earn in the private sector. And that’s why many are prepared to work for a while for free, or for low pay. It’s nice work, if you can get it.

    If you believe NGOs have power independently of the bodies they serve, show it.

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  27. There clearly are several disconnects with what we are arguing about. Political power to you means the ability to legislate but to me includes the ability to influence those that you believe do exercise such power. In addition the ability to raise funds for chosen projects and access to the powerful are also important. Your comments seem to put all NGOs into the same basket, yet your illustrations come mainly from organisations that influence the climate debate. Yet there are many NGOs that are not democratic that I venture to suggest would gain near universal approval – the Duke of Edinburgh Awards scheme easily comes to mind. My only contact with an NGO was in Canada when I advised an organization that approved geological nomenclature. I did this gratis, and as far as I can remember no one got paid. It was influential in its own very small way. As to members of big NGOs getting well paid, well yes some probably do, but then they are managing large organizations with huge turnovers. In my time at UEA I came across numerous undergraduates who were members of organizations such as Greenpeace, WWF and the like. They also gave their time and enthusiasm gratis. I’m sure that, for every well paid person there will be hundreds if not thousands of those working for the NGOs who are poorly or un paid.

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  28. Alan — There clearly are several disconnects with what we are arguing about. Political power to you means the ability to legislate…

    I said precisely the opposite. I said there were many ways different organisations can assert their power. NGOs, by contrast, don’t seem to have any means so to do.

    You can’t discriminate between The Duke of Edinburgh Awards and WWF. And that’s just disingenuous. Even the broadest definition of NGOs is more useful: organisations with “observer status” to UN processes. Your definition would have us believe that any organisation which was not a statutory body was an NGO.

    “I’m sure that, …”

    Why should I be moved by what you’re so sure about?

    Don’t answer that, please just move on. Thanks.

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  29. Ben you finished up writing “If you believe NGOs have power independently of the bodies they serve, show it”. But then I never argued this, I merely argued they possessed power, whether this was independently gained or was transferred was something I hadn’t really considered. Nevertheless an organization like Greenpeace now probably has power independently by virtue of its size, the support it gets from its supporters, and its ability to influence those in power by virtue of its preferred access and support from influential individuals and other organizations.
    Do note that my arguments do not mean that I support in any way environmental NGOs. In fact I used to give a lecture drawing the attention of students to the negative aspects of environmentalism, focussing on NGOs. It was never a popular lecture.

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  30. Alan – Nevertheless an organization like Greenpeace now probably has power independently by virtue of its size, the support it gets from its supporters, and its ability to influence those in power by virtue of its preferred access and support from influential individuals and other organizations.

    I went to the Greenpeace march against the exploitation of the Arctic a few years ago (as a journalist, not a supporter). (Read my short summary here).

    In a city of more than 8 million, with good transport links to it from all over the country, they pulled no more than 3,000 supporters onto the streets.

    So at the street level, I suggest that what this shows is that Greenpeace cannot demonstrate popular appeal on *ANY* measure. What is true of Greenpeace holds with other green organisations similarly. The anti-fracking demo in Westminster at the end of the moratorium had no more than 300 people.

    The point is made clearer when we consider how Greenpeace typically engages with the public:

    1. It puts on silly, usually disruptive or obstructive stunts, in public.

    2. It hijacks recognisable brands and attributes to them environmental ‘crimes’ to elicit support for legislation which already exists in draft form, or has recently been enacted.

    The first point reflects again their inability to mobilise the public — their only way of getting on the TV is by high profile stunt. The second shows that Greenpeace merely services legislators, not pushes them.

    On those points. Recall Greenpeace scaling Parliament, to unfurl banners proclaiming “Change the politics”. Yet all but 5 MPs had voted in favour of the Climate Change Act. There was no political body in the world more in favour of climate action than the House of Commons. The problem for them was the public, which wasn’t ready for the pace of change MPs and green NGOs wanted. Their banners made no sense, except to see them as anti-democratic slogans… Or rather slogans which would appeal to a class of technocrats, against the public.

    “They are weak lot” as one PM put it, a long time ago. We should point it out.

    Anyhow, it has just been announced that Trump will pull the US out of the Paris Accords, according to news reports. We should probably discuss that.

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  31. Green Peace have very little public support. Small numbers make a lot of noise. Climate change is a very low public priority. There is no mass movement to solve it and much of the support evaporates when the utilities bill comes in. There’d be more opposition if people knew exactly what it was costing them.

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  32. To possibly abuse my metaphor a bit more….beneficial NGOs that still actually serve the poor, remediate enviro damage, build clean water for rural Africans etc. are like beneficial gut bacteria that serve vital roles in unpleasant places. There is a symbiotic relationship there, and is helpful. The hall of mirror list of NGO s devoted to promoting climate hype with grants from the EPA and Soros are malignant symbionts however. Making part of the victim possibly feel ok but actually killing the entire organism long term.

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  33. Now President Trump has made the bold wise and thoughtful decision. Now it is time for skeptics to push for a fair hearing in the public square. The climate reactionaries are pretending that the only virtue truth and science is on their side. We must not permit the reactionary forces paint us into a stereotypical corner.

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  34. Geoff, it is ironic that your bit of climate spin is published at the false it named “The Conversation”. Because if course the proper name is “The Diatribe”, where climate hypesters can preach without fear of ….conversation.

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  35. La Belle France, je regrette tant,
    debt quatre-vingt-dix percent
    of GDP, unemployment dix percent
    et social welfare spending trente-
    et-un virgule cinq percent of GDP. Alas poor Paris,
    quel ratio, Horatio!
    [Done. I did some more editing. Hope you don’t mind – Geoff]

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  36. Trump’s rejection of the accord was really an expression of his view that the US was once again being taken advantage of by the 3rd world. His speech was full of condemnation of “polluters” such as China and India. Pruitt made the point that US emissions are down 17% from their peak with no real policy action. He pledged that US innovation that made that happen would show the rest of the world how to do the same. So, the decision had very little to do with climate science and a lot to do with the fact that the accord was a “bad deal for the US.” Hard to argue with that of course. Obama seemed motivated in many of his actions by a sense that the US was historically blameworthy and needed to make up for its “sins” by appropriate penance. That sel-loathing idea seems to be dead.

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  37. Nailed it David. Self-loathing and guilt trips always make bad policy, not least for those most damaged by the inequalities and injustices that seem to demand them. Trump has broken decisively with this vicious spiral.

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  38. Dr Ming is a keen watcher of CNN and offered this last night at the Conned Vexation:

    Trump made that point about China and India being exempt from any obligation to reduce emissions. I’ve been watching the discussion on CNN and I haven’t seen anyone challenge it. I got the impression that the journalists weren’t aware of this rather important point.

    Being taught, as if in a kindergarten, by the supreme intellect of the Commander-in-Chief. It’s just as well they’ve shown him such respect so far, to allow them to demonstrate the requisite humility now.

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  39. American democrats are starting to realize that Hillary is an amoral delusional kook. Will they finally see that the “love” Obama had for America was the kind of live professed by a wife beater for his wife?

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  40. The climate consensus movement has little to do with science and everything to do with imposing a secular universal state religion. No wonder Catholics corrupted by “liberation theology”, like the Pope and his advisors, have promoted climate hype with religious fervor. They apparently thought that somehow the tools of the Catholic church (recall that Catholic means universal) could steer the secular Catholic climate movement towards a christiany veneer to humanize the climate movement. The self declared clever Jesuits could somehow change its misanthropic xenocidal roots. Remember this is the Pope who has backed despots and has disdain for elected leaders who are not lefty enough. Who seems to think that the world resembles a trash heap.

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  41. HUNTER
    The idea that climatism is a religion has been around so long it feels like a cliché, but the past few hours make me think it needs taking seriously. The good thing about religions is that most of them die away rapidly. And even when they command widespread credence, expressions of religious fervour are usually limited in time, and then everyone goes back to their normal life.

    The bad thing is that sometimes they get official acceptance and can last for thouands of years, marked by persecution and wars against unbelievers. This looks like one of them. Maybe all we can do is hang on to our sanity and hope some historian (probably Chinese) discovers in a few hundred years time that we existed. It won’t do any good, but at least someone will know that a few people held on to their sanity.

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  42. Geoff, hopefully we like freedom too much to let another religion truly dominate our lives. AGW is a greedy church with many pointless rules. There’s not even a sniff of a future paradise, just more of the same.

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  43. It’s not just a religion, it’s a political religion, just as Naziism and Stalinism were. At least that’s been my stock response the cliche since I read Michael Burleigh on the Third Reich maybe fifteen years ago. Burleigh draws on a number of prior scholars whose names now escape me. It’s the most helpful category I believe for what we have to confront.

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  44. Surely it’s a cult, a particularly pernicious cult of the environmentalism religion? It now feels itself under attack and is marshalling its forces to withstand Trumpism – a reinvigorated American isolationist cult? It is noticeable that withdrawal of the USA from the Paris Accord is justified on economic fairness and not scientific grounds.

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  45. I’m sure most Republicans are absolutely delighted that some Governors and City Managers are declaring opposition to Trump and are proposing to spend citizens’ tax money supporting climate change. I suspect the Mayor of Pittsburgh, who essentially has declared support for Paris over his own city is a goner. California retains its nutjob status as expected.
    The USA seems even more divided than ever. Perhaps even the proposal for western California to secede from the rest of the state might materialize.

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  46. Parasites are only powerful when properly placed in a suitable host. The NGOs that are acting parasitically are powerful to the extent they are feeding in a protected location. Green parasites in the US have been granted special standing to sue for instance. And their faux lawsuits almost always reimburse for high legal fees and other financial recovery. So they go to a previously agree to suit, have the court ratify a pre-arranged verdict and receive pre agreed to money. So some extreme non-beneficial regulation gets imposed by lawsuit not science or cost-benefit analysis and those who are supposedly looking out for us are in on the scam.

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  47. Hunter: it’s such deeply embedded corruption that made me write:

    Beyond that, though, I find where we’re headed incredibly unclear.

    But there’s clearly some change afoot and that is very welcome.

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  48. Paul, thanks for the link to the actual text of the Paris Agreement. This, I believe, explains why Trump has pulled out, regardless of whether he believes or not that man-made climate change is an urgent problem:

    “4. Developed country Parties should continue taking the lead by undertaking economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets. Developing country Parties should continue enhancing their mitigation efforts, and are encouraged to move over time towards economy-wide emission reduction or limitation targets in the light of different national circumstances.
    5.Support shall be provided to developing country Parties for the implementation of this Article, in accordance with Articles 9,10 and 11, recognizing that enhanced support for developing country Parties will allow for higher ambition in their actions.”

    It also begs the question of how China can now be expected to ‘lead’ on Paris when it is relegated in the actual agreement to the status of a developing nation, reliant upon help from developed nations and not subject to the same stringent emissions reductions targets expected of developed countries.
    .

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  49. Jaime, yes, I think that’s one of the key points. At several points in the document it says that we have to make allowances for developing countries, and that developed countries must give more cash to developing countries.
    (“Continuous and enhanced international support shall be provided to developing country Parties”, “Developed country Parties shall provide financial resources to assist developing country Parties” etc)

    The list of countries in the UNFCCC is here.

    The countries that don’t have “Annex 1” written by their name are the “developing” ones, which includes China.

    This is the point that Robin Guenier makes repeatedly, most recently at the Nonversation, but nobody takes much notice. Maybe they will now.

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  50. Thanks for the links Paul. It seems so obvious now that Trump’s decision is primarily an economic one taken in the best interests of the United States and in light of his predecessor signing the country up to a very one-sided global climate agreement. But this is way too bland for the Trump haters – they have to cast him as the destroyer of worlds, the arch enemy of climate justice, idiotic denier of overwhelming scientific evidence . . . oh, and vile racist too, mustn’t forget the racist bit.

    http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2017/06/01/meltdown-left-goes-apocalyptic-over-trump-paris-decision-aclu-calls-it-assault-on-communities-of-color/

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  51. Thanks Paul for the list of Annex 1 countries, the ones which are supposed to give a trillion dollars per decade to the “developing” ones. They were originally defined as “the West” plus Japan, Russia, the ex-Warsaw Pact, and European states of the ex-USSR. So quite poor countries like Bulgaria and Belarus are supposed to subsidise Saudi Arabia, China, South Korea, and the whole of South America. I don’t think it will happen.

    A glance at the list shows that it’s the countries with populations of European origin (plus Japan and Turkey) versus the rest. Just wait till Mrs le Pen spots that.

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  52. Giving hard cash to non-Annex I countries is part of the DNA of the UN since Rio 1992, the notion being developing countries like India would not participate at all, with their special status of having not contributed to global CO2 load wasn’t factored in.

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  53. Geoff, the last time I looked at the department of overseas aid just about everything they did was send people to Saudi, India, China, Latin America and Africa to lecture them on Climate change. We are already doing it. I hope Bulgaria is pulling its weight.

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  54. Getting back to the core point of Ben’s article: Greens may represent little in terms of the popular vote, but here in France they’ve had a near-total monopoly of the media for the past 24 hours. Failed Ecology party ex-presidential candidates facing off against Ecology Party ex-MEPs, with the heads of Greenpeace and the WWF raising the stakes, and know-nothing journalists egging them on. We’ve seen Jouzel, ,ex-vice-chairman of the IPCC, saying it didn’t matter that the US was pulling out, because Europe would simply make an extra effort (presumably coughing up the missing billions and destroying their industry sooner than promised) while the ecology minister was positively ecstatic about how the USA’s withdrawal would motivate the troops to ever greater efforts. And I’ve lost count of how many leftwing candidates in the forthcoming election I’ve seen quoting Exxon and Goldman Sachs against Trump. Yesterday they were talking about closing France’s last coal mines and oilwells (thus making our fossil fuels 100% foreign.) Today they were proposing to ban the importation of fracked gas (making us even more dependent on Russia.)

    We’ve had a good laugh about the insanity of it all, but the fact is that they’re running the show, and we aren’t. Ten years ago, it was possible to assert the proposition that the future was uncertain without being ostracised. Lomborg was a frequent contributor to the Guardian’s Environment page. Durkin could place a sceptical programme on Channel 4. Lord Lawson could be interviewed on the BBC. As the science has become less certain, the cultish nature of the movement has become more evident, and their hold on the media near-absolute.

    Of course, like everyone else, I’m glad Trump did it. But it is impossible for any intelligent person to follow his lead, anywhere, on any subject under the sun. Last month, we were pariahs because we were suspected of being in the pay of Exxon Mobil. Now Exxon are the goodies and we’re as deplorable as ever. I still don’t see a way out.

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  55. Very well said Geoff. I’d only add that Theresa May has been noticeably lukewarm in her support for Paris this evening, failing to condemn her new best friend with anything like the venom required by the punditerami. A tiny straw in the wind. You and I aren’t the only ones to have enjoyed the hasty beautification of Exxon and Goldman Sachs by the new progressives

    I too have no clue what happens next.

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  56. Green lobbies are attractive to politicians. In the past, at least the Tories had business and industry’s back but now even they like the idea of a green scheme more than a productive business. They turn instead to banking and service industries to finance it all. Which is fine until there’s a crisis. You have to have some basics to fall back on. Part of my reason for leaving the EU was to force the country to diversify. Brexit happened and came as a surprise because MPs, journalists and other influential people never move out of their bubble unless there’s an election. MPs need to spend less time rubbing shoulders with the BBC and more on working out how to make the country successful. They need to stop relying on the Guardian to explain stuff to them. The broadsheets used to be reliable messengers but they’re now just as sensationalist and opinionated as any tabloid, albeit they use longer words. It’s the media, especially the BBC that keeps the (sorry Geoff) left wing mantra of ‘be nice, no matter if you can’t afford it’ going. No scratch that, it’s even older and goes back to the Christian idea of impoverishing yourself to (theoretically) make the lives of others better. In reality, everyone ends up suffering. Why won’t that concept die?

    I don’t know what will make a difference. Oh I can imagine AGW hysteria might fade away but it will be replaced with something else. It’s all a bit depressing.

    When Trump was elected I said that I thought he needed to spend more, not less on climate science. I still think that. How much better if he’d commissioned a team of eminent economists to assess the Paris Treaty and deem it financially flawed? How about instead of turning off the Climate web pages, he’d get new pages made with ALL the facts? He could have been financing decent climate debates by now. His heart might be in the right place but he’ll ultimately fail unless he can get the knowledge out there. He’s not well enough versed in the arguments to do it. He should be letting the sceptic experts do his explaining for him, the same way the other side did before the ‘CAGW is real’ meme got traction.

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  57. Our friend ATTP of course doesn’t like Trump’s decision and says that the arguments against the accord are inconsistent. He asks how can something be both nonbinding and have draconian consequences?

    But of course, that inconsistency is exactly the reason the arguments for the accord are so weak. It’s nonbonding so countries can really do what they like with no penalty. On the other hand the accord is supposed to actually make a difference. It’s really an agreement for people to do what they would do otherwise. The affluent world who can afford the virtue signaling can create the most massive and meaningless virtue signal of all time, while those who don’t care about virtue (those who are concerned about survival) can do absolutely nothing.

    Apparently, what Trump may have feared most is that the accord could be used by Green groups and the American courts to tie his hands on rolling back Obama’s various energy regulations. So that’s how it could become draconian in its effect.

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  58. “to tie his hands”.

    The UN and the EU continually try to circumvent democracy and make sure that no matter who people vote for, they still get global socialism. Good countries try to co-operate and supply cash, bad countries
    pay nothing or receive and do what they want.

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  59. NGO’s are frequently in a revolving door situation with government, E3G is a good example, John Ashton, Tom Burke and the like are former government advisors. Ashton worked for the FCO. Donna LaFramboise has shown the extent to which NGO’s are embedded in the IPCC process. Groups like FoE get EU funded to lobby the EU on “environmental ” matters.

    The group, Climate Analytics, responsible for the INDC concept and subsequent monitoring, is headed by Australian environmental activist Bill Hare, former International Political Director of Greenpeace, who went to Potsdam in 2002 as a “visting scientist”. He was pushing the 1.5 degrees idea in the 90’s and is behind a lot of John Schellnhuber’s pronouncements.

    He started Climate Analytics from Potsdam in 2009 with funding from the German Federal Government, for whom his wife works. (He met her at Kyoto in 1997, she has been an advisor to Merkel).

    Jennifer Morgan, former WWF head of international climate policy, former advisor to Blair and Schellnhuber, has spent time at E3G and World Resources Institute, (where Al Gore is a former director), before now moving in as Co-Director of Greenpeace International. She is also on the Advisory Board of the Grantham Institute, along with Schellnhuber, having previously been on the Potsdam Advisory Board with Nick Stern, chair of the LSE Grantham Institute.

    Also on the Grantham board are the heads of US Environmental Defense and WWF-US, along with a few global financiers. As the Grantham Institute has major input into UK policy via the climate change committee, we thus have US NGO’s directly influencing UK energy policy.

    Princeton IPCC scientist Michael Oppenheimer helped set up the Climate Action Network of NGO’s whilst at Environmental Defense, whom he still advises. He was instrumental in the “2 degrees” meme in the late 80’s before Schellnhuber discovered it. Morgan and Hare were and are both influential in the CAN.

    NGO involvement goes back to Maurice Strong. In Geneva in 1973, he launched the “World Assembly of NGO’s concerned with the Global Environment”. He realised that for his ambitions of a UN world government to become reality, he needed the vast networking opportunities offered by the NGO’s, now referred to as “Civil Society”. By offering them involvement and a perception of power he brought them on board, so that NGO’s are now involved in all UN bodies and are major contributors to the IPCC reports.

    There are NGO’s and there are NGO’s. Socialist International is a Non-Governmental Organisation as it self-describes: “As a non-governmental organisation, the Socialist International has consultative status (Category I) with the United Nations, and works internationally with a large number of other organisations.”

    In 2007, they established “The Socialist International Commission for a Sustainable World Society”, “to articulate from the world of progressive politics a way forward to address global environmental concerns, climate change and the issues of governance required to deal with these common challenges.”

    Their first meeting was hosted in London, on 19 November 2007, by then Prime Minister Gordon Brown. It was held in advance of the UNFCCC COP 13 in Bali in December 2007, “where more than 180 countries were to agree on the Bali Roadmap and the Bali Action Plan toward achieving a new climate change regime within two years.”

    That was to have been achieved at Copenhagen in 2009, which seemed like a failure, but led to the Green Climate Fund. They never give up.

    The Kyoto Accord in 1997, took 8 years for ratification as the Kyoto Protocol in 2005, when Russia was bribed on-board with WTO membership. Paris is an Accord at the moment, they seek to eventually give it teeth as a Protocol. What happens next depends on how far Trump is sabotaged in his efforts to kill off the Green Monster. What we need to see is a breaking of ranks as seems possible with Poland and Hungary, but the blandishments on offer usually succeed in pulling in the awkward squads.

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  60. What I find interesting about recent developments is the huge diversity of opinions being promoted: the Paris Accord is significant, no it’s not; the Accord is binding; no it’s not; it will take the USA four years to extricate itself, no only one year, Trump could stop funding tomorrow; the USA’s withdrawal is devastating, no it’s won’t really have any effect, and so on and so on. Rarely have there been so many opinions given, with such a diversity of opinion and with views so earnestly given.

    What is a poor, retired geologist supposed to believe?

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  61. Alan — What is a poor, retired geologist supposed to believe?

    Good question. I think the two things we can say about climate change and climate change ‘agreements’ are that if either were coherently and consistently defined, they would be useless to the climate champion.

    Climate change needs to be a moving target, because once defined, it becomes merely a technical, rather than political issue.

    Ditto, domestic politicians need to appeal to ‘international commitments’, no matter the actual wording of those commitments, so as not to be accountable to the public.

    The ‘virtue’ of climate change is that it is so nebulous, it can mean whatever you want it to mean, and everyone else is a denier.

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  62. The point I was trying to make is that the strident nature and the divergence in opinions offered about things climatique seem to have reached a peak this week. Clearly Trump’s actions, although heralded long before, have hit a major nerve and (to mix metaphors) the antibodies have been released en mass. It is strange that there has been so little support for the US action from outside the Republican ranks and so much opposition internally. The last, to me, seems particularly strange given the precise argument used by Trump. I am far from being a Trump supporter, but I think he is getting too rough a reception. I am surprised he hasn’t commissioned an expert panel, with participants from across the scientific spectrum, to investigate alarmist propaganda. Even if it could not reach a conclusion, this would send out its own message.

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  63. Wow Dennis, that’s quite a climate industrial complex. And of course, they are unelected and unaccountable except to their members, a very small group by comparison with most political organizations. There used to be a few NGO’s that were explicitly non political such as the Nature Conservancy. They changed their stripes a long time ago and that is when I stopped backing them.

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  64. Very good questions and answers.

    On Alan’s observations – the warmists try two tactics. They make a big deal out of what a rotter Trump is, hoping to scare him into a U turn. Then they big themselves up by saying that they’re so good and plans are so far advanced that they don’t need Trump’s support. Underneath the surface they’re aware that the US pulling out does matter. 5 years is a long time out in the funding cold. In some ways I think Trump’s actions are inspired. Usually a president will diplomatically weave his plans and maybe see some results by the end of their first term. If they lose the next election, all the work is undone, which is why they often take their feet off the pedals for the next term. No point starting something new. Trump hit the ground running. There’s no assumption of a second term so the more he gets done in year one, the more they’ll be embedded by the end of his term. Assuming he doesn’t get arrested before that point.

    His biggest problem is he knows what he thinks but isn’t used to justifying his ideas.

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  65. Richard Tol has written his own interesting thoughts on Trump’s withdrawal from Paris.

    He suggests that the reason for withdrawing is that the agreement requires countries to
    enhance their ambition with each version of the INDC, so he would have been obliged to go further than Obama did. He also says that Trump’s effect on the climate will be small and things would not have been much different under Clinton – a rather different story from those who’ve claimed that Trump is personally destroying the planet or indulging in a “traitorous act of war”. He also suggests that other countries may weaken their climate action in response.

    No earth-shattering new insights, but it’s nice to see the topic discussed calmly and rationally for a change.

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  66. I found Tol’s analysis disappointing. In particular:

    The main international effect, however, is political. With his decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, or renege on his predecessor’s international commitment, Mr Trump has once again expressed his disregard for a rules-based, multilateral world order. Mr Trump has displayed a similar attitude towards trade agreements and military alliances. Once more, Mr Trump has taken a position that is sharply at odds with the US’ traditional allies, such as Canada, Europe and Japan. Climate policy is important to the leaders of these countries. Snubbing their wishes does not further relationships. Going back on your predecessor’s word does not build trust. Mr Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement is only one manifestation of his attitude towards international relations. That attitude may cause more problems than his actions on energy and climate change.

    But Trump did not take issue with a ‘a rules-based, multilateral world order’ for nothing. That order manifestly has been a compact across national domestic political classes, in spite of the interests or wishes of the domestic populations they purportedly represent. Those bemoaning Trump’s ascendancy have been the last to understand that, in spite of his faults, this has made him a more attractive proposition than those candidates that represented a continuation of a political order that categorically a) struggles to sustain any semblance of domestic legitimacy; b) moves its domestic crises of legitimacy onto the world stage; c) by internationalising these crises amplifies them. For example: Blair on global terrorism. Or any mediocre political hack on climate change. The consequences of addressing these seemingly global ‘challenges’ (in the hack vernacular) is the failure to meet the needs of domestic populations, and to expose them, and people in poorer regions to greater risk, to the furthering of that political order’s interests.

    Consider this, from a Newsweek article on Blair.

    As Britain’s democracy turned on Blair, he, in turn, felt increasingly alienated from it. When he became prime minister in 1997, he wrote in A Journey: “I had started by buying the notion, and then selling the notion, that to be in touch with opinion was the definition of good leadership.”A decade later, “I was ending by counting such a notion of little value and defining leadership not as knowing what people wanted and trying to satisfy them, but knowing what I thought was in their best interest and trying to do it. Pleasing all of the people all of the time was not possible; but even if it had been, it was a worthless ambition.”

    The article, summing up, shows Blair’s disappointment with ‘democracy’ for it’s lack of ‘effectiveness’, and the development of his believe in some kind of benevolent oligarchy in its place.

    The day before Blair’s appearance in Davos, the World Economic Forum’s head, Klaus Schwab, opened the conference by telling his audience they were there because “you are our leaders”, brought together “to improve the state of the world”. The four-day programme would, he said, “address all the major issues on the global agenda”. Participants would first define these problems, issues such as global poverty, disease, war and the environment, then try to resolve them. Schwab had made a head-start, naming “10 big global challenges” that bore a close resemblance to those identified by Blair. Third on his list was “lack of leadership”. Fifth was “weakening of representative democracy”.

    As such, the first task of the order that Blair represented was to depoliticise domestic national politics, turning national governments into super-parents, and handing decision-making to higher courts (and billionaires). What this does, from the POV of the voter, is to entirely limit the possibilities his or her vote can acheive; Blair preferred to take his instruction from public ‘opinion’, rather than allow decisions to be made by public contest. The reaction from the public was, increasingly, ‘foxtrot oscar’, and the Blair regime became notable for its paternalistic authoritarianism, including massive intrusions into ancient political and civil rights, as well as into the private sphere — a total transformation of the role of government and its relationship with the public.

    What Tol doesn’t seem to realise, is that the ‘a rules-based, multilateral world order’ has merely created and fuelled an antagonism between national governments and their populations, and has thus jeopardised itself. The ‘rules-based, multilateral world order’ on the other side of a democratic deficit that could only ever lead to conflict of one kind or another. Going back on Obama’s word does indeed build trust, perhaps not between Trump and Trudeau, or Trump and May. But between him, and those who voted for him, much to the chagrin of those who persist and fail to find fault with his presidency with conspiracy theories about Russia — while we’re on the subject of ‘rules-based multilateral orders’ — which will do far more to risk a dangerous global situation than the failure of the UNFCCC.

    I think Tol gets his arithmetic wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

  67. I’m a bit puzzled by this idea of regarding the President of the USA as the “leader of the free world”, and so having some sort of moral obligation to support “a rules-based, multilateral world order”. Especially when he can’t even seem to get what he wants done in his own country (travel ban, wall, Obamacare).

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  68. @paul
    As I wrote, the role is vacant. There is a big orange gap in world politics. God knows what that implies, but between Venezuela, Libya, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Russia, Turkey and North Korea, chances are we would have wished for Clinton’s sanity in the foreseeable future.

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  69. Anyone who thinks that Clinton, in a desperate bid to sustain the order that is quite clearly failing, and and was quite clearly failing in November 2016, would not as president have exacerbated the crises she had already contributed more than her fair share of to, probably struggles with any kind of 2+2 other than ‘academic’ economics.

    Consider, ditto, Blair, whose desperately sought-for legacy now stands on the ground like so much rubble in Aleppo. Would you ask him to sort it out? Only if it meant forcing him to do it by his own hands, with a spade and a bucket.

    It was, after all, Clinton who danced up and down for joy at and took credit for the mob killing of Gadaffi.

    Gadaffi, It will be remembered, is rumoured to have been very generous to the LSE, where Anthony Giddens had pioneered two things that pass for the central planks of Blairism: Risk Society and the Third way — also one of Gadaffi’s favourite ideas.

    How quickly the “rules-based multilateral order” turns on its own creations. How little the rules count when they are inconvenient.

    “the role is vacant” — absurdist nonsense.

    We might look to other economists to explain the situation in any of those regions. Let’s ask Jeff Sachs about Russia, shall we?

    FFS.

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  70. “Clinton’s Sanity”.

    Has anyone ever said anything so daft before? She is a catalogue of misjudgement. So bad, the USA elected Donald Trump… That’s how bad she is.

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  71. An aside… Here is Giddens, who also wrote ‘The Politics of Climate Change’.

    Will real progress be possible only when Gadafy leaves the scene? I tend to think the opposite. If he is sincere in wanting change, as I think he is, he could play a role in muting conflict that might otherwise arise as modernisation takes hold. My ideal future for Libya in two or three decades’ time would be a Norway of North Africa: prosperous, egalitarian and forward-looking. Not easy to achieve, but not impossible. — https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2007/mar/09/comment.libya

    The leading players and thinkers behind the ‘rules-based multilateral order’ can’t even function as well as a hole.

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  72. ” chances are we would have wished for Clinton’s sanity in the foreseeable future”

    Clinton and sanity in the same sentence? Really?

    And I’d be more likely to wish for a dose of hepatitis than either Clinton!

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  73. @ben
    Whether you agree with her or not, Clinton is an impressive politician. Trump is an unimpressive businessman: He would have been a lot richer if he had put his daddy’s money in a bank account. Unsurprisingly, Trump is equally unimpressive as a president.

    The topic of the thread neatly illustrates that. Trump’s Rose Garden speech on the Paris Agreement demonstrates that he did not really understand what he was getting out of. The chosen route will have the USA leave the Paris Agreement at the earliest one day after the presidential elections. The Trump Administration is still bound by Obama’s pledges (which have yet to be repealed), and they are still bound by various court orders to reduce emissions. Trump nixed Obama’s executive order on climate policy, and is thus bound by the arguably stricter Clinton one.

    These are not the actions of a man who seeks to end climate policy. These are the actions of an incompetent who seeks attention.

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  74. I don’t believe Clinton is an impressive politician – she has about as much charm or charisma as she has a programme and a notion of how to realise it. Neither am I moved by or need the internet meme about how Trump could have made more money to see his shortcomings – he nonetheless did articulate an agenda, which many agreed with, and he at least symbolised opposition to what many had identified as a problem, by being something of an outsider.

    While we’re comparing presidents, you will remember that Bill Clinton famously made promises he couldn’t keep (which Obama later tried to) — i.e. which he didn’t understand — his response to which was ‘it’s the economy, stupid’, and the excuse made on his behalf was ‘he kept the promises he meant to’. Trump, by contrast, is showing commitment to his promises.

    You put too much weight on legal frameworks binding presidents and their successors. What upholds such things is not rock, but political will. Try to alter or repeal the Constitution, and you’ll likely have something close to civil war. Alter a piece of legislation that few have any attachment to, through due process, and you’ll get little more than mere protest from whichever group identifies with it. It seems clear to me that those who have sought to challenge Trump have opted to emphasise other things than his intentions towards climate. For e.g. stories about his intentions regarding climate policy have lasted barely hours, whereas each new variant of the Russia conspiracy theory last nearly a week before they are discovered to have zero foundation.

    In other words, Trump may well be an attention-seeking incompetent… But have you seen his opposition? It is indeed relentless, but it seems incapable of much besides alienating itself. Which is the wont of the ‘rules-based multilateral order’, after all.

    Liked by 2 people

  75. Back to the subject of the Paris agreement…

    The Hill is reporting:

    The Trump administration issued a formal notice announcing the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris climate deal, the State Department said Friday.

    The State Department sent the notice to the United Nations through diplomats, saying the U.S. intends to leave the deal “as soon as it is eligible to do so.”

    “The United States supports a balanced approach to climate policy that lowers emissions while promoting economic growth and ensuring energy security,” the agency said.

    http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/345349-trump-to-file-paris-climate-deal-withdrawal-paperwork-report

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  76. Trump’s letter to the UN and the associated press release is available here.

    The latter says “As the President indicated in his June 1 announcement and subsequently, he is open to re-engaging in the Paris Agreement if the United States can identify terms that are more favourable to it, its businesses, its workers, its people, and its taxpayers,” and it confirms that the USA will continue to take part in climate talks.

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  77. Another opinion has appeared, from Richard Muller of the BEST project.

    “When Trump announced our withdrawal from the Paris Accords, I felt that he had done the right thing…
    the Paris accords did almost nothing to stop the increase. Alas, most of that increase will come from China, India, and the developing world, not from the US or Western Europe…
    The problem with the Paris treaty is that it was a political show with no teeth. Countries set their own limits; there is no outside verification. The developing world was enthusiastic in large part because the US had pledged to put $3 billion dollars per year in the sustainable development fund…”

    Liked by 1 person

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