‘Climate Reparations’ an idea that seems to be all about money

Climate Reparations—A New Demand

Guest opinion by Peter Wood

At the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in December 2009, leaders from more than a hundred nations gathered to consider an agenda that included a massive transfer of money from developed countries to the Third World.  The developed states were tagged to provide $130 billion by 2020 to help developing nations deal with the consequences of global warming.  The proposed transfer was widely discussed as “reparations” for the damage caused by use of fossil fuels in the developed world.

The Copenhagen proposal went down in ignominious defeat.  A motley collection of Third World countries brought the idea up again in 2013 in the run-up to the UN’s climate conference in Warsaw, but by then whatever impetus the idea had had was gone.  President Obama instructed the U.S. delegate to oppose it.  The State Department explained:

“It’s our sense that the longer countries look at issues like compensation and liability, the more they will realize this isn’t a productive avenue for the [UN Framework Convention on Climate Change] to go down.”

The U.S. Government may have sidled away from this climate change compensation scheme but the underlying idea hasn’t gone away.  When the broader public and the world at large dismisses a “progressive” idea, that idea is almost certain to find an enthusiastic welcome on university campuses.  The notions of “climate reparations” and more broadly “climate justice” have settled in as things that campus philosophers philosophize about and campus activists activize over.

Possibly this is something that busy people should ignore. “Climate reparations” may turn out to be like the campaign to establish Esperanto as a world language. Esperanto, invented in the 1870s, was put forward as a tool for ending ethnic conflict and fostering world peace.  It enjoyed an American vogue in the 1960s, perhaps best remembered for a 1966 horror movie, Incubus, starring William Shatner, in which the entire dialogue was spoken in Esperanto.

Those who speak to Americans right now of climate reparations might as well be lecturing in Esperanto, since few of us want this economic incubus.  But it is never wise to entirely ignore the ideas gestating in the faculty towers.  Sometimes they get translated into actual political movements.

From Race to Environment

This thought came to mind when I came across an essay by a writer for the New America Foundation.  In “The Cost of Ignoring America’s Past,” Hana Passen begins by setting forth an astonishing parallel:

“If we do not face the lasting impact of slavery, which has been abolished by law and condemned in the court of morality, how will we be able to legislate issues like climate change, which some still deny?”

Passen, it turns out, hadn’t conjured the moral equivalence of slavery and climate change out of thin air.  She was paraphrasing Atlantic editor Ta-Nehisi Coates, who sets it out even more starkly:

“What [slavery] reparations requires is a country and a citizenry that can look at itself in the mirror naked and see itself clearly,” Coates said during a recent conversation with New America President Anne-Marie Slaughter. “And that’s the same argument for climate change. What is required for reparations, that kind of citizenry, that kind of patriotism, is not just required on that front.”

Coates’ article in the Atlantic,The Case for Reparations,” was a huge hit for the rather stodgy journal.  According to its editor James Bennett, Coates’ article “brought more visitors to the Atlantic [website] in a single day than any single piece we’ve ever published.”  It also sold out on newsstands.  But in his article Coates stuck entirely to the theme of racial reparations and did not raise the green flag of climate reparations he brought up his New America interview.

Reparations for slavery is an idea that has been churning among African-Americans for a very long time, and one that grows less and less plausible as a practical political matter with every year that passes since the Emancipation Proclamation (1863) and the passages of the 13th and 14th Amendments (1865, 1868).  But slavery reparations, or reparations for racial injustice more broadly conceived, are a durable fantasy, and it isn’t wholly surprising that a fresh enunciation of the case for them has excited attention.

But that’s a topic for another day.  The relevance of racial reparations to “climate justice” is that it serves as a conceptual and moral model.  Somebody has done something bad to someone.  Somebody has to pay.

Cotton Mather’s View

Mr. Coates is an editor, not an academic.  But the academic world is astir with ideas about how to apportion responsibility for climate change.  In this realm, any debate whether global warming is occurring and to what degree it can be attributed to human actions is entirely foreclosed.  It is simply assumed or asserted that catastrophic man-made climate change is upon us, and the discussion moves directly to identifying the culprits and apportioning the costs.  In this vein, the discussion bears a certain resemblance to debate in 17th century New England on how to handle the danger posed by witches.  It is as provocative today to express doubt in anthropogenic global warming (AGW) as it would have been to argue with Cotton Mather about relying on spectral evidence.  As Mather said, “Never use but one grain of patience with any man that shall go to impose upon me a Denial of Devils, or of Witches.” In what follows, I will abide by Mather’s counsel.

What do academics argue about when it comes to climate reparations?  Simon Carey, a professor of political theory at the University of Birmingham, lays out some useful distinctions in “Cosmopolitan Justice, Responsibility, and Global Climate Change.”  There is wide agreement on the “polluter pays principle” (PPP), Carey says.  But there is disagreement whether the true polluter is the individual who pollutes or the nation that benefits from his actions.  “Many of those who adopt the PPP approach to climate change appear to treat countries as the relevant units.”  Carey, who might be described as a climate liberal, rejects this collectivist approach, which he said is founded on the “beneficiary pays principle” (BPP). Current generations have benefited from the pollution caused by their ancestors, so the current generation should be held collectively responsible.  The Copenhagen proposal—which came four years after Carey’s article—embodies BPP logic.

Carey himself, however, believes that BPP violates PPP.  The original polluter often doesn’t pay at all, because he is dead, and the payments ignore all the improvements to the standard of living that flow from past industrialization. Carey isn’t against making people pay; he just wants individuals to pay for the harm they themselves do.  Presumably he would endorse making BP (the oil company) pay for the damage caused by the 2010 blowout of its well in the Gulf of Mexico.

This summary is probably enough to suggest that the debate over climate reparations is a serious matter drawing serious attention from scholars.  I won’t take the space here for a deep dive into climate reparations scholarship, but a little snorkeling around the reef is enlightening.

Backward-Looking Laws

In 2008, Daniel Farber published “Basic Compensation for Victims of Climate Change” in Environmental Law and Policy Annual Review.  Farber attempted to identify the injuries that deserve compensation and the “responsible parties.”  He also gave voice to the racial reparations analogy:

“The problem is somewhat analogous to the diffuse issues raised by those seeking reparations for slavery and past racial discrimination.”

Farber is a professor of law at UC Berkeley where he holds a named chair and co-directs the Center for Law, Energy & the Environment.  He is a consequential and well-published figure.  His works include, not incidentally, a law review article, “Backward-Looking Laws and Equal Protection:  The Case of Black Reparations” (2006).  His books include Disaster Law; Disaster Law and Policy; and Eco-pragmatism:  Making Sensible Environmental Decisions in an Uncertain World.  His article on black reparations is essentially a meditation on Justice Stevens’ approach to reparations, who he says, “clearly prefers forward-looking rationales for affirmative action over remedial ones” and “might vote against reparations on that basis.”

Farber’s article on compensation for victims of climate change elicited a number of responses, most interestingly from Kenneth Feinberg, the man who served as Special Master to the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund and who also ran the $20 billion BP oil spill victims’ fund.  Feinberg disagreed with Farber’s approach that distributes financial responsibility among culprits by a “market share” contribution formula.  Feinberg thinks it “more reasonable—and more politically feasible—to expect governments themselves to fund any compensation regimen.”  Feinberg also thinks it is premature to start cutting the checks.  “There is a great deal to be said for waiting until climate change litigation develops and matures…”

Why Wait?

There are many in the sustainability movement, however, who aren’t inclined to wait at all.  They act quickly, as we saw recently when an adjunct professor at American University ventured a criticism on the op-ed page of The Wall Street Journal of the climate reparations movement.  Professor Caleb Rossiter noted that:

“More than 230 organizations, including Africa Action and Oxfam, want industrialized countries to pay ‘reparations’ to African governments for droughts, rising sea levels and other alleged results of what Ugandan strongman Yoweri Museveni calls ‘climate aggression.’”

Rossiter argued that the campaign extended to efforts “to deny to Africans the reliable electricity—and thus the economic development and extended years of life—that fossil fuels can bring.”  The reward to Rossiter for his airing this complaint was a prompt firing from his position as a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies.  (Cotton Mather would approve.)

As part of the National Association of Scholars’ study of the sustainability movement, I have begun to track the “reparations” thread within the universities.  It has several aliases, including “environmental justice,” “climate compensation,” “climate change liability,” “climate debt,” and “climate reparations.”  The last in the list is the term preferred by Maxine Burkett, a law professor at the University of Hawaii, who argues that reparations put the “moral issues” appropriately at the center of the debate and offer the possibility of “galvanizing greater enthusiasm and commitment to repair from individuals, communities and nation-states.”  She thinks reparations would “foster civic trust between nations and manifest social solidarity.”

Judging from the Copenhagen and Warsaw conferences, that dream of international amity is far-fetched.  We might have a better chance by sitting ourselves down to learn Esperanto.

But lest this seem too airy a dismissal of a movement that combines heartfelt sympathy for a world imagined to be warming to disaster with cold determination to plunder the West by litigation and treaty, let me add that I take the reparations movement as a force to be reckoned with.  Hundreds of professors are honing it at law schools, environmental institutes, and schools of public policy.  Who pays?  As we say in Esperanto, Finfine, vi kaj mi. [Eventually, you and me.]

===============================================================

Originally published in Minding the Campus. Peter Wood is president of the National Association of Scholars.

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73 Responses to ‘Climate Reparations’ an idea that seems to be all about money

  1. It’s always been “all about the money.”

  2. Jfisk says:

    It’s always been about the money!

  3. This isn’t going away. It fits to nicely with the central precept of AGW: Let’s use other people’s money to control other people’s lives.

  4. CRS, DrPH says:

    I’m all for climate reparations. Consultants like me will make a killing. (sound of vultures circling)

  5. JimS says:

    The best “reparation” for developing nations is to allow them to use cheap energy. If extremist environmentalists ever get their way, that will never happen.

  6. hunter says:

    More demosntrations by the true beleivers that AGW is based on religious ideation, not science, and certainly not facts.
    That the author relies on the (un)reasoning of Cotton Mather, the long dead ultra fundamenalist evangelist, to start off his argument is self-revealing in a pathetic sort of way.

  7. “If we do not face the lasting everlasting impact of slavery…”
    ————
    Same thing with global warming/climate change: a permanent albatross round society’s neck.

  8. KNR says:

    Even in the ‘good times’ Climate reparations was likely to be an idea killer , now times are poorer its an idea we should actually encourage the Alarmist to pursue. After all if they want to shoot themselves in the foot why not give them the bullets ?

  9. wws says:

    mo’ money, MO’ money, MO’ MONEY!!!

  10. TheLastDemocrat says:

    “Lottery winners who blew it all:”

    http://www.businessinsider.com/17-lottery-winners-who-blew-it-all-2013-5?op=1

    First, we should establish, empirically, that reparations would actually help, and not harm. There is the ol’ saying, “Be careful what you ask for.” There is also the ol’ saying from a wisdom book of the ancient near east, “The mercy of the wicked is cruel.”

    For whatever type of reparations, we should figure out who the identified recipients would be, then pilot a reparation payment with a sub-sample. The article above is a beginning for the “side effects” or undesired outcomes: suicide, poverty, dependence on food stamps, divorce, etc.

    These undesired outcomes happen to everyone regardless of wealth, and regardless of sudden windfalls, so a randomized control group would be needed.

    Should desirable outcomes be assessed, as well? Maybe, maybe not. Generally, the United States ideal is to let people do whatever they want with their money, once they have paid taxes and as long as it is otherwise legal.

    But the argument could be made that the “good” needs to outweigh the “bad,” so some desirable outcomes might be needed.

    Sustained increase in annual income? Portion achieving a college education? Portion beginning a sustainable business? Portion devoted to savings that is lent to the person’s community – boosting locally available capital? Boost in health status? Boost in mental health?

    We should make sure it won’t all backfire and result in a bunch of unintended consequences.

  11. The Old Crusader says:

    “…reparations requires … a country and a citizenry that can look at itself in the mirror naked and see itself clearly”

    We already have them. That’s why both of these shake downs are going nowhere.

  12. Resourceguy says:

    Sure, right after we hand back all lands and property assets in Hawaii and California to the ancestors of the native population.

  13. Sweet Old Bob says:

    When someone tries to rob someone, and the robber is less powerful than the intended victim ,resulting in the robbers being put down , who cares ?

  14. Bryan A says:

    I think reparations for slavery makes a boat load of sense and I will happily pay appropriate amounts of compensation to anyone who was a slave or the child of a slave.

  15. philjourdan says:

    If Joe the Plumber did it, they would call it extortion.

  16. ddpalmer says:

    I propose that any money paid in climate reparations can not be spent for ANYTHING that caused or will cause the release of even a single molecule of any GHG. Because if any of the money was spent in such a way as to release any GHG then the person who had received the reparations would themselves be guilty and have to pay reparations in turn, leading to an endless cycle.

  17. Bryan A says:

    My grandfather’s grandmother was a Lakota Souix so I am thereby 1/16th Souix. Should I be elligible for ALL rights bestowed upon current tribes? Can I have my own Casino? Should I cry out for reparations for how my people were treated?
    Time to Grow Up and take responsibility for your own life. It was given to you and you are after all only 1/16th slave

  18. Louis says:

    “Somebody has done something bad to someone. Somebody has to pay.”

    That’s the difference between real justice and social justice. Justice demands that the person who actually caused the harm be punished, and the person who was actually harmed be compensated. It does not punish children for the “sins” of the parents. Social justice, on the other hand, doesn’t care who provides compensation, as long as somebody does. Not only can children be found guilty for the crimes of their ancestors, but anyone from the same race or sharing the same skin color can be held liable. Social justice is not justice. It is the opposite because it is arbitrary, racist, and unjust.

    Climate reparations follow the same pattern. It not only punishes the next generation for the perceived sins of the parents, but it also punishes everyone who lives in the same country, regardless of how much or how little they personally contributed to changing the climate. The most telling thing is that they wanted to implement climate reparations before there was any evidence that the climate has changed for the worse, or that humans have caused it, or that anyone has been harmed by it. For all they know, a little extra CO2 will be net beneficial to harvests, to weather, and to the planet as a whole.

  19. AnonyMoose says:

    Not a new idea, only an unethical twist on making rich countries pay to others. That’s required by the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol.

  20. David says:

    The industrialization (and carbon use that came with it) was the leading factor that contributed to the advancement of mankind, bringing an improvement in most human development factors: life expectancy, child mortality, etc… The developing countries have been and are still benifiting from those advancements through cheap technology transfer. When one asks for reparation, it has to be for some form of loss. In this case, it does seem that they have benefited from it. Don`t see what the reparation is for…

  21. richardscourtney says:

    Peter Wood:

    Thankyou for your article.

    Whenever climate reparations have been proposed in WUWT threads I have made the following response.

    To date, the increases to atmospheric CO2 concentration have only provided benefits, notably by increasing agricultural production. The IPCC suggests temperature rises will provide net benefits unless global temperature rises by 2°C and to date the rise since the industrial revolution has been less than 1°C.

    If justice says there should be reparations for harm from GHG emissions then the same principles of justice decree the developing world should now pay compensation to the industrialised world for the benefits – notably to agriculture – of the GHG emissions to date.

    Richard

  22. ferdberple says:

    As has been seen with aboriginal land claims, paying reparations to the current generation does not mean you do not have to pay reparations to the next, and next, etc on to infinity.

    say for example, you are entitled to reparations from A, for the harm their ancestors did to you. Well, your unborn children are going to suffer similar harm, and you cannot legally assign away your unborn children’s rights. So, when they grow up they will have the same claim against the descendants of A.

    As a result, there can never be lasting justice in social justice, because it cannot resolve the question of the next generation. you cannot take away rights of people that are not yet born, without creating a new claim for social justice.

  23. rogerknights says:

    Suppose the temperature rises only one degree by 2100, which will be a net benefit to the world. Then they will owe us!

    Has any academic explored this angle, I wonder. (I don’t really wonder.)

    PS–Here’s another unexplored angle: At what date was it morally incumbent on us to stop emitting? 1896? 1906? 1981? 1994?

  24. Max Hugoson says:

    Geez, I figure Sweden owes me a couple million…grandpa and grandma on my Father’s side, were “indentured servants”.. (Crop failures, loss of the farmsted). They came over here and paid off that “indentured servant status”. Completely ILLEGAL by US law. They were free of that. Sweden owes my family that money, and interest. Oh, wait, Germany drafted my Grandfather (Mother’s side.) Killed in the last two months of WWI. He was tested, sent to officer’s training. He was a bright fellow. What could he have earned? Germany owes me for the loss of my Great Uncle. THE LIST GOES ON. Eventually history has to become to us, what it IS. I.e., stories, records, etc. BUT we cannot chase repairing the past. It doesn’t work. Does us no good to fight battles over what our Great Greats, or Greats or even Parents did or didn’t do. This sort of thinking FUELS ethnic battles and stupid conflicts. The people that engage in it, ARE the “enemy” of mankind, and should be treated as such.

  25. Kaboom says:

    Such reparations would obviously have to come from China, India and other developing nations who’ll quickly put more CO2 in the atmosphere than the developed nations which, so far, are merely responsible for the nice and stable climate we have now. In fact they’ll probably have to pay the western nations for the damage their uncontrolled emissions will cause here.

  26. John says:

    The entire GW farce is all about money and controlling the populace. Simply VILE.

  27. Pointman says:

    The developing world knows we’re technically broke; no hope of reparations money. The poor are realistic like that.

    http://thepointman.wordpress.com/2014/06/26/why-the-developing-world-hates-environmentalists/

    Pointman

  28. Tom J says:

    Actually, I think reparations would be a great idea. When the climate catastrophes don’t come to pass, well, we could charge a whole boatload of climate scientists, environmentalists, NGOs, and universities with paying reparations for the destroyed economy and jobs. And, speaking of universities, I think the new graduates can charge those institutions with reparations for preparing them for nothing other than $10/hour jobs through which to pay back their six figure student loans. Does debt “slavery” come to mind? In fact, perhaps we can charge Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for reparations for debt slavery as well; for all those home mortgages that outstrip the homeowner’s equity, thanks to Fannie’s and Freddie’s actions. And, I’d like to demand reparations from that damn driver who took my parking place this morning. And, from my neighbor who didn’t sweep all his grass clippings off my walkway. Oh, he got most of ‘em. But, he didn’t get ‘em all dammit. And, I think their families, and their families’ families, can ante up some money. And, furthermore…

  29. Robin says:

    Peter-we have discussed before the magical year of 1987 when the Brundtland Commission kicked off sustainability with its Our Common Future report that was really about social and economics justice. The reparations cry is just a way of masking that demand. Your book on Diversity also notes that concept suddenly erupting from false assertions about the future. That now becomes crucial as the US is quietly pushing mandatory REOs-Racial Equity Outcomes.

    Something else happened in 1987 that pertains to what is really being sought now as slavery reparations (lucky me was at the rollout of one of those City Equity Atlases and I listened well) or climate reparations. The World Order Models Project, at Gorby’s request in 1986, had a meeting in Moscow to lay out “alternative policies that promote the world order values of peace, economic well-being, social justice, ecological balance, and positive human identity.”

    All of these excuses are just a means of diverting the reality of transferring money and power away from individuals to political control over the economy per Marx’s Human Development Model vision. Only cronies win in this scenario, but few in academia grasp that because pushing this gets grants and promotions.

  30. Reblogged this on Public Secrets and commented:
    Why not? Merging the “global warming” fraud with the reparations scam.

  31. more soylent green! says:

    Can anybody name a group of people who haven’t been harmed by some other group of people? Can I sue the Italians for enslaving my ancestors during the Roman Empire? Everyone has a grievance against everyone else if you take things far enough.

    And just to be clear — when you look at the details for reparations, the money doesn’t go directly to the allegedly aggrieved, but the special interest groups claiming to represent the (allegedly) aggrieved. It’s all a redistribution scheme designed to take money from people you don’t like and give it to people who will funnel it back into your campaign coffers.

  32. Doug Proctor says:

    Reparations for past deeds make moral sense if they are welded to reparations for FUTURE deeds. So China, India and the growing users of fossil fuel in Africa would pay into a payment fund for the “damage” their improved lifestyle will create.

    As the developed CO2 production falls, while that of the developing world rises, the developing world would pay the developed world. After all, if increased CO2 is how you improve yourself – but at a cost to others in the process – we should be paid for the pain they cause us.

    Bet that moral implication doesn’t get any applause.

  33. wally says:

    No biggie…

    all we need to do is go to the State Department and change the word “Aid” to “climate reparations”.

    US gives $50 billion per year.

    That’s a lot of reparations….

  34. DesertYote says:

    Robin says:
    June 26, 2014 at 11:44 am

    ” but few in academia grasp that because pushing this gets grants and promotions.”

    Hayek has a better explanation.

  35. John Ledger says:

    Peter Wood

    Thank you for an excellent overview of the ‘reparations’ syndrome.

    The President of South Africa, Honourable Jacob Zuma, was at that noteworthy climate change jamboree in (very cold!) Copenhagen in 2009, where he made the extraordinary and unilateral declaration that South Africa would voluntarily reduce its Carbon Dioxide emissions by 34%, on condition that the world would assist his country with financial compensation to do so.

    He was obviously advised to do this in the hopes of scoring big bucks in reparation payments. This has not happened, but South Africa is nonetheless implementing a substantial renewable energy investment programme on the basis of competitive bidding, which seems to be working quite well. We await the reports of environmental monitoring about the extent of bird and bat deaths at South African wind farms (when will they ever learn?… RIP Pete Seeger)

    More sinister is the apparent commitment of government here to implement a ‘Carbon Tax’ next year – we are short of electricity, our economy is under huge stress, and we have millions of unemployed young people ready for revolution. Australia has seen a change of government because of a very unpopular carbon tax, and South Africa could see the same backlash.

    The South African government’s climate alarmism is misplaced, and is based on a Hockey Stick mentality fuelled by local NGO activists (WWF and Greenpeace in particular). Climate alarmism has seriously distracted South African government institutions at municipal, provincial and national level from doing their jobs, and delivering basic services to their constituents.

  36. Betapug says:

    Since the actual capturing of African slaves for sale and transport to North America was done by African coastal tribes and Arabs, should not they be the ones to pay reparation?

    Following the slavery model, since the whole business of AGW CO2 “pollution” and the disaster of evolution began with the discovery of fire, should we not be extracting Climate Justice from the Homo erectus who had the bright idea?

    The Contraction and Convergence movement (to which a number of prominent Climateers adhere) would somehow achieve justice for say, Somalia, by converging our standard of living toward theirs. If we half sink our ship, it will cause theirs to surface. Should the experiment fail…..

    http://www.gci.org.uk/

  37. Robert of Ottawa says:

    The phrase “Transferring money [from] poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries” comes to mind. Buy shares in Swiss Banks.

  38. Col Mosby says:

    Well, with respect to slavery, since native Africans sold the ancestors of Afro-Americans
    into slavery, I believe that Afro-Americans need to seek reparations from native Africans.
    I’m sure that’ll go over well.

  39. Robert of Ottawa says:

    The phrase “Transferring money FROM poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries” comes to mind. Buy shares in Swiss Banks.

  40. Jimbo says:

    This whole thing is a sick joke. What if it was shown that developing countries have benefited from man’s co2 emissions? Who pays? Crop yields on the whole are up around the world. You have to show a flood or hurricane was caused by man’s greenhouse gases. That is not so easy.

    Who was to blame for THIS and THIS, when co2 was below the 350ppm safe level?

  41. Joey B says:

    In order to keep the accounting straight, those countries owed “reparations” should also be required to pay for the countless benefits they have received because of the use of fossil fuels. We’ll take a cheque or a repayment schedule can be arranged.

  42. beng says:

    Putting all these marxist/academic “ideas” in one post is nauseating. Peter Wood must have an iron-gut.

  43. dmacleo says:

    yeah, to sum it up…f* them.

  44. Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7 says:

    Bryan A says:
    June 26, 2014 at 10:31 am

    I think reparations for slavery makes a boat load of sense and I will happily pay appropriate amounts of compensation to anyone who was a slave or the child of a slave.

    Then there’s the view that reparations for slavery in the US have already been paid — in the blood of 360,000-plus young Union soldiers who themselves owned no slaves and came from families who owned no slaves or arrived from other countries (Ireland) who owned no slaves.

    Recent research suggests that foreign-born soldiers were under-counted in the long-standing casualty figures and the actual deaths could be as much as 20% higher.

  45. Peter Wood says:

    I am grateful for all these responses. When I proposed to the editor of Minding the Campus that i write something about the “climate reparations” movement, he was skeptical. It isn’t necessary, he said, to cover every fringe idea in the academy. Indeed it isn’t, but a good many of those seemingly fringe ideas have a way of worming themselves into public debate and eventually into public policy. “Climate reparations” seems like a crazy idea to me but I can see how it has gathered behind it the kind of academic determination that has helped make “climate consensus” such a powerful rhetorical weapon in the hands of people who are clueless about the actual science.

    The only disconcerting comment in this string is from “hunter” who somehow thinks I was quoting Cotton Mather out of approval. It is called irony, Mr. Hunter, irony.

    I was especially interested in John Ledger’s description of what has happened in South Africa, Jacob Zuma, I assume, has to be reckoned a true believer–someone who went ahead with a dead-end carbon-fuel reduction, anti-development scheme that promises enormous hardship to his nation, even when he was not rewarded with a Copenhagen pot of gold. Thereis no mistaking the sincerity of many of the Warmists. Yes, they often have a financial motives of their own, but it is an error to think they are merely mercenaries. The Warmist movement weaves together a creedal orthodoxy, an emotional catharsis, and a lure of profit. We skeptics shouldn’t lose sight of how these elements reinforce each other. It is about money, but it isn’t “ALL about money.”

    Peter Wood

  46. Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7 says:

    I have an idea. Why don’t we conduct a survey to find how many people feel they are owed compensation as victims of one wrong or another. Tabulate the results, including how much each respondent thinks he/she is owed, and extrapolate to the entire population of the planet. I wonder how many years of planetary GDP will be required to satisfy the total claimed compensation?

    Paging Stephan Lewandowsky, paging Stephan Lewandowsky. Please pick up the white discourtesy phone …

  47. Bryan A says:

    Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7 says:
    June 26, 2014 at 2:03 pm
    Bryan A says:
    June 26, 2014 at 10:31 am

    I think reparations for slavery makes a boat load of sense and I will happily pay appropriate amounts of compensation to anyone who was a slave or the child of a slave.

    Then there’s the view that reparations for slavery in the US have already been paid — in the blood of 360,000-plus young Union soldiers who themselves owned no slaves and came from families who owned no slaves or arrived from other countries (Ireland) who owned no slaves.

    Recent research suggests that foreign-born soldiers were under-counted in the long-standing casualty figures and the actual deaths could be as much as 20% higher.

    I like the way you blog

  48. Peter Wood says:

    I am grateful for all these comments. My thanks especially to John ledger about the South African situation, Jacob Zuma has to be taken as a sincere true believer in the Warmist thesis. He is willing to sacrifice the welfare of his nation in pursuit of energy fantasies even without getting the Copenhagen pot of gold. That’s a good illustration of why this movement isn’t “all about money.” The lure of financial gain is real and powerful, but so are the delusions about a deeper insight into physical reality and the emotional catharsis of believing that you are saving the world.

    The comment from “Hunter” took be aback. Mr. Hunter seems to think I quoted Cotten Mather approvingly. It is called irony, Mr. Hunter, irony.

    Peter Wood

  49. Margaret Smith says:

    Betapug says:
    June 26, 2014 at 12:49 pm
    Since the actual capturing of African slaves for sale and transport to North America was done by African coastal tribes and Arabs, should not they be the ones to pay reparation?

    Exactly. This was quite a shock for black Americans after the ‘Roots’ fiasco. It doesn’t excuse the slave trade, of course, but in sub Saharan Africa many women are little better than slaves to this day. This is something more money won’t cure but dictators would certainly get richer.

  50. betapug says:

    “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”
    Let’s focus on the present. It’s hard enough to see clearly here and the only space in which we can act.

  51. Paul Coppin says:

    “Peter Wood says:
    June 26, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    I am grateful for all these responses. When I proposed to the editor of Minding the Campus that i write something about the “climate reparations” movement, he was skeptical.”

    You’re welcome. We do skepticism here.

    Personally, I’m getting really tired of the cult of victimhood.Get your own lunch. I’m also getting tired of the cults of hyphenated-justice, and while I’m at it, the cults of hyphenated-nationalities, like “African-American”. I’m not a hyphenated anything – maybe I need a grant or a handout…or a Supreme Court special dispensation, or reparations. I’m not hyphenated so somebody must have screwed me over at some point.

  52. Stephen Skinner says:

    I think the West has already provided wealth and health to all nations whether directly, indirectly or by accident in the form or the vast body of knowledge, particularly from the ‘hard’ sciences, that is freely available to all, such as the periodic table. Also. I still find the graphic of health and wealth from Gapminder astonishing (http://www.gapminder.org/). Click on ‘Load Gapminder World’ and watch what happens from around 1945. Every country begins to move up in health and wealth. More people are living longer and are wealthier than ever before and that is because of the knowledge passed around of how to do that.

  53. dbstealey says:

    dmacleo says:
    June 26, 2014 at 1:55 pm [ " ..." ]

    That says it for me, too.

  54. more soylent green! says:

    What about all the money spent on foreign aid, disaster assistance, World Bank loans, etc.? Shouldn’t we ask for an accounting for all that, first?

  55. TimO says:

    Only if Al Gore and his pals give up all their money FIRST (and you know that ain’t gonna happen…)

  56. rogerknights says:

    more soylent green! says:
    June 26, 2014 at 11:52 am

    Can anybody name a group of people who haven’t been harmed by some other group of people? Can I sue the Italians for enslaving my ancestors during the Roman Empire? Everyone has a grievance against everyone else if you take things far enough.

    You don’t have to go back that far. There was a 500-year period of “the Norman yoke” after 1066. Even if the invading Normans have merged into the native population now, we can at least sue the province of Normandy–right?

  57. rogerknights says:

    Peter Wood says:
    June 26, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    The lure of financial gain is real and powerful, but so are the delusions about a deeper insight into physical reality and the emotional catharsis of believing that you are saving the world.

    Mencken called it “the messianic delusion.”

  58. Richard Day says:

    I’m still waiting for my cheque from big oil and the Koch brothers. WHERE’S MY MONEY??

  59. Goldie says:

    I’ve commented on this before – if we need to make reparations for everything since the industrial revolution then we should reset everything;

    1. Calculate the cumulative sum of aid given freely to other countries over the last 150 years.
    2. Calculate the value of antibiotics, vaccines and every other form of western medicine.
    3. Calculate the value of western farming methods.
    4. Calculate the value of western technology – planes, trains, automobiles, ships telephony etc.
    5. Calculate the value of western tourism.

    Then subtract that from the reparation value.

    Next understand that the value of all forms of foreign aid including disaster response, currently given feely, will be offset against future reparation values. Also an entry tax will be charged to tourists returning from countries receiving reparations. Also all forms of technology transfer will be embargoed.

    Actually, as I write this, it sounds more and more like apartheid, which makes it even more of a dumb idea!

    I suppose that’s the point of these water melon policies – divide and conquer.

  60. jones says:

    I am still waiting for my cut from Julius Caesar’s rampaging antics across England a couple of years ago….

    Traumatised…traumatised I tell you.

  61. Mike Lewis says:

    Not to mentions the evil Clan Macgregor who stole the land of my ancestors on the Isle of Lewis.

  62. jones says:

    I have the very deepest sympathy for your pain Mr Lewis.

  63. pat says:

    reparations would have only kicked in if the carbon cowboys got their CO2 emissions trading going in the order of trillions of dollars per year in climate derivatives. fortunately, that scam has pretty much crashed, but they’re meeting up again in the EU (Brussels) today to try to FIX it, so beware:

    27 June: Bloomberg: Nidaa Bakhsh: EU Seen Curbing Coal Use by Quadrupling Carbon Price
    Europe could coax utilities to shift from burning coal to cleaner natural gas by quadrupling the price that financial markets place on carbon dioxide emissions, the head of Spain’s biggest power generator said.
    Ignacio Galan, chairman and chief executive officer ofIberdrola (IBE) SA, said European Union leaders should take steps to boost prices in the EU Emissions Trading System in addition to setting a target to reduce pollution by 40 percent by 2030.
    “A carbon price of 20 to 30 euros is the right level for switching from coal to gas,” Galan said in an interview at Bloomberg’s office in London. Carbon has fallen by a third to less than 6 euros ($8.17) a metric ton since 2011 as slower economic growth reduced industrial production and the need to offset pollution…
    The comments were meant to guide EU leaders as they negotiate targets to restrain emissions, part of an effort by more than 190 countries led by the United Nations to curb the gases blamed for global warming…

    ***Coal’s share of world energy demand rose to the highest level since 1970, making it the fastest-growing fossil fuel, the oil producer BP estimates…

    The Iberdrola executive also wants to see reforms to the carbon trading system that would boost prices, sending polluters a signal that they’ll have to pay more for fossil fuel emissions. Iberdrola is a major developer of wind farms and natural gas-fired power stations, which emit less carbon than ones that use coal…

    ***A shale boom in the U.S. led to a collapse in gas prices that’s helped consumers and stimulated industries, forcing cheaper, more-polluting coal to be shipped to Europe for use in power stations…
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-06-27/eu-seen-curbing-coal-use-by-quadrupling-carbon-price.html

  64. brent says:

    Ecuador seeks oil ‘compensation’
    Daniel Gordon, BBC News . The Yasuni National Park in Ecuador is reckoned to be one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet. Beneath it, though, lie an estimated one billion barrels of oil.
    snip
    “We are presenting a new way to prevent global warming. Instead of trading with produced emissions – as under the Kyoto protocol – we are proposing to avoid production, by keeping the oil in the ground,” he told the BBC.
    http://www.sosyasuni.org/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=103:ecuador-seeks-oil-compensation&catid=1:news&Itemid=34

    Europe admired Ecuador’s oil drilling ban but didn’t want to pay
    The European Union admired Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa’s now-abandoned radical conservation effort to keep Yasuní’s vast oil reserves untapped but did not want to foot the bill, preferring more traditional forms of aid
    http://www.euractiv.com/sustainability/europe-admired-ecuador-oil-drill-news-530054

  65. Stephen Skinner says:

    Goldie says:
    June 26, 2014 at 7:30 pm

    Slightly to one side but I think related. Groups like Boko Haram who despise western thinking and want to return to ‘traditional’ values should do just that. They must stop using 4x4s, petrol, guns, radios, phones, TVs, maps, medicines, media access, modern clothing, paved roads, industrially produced food, money derived from industrial countries and of course electricity..

  66. Saren says:

    Reparations or compensation is actually the only action I support related to climate change.

    From an AGW perspective its assumed that climate change is causing damage right now – that emitting co2 is hurting people.

    From a skeptical position its still undeniable that global warming will cause damage to some people. Even if GW is a benefit to the planet as a whole we can assume that some climate patterns will change and that some regions will be adversely affected. I don’t see how this is debatable.

    So if we agree that AGW will damage some people, even if the number is very low those people deserve compensation under pretty much any system of ethics.

    This is why ideas of carbon taxes that use their revenue to support gren technologies is disgusting – especially from AGW activists. It goes against all the principals of a liberalism and humanism (not that I believe in those but most do).

    When I emitt co2 I would like to compensate people for any damages it causes. That’s the only thing I feel ethically responsible to do.

    Imagine that co2 is mostly beneficial. Emitting it would be like going into a room of people and giving each person a random amount of cash. Unfortunately one or two people are unlucky and need to pay some cash instead. Does the fact that mist people got cash get you off from compensating the ones who post cash? I don’t think so.

    Internalizing costs of things that damage the commons should he a basic goal of economics. Doing so means you need less government intervention after the fact and should be encouraged by all libertarian/small government advocates.

    Having said all that I think the free market would do a much better job in the compensation department through something like the fair trade model than governments could do.

  67. philjourdan says:

    Given the sellers stayed (for the most part) in Africa, where are they going to get the money for reparations?

  68. philjourdan says:

    #Rogerknights- that brings up an interesting paradox. just as the Normans interbred with the Anglo Saxons, so to did many of the original slaves with the slave owners. So does that mean some of us have to pay ourselves?

  69. empiresentry says:

    Since the 3rd world countries have benefited gretly from our advances and recieved hte benfits of said democratic developments (scince, education, cars, medicines, telecommunications, computers, refrigerators, etc.) then, using their calulations, we are even.

    I worked on pandemic and continuity planning for Africa and other continents. 5 million people a year die from bad water….because it takes electricity and energy to run a water/sewer system…things the greens block at every turn.
    3 million people die every year from bad air pollution…pollution inside their homes…because hte Green idiots refuse to allow any other fuel besides dung.
    Tried to get pandemic vaccines to a doc out in the sticks….his choice was one refirgerator to keep them in or the one light bulb for surgeries…because the leftists decided he should use a solar panel instead of 1500 feet of electrical line.

    The ethnocentric perspectics of liberal elitists and Berkley uber rich kids within their world and lifestyle making the determination of what works for people two continents away is truly remarkable. LOL and they truly believe sending $2 million to a depsot in Africa will serve the people from future deaths lolol

    Leftist ethnocentrism does nothing but cost millions of lives every year.

  70. J Martin says:

    The third world should pay the develped world reperations.

    Satellite evidence, JAXA, shows tht the developed world’s crops consume more co2 than the developed world produces. It also shows that the third world produce more co2 than they consume.

  71. John Ledger says:

    Peter Wood

    Many thanks for your kind response to my opinion about the climate alarmist policies in South Africa. You painted a picture of our president as a true believer in the CAWG threat, and elevated him to the position of an enlightened and concerned leader of the nation.

    Nothing could be further from the truth. His speech at the COP meeting in Copenhagen was written for him by the Department of Environment Affairs (DEA), on a roll of hubris about ‘job creation’ in the ‘Green Economy’. Most of the government officials who drafted that speech have since left the DEA and play no further role in climate change policy development in South Africa.

    The ‘Green Economy’ in South Africa has indeed created many jobs and brought in millions of dollars in Direct Foreign Investment – but readers should note how much local financial banks have contributed to this so-called ‘Green Economy’. All of this is fuelled by the misplaced notion that ‘Catastrophic Anthropogenic Climate Change’ awaits if we do not invest in the ‘Green Economy’.

    For the financially stressed international renewable energy vendors, the South African renewables programme has been a critical and very welcome lifeboat for their floundering businesses. Their local partners have also made a lot of money from the ‘Green Economy’ in South Africa.

    The executives at Vestas, Abengoa, Suzlon, Siemens and a raft of other renewable energy proponents are very happy right now!

    Wind turbines and solar farms are springing up like new shoots from our once unspoilt landscapes and beautiful vistas.

    South Africa has now joined the international community of land despoilers, in the name of a greener planet.

    A real pity about that….

    John Ledger

  72. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    Heh. For me Esperanto is best remembered as the overwhelmingly dominant language in Harry Harrison’s The Stainless Steel Rat series, which even aliens decided to adopt for its superiority as an easy-to-understand language. The paperbacks I read even had an extra page stating “Esperanto is real!” and that newspapers and books were printed in it, it provided contact info for something like ‘The World Esperanto Society in America’ so you could learn more.

    This is in science fiction, written in English. “Esperanto” sounds like the rant of an ESPer.

    Otherwise, I think I heard a Groucho Marx joke about something was like reading a newspaper written in Esperanto. And that was about it.

  73. evanmjones says:

    Yes, third-world countries will need large subsidies to counteract global warming. (To be used to construct coal-fired plants to provide electricity for air conditioning.)

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