Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach
There’s an article in the latest issue of Science magazine, called “Strengthening the UN Agencies In Order To Protect The Authors’ Paychecks” … just kidding, that would be the title if they enforced the “Truth in Advertising” laws for pseudoscientific papers.
In fact it is called “Navigating the Anthropocene: Improving Earth System Governance” (paywalled), apparently named specifically so we won’t be forewarned what it’s about. It is a two page article produced by an entire alphabet of no less than 33 listed authors, from Abbott to Zondervan, supporting my theorem that V ≈ 1 / A^2. (Restated in English, my theorem says that the value V of a scientific article is inversely proportional to the square of the number of authors A … but I digress.)
So what is the huge problem they claim to be curing? First sentence of the article sez:
Science assessments indicate that human activities are moving several of Earth’s sub-systems outside the range of natural variability typical for the previous 500,000 years (1, 2).
Gosh … really? “Science assessments”, that sounds impressive. You mean some scientists have actually falsified the null hypothesis, someone has actually shown that current climate is “outside the range of natural variability” for the last half million years?
Intrigued by claims that someone has completed the daunting task of figuring out how to measure the “variability typical for the previous 500,000 years”, and always willing to learn something new, I turned to references 1 and 2, expecting to find some irrefutable hard-hitting peer-reviewed scientific studies. After all, this is their excuse, the reason for their brilliant plan to redesign the world’s entire economy and governance systems, so it must rest on solid, verifiable science, no?
Well … no. Turns out the references are:
1. W. Steffen et al., Global Change and the Earth System (Springer, New York, 2004).
2. H. J. Schellnhuber et al., Eds., Earth System Analysis for Sustainability (MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2004).
That’s it? Two books? From 2004? Steffen has a doctorate in Chemical Engineering and is a strong advocate of carbon taxes. Schellnhuber has a doctorate in Theoretical Physics and his advocacy revolves around the fabled climate “tipping points” that are not visible in the past, that never actually seem to materialize in the present, but are gonna happen real soon, any day now, honest they are.
Both are climate activists first, and second, and climate scientists third. This is the rock on which the 33 authors are building the First Church of Ecological Redemption?
Saying we need to rebuild the world based on that kind of “evidence” is a joke. They claim we need to totally reorganize the planet, install trans-national agencies, restructure the economy, and create a global system of UN governance, based on a couple of books by two climate alarmists that when published, sank like stones, and deservedly so.
I must confess, the arrogance and hubris of these charming folks seems to know no bounds.
But let me set aside that hubris, let me ignore the total lack of support for their underlying claim, and look at what they propose to do based on a couple of books that maybe three people have ever read. To spare them further embarrassment, I won’t expose the equally ludicrous “citations” for their individual claims. Here’s what they say we should do, their seven “building blocks” for our glorious future:
First, the environmental agencies and programs of the United Nations must be reformed and/or upgraded.
Upgraded? Because they’ve been so successful to date? For example they say they want to develop the United Nations Environmental Programme into a “strong environmental organization with a sizable role in agenda-setting, norm-development, compliance management, science assessment, and capacity-building.”
Look, 33 author-folk, I do not want the UN to have ANY role in “compliance management”. That’s just another name for UN eco-cops. I don’t want the UN involved in “science assessment”, that’s a recipe for guaranteed disaster, even scientists struggle with that one. I don’t want the UN involved in any way in “Agenda-setting”, or “Norm-development”, no matter who Norm is. I don’t want them in any of this. These are the same folks who brought us the Kyoto Protocol, soaring energy prices, Agenda 21, pensioners shivering through the winter, tropical forests clear-cut for oil plantations, failed carbon cap-and-trade schemes, and the IPCC … and building on that stunning lack of success, they now want to restructure the world? Thanks, I’ll pass.
Second, it is crucial to strengthen the integration of the social, economic, and environmental pillars of sustainable development, from local to global levels.
What does this mean, “strengthen the integration of the pillars”? How do you “integrate” pillars? This is meaningless bureaucratic bafflegab. I discuss their so-called “pillars of sustainable development” nonsense in my post “Rio+20 meets Agenda 21“.
Third, better integration of sustainability governance requires governments to close remaining regulatory gaps at the global level. One such area is the development and deployment of emerging technologies, such as nanotechnology, synthetic biology, and geo-engineering. Such emerging technologies promise significant benefits, but also pose major risks for sustainable development. They need an international institutional arrangement—such as one or several multilateral framework conventions—to support forecasting, transparency, and information sharing; further develop technical standards; help clarify the applicability of existing treaties; promote public discussion and input; engage multiple stakeholders in policy dialogues, and ensure that environmental considerations are fully respected.
In other words, they say we need some kind of UN global laws to cover just a few things like nanotech, synthetic biology, and geo-engineering … but don’t be concerned that they are only proposing to regulate so little. They will soon extend the regulations to cover other crucial issues like transparency, ensuring that cropland is used to grow fuel instead of food for the hungry, technical standards, cow flatulence, windmill numbers, and “ensuring that environmental considerations are fully respected”. Gotta get that respect …
Does anyone (other than rent-seekers) actually think that having the UN make global laws, or even global recommendations for laws, is a good idea? Has it worked well in the past? Heck, has it ever worked in the past? Nothing springs to mind … but these 33 authors want to build a world economy and governing system based on a UN system that is riddled with waste, corruption, and theft, has only succeeded fitfully if at all in these realms, has absolutely no checks and balances, and these days is known mostly for three things—corruption, meaningless resolutions, and lifelong sinecures with obscenely bloated salaries for the proponents of “sustainability governance” and the like. Spare me.
Fourth, integration of sustainability policies requires that governments place a stronger emphasis on planetary concerns in economic governance. Environmental goals must be mainstreamed into global trade, investment, and finance regimes so that the activities of global economic institutions do not undermine environmental treaties because of poor policy coherence.
This is more lime-green flavored Koolaid. Nothing is sustainable. Sustainability is a chimera, a will of the wisp, with no agreed-on definition. It is a meaningless feel-good word used to justify whatever projects the authors are pushing this week.
Fifth, we argue for a stronger reliance on qualified majority voting to speed up international norm-setting. Political science research shows that governance systems that rely on majority-based rule are quicker to arrive at far-reaching decisions and that consensus-based systems limit decisions to the preferences of the least ambitious country. Yet at the international level, majority-based decision-making is still rare and needs to be further extended especially when Earth system concerns are at stake. Weighted voting mechanisms can ensure that decisions take all major interests among governments into account without granting veto power to any country.
Oh, yeah, “qualified majority voting”, that sounds like a winner in an organization like the UN, where five years ago or so Libya chaired the UN Human Rights Commission, and then it was Iran as Chair, they’re such experts on Human Rights … care to guess in which direction the “weighting” of the “weighted voting mechanisms” is likely to go? Not in your favor, would be my guess …
Sixth, stronger intergovernmental institutions as outlined here raise important questions of legitimacy and accountability.
Yes, they certainly do raise important questions. Unfortunately, these important questions have never been successfully answered. The first question is, why do we need a given UN-based “intergovernmental institution” at all? Second question is, does it do anything but provide a fat salary to pluted bloatocrats? Third question is, how will we kill it when it goes off the rails, as all of these organizations have done in the past? Fourth question, are any of these institutions either legitimate or accountable in the slightest? You know … important questions … but don’t worry, the 33 authors don’t answer them, or even attempt to answer them. For that they’d need maybe 66 authors. They just assume that the very real issues of illegitimacy and un-accountability and widespread corruption and lack of checks and balances, problems that have proven insoluble in the past, don’t really need anything but a few discussions, meetings, and resolutions to fix them right up.
Seventh, equity and fairness must be at the heart of a durable international framework for sustainable development.
I particularly love the seventh “building block” in their seven-point plan. It’s the reason for the whole paper. At the end of the list comes lucky number seven, the real issue, which is “equity and fairness”.
Now, you may not have have guessed this, but “equity and fairness” is the UN secret code for … money.
Lots of money.
Some of which will no doubt eventually flow into the pockets of some of the 33 authors. Some of which will flow to third world despots. And most of which will assuredly line the pockets of unelected bureaucrats.
Perhaps you think I’m wrong about what “equity and fairness” means to the UN? Here’s the rest of the paragraph describing the seventh step, the text that immediately follows the quote above:
Strong financial support of poorer countries remains essential. More substantial financial resources could be made available through novel financial mechanisms, such as global emissions markets or air transportation levies for sustainability purposes.
You see, “equity and fairness” means that the countries like say South Korea or Thailand, that have worked and sweated and sacrificed and saved and built up their economies, need to give their hard-earned money to the other countries that haven’t done that … because that’s fair. And equitable.
Because if we turned off the money tap and said “No thanks, we have all the UN bodies we need, in fact we’re desperately trying to kill some, not make new ones”, the game would be over and the 33 authors of this appeal for money would be out of luck and likely out of a job.
And how fair and equitable would that be, after the authors each worked so hard to provide us with … hang on, let me check … OK, on average each of the 33 authors contributed some 41 words of deathless prose to the document. We certainly wouldn’t want that herculean effort to go unrewarded.
I mean, how fair and equitable would that be, not to mention sustainable, for their checking accounts? How can they integrate the pillars without further funding?
PS—I do love the claim that what we need is “novel financial mechanisms, such as global emissions markets.” I’m not sure where these guys have been living during the past decade. But they must have their heads a long ways up their … ivory towers for them not to have noticed how almost every one of these not-at-all-novel carbon emissions markets has burst into flames and imploded recently. I mean seriously, these 33 author-folk are so out of touch with the real world that they think emissions markets are “novel”. Tragic.
But then failure, even repeated failure, has never been an obstacle to this kind of unsuccessful serial doomcasters. They’ve seen their predictions of catastrophe fail time after time and ignored those failures completely, so why should they not do the same regarding the proven failure of carbon markets?
PPS—Don’t get me wrong. I was green before the color was taken over and corrupted by the “green” organizations. I’m still a conservamentalist. Here’s the truth. The countries of the world need sensible, enforceable environmental regulations, or people just dispose of their industrial waste in the nearest stream or in the atmosphere. We’ve proven that over and over. Basically we’re pigs, and we need to regulate accordingly.
My problem is that the UN is entirely the wrong body to be dealing with these kinds of issues. We’ve also proven that over and over. For evidence regarding the current topic, see inter lots of alia the IPCC, the UNFCCC, Agenda 21, and the unending series of annual extravagant climate parties in sunny tourist destinations thrown at great expense and with little or no return.
The UN has done a few things right in fifty years, but overall it has been an abject failure in most things except for what it was originally set up to do (provide a place for countries to talk about disputes rather than going to war). We need environmental regulations, but we definitely don’t need the UN to point us in the wrong direction.
FURTHER READING: A Miasma of Corruption: The United Nations at 50