In less than two weeks, leaders from 190 countries will be convening in Paris for COP21, the big United Nations Conference on Climate Change. President Obama will be there, as well as Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and billionaire climate change activist Tom Steyer, along with a gazillion hangers-on. During the twelve days of the summit, the goal, according to CNN, is to “achieve a legally binding agreement, with universal participation among all nations, to keep global warming below what most scientists say is the critical threshold of 2 degrees Celsius of warming.” In other words, there will be a lot of talk about the United States implementing measures that will be economically harmful – resulting in higher power bills for average Americans and less reliable energy – while other countries make promises to think about making changes sometime in the future. But anyway, it is ironic in more ways than one that this meeting is being held in Paris.
First, the French economy is hollowing out. Back in the day, I spent a lot of time in Paris because there was a lot of business there. Clients had apartments there, their lawyers were there and their bankers were there. All that business is now gone, mostly to London. I say that with a lot of remorse. I love Paris, more so than London. I used to travel to Paris at least five or six times a year, and now I’m lucky if I have a reason to go there twice a year. The political left – and particularly current president Francois Hollande – has strangled and choked the French economy to the point where Paris can no longer be considered one of the world’s great commercial centers. The French economy is stagnant, excessive taxation has forced some of the most productive sectors of the economy to flee to other jurisdictions and as a result, the average annual GDP growth over the last three years has only been 0.3 percent. That’s abysmal growth, and it is proof that punitive measures, excessive regulation and skyrocketing taxes don’t create wealth, jobs or a vibrant economy.
It’s also ironic that the COP21 attendees are gathering in France, because the French currently get about 75 percent of their electricity from nuclear energy. (Disclosure: My firm represents interests in the fossil fuel and nuclear power industries.) They are the world’s “largest net exporter of electricity” – to the tune of over 3 billion euros annually – as a result of the very low cost of generating nuclear energy. How much worse off would their economy be without that nuclear energy? Yet among the global warming purists, nuclear energy as a solution is off the table.
What if instead of talking about ways to “reduce CO2 emissions by less than 0.2 percent by 2100, reduce the rise of global temperature by less than 1/100th of a degree Fahrenheit, and reduce sea level rise by the thickness of two sheets of paper” – as Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) so ably pointed out in a speech on the Senate floor opposing Obama’s Clean Power Plan – countries used the conference to formulate a plan for how to launch an urgent, worldwide initiative to build more nuclear power plants? Everyone could quit talking about the parts-per-billion and start talking about a worldwide energy boom. Maybe then the climate debate would start to resemble something useful and coherent.
As much as President Obama wants to make climate change a singular focus in the last stage of his presidency, the fact is that voters are not worried about climate change. In the most recent Gallup polling, when asked an open-ended question about “the most important problem facing this country today,” climate change and the environment did not even register. The economy in general ranked as the highest concern, along with dissatisfaction with the government and unemployment.
And now, foreign policy concerns are also at the forefront of voters’ minds. Undoubtedly, there will be those who use the fact that COP21 is being held in Paris to exploit the horrors that have unfolded over the past week, pretending there is some link between global warming and the terrorist attacks that have occurred and will occur in the future. It will add another nauseating twist to the charade and the fraud being perpetrated by the left. Instead of wasting time on climate change measures that will only add to Americans’ economic woes, without making any measurable impact on the global temperature, and on making sanctimonious speeches about the dangers of global warming, the president and his Democratic allies should focus on what really matters.