Hot Tempers

The Real Climate-Change Villain Isn’t China. It’s Congress.

At the Hotel California in Paris, an alternative universe of climate-change deniers was addressed on video by U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe.

Damir Sagolj/Reuters

PARIS — With world leaders continuing to meet in Paris for the COP21 World Climate Summit, attending the so-called “Day of Examining the Data” was like entering an alternate reality in which conventional beliefs surrounding climate change are completely upended.

In this odd, parallel universe, CO2 is beneficial for the environment, global warming is a myth, mainstream climate science is bogus, a comprehensive climate change policy will destroy the economy, and the United Nations is a super villain bent on world domination.

On Monday, a group of about 30 people (mostly Caucasian men) gathered in a conference room at the Hotel California in Paris for a day of speeches and presentations designed to cast a skeptical eye on current climate change research. In that brightly lit space with rose-hued carpeting, an information table was set up displaying pamphlets with titles such as “Top 10 Global Warming Lies,” and “Climate Change Reconsidered.” Near the podium, a poster read: “We stand for More Freedom and Less Government.”

This might have been amusing, except that it reflects a view that now dominates U.S. legislation and calls into question the Obama administration’s ability to keep any promises made here, as well as the possibility the next president of the U.S. will put any climate accord into the circular file.

At the opulently decorated Paris city hall a few days earlier, when mayors and officials from hundreds of cities around the world got together, the thrust of their discussion was simple: cities have to act because national governments often don’t (and cities generate most of the pollution anyway). As George Ferguson, the mayor of Bristol, UK, put it, “Cities act where nations talk.”

“The battle will be fought and won city by city, municipality by municipality,” said Tony Lloyd, the mayor of Manchester, UK.

And the biggest threat to the climate in the medium term may not be China, the world’s biggest producer of greenhouses at the moment, where a dictatorial regime is pushing policies that will make dramatic differences; the problem is in the second-biggest producer of greenhouse gases, the United States, where Congress simply denies reality.

“Congress is unwilling to do anything at this point,” said Ralph Becker, the mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah.

Back at the Hotel California, you could see the reasoning, or unreasoning, behind this problem.

The highlight of the afternoon was a prerecorded speech by Republican Senator Jim Inhofe, who dismissed the possibility of the enactment of a climate change policy and highlighted the futility of such a policy even if it were mandated.

“The president and his administration are trying to implement a policy on climate change that the American public neither wants or is able to afford,” said Inhofe, who serves as the current chairman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “These commitments that the president has made in Paris aren’t going to happen.”

Citing "independent analysis," Inhofe said that Obama’s power plan would cost $292 billion and would only reduce CO2 emissions by “less than 0.2 percent,” would reduce the rise of global temperatures by less than one one-hundredth of a degree Fahrenheit, and would reduce sea level rise by the “thickness of two sheets of paper.”

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“The COP21 Summit is full of hot air, especially when you consider that the president’s commitment lacks the support of his own government,” Inhofe added.

According to other attendees, not only are Obama’s proposed policies useless, they are also detrimental.

“Obama’s climate change policies have been tried in Europe to devastating effect,” Craig Richardson, the executive director of the Washington D.C.-based Energy and Environmental Legal Institute, an organization designed to promote what the group calls “free market environmentalism,” told The Daily Beast.

“Electricity costs are driven up and people are dying by the tens of thousands. The American people don’t want those kinds of policies in the U.S.,” said Richardson.

Alternative energy sources like solar and wind power are “extraordinarily expensive,” Richardson insisted, and wouldn’t survive in a free market because they require government subsidies.

Dying by the tens of thousands because electricity costs are high? He claimed they freeze to death, but gave no indication how he came up with those numbers. He claimed, dramatically, that in some parts of Europe people buy books to burn and heat their homes.

In point of fact, thousands did die in 2003 because of unbelievably high temperatures in France and Western Europe, but that’s not what Richardson was talking about. Nor did he take into account the fact that high oil prices were precisely what made alternative energy supplies (and fracking) economically sustainable. Now they’re low again, the market may well undermine those alternatives, subsidies or no subsidies.

But such reasonable discussions were not part of the scene at the Hotel California.

“The current climate change model is a hypothetical model based on bad science,” said Richardson, repeating the line of the day.

And speaking of hot air, others present dismissed the idea that rising temperatures were a threat to begin with.

“The biggest threat to the climate is the next ice age,” onetime journalist and former advisor to Margaret Thatcher, Lord Christopher Monckton, told The Daily Beast. “Now we don’t know when that will be exactly, but cold weather is a far greater threat than warm weather.”

Monckton said that even if the world took no steps to mitigate climate change, global temperatures would rise by “maybe one-half degree Celsius by 2100.” Over at COP21, the hundreds of governments represented are worried about a rise of 2 degrees or more, basing their concern on the near-unanimous opinion of the scientific community.

“It is based on a lie based on exaggeration,” said Monkton, referring to current UN warming data.

The motivation? According to Monkton, a power-hungry UN set on global domination.

“The UN has long seen itself as a world government in waiting that has not yet gotten the excuse,” said Monckton, who believes that a climate change ruse is just what the organization needs to facilitate such a power grab.

“It is 10 times costlier to mitigate climate change than to adapt to it,” Monckton added.

Obviously when the Hotel California in the middle of Paris finds itself beach front property, we should just enjoy.

—With additional reporting by Christopher Dickey