Today in Paris, a city recently beset by one of the horrors of our time, world leaders will gather to address the issue of global warming, or climate change, or climate disruption, or whatever it is we’re supposed to call it now that the phrase “global warming” has been declared verboten by the marketing departments of the world’s green-subsidy consumers. Jihad Inc. is sawing the heads off of innocents in the here and now, but the world’s attention is commanded by the possibility that average temperatures might rise a few degrees a century hence at a cost of a few points of global economic output sometime in the 22nd century.
Global warming isn’t a non-issue — the ambitious multilateral plan to impose extraordinary standard-of-living reductions on a few billion mainly poor people in mainly poor countries in order to satisfy the secularized sacramental impulses of rich Western progressives is a non-issue, because it simply is not going to happen, as India and China have made clear.
The suave diplomacy of the Obama administration is here on sorry display. It has long been obvious that the powers in New Delhi will not impose serious costs on their economy for the sake of climate change; indeed, the government of Narendra Modi recently announced with some fanfare that India, GDP $7.5 trillion, would invest the princely sum of $2.5 million to help smaller Commonwealth countries meet emissions-reduction targets. There are a fair number of young entrepreneurs in India with personal automobiles worth more than $2.5 million. But India is known to emit a fair amount of sanctimony alongside the CO2 from its endless array of coal-fired power plants, and its political class is going into Paris in a snit after Secretary of State John Kerry singled out the world’s largest democratic republic (rather than, say, China) as a climate offender. It isn’t that Kerry is exactly wrong about that — India intends to double its coal consumption over the next five years, to 1.5 billion tons per annum — but his gracelessness plays into rhetoric about “carbon imperialism” that has been prominent in the developing world for some time now.
Those denouncing “carbon imperialism” note that the West got rich while energy was cheap and there was no formal price on carbon emissions, and they argue that the burdens of meeting the emissions cuts imagined by such as are gathering today in Paris must fall on the West. Prime Minister Modi, who is seeking to bolster a domestic solar-power industry, is seeking substantial subsidies and other benefits (such as accelerated low-cost technology transfers) for so-called green-energy firms and projects in India and elsewhere. Modi, as committed a nationalist as any boss in Beijing, has made it clear that he will follow his predecessors in making a great deal of sanctimonious noise about the issue while absolutely refusing anything that imposes any real costs. The Chinese are working with a similar strategy: They have offered any number of vague promises and conciliatory talk about shared responsibility,…