Malcolm Turnbull, by way of making a splash at the Paris Climate Conference, has just pledged a billion dollars to help poor countries meet the challenge climate change. This forms part of a broader promise by ‘rich nations’ to provide $100 billion a year in ‘climate aid.’ What Turnbull was less keen to emphasise is that $800 million of the funds would be redirected from the existing foreign-aid budget. That means $800 million less for disaster relief, treatment for preventable diseases, access to clean drinking water and malnutrition. That list is bad enough, but the worthy causes shouldered aside in the name of warmism number many more than that.
How many people died from climate change last year? Directly, none.
But what about indirectly? That’s a tougher one. The earth’s weather patterns have defied prediction since long before multilateral climate love-ins became an annual entry in every posturing world leader’s travel diary. So we shouldn’t kid ourselves into thinking that isolating the impact of carbon emissions on natural disasters, bushfires and draughts is anything more than educated guesswork.
It’s a question made more complex still by the fact that the dominant cause of the alleged anthropogenic warming – fossil fuels – saves the lives of a sizable number of people each year simply by providing cheap energy. This isn’t just about heating and access to medical care. Access to cheap power helps developing nations build industries, jobs, infrastructure and in turn, raise living standards. Not to mention longer lifespans. For most of those countries, shunning electrificy produced by fossil fuels in favour of holding out for renewables will have a human cost far greater than the impact of their individual emissions on global temperatures. Bear in mind that malaria killed a million people worldwide just last year. What makes this number so very heartbreaking is that the illness is readily curable when diagnosed and treated promptly, yet the aid that might have helped now goes towards what exactly? Giving ‘climate aid’ to countries preoccupied with inadequate and irregular power supplies, poverty and airborne diseases smacks of moral exhibitionism. Meanwhile, Third World clinics do without the electricity needed to power the refrigerators, if they have any, needed for serums and medicines.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has painted Australia’s pledge of $1 billion in climate aid as a ‘very important statement.’ To the extent that it shows the PM’s readiness to play loose with the facts in order to be seen as doing the right thing, at least by the transnational climate commissars, he is most certainly right. Climate doomsayers are quick to point out that the planet’s warming will increase the spread of diseases such as malaria, ebola and tuberculosis, especially in the vulnerable region of sub-Saharan Africa. But how we respond to this depends on our priorities. Are we more interested in self-congratulations or doing the most good with the limited resources we have at our disposal?
If wealthy countries want to tackle this by reducing emissions, the European Union’s 20/20 climate policy gives us some idea of how that’s likely to play out. Modelling suggests the policy costs $250 billion each year and will reduce the earth’s temperature by 0.05C come 2100. According to one peer-reviewed study from the Global Policy forum, the cuts on the table in Paris will reduce warming by 0.306 degrees Fahrenheit for the princely sum of $1 trillion a year worldwide.
By comparison, the United Nations’ Roll Back Malaria Partnership estimates the cost of treating and preventing the vast majority of the world’s Malaria deaths would cost about $4.2 billion a year.
Many will be quick to label this a false comparison on the grounds that the costs of climate change far exceed an uptake in airborne disease. That overlooks the uncompromising reality even if every major country threw itself head first into far-reaching climate action today, the effect on the earth’s temperature, come the latter half of the century, would still be negligible.
A global agreement to funnel trillions upon trillions of dollars into windmills and solar panels over the next few decades will gratify politicians keen to add ‘saving the planet’ to their list of career accomplishments. Yet in terms of aiding the world’s benighted, arresting insignificant rises in global temperatures would amount to precious little. Indeed, it will be cold comfort for the untold millions in Asia and Africa who over the coming years will die premature deaths from preventable disease while living in conditions of abject misery.
As Bjorn Lomgborg has demonstrated, and drawn the unrelenting ire of warmists and rent-seekers for doing so, if we care more about facts than expensive gestures, the best value climate mitigation lies in researching better green energy technology. And as renewables become more cost effective, we’ll start to see them replace traditional sources without having to foist the unnamed billions in costs onto long-suffering taxpayers.
Some will argue that when the stakes are this high, holding out for better renewable technology is a risk not worth taking. At least a more intellectually honest position than claiming untold billions worth of wind farms and global greenhouse slush funds are needed to save countries where clean drinking water is still a work in progress.
So let’s call Mr Turnbull’s gesture for what it really is: a cynical exercise in climate showmanship and green-eyed moral vanity.