The Problem with Climate Scientists, Politicans and Car Salesmen…

Posted on | May 1, 2012 by Stefano Gennarini, J.D. |

… Is that none of them know what they are talking about most of the time, and when they do, they are usually lying. It’s a well documented fact. Politicians are among the least trusted professionals (if we can call them that) together with lobbyists and car sales people, according to the most recent Gallup Poll. Politicans are considered so untrustworthy that even lawyers fare much better than them in the public mind. Climate Scientists, well, there weren’t enough of them to make the poll, but everyone remembers Climate-gate.

I will not vouch for lobbyists, given that I am trying to be one myself, or climate scientists, because it would probably take me thirty years just to begin to understand them, and by that time the planet may have already disappeared. But I can tell you for a fact that politicians and car salesmen are a pretty desperate bunch.

“The UN Conference on Sustainable Development, to be held in Brazil this summer, is poised to become the most significant UN Conference ever!” That’s what we’ve been hearing from the Secretary General and his UN political sales fleet made up of high and low ranking UN staff and delegations. Perhaps he is just another car salesmen, but perhaps he is telling the truth. You see, that’s the problem with politicians. Politicians have a power. While a car salesman can only sell you a car, a politician can sell you the future of a nation, and in the case of UN politics, the future of the world. Now, that is daunting.

Negotiations are currently underway on the outcome document of the Rio + 20 conference. For the past two years there have been calls for an “ambitious outcome document”, one that will chart the course of the world towards a greener happier sustainable future. If the organizers are successful, the policy outcome of the conference is likely to reshape the way we think of every sector of the global economy, as well as the relations between developed and developing nations.

The success of the conference all depends on UN member states, and what they hope to get out of it. The outcome document will not have a legally binding effect, but it will outline the general policy direction of our political elites. While the Conference is supposed to address sustainable development, which in turn should include social and economic development as well as respect for the environment, the green agenda of the developed world is dominating. The diplomatic corps of the developing world are simply outgunned in negotiations. Delegations have exhibited the same type of marketing skills that you would normally see at a car dealership. Most of the sales pitches are over “green” items. Many of the proposals assume that all developing nations already have viable political systems, able to meet out effective fiscal and environmental regulation. Sadly, that is not the case. Proposals also include funding for green economy, green job creation, cap and trade. Does all this sound familiar?

What defies comprehension in all this is the lack of agreement even among developing nations, of what constitutes the “green economy”, “climate change”, “green jobs”. The delegates from the United States, the European union, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, who are all fully committed to the green agenda barely have a grip on the science themselves. It is obvious, despite what may get reported in the nytimes that the absence of scientific consensus has politicians wondering what they themselves should be addressing. Even the prophet of climate doom James Lovelock has gone back on his words, and recognizes that the apocalypse is not around the corner. If scientists can’t agree, how could politicians?

Which leaves us wondering what kind of document is going to come out of the Rio Conference, and whether all this emphasis on the green economy is plain reckless politicking. Developing countries will certainly have to continue to play catch-up to the west if a green agenda is adopted. Despite their best efforts to control the Rio process, they are being worn down by negotiations and will probably be buying the green agenda package in exchange for minor concessions in the outcome document.

I only recently bought a used car, and the car salesperson lied through his teeth at least twice while trying to convince me that the car was a great deal. In the end, what can I say… I fell for it. I bought the car, which was not a great deal, but the average deal you can expect from a used car salesmen, you know: old tires, no mats, old brake pads and disks etc… But at least I have the power-train warranty.

Unfortunately, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development does not come with a power-train warranty. Whatever course is charted will be irreparable. If the Conference is successful in forming a new “green” course for the global community, there will be no going back to the car dealer. It could turn out to be a complete economic failure, as have green initiatives in California. Except this time it will be on a global scale, and in countries that cannot afford it.

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Turtle Bay and Beyond is a blog covering international law, policy and institutions. Our experts - at the UN, European Institutions, and elsewhere - explore an authentic understanding of international law, sovereignty, and the dignity of the human person. We expose those who would seek to impose a radical social vision that is contrary to these principles.

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