The Lithuanian Free Market Institute (LFMI) presents a commentary “We don’t Need no Revolutions” which focuses on climate change and EU‘s energy policy. Sadly enough, “EUobserver” declined this article as “too controversial” to be posted in their section “Comment,” instead citing one inessential, to our view, idea in their own article “Climate change scepticism still exists in Brussels” (Feb 20, 2007).
The article by EUobserver begins with saying that “the human cause of climate change is an established fact in the scientific community. But some giant corporations such as Exxon Mobil continue to fund NGOs that sow doubt on the subject, with some MEPs tempted by the sceptical line.”
Given the context, in which LFMI’s thoughts were presented, and especially for those readers who have read the said article by EUobserver and may have questions concerning it, we would like to shed more light on the ideas expressed in our commentary and why LFMI ventured into this area.
The article submitted to EUobserver was not intended to, and did not “attack,” the IPCC report, nor was it in any way denying the existence of climate change. Indeed, the author mentions the extent to which the global average temperatures have risen, and quotes the IPCC’s predicted temperature increase for the year 2100. The author denotes a sole paragraph for the scientific side of the argument and then only to present certain IPCC findings in a calm manner for readers to draw their own conclusions.
Instead, the article debates whether the policies proposed by the European Commission are realistic, how it might affect energy prices and what impact it will have on EU’s competitiveness. LFMI believes that these questions affect every EU citizen and thus deserve to be debated.
Another issue discussed by the author is the highly political nature of the debate surrounding climate change; given the reaction to this article, we are even more confident that raising this idea was justified. Questioning the integrity and the motives of LFMI rather than the arguments presented in the article is precisely what is to be expected from the politicized approach – exactly the type of approach to climate change criticized in the article by LFMI.
We would also like to add that companies mentioned in EUobserver’s article as LFMI’s supporters are just two out of approximately 100 hundred of other supporters from the business community and international foundations, the list of which can be found online at www.freema.org.
LFMI’s commentary “We don’t Need no Revolutions” is provided below. This commentary was also printed in the Lithuanian political weekly “Atgimimas” (press here to open it…)
Even though the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has not released the full version of the Fourth Assessment Report, eager politicians started to cash in on the impending catastrophe and collect “green points”. The European Commission has ordered a revolution in the energy sector, and Jacques Chirac in a true revolutionary spirit invited everyone to join France in fighting climate change. “The time is for a revolution” he said, “We are on the verge of the irreversible.”
Quite often such announcements can be discounted as sheer rhetoric, but it appears that this time the politicians are talking for real. It seems that now they have agreed on something and that should make us at least somewhat nervous. Government-induced revolutions have brought little benefit to their subjects because the well-being of current generations usually look insignificant in comparison to grandeur of politics or visions of the future.
When talking about the “new industrial revolution” we should recall that the real industrial revolution century happened was not announced. It just happened at its own time in its own place; it was a natural process. There lies its success. We also know of some government-induced revolutions, most famous of which are the Great Leap Forward in China and the Bolshevik Revolution (also known as the Great October Revolution) in Russia. The outcome of the first one was the collapse of the economy; the outcome of the second one was a collapse overall.
Climate change, energy dependency and the competitiveness of the EU form the proposed energy policy package; nonetheless climate change is at the core of the issue. The message – even if other countries decide not to combat climate change, EU will go at it alone. As such EU will achieve that, by 2020 at least 20% of our energy is produced from renewables. It is also quite likely that these binding targets will apply to every single country regardless of the stage of development the countries are going through.
Considering that even after the years of government assistance and preferential treatment renewables form around 7% of EU energy balance the proposed plan to triple the amount is both ambitious and costly. Undoubtedly, this will lead to an increase in energy prices regardless of fancy accounting practices (i.e. subsidies, price floors or quotas). Inevitably, someone will have to pay for this, be it consumers, producers or the government; the bottom line is there is no way to increase the usage of renewables and achieving the imposed targets without extra cost.
The justification for such uneconomic policy is of course the necessity to combat climate change. It is fiercely argued that if we do not do anything we are facing a certain catastrophe. Any dissent from this doomsday scenario is labelled as bad taste, ignorance or even compared to holocaust denial.
The 2007 IPCC briefing for policymakers even with all its uncertainties polished and scientific debate limited provides some compelling observations. First, during the last 150 years the global average temperature has risen by 0.75 degrees and the sea level rose by 20 centimetres, or 0.005 degrees and 1.3 mm per annum respectively. Even though the increase in temperature during the last 30 years is steeper than the overall trend, a very similar trend occurred in the 1910 – 1940 period; the rise in sea level at least so far does not look catastrophically exponential. Second, while assessing the likelihood of human influence on climate phenomena and trends, in two out of seven categories the conclusion was “likely”. The remaining five were labelled “more likely than not”, and four out of these five conclusions, according to the report, are based on expert judgment rather that formal attribution studies. Finally, as The Economist points, the increased range from 1.4-5.8°C in the 2001 report to 1.1-6.4°C in this report for temperatures in 2100, as we understand more about climate our predictions may become less clear.
This is not a comprehensive review, yet it should cast a doubt on the claims that there is no need for further discussions and that the science is settled. The problem is due to the fact that the science is settled among the politicians and global warming is now more of a political phenomenon rather than a climatic one. Too many politicians have staked their reputations on climate change to allow for objective and depoliticized debate. After all it is much easier to scare the electorate with doomsday stories rather than solve real problems, i.e. the declining competitiveness of the EU or the inability to fulfil the Lisbon agenda, not to mention catching up with the US.
Declaring that EU will combat climate change even if other countries do not agree to the EU initiative is arrogant, resembles the often-criticized unilateralism and does not encourage other countries to join the EU initiative. Even the climate-minded EU should realize that it is impossible to solve a truly global problem without the global community.