Urgenda, the organization that sued the Dutch Government because they didn’t do enough to prevent dangerous climate change, got victorious Wednesday last week. The judge ordered the Dutch Government to cut greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990 by 25% by 2020.
My first reaction was amazement. Wasn’t there something like the separation of powers? Yet, now judicial power is intervening with legislative power. Aren’t they a democracy? Yet, now a small activist group is bypassing the majority.
Then there was this statement made after the judgement that kept on resonating in my head:
“A courageous judge. This is fantastic,” said Sharona Ceha, another Urgenda worker. “This is for my children and grandchildren.”
In a way, I can agree with this one, but obviously not how they see it…
Let’s for a moment look at reality. Global warming/climate change is something, well, global. If you just look at the global emissions, they go up, steeply up. Three countries are responsible for more than half of the emissions and for 3/4 of the increase in global emission compared to 2012. These are China (which isn’t planning to decrease emissions until 2030), USA (which is telling that it favors emission reduction, but doesn’t ratify anything and knowing the republicans are in the majority, this could make it rather difficult) and India (which said they will not decrease emissions in the first place).
Let’s look at some numbers to get some feel for the proportions. These are the three largest emitters which consists of more than half of the emissions compared with the total emissions and emissions of the Netherlands:
|Country||Carbon emissions 2013
(in million tons)
|Difference with 2012
(in million tons)
Total all countries
The emission reduction of the Netherlands is just peanuts compared to the increase of the three largest emitters. Even if they get that extra 8% they need to appease Urgenda, this reductions will still be insignificant.
But, but, isn’t it more important to take one’s own responsibility and do what one can do? Regardless whether others take their responsibility or not. True, but it not everybody seems to share that sentiment. Developing countries like China and India are not going to stop emitting soon and then we didn’t even talk about Africa that is craving for a more prosperous future, meaning abundant and cheap energy. They are not going to be pleased with intermittent energy sources to “save the climate”. They couldn’t care less in their stage of development.
The Netherlands is a country that is doing efforts in the area they were sued about. Maybe not enough for the Urgenda folks, who want 25%, while the Dutch are on track of a 17% reduction in 2020. Other countries outside the EU are not really on track of this goal. The emissions of those countries are rising fast, very fast. They dwarf the emission reduction of the Dutch, even of Europe. Neither China, neither India are willing to reduce emissions (I am not really sure about the USA). Even if the Netherlands reach the desired reduction of 25% in 2020, that would still be a insignificant amount. They sued the wrong country. If they really want to be effective in their goal, they have to sue the developing countries with a large, and steeply growing, footprint.
Let’s look at the different regions to see which ones are currently increasing or decreasing emissions:
|Country||Difference with 2012
(in million tons)
From that data it is clear that Europe is standing out with their emission reduction, followed by Oceania in the margins by Central America. Yet the emissions in Asia dominate the pack and overwhelm all the other regions. And they are not done yet. Neither is Afrika, that still have to start.
It is also clear that the Asian emissions completely dwarf the decreases of Europe and Oceania. Even if Europe steps it up a notch.
To conclude, just let’s assume, for the sake of the argument, that Anthropogenic Global Warming is a fact, that it is dangerous and that by our emissions we actually have control over our climate. That is the starting point of the alarmists. Let’s see how far this will get us.
If we start from that assumption and combine it with the fact that the global emission increases completely overwhelm the emission decreases (therefor creating dangerous climate change), then it is not really smart to impose such costs when it is pretty sure that those efforts will be downright insignificant in the larger scheme of things.
And in the end our children STILL have to deal with the effects of climate change, but then less competitive, with a weakened economy and an unreliable energy system.
This will be for the children, for sure, but I am not really sure whether they will find that “fantastic” though.