COP 26: It’s Time for the Make-Believe to Stop

November 16, 2021 Updated: November 16, 2021


The first snowfall in Ottawa accompanies news that the great climate change conference in Glasgow, COP26, succeeded brilliantly in kicking the can down the road. Hooray. After all, we have all the time in the world, right? Guys?

John Kennedy once cited an “old saying” that “victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan.” But this debacle has many parents. Starting with the multitude of climate alarmists, reputable and ragged, firmly convinced the science is settled and so is the policy and as usual all that stands in the way of a glorious future is bad people. Yet on climate there are few bad people left to hate or blame, and still nothing gets done.

COP26 delegates revealingly pulled an all-nighter, like irresponsible undergraduates, to create a mess lucky to get a D-. If they really knew what to do and how, they’d have had a glossy deal proofed and printed before boarding hundreds of private jets for triumphant damp, chilly Glasgow speechifying and signing. Instead, conference president Alok Sharma wept, “I apologise for the way this has unfolded and I am deeply sorry,” before nevertheless declaring to fatuous applause, “I think it is vital that we protect this package.”

From what? Its creators? The New York Times, in a revealing Nov. 13 email, said “Global negotiators in Glasgow agreed to do more to fight climate change and aid vulnerable nations, but left crucial questions unresolved.” A century ago, Calvin Coolidge declared the 1920 election “the end of a period which has served to substitute words for things.” Alas, his foresight failed him though not his wit, and the world has since been increasingly in the hands of people who think sincere professions of concern are accomplishments because they do not believe in practical difficulties.

The Guardian ran a headline about how “the pressure for change is building” which quoted some career youth “climate activist from Uganda” dispassionately describing her own activism. But the pressure for “change” has been redlining for a quarter-century, with governments, journalists, intellectuals, and big business on board with youth of all ages. The problem is that the knowledge of how to change is not building.

At the Climate Discussion Nexus we recently quoted a pungent Jordan Peterson line: “I know the difference between someone who can make a complex system better and someone who will make a complex system worse.” But a lot of other people, from Greta Thunberg to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, clearly do not.

Instead, they seem unable to recognize complex systems because of their difficulty grasping that virtually all decisions involve trade-offs, from delicious diet-busting desserts, to marrying one person and foregoing the possibility of marrying anyone else, to ditching fossil fuels and having the furnace go out. Governing is famously about choosing, but since 1920 we’ve been repeatedly told we can have our cake and eat it too.

It sounds great on the stump. Until you get to COP26 and crash bewildered into the dependence of many poorer countries, including pseudo-wealthy communist China, on coal power. How could the delegates not see it coming?

Lots of practice. Climate Home News celebrated that “The Glasgow Climate Pact refers to coal for the first time in the UN process. It asks countries [to] come back with stronger climate plans in 2022. And it finalises the most contentious elements of the Paris Agreement rulebook…” Classic sending of words to do the work of deeds. Actually, the coal pledge was watered down from “phase-out” to “phase-down” despite all the “last chance” and 10-years-to-save-the-planet chatter. And even if everyone now met their Paris commitments, which they won’t, those famous computer models say it would reduce temperature by about 0.1 degrees C by 2100. For this we wreck our economies?

Likewise, a “curated” Flipboard storyboard hails “The Countdown to Net Zero” even as people who know as little about economics as climate science beg OPEC to ramp up fossil fuel production, or suggest releasing the U.S. strategic stockpile in a desperado lunge to slow inflation briefly.

The New York Times drivelled Nov. 14: “With the bang of a gavel at the COP26 summit in Glasgow, diplomats struck an agreement that called on governments to return next year with stronger plans to curb emissions.” Imagine Churchill on June 4, 1940, telling Britons, “We will return next year with stronger plans to fight them on the beaches.”

Actually, a senior aide once summarized Churchill’s attitude as “it was all very well to say that everything had been thought of. The crux of the matter was—had anything been done?” At COP26, nothing was.

Soon the make-believe must stop, and they must tell us they didn’t know what to do, didn’t know how to do it, or there wasn’t really anything to do.

Maybe next year.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

John Robson
John Robson is a documentary filmmaker, National Post columnist, contributing editor to the Dorchester Review, and executive director of the Climate Discussion Nexus. His most recent documentary is “The Environment: A True Story.”