Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise has been watching the climate world since 2009. What she sees isn't pretty.

That Silly Coal Speech – Part 2

In the National Post today I argue that the extreme anti-coal stance of UN officials and green activists harms both people and the environment.

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click to read full article

Last week, I discussed how Christiana Figueres, a UN official, tried to misuse a recent UN climate report. In her words, the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change findings demonstrate that “the science is clear.”

She insists, quelle surprise, that this science represents “a clarion call” for just the kind of action UN officials have been advocating since the 1992 Earth Summit (which gave us the international treaty known as the UNFCCC).

Today the Financial Post (the business section of the National Post newspaper) has published my larger analysis of Figueres’ speech to the World Coal Association. It’s titled UN’s war on coal threatens environmental progress in world’s desperate regions.

Far too many people believe there’s no downside to fighting global warming. I continually meet smart, well-spoken individuals who absolutely refuse to think critically about climate policy. Their reasoning is that, even if global warming doesn’t turn out to be disastrous, these measures are good for the environment anyway.

But that is frequently not the case. Moreover, beneath the surface of many green initiatives we find the toxic (perhaps murderous is a better word) belief that a pristine environment is more important than human well-being.

Green activists refuse to acknowledge that people in the here-and-now are being harmed by their policies. Blinded by their own self-regard, smugly certain that they’re saving the planet, their gaze is firmly fixed elsewhere. Which is why the rest of us must bear witness to what is actually going on.

As I ask in the National Post today:

How many of today’s impoverished youth, now clinging precariously to life boats in the developing world, does Figueres think we should push back into the water so that the children of our grandchildren might hypothetically experience “climate stability”?

Thank goodness another voice also got time at the podium on the morning that Figueres addressed the Coal Association. Godfrey Gomwe, who first experienced electric light when he attended university in Zimbabwe, now heads a coal company. Anyone who cares about human dignity, poverty reduction, and the health of mothers and children, he says, cannot turn their back on coal.

It is cheap electricity – lots of it – that fuels economic growth and provides jobs. It is cheap electricity that powers the sanitation infrastructure that protects people from cholera and dysentery. It is cheap electricity that eliminates the respiratory illness and early death now associated with indoor cooking in too many parts of the world.

Many developing nations have significant coal reserves. They intend to use those reserves to improve the lives of their populations – to spare those populations enormous suffering.

But the demand, on the part of green activists, that banks should stop financing the construction of coal plants is practically guaranteeing that those being built in the developing world will be more polluting than they need to be. In Gomwe’s words:

Coal’s role is likely to grow in many places regardless of whether development banks are involved or not. The risk, however, is that without support from these institutions, cheaper, less efficient and more polluting technologies might be used because they are all that can be afforded.

How dare hyper-privileged individuals such as Figueres demand, as she did in that speech, that one third of the world’s current electrical capacity be mothballed because it doesn’t meet her pie-in-the-sky standards.

How dare green activists sentence millions of the world’s most vulnerable to unnecessary disease by demanding that coal plants be banned outright.

Read my National Post piece here.

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The full text of Figueres’ speech is here. The full text of Gomwe’s is here and is backed up here.

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Correction: The National Post piece was originally scheduled to appear last week. As a result, the third last paragraph now contains a small error. It refers to the UN climate summit being “held in Poland last week.” Officially, the summit ended on November 22 – closer to two weeks ago.

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