Global warming is not a hoax. But efforts by our betters among the governments and corporations to pretend to fix it are a farce.
China is a proud signatory of the Paris Agreement, and American climate scolds regularly hold up the People's Republic, with its massively subsidized solar panels and green five-year plans, as a role model for climate action. This is done often as an effort to embarrass American politicians into taxing or regulating fossil fuels.
But a new detailed database shows that Chinese state-owned companies will beat everyone else in bringing new coal-fired power plants online around the developing world.
This is the norm for supposed champions in the fight against climate change: Talk a big game, derive political or economic benefit from your virtue signaling, then gallop around the globe burning coal for profit.
American environmentalists nevertheless love Beijing. "Republicans were wrong about China's climate commitment," ran a headline at Grist, an environmentalist website. The article came from The Climate Desk, a collaboration of liberal publications including Huffington Post, the Atlantic and the New Republic. The article was supposed to refute Republican objections to the Paris accord, in which China made small and distant commitments. Later in 2014, Grist ran another Climate Desk piece headlined, "China just got serious about global warming. Now we're really out of excuses."
In the Trump era, the tone in the U.S. media has become even starker. "The irony is rich," tweeted New York Times climate reporter Coral Davenport just after the election: "as US abandons #climate policy under @realDonaldTrump, China becomes a new #climate leader."
"It is a new world order," Erik Solheim, head of the United Nations Environment Program, told the New York Times. "Leadership on climate change policy has now gone to the developing countries, China among them."
"As Trump withdraws from Paris accord," Davenport posted in late June, "China is set to start its cap & trade market later this year ..."
But the new database of coal-fired power plants is out and the irony is rich: China's government is plopping 700 coal-burning plants all around the globe, according to the study's authors, a German organization called Urgewald. "China's energy companies will make up nearly half of the new coal generation expected to go online in the next decade," the New York Times reported.
That means China's climate commitment is this: It will increase its own burning of coal only by about 10 percent over coming years, but its state-owned companies will profit by burning billions of tons of coal in poorer countries with even less ambitious climate commitments than China has. "The fleet of new coal plants," the Times reported, "would make it virtually impossible to meet the goals set in the Paris climate accord ..."
And we're supposed to believe China has the moral high ground.
"Chinese companies are not the only drivers of the global coal expansion," the Times notes. India's state-owned power company "plans to build more than 38,000 megawatts of new coal capacity in India and Bangladesh," the Times reported.
It was Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi who lectured Trump after he announced U.S. withdrawal from the treaty, saying failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would be a "morally criminal act," as quoted in a CNN article whose headline read "India takes moral high-ground on Paris climate deal." The Paris climate deal promised billions in funds for India.
The Urgewald study also finds "The AES Corporation, based in Arlington, Va., is building coal plants in India and the Philippines with a combined capacity of 1,700 megawatts," as the Times reports it.
This is rich. AES has long been an aggressive lobbyist for U.S. policies to address climate change by taxing or capping greenhouse gas emissions. In the early days of the Obama administration, AES teamed up with General Electric to form a company called Greenhouse Gas Services (GHGS), which peddled worthless carbon credits and then hired revolving-door lobbyists to lobby for legislation that would make their credits valuable. AES also joined the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a corporate lobby for climate regulations in the U.S.
Meanwhile, the company had inherited coal-fired power plants from Enron (another crusader for U.S. climate regs) and was opening new coal-fired plants around the third world.
AES, GE, Enron and countless others have played this game: get profit and praise by pushing for climate constraints in the U.S. while making money burning coal (made cheaper by U.S. constraints on coal) in poorer countries unaffected by the climate controls.
China's and India's gambits are similar: proudly stand on the Paris stage — to the applause of America's media — and quietly burn coal.
Will America's environmentalists be angry? Or are China's and India's dirty deeds wiped clean by their professions of faith?
Timothy P. Carney, the Washington Examiner's commentary editor, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears Tuesday nights on washingtonexaminer.com.