When it comes to UN climate conferences, I am constantly flabbergasted by the breathless naivety and forced optimism of certain politicians and environmental reporters, not to mention of green activists. It is as if Voltaire's very own Dr. Pangloss had set sail to Cancún with Candide. Despite having become a syphilitic beggar, Dr. Pangloss remains firm in his belief that "all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds", explaining that syphilis "… was a thing unavoidable, a necessary ingredient in the best of worlds; for if Columbus had not caught in an island in America this disease, which contaminates the source of generation, and frequently impedes propagation itself, and is evidently opposed to the great end of nature, we should have had neither chocolate nor cochineal."
'Global warming' was likewise reduced to a clapped-out beggar last year in frozen Copenhagen. Yet, in the best of all possible worlds, this Danish debacle is now seen as a good thing, because it brought a sense of reality to the delegates in Cancún, who still, of course, neatly proceeded to avoid any legally-binding commitments on emissions, and on pretty well anything else for that matter, putting off the whole charade until next December in sunny Durban, South Africa. My, how this ship of fools traverses the globe - Candide and Gulliver have nothing on them! And, it is worth remembering that Cancún was the 16th Conference of the Parties no less.
Even more difficult to comprehend, however, is the desperate desire for a post-Kyoto Protocol. After all, it is not even as if the Protocol reduced carbon emissions in any meaningful way. In truth, it appears that emissions actually rose after the Protocol was put in place on December 11, 1997. The average annual growth in atmospheric carbon dioxide over the last 50 years (as measured at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, in parts per million by volume - ppmv) was around 1.37 ppmv. In contrast, the average since 1997and Kyoto has risen to about 1.97 ppmv. So much then for the value of internationally-binding protocols.
This would perhaps be a cause for wry amusement were it not for the fact that political and economic policies predicated on UN Climate Conference agendas are raising costs and burdens for everyone around the world, and especially so at a time when the financial crisis is putting much in jeopardy. In the UK, our ludicrous political obsession with carbon footprints is warping energy policy, dangerously loading energy prices and costs, heaping retrogressive debt on 5 million people in energy poverty, and undermining UK competitiveness, and all at a time when vast new reserves of cheap energy in the form of gas and oil shales are becoming a reality.
As Benny Peiser, Director of The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), wisely argues
"No other country has been as foolish as Britain to enact extremely aggressive and completely unrealistic climate targets. For the UK, to keep going it alone is not merely suicidal but pointless.
Nor does it make sense to make British industry - and manufacturing in particular - even more uncompetitive, or to drive it overseas, by gratuitously driving up energy costs.
The Government should now suspend its unilateral and extremely costly climate targets until such time as all other major nations have signed up to the same course."
This is even more the case when we note the extraordinary decline of global-warming coverage and interest throughout the British media since Copenhagen. Until this last Friday, one would have hardly known that Cancún was a two-week conference, and, even now, after it has limply concluded, the coverage is so slim as to merit comment.
For example, as far as I can judge, in the main 'Sunday Times', the conference does not achieve a single mention, while the climate-change obsessed 'Observer' manages only half-an-inside page and a short, mealy-mouthed editorial partly worthy of Dr Pangloss himself.
The reality is surely dawning, if too slowly, that, to paraphrase Voltaire's famous 1767 letter to Fredrick the Great, King of Prussia: "Global warming is the most ridiculous, the most absurd and cost-raising farce that ever infected the world."
Emeritus Professor Philip Stott of the University of London is on the Academic Advisory Council of The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF)