Terence Corcoran: Drink not to the birth of climate panic

The grim legacy of the Stockholm and Rio summits

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Fifty years ago this week in Stockholm, Sweden, the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment was grinding through what would become the launchpad for five decades of climate alarmism that still animates policymakers. Animates is the right word. In the 50 years since the Stockholm Summit, politicians and an army of bureaucrats and activists have been roaming the planet, constantly regurgitating speeches of doom and action agendas like cartoon characters in a Disney jungle movie.

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What began in Stockholm was followed by an even greater event exactly 20 years later, the 1992 June 3-14 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Known as the ’92 Rio Earth Summit, the events were attended by 30,000 bureaucrats, politicians, journalists and non-government organizations (NGOs) who generated a reported 24-million pages of documents and screeds. Among them was Agenda 21, a 351-page blueprint to impose “sustainable development” on the world economy via central planning mechanisms that make Stalin and Mao look like amateurs in the business of government control of human and economic activity.

Celebrations of these events, despite their historical importance, have been muted, although there was a slight burst of enthusiasm from Steven Guilbeault, Canada’s minister of environment and climate change, who delivered a speech on Monday marking the Stockholm Summit. Guilbeault hailed the summit’s Stockholm Declaration as “the first step of fifty years of multilateral cooperation.”

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Almost in passing, Guilbeault mentioned Maurice Strong, the late Canadian international political schemer who was the lead organizer of the 1972 summit. “Maurice Strong was a great Canadian,” said Guilbeault. That’s all he said about Strong, even though the global business and governmental manipulator was in fact the mastermind behind both Stockholm and Rio. It was Strong who brought NGOs to the Rio Summit, where they helped generate the massive interventionist planning documents that still form the foundation of global environmental and economic governance theory.

Back in early 1992, two months before Rio, I wrote about Strong as “Canada’s contribution to back-door central planning and global income redistribution,” including the grand objective of institutionalizing “sustainable development” — a phrase created by the UN in 1987 that was meaningless in 1992 and remains undefinable today except as a cartoon concept to justify expanded government intervention and control.

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Strong’s political and economic ideas are a muddle. He once told Canadian writer Peter Foster (Why We Bite the Invisible Hand: The Psychology of Anti-Capitalism) that “basically I am a socialist in the ideological sense that I believe the principle purpose of economic activity is to meet the social goals of society. I am a capitalist because I believe that the capitalist system is the best way to do it.” Somebody should take a deep look into the implications of Strong’s duelling governance model.

In a 1989 interview with the Toronto Star, Strong compared nuclear war with environmental risks. “The threat of nuclear war is like the threat of a heart attack or a stroke. If it happens it can be fatal, but until it happens there’s always a chance it won’t. The environmental threat is more like a cancer that is spreading pervasively through the body of our planet.”

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That’s the kind of language that alarmed the summits that Strong led 50 and 30 years ago. At the Rio Summit back in 1992, attendees and the rest of the world were told that temperature increases between 1.5 and 4.5 degrees centigrade would be rocking the planet by 2050. Within a few years, the projection had been reduced to between one degree and 3.5 degrees by 2100. Today even that projection is debatable.

The net-zero concept also did not exist in 1992, although some of the same economic thinking did. Under Agenda 21, bureaucrats estimated that dealing with environmental issues would cost maybe $625-billion a year — a forecast of the massive trillions in spending proposed by Mark Carney, Canada’s successor to Maurice Strong on the international carbon circuit.

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Back in October, 1992, I also wrote that after five months it already looked like the road from Rio was “wandering off course, perhaps out into the desert of irrelevancy. Valiant efforts are being made to maintain the Earth Summit momentum. … The world, however, appears to have more important things on its mind.”

As it does today. Even followers of green economics concede that Stockholm and Rio have not exactly turned the world around. Victoria University’s Trevor Hancock laments that 50 years after Stockholm he believes the world is still suffering from Strong’s environmental cancer. Stockholm participants would be “bitterly disappointed” by the environmental state of the world today.

Former participants in the ’92 Rio Earth Summit share that view. Writing for Business Green, two British Rio attendees conclude that sustainability has undoubtedly risen in importance over the last thirty years, partly due to the foundations laid at Rio. “But a chasm persists between the intent in 1992 and the delivery since. Which is perhaps the key lesson as governments set net zero targets. Will a future generation of journalists and analysts be writing articles in 2050 praising the vision and intent of net zero, but lamenting the poor follow up? On the historical evidence, it’s highly likely.”

It’s too early to drink to Stockholm and Rio. And that’s good.

• Email: tcorcoran@postmedia.com | Twitter:



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