Some questions defy answers. Among the most famous of those: “What’s the sound of one hand clapping?” Over the past week, another question has been added to the answer-defying list: “how do you charge 2.4 billion people with treason?”
That query has emerged since last Friday, when the US House of Representative narrowly passed (219-212) the mammoth cap-and-trade legislation which aims to cut US carbon dioxide emissions by 80% by 2050. Two days after the vote, Paul Krugman, a columnist for the New York Times excoriated the 212 members of the House who voted against the legislation, saying that they were “deniers” about the dangers of climate change and that they were committing a “form of treason — treason against the planet.”
Of course, everyone – and columnists in particular — is entitled to their own measure of hyperbole. But Krugman neglected to inform the Chinese and the Indians – all 2.4 billion of them – that they were committing treason against the planet, too. In the wake of the House vote, government officials from China and India made it clear that they are not going to support the measures put forward in the House bill, particularly the ones that could restrict emissions in developing countries and allow trade sanctions against the countries that don’t comply with those emission limits.
On Tuesday, Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said that India “will not accept any emission-reduction target, period. This is a non-negotiable stand.” He went on, saying that “there is no way India is going to accept any emission reduction target, period.”
On Thursday, China’s vice foreign minister, He Yafei, told reporters in Beijing that China is “firmly opposed” to any measures that will impose trade penalties on countries that fail to limit their carbon dioxide emissions. “We are firmly against such attempts to advance trade protectionism under the pretext of climate change. It is not conducive to world economic recovery. It serves nobody’s interests.”
Hmmm. So now what? If Krugman is right, then China and India – who together represent 35% of the world’s total population (along with the 212 House members who voted nay) – are committing treason against the planet. If that’s true, then where will we hold the trial? Where will we find a courtroom big enough?
As I said, some questions defy answers. And finding a solution to the question of global carbon dioxide emissions may be the most answer-defying of them all.
ROBERT BRYCE’s latest book is Gusher of Lies: The Dangerous Delusions of “Energy Independence” which just came out in paperback.