I haven't written about this in seven years, and so I think it's time to re-post about two significant experiences I had. With long-range weather forecasts being used to terrify people, I think these stories have some value.
In 1999, my friend Henry Lamb mentioned that he had been attending UN meetings. I thought it sounded intriguing and asked for details. After all, reading about an organization is one thing; actually attending its meetings is another. And because I was so enthused, Henry offered to get me in to the Kyoto accord meetings in Bonn, Germany. (The official name was COP 5.)
I had preconceptions about the United Nations, of course, but I was looking forward to seeing the real thing in person; only then would I know if my guesses had been correct. So, I made my plans.
When I arrived at the specified place and time, I found a magnificent hotel, surrounded by hundreds of soldiers and policemen. Everything was absolutely first class. To this day I don't think I've seen its equal in terms of high-end, well-run meetings. Everything was pristine; every need had been considered and addressed in advance.
There were several days of meetings scheduled, some in smaller meeting rooms and others in the big auditorium, complete with language-specific headphones and a bank of professional translators. Again, absolutely first class.
On the second floor of the facility was a huge computer room. There must have been fifty terminals available. The connections were excellent (at least for 1999), and there were always open machines. This was a courtesy, not only for the participants, but especially for the press.
The attendees, as you might suspect, were all well-dressed, and all appeared to be feeling special about attending such impressive, elite meetings. I, on the other hand, had a bit of a Groucho Marx moment: "I can't believe they let me into this place."
"Is There No One of Substance Here?"
Once I started circulating, however, it became clear that "first class" extended no further than the physical layer. The presenters dressed well and tried to use impressive words; their PowerPoint slides were perfect, but the actual content was less than pedestrian.
I heard one speech – in the impressive 'headphone' amphitheater – where the speaker said that vast areas of her home country would be entirely underwater in ten years (which would have been 2009) and that every soul living there would be dead. As evidence, she referred to impressive names and organizations, who had "said so."
And that was the way the whole conference went. I kept thinking that there had to be someone there who was competent, that perhaps they were having the real meetings in some back room somewhere. If so, I never found them, and I had what appeared to be free run of the place.
There's a little test that I run in my mind in cases like this. I ask myself: If I owned a convenience store, would I feel good about having this person manage it for me when I was out of town for a week?
I applied my test to the entire assemblage of impressive-looking people at this event. There was only one person that passed, and that man was a Dutch journalist, not involved with the UN or any of its myriad NGOs.
Who These Impressive Personages Were
As best I could tell, nearly every person at this event was someone making a living from global warming, or else some official's son, daughter, brother-in-law, or cousin. I found none that had any notable substance. They were flying first class, staying at magnificent hotels, eating in the finest restaurants, and, as I later learned, hiring the best prostitutes and snorting the best drugs. And they were doing it all on some government's tab.
I was able to get my hands on some of the UN's internal documentation (which, sadly, I've since lost). It showed that nearly every dollar they had spent on global warming – and it was many, many millions – was spent on meetings. Of course, they used lots of fancy euphemisms for "meetings," like "plenary sessions."
There were two primary types of officials present: those from the big states, who were looking for a new bureaucracy to run, and those from the small states, looking for a handout.
A Second Trip
Also through Henry's good graces, I was able to attend the Kyoto meetings the next year (COP 6), at The Hague. They were more of the same and quickly bored me. But if you remember the famous news footage of this event: the US entourage walking out, in protest of something… I was on the other side of the room, watching. That was as exciting as it got.
The one thing I was able to do at this set of meetings was to go from booth to booth, tracing footnotes. What I found at these conferences was that everyone – in their very impressive literature – was referring to someone else. And so, with them all present, I traced back the references. What I found was that the 'science' of one group referred to the 'science' of another, then another, and then still another, who referred back to the first!
I made no effort to go back a third time. Two sham events in a row were enough for me.
My real impression of these shows was this:
If, tomorrow, new research emerged, proving beyond any shadow of a doubt that global warming was false – and if people had the emotional strength to accept it – the crowd at these shows would not be ashamed. Rather, they'd stand up, look around at each other, and say, "Well, what should we do next?"
And so you have my experiences in the belly of the beast. You may want to think of this as breathless pronouncements are made by very impressive personages over the next year or two. I'm sure I will.