Did Anything Good Come from Glasgow?

Did Anything Good Come from Glasgow?

Written by E. Calvin Beisner |
Thursday, December 16, 2021

COP-26 didn’t even bring any new progress toward the world’s developing countries’ meeting their pledge at 2009’s COP-15 in Copenhagen to transfer $100 billion per year to developing countries for climate finance, which they’ve not done. It said it regretted the failure and urged repentance. That’s all. No enforcement mechanism—just like with everything else COP-26 did.

Did anything good come from Glasgow?

Well, that depends on how far back you go.

Go back 245 years and you get Adam Smith’s An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations in 1776. That was most definitely good, the University of Glasgow professor of moral philosophy solidifying the growing case for free-market economies, arguably indispensable to the Industrial Revolution’s lifting more and more of humanity out of extreme poverty.

Go back another 8 years and you get Rev. John Witherspoon leaving his church in Paisley—then a small village outside Glasgow, now well within the Glasgow metro area—to become President of the College of New Jersey, which became Princeton University. That, too, was most definitely good, Witherspoon serving as a member of the Continental Congress, where he made a strong case for separating from Great Britain, and teaching moral philosophy, including politics, to 19 members of the Constitutional Convention, including primary drafter James Madison.

Jump forward to 1865 and you get Joseph Lister starting to develop his insights, based on work by Louis Pasteur, into the role of microscopic germs in causing infection, leading to his development of disinfectants, the practice of sterilizing surgical theaters and devices in hospitals for the first time, and eventually the household application of disinfectants. (One, Listerine, was developed just 14 years later by Joseph Lawrence, a chemist in St. Louis, Missouri.) That was undoubtedly good, preventing, in the century and a half since then, untold millions of deaths from infection.

Since the area was first inhabited several millennia ago because the River Clyde was great for fishing; since its founding as a town in the 6th century by the Christian missionary Saint Mungo; and since the founding of the University of Glasgow in 1451, Glasgow has blessed the world with an impressive number of scholars (including 8 Nobel Laureates)—historians, philosophers, theologians, lawyers and jurists, natural and medical scientists, and more. The world would be a poorer place without them.

But jump all the way forward to 2021, and the question, “Did anything good come from Glasgow?” could elicit a different answer: not much, maybe nothing. Or, ironically, a lot of good. It all depends on one’s perspective.

Glasgow was where the 26th Conference of Parties (COP-26) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) took place. Government representatives from almost every nation, including 130 heads of state, were joined by UN bureaucrats, leaders and activists from hundreds of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) with admission into the actual business meetings, and around 100,000 people who showed up for marches and protests before and during it.

The first day of The New York Times’s serial coverage of the two-week climate summit started by saying world leaders gathered “to debate how to deliver on the unmet promises of the past.” The same coverage the day the conference ended began:

Diplomats from nearly 200 countries on Saturday struck a major agreement aimed at intensifying global efforts to fight climate change by calling on governments to return next year with stronger plans to curb their planet-warming emissions and urging wealthy nations to “at least double” funding to protect poor nations from the hazards of a hotter planet.

Translated from bureaucratese, that amounts to: Failing to achieve anything substantive, diplomats agreed to try again next year.

To the extent those are an accurate summation of COP-26’s main purpose, it’s safe to say it achieved little if anything.

From the standpoint of people scared to death that we’re all going to fry 9 years from now (since it was 3 years ago that Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, declared, “The world is gonna end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change”)—or maybe 15 years, or 80, or … whatever the time frame, we’re doomed unless we scotch fossil fuels and replace all their energy with wind, solar, and other “renewables”—from that standpoint, nothing good came out of Glasgow last month.

But then there are those who think human-induced carbon dioxide emissions do contribute to global warming, aka climate change, but that the warming

  • is nothing much in the grand scale of things,
  • will likely bring more benefits than harms,
  • even at its worst would only make the average person at the end of this century about 4.34 times rather than 4.5 times wealthier than today (as even the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change admits), and
  • would be accompanied by enormous greening of the planet and reduction of hunger as plants feast on increased atmospheric CO2.

From their standpoint—which is mine—that little to nothing came out of Glasgow is good.

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