Basking in the results of last week’s elections, President Biden has flown across the world to exercise his diplomatic expertise again. It could have been worse.
Arriving in Sharm-el-Sheik, Egypt, to attend the latest UN conference on global warming, Biden first met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. In that conversation, Biden criticized Egypt’s human rights record and apparently avoided everything relevant to the Middle East, such as Iran’s threat to the region.
Are we merely in competition with China? To deny that we’re in a second Cold War is to wish the problem away.
Biden told the UN audience of representatives of about 190 nations, “Let’s raise both our ambition and speed of our efforts. If we are going to win this fight, every major emitter needs to align with 1.5ºC. We can no longer plead ignorance of the consequences of our actions or continue to repeat our mistakes. Everyone has to keep accelerating progress throughout this decisive decade.” He bragged that his “Inflation Reduction Act” — which has nothing to do with reducing inflation — would reduce U.S. emissions by one billion tons by 2030.
What’s the big deal about 1.5ºC? The 1.5ºC number is derived from the goal established by the Paris Climate Accords (from which former President Trump withdrew and Biden rejoined). That goal said that the nations signing the accords had to act to prevent the planet’s temperature from rising more than 2ºC from pre-industrial times, which ended in about the year 1850. The goal now is apparently that no temperature should rise 1.5ºC above that year’s average temperature.
The climate claimants assume that the increase in temperature is man-made. Many “scientists” agree, but the truth of the science is that the temperature rises may be caused more by natural events than man’s conduct.
In 1850, the world’s population was about 1.3 billion. Today, it’s close to eight billion and increasing. All of those people need to eat, work, and live in some sort of society, which necessarily will give off heat and — in some form — “greenhouse gases,” including carbon dioxide. The cost of keeping global temperatures within one or two degrees of what they were in 1850 is staggering.
In a new editorial, the Economist writes, “The world is already about 1.2ºC hotter than it was in pre-industrial times.… Many activists are reluctant to admit that 1.5ºC is a lost cause.” The editorial then goes on to say that the answer is more spending. Lots of it.
According to the Economist, “[C]utting emissions will require much more money. Roughly speaking, global investment in clean energy needs to triple from today’s $1 trillion a year and be concentrated in developing countries which generate most of today’s emissions.” Most of which, the editorial says, has to be spent in the third world. Not by it: in it, meaning mostly, if not all, by the United States.
How many of those trillions of dollars to reduce emissions does Biden want to pay for? Most of the world’s biggest emitters — China, Russia, and India — won’t spend a dime. China, which accounts for about 50 percent of emissions from the generation of electricity, is building more coal-fired plants at home and in other nations.
In short, Biden — to the extent he is thinking at all — is delusional. What he is doing domestically through the “Inflation Reduction Act” will continue to hurt our economy even more than his other actions already have.
And then Biden went on to an ASEAN summit, a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. His first remark was to thank the government of Colombia for hosting the summit.
That was perfectly consistent with Biden’s performances abroad. In July, rapper Snoop Dogg promoted a brand of cannabis called “Sleepy Joe OG,” with a picture of the usually-befuddled Biden on the label. The label also featured the slogan, “Where am I?” and the promise, “You won’t even remember what country you are in.” This coincided nicely with Biden’s July trip to the Middle East. His first statement after coming down the steps from Air Force One was, “What am I doing now?”
In his address to the ASEAN meeting, Biden said, “Together we will tackle the biggest issues of our time, from climate to health security, to defend against the significant threat to the rule-based order.”
The biggest threat to that “rules-based order” is China, as Biden’s new National Security Strategy says, but he made no mention of China because he doesn’t want to offend the Chinese. China and the ASEAN nations are both parts of the “comprehensive strategic partnership” Biden said he wants to grow.
Biden — who could have then called for a condemnation of Russia’s war in Ukraine — didn’t. He could have called the ASEAN nations’ attention to the threat of Iran — which has enriched uranium to about 60 percent, which is a small engineering step to 90 percent weapons-grade — and which, of course, he didn’t do either.
Before Biden’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, the Pentagon announced the withdrawal of two squadrons of F-15s from Japan. They constituted a significant part of our forces deterring China from attacking Taiwan. They can’t be replaced because — as I have written before — our Air Force is too old, too small, and too unready to fight to meet our global commitments.
In preparation for the meeting, Biden said, “I’m sure we’ll discuss Taiwan … and what I want to do with him when we talk is lay out … what each of our red lines are.” Which was an invitation to Xi to increase his demands.
The Bali, Indonesia, meeting with Xi — fortunately — produced no big changes in policy, according to the first reports on it. Biden and Xi talked about climate change and food security, and agreed that Putin shouldn’t use nuclear weapons in Ukraine. Biden — who had said four times that we would defend Taiwan — said there was no change in our “one China” policy.
The Chinese readout of the meeting states a different view. It quotes Xi as saying that Taiwanese independence was as incompatible with peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait as “fire and water.”
On Oct. 19, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday said that Chinese action against Taiwan is not as far in the future as we had assumed. “When we talk about the 2027 window, in my mind that has to be a 2022 window or potentially a 2023 window. I don’t mean at all to be alarmist … it’s just that we can’t wish that away.” In other words, China’s attack on Taiwan could come at any time.
Biden is doing exactly what Adm. Gilday warned against: wishing the problem away.
In the press conference following the meeting, Biden said, “I absolutely believe there need not be a new Cold War.” He also said, “We’re going to compete vigorously, but I’m not looking for conflict. I’m looking to manage this competition responsibly.”
Are we merely in competition with China? To deny that we’re in a second Cold War is, again, to wish the problem away.
The definition of a cold war is an ideological conflict between superpowers that is fought indirectly by proxy wars, espionage, and cyberattacks. That is precisely what is going on between China and the U.S., despite what Biden said.
And a cold war can turn hot because of a major act of aggression, such as a Chinese attack on Taiwan.
Yes, the results of Biden’s trip could have been worse. But for bumbling, stumbling, and misstating the condition of the world, it was par for Biden’s course.