by Conrad Black
A week after the Glasgow climate conference opened, 100,000 demonstrators marched to denounce the delegates as frauds who would not impose the revolution required in fossil fuel elimination to save the planet. The inevitable Swedish teenage climate protester Greta Thunberg called it, “Two weeks of business as usual: blah, blah, blah.” Fortunately, she is correct: the Glasgow commitments are not binding and no one will pay any attention to them. Our government leaders are sufficiently intelligent to know that drastic reductions of carbon emissions are not, in fact, desirable, but they are not sufficiently courageous to tell the truth to the vast, brain-washed, brain-dead number of deluded climate alarmists who have bought into the bunk that the end is nigh. After the usual cavalcade of world leaders inflicted themselves on each other in what amounted to a competition to utter the most fervent and sanctimonious promises about fighting climate change, U.S. President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson fell asleep, and upon awakening, departed.
The promise: “King Coal is dead.” But coal powers about 60 per cent of the electricity generated in China and 70 per cent in India, and is a principal export of Australia; coal isn’t going anywhere. An agreement of 190 “partners” was portentously announced to get rid of coal. Most of the partners weren’t countries. Of the 77 new “partners,” just 46 were countries, only half of those were newly enlisted countries and 10 of those don’t actually use coal. The national signatories in this mighty new partnership only account for 13 per cent of global coal output.
Joe Biden treated the world to the usual bunk about an imminent “existential threat” to all mankind. In the 1970s, the “science” predicted a new ice age was on its way. It all changed radically, and when the ’80s came, oceans were dying, rising water levels would submerge whole countries and droughts were going to ravage large parts of the world. In 2006, Al Gore said the world would pass a “point of no return” by 2016. In 2009, he said that in all likelihood, the entire polar ice cap would melt away by 2014. Of course, none of this has happened. The fact that Joe Biden slept through these jeremiads should afford us some confidence that we are not yet near the end of our ecological rope.
Virtually every aspect of this orchestrated hysteria about the environment except the determination to monitor and research vigilantly is nonsense. Even taking the temperature of the earth is a good deal more complicated than it sounds and requires thermometers and other sensors all over the world — in the atmosphere, on land and in the oceans. Determining the weight to give to the results returned by these thousands of temperature recording devices is prone to error. Insofar as we are able to measure it, the world’s temperature has risen only 1 C in the last 120 years. This inconvenient fact is apparently the principal reason that the hysteria about “global warming” gave way to the only slightly more composed universal disconcertion about “climate change” — a strategic retreat necessitated by the fact that the world is not growing warmer at a pace that poses the existential threat many climate alarmists would have us believe.
Leftist politicians and commentators have taken to attributing almost all unusual phenomena to the climate: U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders has represented virtually every tropical hurricane that has struck the United States for the last 20 years as a direct result of man-made changes to the climate, and the Democratic politicians of the western United States unfailingly impute to the same sinister source all forest fires, though most of them are generated by the imprudent left-wing policy of not removing dead trees, as they become tinder that can be ignited even by lightning. The current U.S. secretary of energy, Jennifer Granholm, even blamed the collapse of a condominium in Florida earlier this year on the climate.
This levitation of public alarm over a phenomenon that has been way overblown is maintained by an unusually broad coalition of interests that promote it: from authentic traditional conservationist organizations venerating every aspect of the environment, from birds and bees to trees and all air and water, to the faddish left that is oppressed by guilt if not propelled by altruism, to the cynicism of the militant left that, having been rebuffed as Marxists in the Cold War, did a quick ideological costume change and returned to centre stage wielding ecology as a battering ram against capitalism in the name of saving the planet.
At the Glasgow conference, government leaders have engaged in a fierce competition in dire dramaturgy over the “existential crisis.” Two of the declared conference goals at Glasgow were achieving net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by mid-century and assuring a commitment of the designated rich nations to give $100 billion a year to the designated poor nations so they may combat climate change. All of this is unutterable nonsense and impenetrable hypocrisy. Carbon dioxide is essential to the process of photosynthesis and to life itself. The effort to cut carbon emissions in half, as many countries have pledged to do, is undesirable in itself, and could only be achieved by the practical destruction of the petroleum industry, which is a great source of income for Canada. Such a policy is needless social and economic self-mutilation for this country. Of course we must continue to pursue cleaner air and water but that is entirely reconcilable with careful and vigorous oil and natural gas production and use.
The whole concept of requiring the economically developed world to give $100 billion a year to the economically underdeveloped or mismanaged countries of the world is absurd. I believe in development assistance and the wealthy nations of the world certainly should assist less prosperous countries but in projects that generate economic growth and raise standards of living and are given in a proper spirit of fraternal internationalism, not an inundation of falsely extorted Danegeld that will be squandered in the boondoggles of phantasmagorical pseudo-environmentalists.
First published in the National Post.