ECO-ACTIVISTS’ TACTICS BEHIND CLIMATE FAILURES
People have tuned out constant stream of doomsday rhetoric, says Kelly McParland.
The latest climate report came out the other day, showing what a crap job we’re doing of saving the planet.
According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we might as well have stayed home and burned coal or wood fires for the past three decades for all the good it’s done to avert global warming. The findings inspired all the usual cataclysmic headlines — “bombshell” report, “climate disaster,” “environmental catastrophe.”
“The report shows that we only have the slimmest of opportunities remaining to avoid unthinkable damage to the climate system that supports life as we know it,” advised Amjad Abdulla, an IPCC board member.
Twenty-five years after the Rio summit, 20 years after the Kyoto accord, despite relentless haranguing from governments, academics, experts, activists and sages of all size, shape and colour, we’re still going straight to hell in a handbasket, climate-wise. We won’t reach any of the targets we’re supposed to be committed to, and even if we did, it wouldn’t be enough. Hitting the target increase of 1.5 degrees C would demand “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented” change in just about very facet of daily life. Meeting the goals set at the big Paris confab in 2015 wouldn’t do the trick even if they’re jacked up after 2030.
So there you go. We’ve failed, or are well on the road to failing. Might as well prepare to reap the whirlwind. Stack some sandbags around the house, stock up on canned goods, nail down anything that could be carried away in a wind storm.
Dark humour probably isn’t the best way to greet the IPCC’s warnings, but it’s hard to resist when so much talk has produced so little. If Jane and Joe Average have learned to tune out the forecasts of Armageddon, who could blame them? Despite the best efforts of millions of well-meaning common folk, who want to do their bit to contribute to the crusade, we’re still being hectored with the same stark, unreachable alarums. If your preacher delivers the same sermon every Sunday for a quarter century, eventually the mind starts to wander.
We have the climate change apparatus itself to thank for this. Eco evangelists have driven off reasonable people with wondrous demands. Countenancing policies that threaten the livelihood of millions of people doesn’t sell. “No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them,” said Justin Trudeau in one of his more cogent moments. Economic illiteracy on the scale of a David Suzuki or a Naomi Klein may rouse a crowd, but produces human wreckage like Venezuela’s.
People will accept a degree of discomfort if they’re convinced a crisis is imminent, the response is effective and the pain is being shared equally across the board. They also have to trust the message and the messengers.
That’s been a big problem. From very early days, politicians and public figures seized on global warming as ripe with potential to benefit to their careers. “Progressives” were quick to sign on to protocols, agendas, accords and targets well before having any idea how to achieve them. Canada’s Liberals championed Kyoto from the get-go, without ever making a serious stab at meeting its demands. As Liberal leader, Stephane Dion took a run at a more dramatic policy shift, only to frighten off voters unwilling to bet their livelihoods on his ability to deliver. When Justin Trudeau came to office, he flew half of Ottawa to Paris to pledge fealty to the 2015 UN agreement, then stuck largely with Stephen Harper’s targets for reducing emissions.
But Canada is a bit player in this production. The real actors practise a much more malign level of ineffectiveness. Between them, China, India and the U.S. produce 54 per cent of emissions. China alone is responsible for 30 per cent. Emissions in the U.S. have been falling, even with Donald Trump’s bombast. In China and India they continue to rise.
Coal provides 28 per cent of the world’s energy; between them, China and India produce more than 50 per cent of the supply. Use of coal in both countries continues to grow. Beijing has loudly proclaimed its determination to reverse the damage, but has meanwhile become a world leader in financing coal production elsewhere.
According to a German study, China, India, Japan and the Philippines are among the biggest investors in 1,380 coal projects around the world, many in Asia. If they don’t want to choke on coal dust themselves, they’re happy to help others do it.
Only nine per cent of Canada’s electricity is coal-generated, but we could end its use entirely and have minimal impact on a global scale. Meanwhile, consumers can be forgiven their cynicism when confronted with the antics of grandstanding politicos like British Columbia’s Premier John Horgan, who cites environmental concerns in his crusade to block Alberta from building an oil pipeline across his province, while Vancouver operates North America’s largest coal-export port, shipping off coal to belch out carbon elsewhere while lecturing Alberta about its oil. Horgan proclaims horror at the prospect of an oil leak, but declared it “a great day for British Columbia” when a $40-billion project was approved to ship liquefied natural gas through a pipeline to a plant in Kitimat.
Trudeau’s difficulty in imposing a national carbon tax derives directly from voter experiences with provincial versions, in which revenues quickly disappeared down government siphons. The reason Jason Kenney, Doug Ford, Scott Moe and others can openly vow opposition to the tax is the confidence that constituents — rightly or wrongly — largely view them as a shell game in which they’re the loser. Voters in all the biggest provinces already have first-hand experience with a carbon tax; if they thought it was working they wouldn’t be so suspicious of Trudeau’s. And if they were working, Trudeau’s would be superfluous.
If the IPCC is frustrated, it should be frustrated with its friends. Ordinary people are happy to help save the planet. It’s activists, evangelists, politicians and their associated grandstanders who have dropped the ball.
Dark humour probably isn’t the best way to greet the IPCC’s warnings, but it’s hard to resist when so much talk has produced so little. Kelly McParland
They also have to trust the message and the messengers. That’s been a big problem.
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has again issued a dire report saying that avoiding global climate chaos will require a major transformation of society, and the world is running out of time to avert disaster.