In Australia the conservative “Liberal” party just won a “stunning” election victory which the New York Times ascribed to the reassuringly abstract “politics of grievance” while quietly admitting what others said more loudly: The opposition blew it by going all in on climate. Aussie climate skeptic Ian Plimer, author of Heaven and Earth, predicted as much shortly beforehand. But for alarmists the whole world is upside down. Opinion polls show millennials are increasingly embracing Donald Trump despite his climate skepticism and Joe Biden’s bid for the U.S. Democratic nomination for president may be derailed because his climate plan isn’t wacky enough for the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortezes of this world.
Here in Canada all parties jumped on the climate emergency bandwagon although the Tories meekly wanted an acknowledgement of the “global context” of global warming. But having declared an emergency they’re now surprised to find it means having to do something. And the somethings they can think of don’t seem to impress the public.
The National Post’s Andrew Coyne, calling himself “a fully paid-up subscriber to the orthodoxy on carbon pricing” worries that in the coming election “For the Tories to win by pretending either nothing need be done on climate change or that nobody needs to pay for it would confirm all of one’s worst suspicions about Canadian politics. But cheap oil was a winning strategy in 1980 and I fear it may well be again in 2019.” What he needs to understand is that people want something that works. Getting rid of fossil fuels without an alternative doesn’t work. Nor do carbon taxes that pinch your wallet without reducing warming according to the computer models. Meanwhile cheap oil actually heats your house while a climate emergency debate heats only the rhetoric.
As the public sidles away from them the usual suspects are going “Raaaaarh” more loudly than ever. Britain’s Guardian newspaper just updated its style guide so that “Instead of ‘climate change’ the preferred terms are ‘climate emergency, crisis or breakdown’ and ‘global heating’ is favoured over ‘global warming’, although the original terms are not banned.” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres just lamented that “We are not on track to achieve the objectives defined in the Paris Agreement, and the paradox is that as things are getting worse on the ground, political will seems to be fading.” And Bill Nye “the science guy” has lapsed into foul-mouthed, blow-torch-wielding self-parody. But it’s not working.
Nor does it seem likely to work here in Canada, where the NDP has the big plan, a kind of Green New Deal lite that accomplishes everything on the left wing checklist by next Tuesday. “In addition to declaring a climate emergency, the NDP’s motion urges the Liberal government to bring forward a climate action strategy that prioritizes reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, sets ambitious targets with measures to hold the government accountable, takes concrete action to reduce emissions and invests in building the clean energy economy we need now.”
This sort of bundling is common on the “left”. Indeed the very name “Greenpeace” indicates a conviction that bad things like pollution and war are somehow linked (as are good things like the economy, the environment, gender equity, world peace and straighter, whiter teeth). To this day there are people saying saving the planet requires stopping war. And one Democratic contender for president thinks lending people billions they can’t repay for environmental investments, inviting a green subprime crisis, will guarantee prosperity for at least another decade. The thing is, such breezy utopianism is all fine and good as long as you’re in opposition. But what if you (gulp) win?
Next to the Greens on the left, the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh sort of wants to get rid of fossil fuels and sort of doesn’t, including flopping his flip on the gigantic LNG Canada pipeline to a liquification plant in Kitimat, which has led the unions who would build the thing to think their party has gone insane. Over on the right, sort of, Andrew Scheer has a great plan except he doesn’t, but is sure that he will get a plan and when he does it will be the best because we’re us and they’re them. In the mushy middle Justin Trudeau’s plan is a blanc-mange, imposing a trivial tax on gas and giving us the money back (as an Ontario government ad accidentally highlighted) so we can buy gas and taking such baby steps as installing zero-emission vehicle charging stations in national parks.
As John Ivison noted in the National Post, only the Greens look consistent. Ivison seems to be a true believer in man-made climate change who ascribes May’s party’s success to “concerns in civil society about the rash of floods and forest fires across the country” that, as we’ve written elsewhere, isn’t happening. But he also believes in consistency, and writes that Elizabeth May’s party “wants to cut fossil fuel use in half by 2030 and completely by 2050. Such draconian cuts don’t come for free. But if you believe that the planet is on fire, she is at least candid.” Unfortunately their plan is to get rid of fossil fuels and hope we don’t get very cold and hungry. And to form a “war cabinet” including members of other parties to make it happen, which is the old plan to put partisanship behind us and have everyone do what I say.
If there’s an emergency here, it might be the inability of our political leaders to make much sense that in no way decreases their willingness to hammer sanctimoniously at one another.