We noted last week that Canada’s Prime Minister Justin “Plastic Forks” Trudeau seems remarkably unwilling to reduce his own carbon footprint even as he demands you reduce yours. And that he was not alone. He still isn’t. NPR skewered Democratic presidential nominee contender Beto O’Rourke for making combatting climate change sound like a huge adventure but refusing to tell anyone of any sacrifices involved. Which might be smart politics, since the smart set and opinion polls all say climate change is the worst thing ever but CO2 emissions keep rising because people want energy.
As Eric Worrall recently noted, people are wont to chortle that the Republican party is doomed, like conservatives generally, because they’re out of step with “woke” youth including on climate. The trouble is that as people age, they gain sobering experience. And one thing they’re going to experience is a lot of pain over climate policy for which millennials seem to have very little appetite.
Thus in his interview O’Rourke insisted on offering adventure without pain: “As president, I'm not going to tell you what kind of home that you live in or what you're going to have for dinner, but I hope to inspire you to do everything within your power to meet the greatest challenge that we have ever faced with the knowledge that if we fail to do that, to make every use of American innovation and service and, yes, sacrifice over the next 10 years, then the fires and the storms and the floods and the droughts that we see right now will pale in comparison to what our kids and grandkids experience.” So all the pain is on the side of inaction.
Celebrities continue to do an awkward dance on the subject. Comic legend Bill Murray, who co-stars in a new zombie film “The Dead Don’t Die” in which the apocalypse is triggered by (wait for it) polar fracking, says he’s trying to save the environment by using fewer plastic water bottles. “I realized I was drinking probably 100 plastic bottles of water a month. I thought, well, that’s 1,200 a year, at least. And that’s one person. So I gave up and stopped it and I find that glass bottle water tastes better.” So no tap water for him, despite the footprint of making bottles, filling them, shipping them etc. Murray also wishes he was flying less but alas “that’s unfortunately unavoidable in my line of work” and since giving up being a rich celebrity is out, dang it, he keeps getting into airplanes.
Let us not mock the rich. Well, not just them. It’s everybody. In Hamilton last month Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath unveiled a massive non-plan to cut emissions 50% in the next decade and reach net zero by 2050. But when asked what it would cost (or how it would work) she had no idea or at least none she was willing to share. “We're going to spend the next number of weeks and months ahead putting together the finer details and consulting with, not just the members in our party but with industry and academia and with environmentalists," she said. "By the time we have a full and complete plan we'll have a better idea of that."
The accompanying document said vaguely that it would "require a combination of new revenue streams, fair carbon pricing, lending and borrowing." But Horwath did the dance of the seven vagues on whether carbon pricing sufficient to get us out of our cars might cause, you know, a tax increase. “There are many different types of carbon pricing plans and many different ways to achieve that,” she said, adding “I have been very supportive of cap-and-trade over the years ... but there are other ideas out there." Enough dreary sacrifice chatter. "We will ensure that every Ontarian has the opportunity to train for and succeed in the jobs we'll be creating” in areas like engineering and public transit. (Washington State governor and Democratic presidential contender Jay Inslee offers a similar promise.) So no sacrifice at all. Free energy. Free money. Wheeeee!
It’s not just that emissions are rising. On those rare moments when governments concern themselves with the actual needs of their people they end up promoting coal, especially China, India and Japan. As the Guardian notes with justified distaste, “G20 countries have almost tripled the subsidies they give to coal-fired power plants in recent years, despite the urgent need to cut the carbon emissions driving the climate crisis. The bloc of major economies pledged a decade ago to phase out all fossil fuel subsidies.”
Making and sanitizing glass bottles for re-use leaves a FAR bigger environmental impact than melting down plastic bottles and re-using the plastic. Bill Murray should stick to comedy.
If you cap carbon emissions at zero, what's to trade?
You could still trade comic books, pins and plastic collectables.