Writing in Maclean’s, Stephen Maher produces a piece of stunning unoriginality on climate change, from its banal title “What Canada’s pro-oil boosters fail to grasp about climate change” all the way to its tritely hip conclusion that “It’s no wonder she [Greta Thunberg] is angry." In between he peddles every cliché from settled science to flooded cities to Trump the evil troll. But he offers no facts of any recognizable sort. Apparently we’ve moved on from that stage.
Probably in any debate the arguments of those with whom you disagree tend to seem at once wacky and repetitive. But just for starters, Mahar writes “The Liberals announced Tuesday that, if re-elected, they would commit to reducing Canada’s carbon output to zero by 2050, which would put us in the first rank of countries in the fight against climate change, if we find a way to hit our targets.” Yeah, if, as the Spartans famously said. It would also put us in the first rank of countries hurtling back into preindustrial poverty, a detail Maher skates lightly past.
He instead concedes that they admit to having no idea how to do it, which ought normally to prompt sober reflection about the limits of the possible and the consequences of failure or, alternatively, of quashing fossil fuels and not finding a replacement. Instead the piece goes on to cite, then smear, esteemed University of Calgary economist Jack Mintz. First, he acknowledges Mintz’s argument that demand for oil keeps rising globally so everyone has to do it or it will be pointless. But then he says Mintz “is often quoted as an expert on energy questions, but he is also an active participant in the oil industry.” As, for that matter, is anyone who relies on the stuff to get around and heat their home.
Apparently financial markets are abandoning the energy industry, at least in Canada, “because if pressure continues to build for lower emissions, Alberta’s enormous reserves will no longer be desirable… How will equalization, for example, work, if bitumen can no longer be exported?” A very Canadian perspective on the matter. World ends, equalization hit hardest.
Mahar goes on that “if governments follow through on their commitments to reduce emissions in line with the Paris Accord—which is necessary to prevent ecological disaster—the world will be burning less oil before long.” If all that stands between us and ecological disaster is the Paris Accord then it’s game over, because the Paris Accord, even if followed to the letter, won’t change anything.
He’s right that relying on technology we didn’t invent yet to suck carbon out of the air is a feeble dodge even in a debate where they are surprisingly common. But “The plan, apparently, is to continue producing emissions and let Greta Thunberg’s generation worry about how to get the carbon out of the air later, which is why she is going around delivering such grim speeches.” No. She’s just a grim person.
In the end Mahar sees big money doing sinister things. “Western Canadian conservatives, and the oil industry, are both spending money and political capital in a seemingly integrated PR campaign to convince voters that any plan to reduce emissions is ridiculous.” Not like the Eastern liberals and green activists who are spending far larger amounts in a definitely integrated PR campaign to convince voters to panic about an abstract climate emergency.
See “if we don’t cut emissions in both countries, soon and steeply, the world is in big trouble, worse trouble than most people realize. The ice caps will melt. The coral reefs will all die. Coastal cities will be washed away. Some of the world’s biggest cities will become uninhabitable. There will be pressure to cool the earth by forcing particulate matter into the stratosphere, a terrifying prospect, turning the Earth into a science experiment. … The horrible truth, the message that Thunberg will deliver in Montreal today, is that we have no choice but to pay. We can pay now or leave it for her generation to pay later, when the price will be much steeper, tragically steeper…. It’s no wonder she is angry.”
Now hang on. We’ve heard all this eco-gloom before, many times. He offers no evidence that the ice caps are melting, coral reefs are dying, or cities are becoming uninhabitable. And as for pressure for terrifying geoengineering, it only exists because people like Maher insist that we’re experiencing the first-ever invisible apocalypse complete with the Trump of doom.
Is anyone wiser for reading such stuff? Sleepier, perhaps. Oh well. As Miss Jean Brodie once said (channeling Artemus Ward not Abraham Lincoln), “For those who like that sort of thing, that is the sort of thing they like.”