During the election, youth marches against Canada’s failure to act on climate change attracted a high-profile celebrity. No, not Greta Thunberg. Justin Trudeau. We’re a long way down the postmodern rabbit hole when the PM is shouting at himself over a climate apocalypse he’s vigorously not doing nearly enough to prevent, as he later confessed to St. Greta. And what sort of rational policy options can people concerned about climate discuss when the alarmists excommunicate everyone who won't agree that the fifth trumpet has sounded, including themselves?
For various reasons climate rhetoric has escalated over the years, partly to grab headlines. But it creates a real problem for those charged with doing something about the matter, because anything that can be done seems desperately inadequate to the situation they have created by depicting it in ever-more lurid terms.
Elizabeth May also marched “in solidarity with citizens and Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg” in Vancouver on Oct. 25. Her party then got a measly three seats in the election which suggests that whatever she has to shout is not convincing a lot of people. But it’s more or less exactly what the Prime Minister is also saying.
Indeed the federal government is now being sued by a group of 15 young activists who say “Despite knowing for decades that GHG emissions cause climate change and disproportionately harm children, the defendants continue to cause, contribute to and allow GHG emissions that are incompatible with a stable climate capable of sustaining human life and liberties”. The government might (and we hope, will) argue that the mainstream of scientific and economic opinion does not say such things, and to act as if they were true would do far more harm than good, which the government is obliged to avoid. But how can the federal government make that case about its past decisions when it won’t in regards to its current ones? And how can it deny having held alarmist beliefs given its past rhetoric, or deny having failed to take adequate steps in response?
As we and others have noted, the Paris Accord targets before which politicians ritually abase themselves will, by the alarmists’ own models, make only a trivial difference between now and 2100. And yet we are not going to meet even those targets and instead of sitting at his desk thinking up ways to do so or ways of telling the public why he won’t, the PM is out in the street yelling that the Establishment is stealing the future of the youth who are our future. Phooey.
One alternative in this situation is a kind of fatalistic cynicism, embodied in a 4.4 cent per litre gasoline tax promptly rebated to consumers so they can afford the same amount of gas they were already buying. Another is to insist that small steps matter, like the New York Times suggesting doing laundry on the cold/cold setting except “cleaning bed linens after being sick, for instance, or washing sweaty gym gear. An occasional hot wash can also help with general hygiene”. But if such small steps amount to anything more than virtue-signaling, then the problem can’t be as big and scary as the alarming alarmists insist and we should be having a very different discussion about both policy and science.
Then there’s the damn-the-torpedoes approach favoured, with some consistency, by the true radicals. Cut fossil fuels radically by 2030 and entirely by 2050. But doing so would destroy the economy without, again, persuading the models that we can be saved which brings us back to fatalistic cynicism.
There is another way. It’s surprising how many so-called “deniers” (for instance Roger Pielke Jr.) actually think man-made GHGs are having some effect on the climate and we should try to do something about it. They just don’t buy the over-the-top yelling. And instead of being welcomed into the discussion, both to refine our scientific understanding and devise sensible policy responses, they are cast rhetorically into a bottomless pit from which noxious oil money fumes burble forth.
Maybe it’s time to try a less belligerent and counterproductive approach. If, that is, you’re serious about fixing the problem.