University of Guelph economist Ross McKitrick lumps everyone in the climate debate into three very broad groups labeled by non-pejorative letters: the unbelievers (A), the catastrophe-touting alarmists (C) and the would-be reasonable middle (B) who had been safely in control but no longer are. The problem, he says, is that the B group has been pretending an untenable compromise could continue forever, namely talk like a C but enact the A’s agenda, or lack thereof. And last year the game collapsed. It seems that 20 years of talking like a C created a public appetite for the C agenda, and the B group are only now realizing they have lost control. Which is, to coin a phrase, a climate emergency.
It’s a point we’ve made ourselves many times before: When political leaders go around declaring climate emergencies and borrowing alarmist language about impending doom, they can’t turn around and expect to be able to approve pipelines and resource projects. At a certain point people begin to think that you mean it when you keep talking about climate change being the biggest threat we face and how we need a low carbon transition and you must elect us to enact it or the world will end.
The mostly respectable sorts who made up the B group spent 20 years using these phrases as shiny green adornments for their speeches. And they now are shocked to discover the C radicals actually took them seriously and so did a lot of ordinary citizens. Abetted by this supposedly soothing endorsement of looming disaster, the Cs went into the schools and workplaces and secured a big enough base to put themselves in charge of the system. So the B group members can keep trying to play by the old playbook if they want, but they’re not in charge anymore and no one is listening.
McKitrick notes that the one exception in the Western world is the US, where at least some in the B group made common cause with the A crowd rather than C, and found them to be a large and energetic ally. The result is that the US is enjoying an economic and energy boom with enough public support to make it politically sustainable. The other exceptions globally are Russia, China and India, the first two of which must relish the opening created by climate alarmism for them to achieve economic dominance and the third of which is determined to lift hundreds of millions of its poorest citizens up to a decent standard of living.
McKitrick cautions that it took 20 years to get into the current pit and it will take 20 years to get out. “Start learning the deep details of the science and economics instead of letting the C crowd dictate what you’re allowed to think or say,” he advises. “Figure out a new way of talking about the climate issue based on what you actually believe. Learn to make the case for Canada’s economy to survive and grow.” If, we should add, you want there to be a future.
Otherwise we’re going to get an F from posterity.