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What price carbon neutrality?

26 Feb 2020 | OP ED Watch

Melanie Phillips warns that carbon neutrality is a threat to Western civilization. She says it wouldn’t just spell economic ruin, though that alone would constitute a massive crisis. It threatens the pursuit of truth on which modern science and self-government itself are based. “This,” she says, “is the real emergency.”

Phillips, who started her career writing for the hard-left Guardian but now calls herself a liberal who has been “mugged by reality” pulls no punches, as you probably already guessed. Her piece begins “A few commentators have begun to stumble towards the fact that the policy of becoming ‘carbon neutral’ by 2050, as adopted by the UK and the EU, would undo modernity itself.” But, she warns, the problem is “not even that it would take Britain and the west backwards to a pre-industrial way of life.” Rather, “policymakers and politicians – even those who may not fawn idiotically over Greta Thunberg and who rightly view Extinction Rebellion as a bunch of anarchist vandals – have not the slightest scintilla of a clue that the whole idea of a ‘climate emergency’ is bogus from start to finish.”

Strong words? Indeed they are. Though hardly as strong as those used not only by Ms. Thunberg and the ER vandals, but by a great many supposedly sober and responsible politicians who, again, find themselves hoist with their own petards when they must make policy decisions that really matter now.

Phillips notes the now-familiar pattern in which those who question orthodoxy are smeared as “deniers” rather than subjected to rational refutation that, surely, ought to be easy if their arguments are as weak as alarmists claim. And she points out that hundreds of scientists including ones who were expert reviewers for the IPCC have put forward informed and technical arguments that no climate crisis exists.

Familiar points? Up to a point. But they still need to be articulated and repeated by those who until now have been too timid or complacent to make them. And Phillips goes further, hoisting one particular “guru of AGW orthodoxy” on his own petard about the corruption of science inherent in the whole venture.

She quotes a scarily post-modern 2007 Guardian piece by “Mike Hulme, the founding director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research” in which Hulme wrote “The danger of a ‘normal’ reading of science is that it assumes science can first find truth, then speak truth to power, and that truth-based policy will then follow… Self-evidently dangerous climate change will not emerge from a normal scientific process of truth-seeking, although science will gain some insights into the question if it recognises the socially contingent dimensions of a post-normal science. But to proffer such insights, scientists – and politicians – must trade (normal) truth for influence. If scientists want to remain listened to, to bear influence on policy, they must recognise the social limits of their truth seeking and reveal fully the values and beliefs they bring to their scientific activity”.

In short, there is no truth, and therefore we shall prevail by force of will, something she compares to Stalinist Lysenkoism. If this attitude is taken seriously, it means the end of the rational debate and skeptical questioning of dogma on which modern science depends as does, in fact, the idea that free inquiry, a free press and free voting will produce better public policy than any other approach.

“The ‘climate emergency’” says Phillips, “…has been created by a repudiation of science, humanity and reason: the very markers of modernity and the west. This is the real emergency.”

Perhaps her views are slightly overheated. Perhaps not. But surely we are still allowed to debate the matter. Aren’t we?

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