And just like that the climate emergency is gone, as politicians facing economic disaster in their home countries worry more about saving the furniture than adding solar panels. Justin Trudeau didn’t even insert the usual boilerplate about climate change in his account of his emergency call with the Swedish Prime Minister. Instead they discussed fighting the disease and fending off economic collapse. Bavaria’s Prime Minister Markus Söder has called for suspension of the carbon tax and renewable energy subsidies that, the Global Warming Policy Forum notes, “have made electricity rates in Germany among the world’s highest.” The EU admits it’s delaying its Green New Deal. And what’s this? National Geographic saying as soon as the pandemic is under control we should all get on airplanes and revive tourism and the world economy. Wasn’t flying a major sin for everyone but the jet set until a week ago? Why yes. Back in the golden era when our concerns were fashionable abstractions like climate change. But now we have real problems to deal with.
Some alarmists are still on about COVID-19 as a model for climate change. At this point it seems to be a psychological rather than economic model; as Chris White says in the Daily Caller, the hope is to convince people fighting climate change is like fighting a pandemic. But it’s not, so in the real world the reverse is happening as the public gets a painful reminder of what a real crisis looks like (see Anthony Watts’ pointed letter to Greta Thunberg and her acolytes on this) and doesn’t want to hear a bunch of wittering about half a degree of warming and an inch of water.
The wittering nonetheless continues. To hear the New York Times tell it, voters’ big concern with Joe Biden is that he’s lukewarm on climate. Or rather, “some climate-focused voters”. OK, “two dozen activists and voters” that Lisa Friedman went and interviewed because they… well, never mind. The odd thing, Friedman writes without noticing the implications, is that “Multiple polls have found climate change has been among the top three issues for Democrats in the 2020 primary, often second only to health care. And many Democratic voters are happy with the front-runner.” So you’re saying that like a lot of others, they’re only pretending to care?
For our part we can think of a lot of reasons to be worried about Biden. (And Trump, Sanders and virtually anyone else; at CDN we’re not just skeptics about climate.) For instance, on Biden, the piece continues, “Noting his home state of Delaware is three feet above sea level and vulnerable to warming, he told Mr. Sanders, ‘I don’t need a lecture on what’s going to happen about rising seas.’” In point of fact Delaware’s average elevation is 60 feet and its highest point is nearly 450 feet above sea level; Mr. Biden has long had a distant relationship to facts. But what’s his sin on climate?
Well, it seems his “climate change plan would inject $1.7 trillion into the economy with an aim of achieving zero emissions in the United States by 2050.” Which is obviously a pitifully inadequate approach to smashing the economy to bits while bankrupting the government. (As to where Mr. Biden would get this $1.7 trillion he plans to “inject” into the economy, well, apparently Washington like Ottawa has a huge tank of the stuff somewhere.) And obviously the average American wants Biden to inject $10 trillion instead and get to zero emissions by 2035 or… something. Frankly the voters and experts Friedman interviewed seemed kind of vague although a fracking ban was on the list and “details for the promises his plan makes of fighting for low income communities of color most vulnerable to environmental injustices.”
Some still cling to the crisis as an economic model. Climate Home News hails IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol’s call to seize on the COVID-19 pandemic as an “historic opportunity” to “use the current situation to step up our ambition to tackle climate change” through “sustainable stimulus packages”. And what better time than when small businesses are collapsing, paycheques vanishing and people unable to pay their rent than to bet everything we have left on a wind farm?
As Eric Worrall pointed out in ridiculing a classic L.A. Times nothing-is-ever-enough piece saying California wasn’t moving nearly fast enough on climate, “The reason renewable energy is ‘chugging along at an unacceptably slow pace’ is renewables don’t work; unreliables are not and never will be a viable replacement for dispatchable electricity.”
Mind you green exultation over the lockdown has a bit of a random feel to it. NBC hailed the clearer water in Venice’s canals as one of the COVID-19 “climate benefits” by lumping them together as “a noticeable drop in pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in some countries.” And the conclusion seemed to be that if only everybody was not working we’d all be better off except the part where we starve. NBC quoted “Jacqueline Klopp, co-director of the Center for Sustainable Urban Development at Columbia University in New York City” that “People were in their homes and really stopped a lot of the activities that lead to greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution” without probing further into the consequences of stopping “a lot of the activities that lead to greenhouse gas emissions” like creating the goods and services we need to live and flourish. As NBC admitted in passing, the current situation is “grim”. But don’t worry. We can make it worse.
For instance the New York Times “Climate Fwd” seems to think that if airlines want a bailout they should have to promise to convert to “newer, cleaner models” like, say, Leonardo DiCaprio’s private… no wait. Maybe a blimp.
We recognize the merits of the jibe that to a person with a hammer everything looks like a nail. And not just climate alarmists. Civil libertarians are worried that this crisis will become an excuse for permanent expansion of state power which is to be resisted even when it comes to fighting pandemics, and free market advocates that it will increase government spending and debt. But in warning against the former danger, Mike Hulme also tells climate change activists to “Be careful what is wished for.” Because they’ve long been demanding that governments declare a state of emergency on the climate front and now citizens are getting first-hand experience with what a state of emergency looks and feels like including the suspension of political accountability. And it is hard to imagine that people will want to fight climate change by, for instance, self-quarantining indefinitely while trying to remember how many cards to deal in euchre.
As for the psychological argument, we’ve mentioned before that it’s more than a little patronizing to search endlessly for ways to circumvent rational argument and beguile all those inherently irrational people into believing climate change is an urgent man-made crisis. We even mentioned it last week, because they keep ringing changes on this theme and we keep saying put down the Freud or B.F. Skinner and debate the facts and logic in daylight instead. But in a Boston Globe editorial, Craig Altemose of the Better Future Group lamented that “The international response to COVID-19 stands in stark contrast to our slow, half-hearted response to the climate crisis” then let the cat out of the bag. The problem, he admitted, was that “COVID-19 is a crisis playing out over the course of days rather than decades.” A.k.a. there’s actual evidence for the former while the latter is a matter of nebulous imaginings.
And at the moment imaginary perils have little bite.