To his credit, Prince Charles has spoken out against Extinction Rebellion blocking roads in Britain, saying “it isn’t helpful, I don’t think, to do it in a way that alienates people.” But to his discredit he then parroted the extreme alarmism in response to which massive civil disobedience is the logical result: “All these young people feel nothing is ever happening so of course they’re going to get frustrated. I totally understand because nobody would listen and they see their future being totally destroyed.” And COP26 in Glasgow is “a last chance saloon … I mean it’ll be catastrophic. It is already beginning to be catastrophic because nothing in nature can survive the stress that is created by these extremes of weather.” And so “The problem is to get action on the ground.” Like blocking traffic, presumably. Unless you believe that people ought to hold extremist views as a sort of badge of good citizenship, but not act on them because, well, don’t be silly.
The even more popular badge of honour is to believe both in climate catastrophe and cheap and easy pathways to Net Zero. Ergo UN Climate Summit News (not an official UN organization but a news aggregator) which recently Tweeted “According to the new report from @ClimateT_G20, transforming the energy sector is key to a low-carbon economy. #COP26 #G20 #CTreport2021”. Well sure, just as getting airborne by flapping your arms is the key to unpowered human flight. But a British MP shares the news that just to get London’s residential property to net zero is expected to cost £100 billion “And for just 14% of GB housing stock. To save 0.02% of global CO2.” So imagine trying to get it for the energy sector.
Apparently here in Canada we can get the whole job done for a mere $2 trillion… assuming the activists counted properly, the models work and the creek don’t rise. Some people think it’s a lot of money… although a major Canadian bank apparently disagrees. And one Canadian armchair enthusiast for conservative climate panic airily Tweeted that “Carbon pricing drives: • industry investment in carbon capture, biofuels, hydrogen, renewables, coal replacement, ZEV fleets, charging networks, building efficiency • consumer shifts to electric vehicles and cleaner and/or more efficient homes, furnaces, water heaters..” and one wishes that he had a track record of producing things rather than plausible advocacy. Which calls to mind the anecdote about a slugger turning to the umpire after a called strike and saying “That was never a strike” and the umpire retorting “How would you know?”
Surely it also applies to the incredible shrinking British PM Boris Johnson, who Tweeted “The UK’s path to ending our contribution to climate change will be paved with well-paid jobs, billions in investment and thriving green industries – powering our green industrial revolution across the country” in a video that had him looking at more things than Kim Jong un. But what has this claim to do with the actual current reality in Britain?
On the plus side, the British government apparently has at last seen the glowing blue light, and plans to “put nuclear power at the heart” of their net zero strategy. Calling to mind Sir Humphrey’s immortal advice to Jim Hacker that “If you’re going to do this d*** silly thing, don’t do it in this d*** silly way.” Can Johnson finally be listening?
Here’s someone who’s not. The Guardian’s George Monbiot assures us “In conversations with scientists and activists, I hear the same words, over and again: ‘We’re screwed.’ Government plans are too little, too late. They are unlikely to prevent the Earth’s systems from flipping into new states hostile to humans and many other species…. It’s a stark illustration of a general rule: political failure is, at heart, a failure of imagination. Let’s set aside the obvious lessons of the pandemic, when the magic money tree miraculously burst into leaf, governments discovered they could govern (albeit with varying degrees of competence) and people were prepared radically to change their behaviour. There’s a bigger and more powerful example. It’s what happened when the US joined the second world war…. The difference between 1941 and 2021 is that now the mobilisation needs to come first. We need to build popular movements so big that governments have no choice but to respond to them, if they wish to remain in office. We need to make politicians understand that the survival of life on Earth is more important than their ideological commitment to limited government.” Right. That would be Joe Biden? “So what is our Pearl Harbor moment? Well, how about now? After all, to extend the analogy, the Pacific seaboard of the US has recently come under unprecedented climatic attack. The heat domes, the droughts and fires there this year should have been enough to shock everyone out of their isolationism. But the gap between these events and people’s understanding of the forces that caused them is, arguably, the greatest public information failure in human history. We need bodies equivalent to Roosevelt’s Office of War Information, constantly reminding people of what is at stake.”
So all we need is total mobilization, top marginal tax rates above 90%, banning the manufacture of cars and new homes, rationing of everything from tires to shoes, a 35 mph speed limit. “So what stops the world from responding with the same decisive force to the greatest crisis humanity has ever faced? It’s not a lack of money or capacity or technology. If anything, digitisation would make such a transformation quicker and easier. It’s a problem that Roosevelt faced until Pearl Harbor: a lack of political will.” How about administrative experience, something Monbiot conspicuously lacks?
One can understand the frustration of people who share the extremist view when the New York Times reports that “Biden Administration Plans Wind Farms Along Nearly the Entire U.S. Coastline/ Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced that her agency will formally begin the process of identifying federal waters to lease to wind developers by 2025.” By 2025? Begin the process? Are you sure you think it’s urgent? NBC tried to cheerlead, saying “Projects could help generate energy for more than 10,000,000 homes” but had to admit “government studying potential effects on marine life, environment.”
Still, if someone convinced the youth of today that everything is easy if you just care enough it sure wasn’t us.