In the Financial Post, Henry Geraedts writes that “what actually happened” at the UN’s COP26 Glasgow Climate Change confab last November was extremely significant. “Net Zero’s magical thinking met unyielding global energy realities and it lost, leaving the Paris Accord’s climate ambitions withering on the vine.” Perhaps. And perhaps he’s right that “sooner or later, our politicians will have to accept” this reality. But it still matters a good deal whether it’s “sooner” or, as seems more likely, “later”. They have woven themselves a profoundly hypnotic spell from which the awakening promises to be highly unpleasant for them, though the continued slumber will be even more so for us.
For British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, later seems to have arrived. Partly because of his characteristic disorganized capacity for doing himself harm on other fronts, he is extremely vulnerable to the revolt now brewing within his party over high energy prices in a cold winter. As he should be; the point of self-government, after all, is that politicians who do things citizens approve of are rewarded and those who do not feel the heat or, in this case, the chill.
Johnson’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak seems poised to slash energy bills and Net Zero be deep-sixed, along possibly with his boss, and gosh, is that a job opening at #10? And it doesn’t help that one British power provider went all Three Dog Night on its customers a couple of years back, suggesting you “cuddle with pets” or hold a “hula hoop contest” to avoid freezing when you couldn’t pay the heating bill. But if Geraedts is right, the real issue isn’t whether some disheveled lovable rogue attended a boozy official party during COVID lockdown and turned out to be a lot less lovable than he seemed. It’s whether the whole climate scare is about to come tumbling down along with its occupants.
Geraedts’ broadside even targets the science, something critics of reckless energy policy frequently shy away from. Channeling John Adams that “Facts are stubborn things”, he adds “despite decades of alarmist messaging, voters are coming to realize that invariably doom-laden climate ‘science’ is often political and that climate catastrophes are not unfolding as foretold. People’s good sense is insulted when politicians and media routinely blame every conceivable weather event on man’s climate sins.”
Indeed it is. And he then warns about adding injury to insult that “As people realize how directly Net Zero will hit them, they shorten their horizons. They also recoil as progressive politicians condone radical climate protesters breaking the law and manipulating the regulatory system to further their ideological goals.”
Many activists are far from grasping this point let alone reacting nimbly to the change. In a publication called The Hill, capitol not parliament, Wendy Wendlandt of Environment America and the Public Interest Network complains that her home state of California is suddenly faltering in the lofty fight against climate breakdown. Its sin? To increase the cost of solar power. She yelps that “We’re in the middle of a climate emergency. The last thing we need to do is make rooftop solar more expensive.” The last thing? What about destroying the grid? But let us not hold back rhetoric when we can hold forth instead.
She insists that “California is a climate leader not only by inclination, but also by necessity; the state is a real-time example of the consequences of climate change. Wildfires, heat waves, catastrophic mudslides, blackouts, and drought in the state dominate global headlines; it can be scary to live here. As the federal government has stumbled in recent years on its carbon reduction priorities and global commitments, the Golden State has achieved remarkable progress toward a clean energy future, in part through strong policy support for rooftop solar and batteries.”
Whether or not California is a climate leader, it is definitely a leader in losing people to other states, red states in particular, with high taxes and energy costs being one of the main drivers of the exodus. Unfortunately progress ain’t what it used to be. It costs way too much and delivers too little. OK, maybe it always did. And people like her have always said no, everything is fine, or would be if it weren’t for a plot by those dang capitalists, in this case “investor-owned utilities”. Boo. Capitalists. Government-owned ones would surely keep hurling other people’s good money after bad.
Or would they? As Geraedts warned, voters “increasingly understand that lofty climate theory jeopardizes indispensable economic development, threatens entire communities across key industries, impacts jobs and livelihoods and fuels inflation. Climate politicians beware: elections are won or lost in voters’ wallets.”
So sooner, or later? He fears the latter especially in Canada, where our world-famous-in-Canada moderation is in fact once again a radical outlier. And he foresees ominous consequences going well beyond the career of certain dispensable incumbents. “The post-Cold War order that Western democracies have taken for granted is fracturing, with new alignments rapidly changing global dynamics, in particular where access to energy is at issue. A key concern for all advanced economies is politicians’ inability to recognize the speed and extent of the shifts. Canada, in particular, is dangerously adrift, with no meaningful institutional understanding or credible political leadership to guide it through these defining changes.”
Of course it’s good to be the king. As the Toronto Sun just reported, to get to COP 26 Canada’s “Deputy Finance Minister Michael Sabia, who called climate change “a massive change to humanity,” spent nearly $11,000 in first-class airfare, according to Blacklock’s Reporter.” He also somehow racked up over 13 grand in expenses in the last three days alone, which frankly sounds exhausting. And don’t forget that we sent 277 people there not to share the effort but to conduct their own.
So we realise it’s hard for them to hear us over the carousel. But eventually they must open their ears, and eyes, or vacate their offices for someone better able to do so. And out there in the world, fossil fuels continue to dominate, and gain ground. In some places like Germany they’re getting the worst of both worlds, with record energy prices and the share of renewables in generation falling. Which can’t have been easy. So as Geraedts asks, “The overarching question is how much damage high-minded political obstinacy will have done by then.”
Those who prefer that the amount not be enormous would be well-advised to stop pretending they believe in a man-made climate crisis, if they do not. The spell is hard enough to break without a background chant of flattering incantations.