In the Financial Post William Watson goes looking for Canada’s leading climate villain. What callous wretch among us, he asks, has the biggest carbon footprint? What oil billionaire or perhaps virtue-signaling celebrity? Why it’s… it’s… Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Watson writes that “Since May 1, by calculations based on his official daily itinerary and an internet distance-between-two-points app, he has flown more than 38,000 kilometres. That’s just 2,000 km less than Earth’s circumference. Around the world in 38 days. They could make a movie.” Possibly called “Hey buddy, where’s your mask?” since Trudeau, who ostentatiously covers his face in public in Canada to emphasize how splendid he is, also routinely appears with for instance California governor Gavin Newsom without one. But to claim therefore that he does not believe what he says about COVID, or climate, would be an error. This is no conspiracy to deceive, he really believes his own guff.
At CDN we spend a lot of time fighting the idea that if people’s conduct appears to be inconsistent they are conscious hypocrites, and hence are plotting, and hence are part of a giant conspiracy against you directed from Davos. Trudeau, like John Kerry, simply applies a different standard to himself than to you because he really, shamelessly, blithely believes he’s waaaaaay more important than you. You shouldn’t even be able to take your minivan to the grocery store because the things you do are not necessary. Whereas for them, it’s a private jet and an expense account with a world to save.
To reiterate and emphasize, the problem with conspiracy theories is that they overestimate both oneself and the supposed plotters. On the latter point, there is nothing in Trudeau’s biography to suggest that he is capable of managing the things he’s supposed to be doing let alone the sinister plots he has to carry out and also carefully hide. Instead, he commits gaffe after gaffe including his hypocritical lifestyle. And on the former, the global elite is not sitting around thinking of ways to do you in. They do not know you exist, and if they did they would not care if you lived or died. They don’t merely pretend to ignore you as a clever way to conceal what they’re really planning. They honestly don’t care about you.
Conspiracy theories also fail in the basic task of helping us achieve genuine understanding of the world. When we hear someone say something that appears to be nonsense, or to contradict itself, it is very important to rotate it around in one’s mind until one finds an angle from which it is coherent. Only then can one confidently dismantle it, having understood what held it together. As John Stuart Mill so famously said, back when any wise thing anyone said was famous:
“He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion... Nor is it enough that he should hear the opinions of adversaries from his own teachers, presented as they state them, and accompanied by what they offer as refutations. He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them...he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.”
Here we concede that to ask Justin Trudeau to lay out plausibly the reasons people might think him a bad prime minister, a hypocrite or a climate villain would be to waste one’s time. He doesn’t sit around pondering ways in which he might be less than perfect. Which leads us back to the fact that the trouble with Trudeau isn’t that he thinks he really shouldn’t be flying around pontificating about greenhouse gases but does it anyway. It’s that he thinks he should. He considers it his duty to the world.
He makes it pretty plain. Why, on visiting with the beleaguered Newsom, he and the governor put out a joint statement that:
“The world’s leading climate scientists have made it clear - our window to avoid the worst impacts of climate change is narrowing faster than expected” (there’s that settled science again) “and success requires unprecedented collective effort and transformational change…. In 2019, our governments agreed to work together on reducing vehicle emissions, advancing clean fuel standards, and incentivizing the adoption of zero-emissions vehicles. Since then, our jurisdictions have both committed to mandate that zero-emissions vehicles represent 100% of new light-duty vehicle sales by 2035 and are taking decisive steps to transition the medium and heavy-duty sectors to zero emissions as well…. Canada and California have much to offer each other, in sharing information and best practices, collaborating on policy and regulation, and pursuing mutually beneficial joint initiatives. From clean technology and biodiversity conservation, to zero emission transportation and a circular economy, the [new Canada-California Climate Action and Nature Protection] Partnership will deliver for our citizens and deepen our economic partnership. Together, we can fight climate change and protect nature while building inclusive, thriving economies that work for everyone, especially disadvantaged communities that are most impacted by climate change…. we committed to Canada and California co-hosting an Expert Roundtable on Wildfires and Forest Resilience at UN Climate Week. This event will bring together officials, academics, industry, and civil society to chart our next steps forward on this common goal.”
By jet aeroplane, no doubt. And why not, since shucks “Our partnership is an example to the world of the collaboration that will build a bright future for people everywhere.”
Just a day earlier, Trudeau had issued a joint statement with Mia Mottley, who as you all don’t know is not merely Prime Minister of Barbados but a co-chair with His Justinity of the “United Nations Secretary-General’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Advocates”, that included:
“We must provide greater space for the voices of youth, women and girls in all of their diversity, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, and other historically marginalized groups to be heard and respected. We will not achieve the SDGs without them. We must also ensure that our international institutions work for all of us, and in particular that they are responding to the needs of the most vulnerable and those most impacted by the new challenges of the climate crisis, and the debt overhang of the pandemic. As co-Chairs, we are committed to working alongside the United Nations, the IMF, World Bank, and other international and regional financial institutions to ensure that these specific vulnerabilities are reflected in the international response to the challenges we face.”
And you’re not going to make people accomplishing that sort of stuff travel steerage, let alone work by phone, now are you?
Seriously, folks. Under “Prime Minister strengthens partnerships on climate action, democracy, gender equality, economic growth at Summit of the Americas” we heard on June 10 that among many other amazing accomplishments:
“The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today concluded his participation at the Ninth Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, California, where he joined hemispheric leaders to work on the key challenges of our time, including tackling climate change and advancing gender equality, while driving economic growth that benefits everyone. During the Summit, the Prime Minister met with his counterparts to explore concrete ways to address the challenges faced throughout the Americas. The world leaders agreed to work together to support strong democratic institutions, take ambitious climate action, drive trade and economic growth that benefits everyone, advance gender equality and LGBTQI rights, and support health care, particularly for women and girls and the most vulnerable. The leaders also condemned Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and agreed to work closely with partners across the Americas, and around the world, to continue to hold Russia accountable and support Ukrainians, including those who have been displaced. Putin’s war of choice has driven up the price of fuel and food, which is increasing the cost of living and fear of scarcity of food for people around the world, including in Latin America and the Caribbean.”
And you’re gonna carp about a few tonnes of CO2 when he’s busy saving the environment, women, the economy, Ukraine and world food? You’re the wretches.
Just as obviously both the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the Minister of Natural Resources, plus however many staffers including communications people, had to fly to Germany for a three day conference with their fellow wizards back in late May because:
“When it comes to keeping our air clean and protecting our planet, the world can’t afford to take a step back…. Over three days of meetings with their international counterparts, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, and the Minister of Natural Resources, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson championed Canada’s international role in tackling climate change, building strong partnerships to advance energy and mineral security, and taking urgent action to protect nature and halt biodiversity loss.”
What you see is what you get. It ain’t pretty. But it ain’t fake either.