One thing that frustrates climate alarmists is that polls routinely show overwhelming support for “action” on global warming. But nothing satisfactory to them ever happens. And while one reason, as we discussed last week, is that policy initiatives built on bad science and bad economics cannot deliver results no matter how many people fervently wish they would, the other is that polls notoriously fail to measure the intensity or even sincerity of people’s views. So when, for instance, a third of Britons making purchases on the instalment plan say they cannot meet their weekly bills, any proposal with the intention or effect of raising the price of essentials will actually make them balk even if they claim to have a poster of Greta Thunberg in their living room. And as the National Post just noted, “A new wide-ranging poll by Michael Ashcroft, a former deputy chairman of the U.K. Conservative Party, took the time to interview 10,096 Canadians about their hopes, dreams, fears and prejudices…. Poll respondents were asked to name ‘the most important issues facing Canada today.’ Every single demographic group put ‘cost of living’ in a commanding first place; with 55 per cent picking it as one of their top three issues. And this was despite ample disagreement over all the other issues…” So guess where they rank policies that deliberately increase the cost of living.
Right. As the Post story adds: “Climate change also ranked pretty high as a national threat. Although the issue failed to chart among Conservative and PPC voters, it scored a number one spot among Liberals, and NDP and Bloc Québécois voters. But concern over a warming climate seems to magically disappear when that same poll respondent is gassing up their SUV. Voters for every single party lent majority support to the idea that ‘Canada should use its natural resources to reduce energy costs for Canadians’ – basically, that we should pump as much oil as possible to bring down fuel costs. The ‘keep it in the ground’ camp, meanwhile, only managed 35 per cent support.”
Pollsters did not invent hypocrisy, of course. And techniques have improved dramatically since the notorious “Dewey Defeats Truman” headline based on a severely and predictably skewed sampling technique, although some internet polling methods suggest we’re now sliding back in this as in many other areas. And there has always been a major problem with people saying what they think they’re meant to say, or their neighbours would want them to say, or their neighbours think, instead of what they really do think. Thus ABC recently claimed that “78% of adults in US report being affected by severe weather caused by climate change: Report/ Experiencing the effects of climate change has changed Americans’ minds.” And for more impact, “Of the group that reported being personally affected by severe weather, 24% reported experiencing serious health problems as a result of those extreme weather events, with 51% being of Native American descent, 31% Latino, 30% Asian, 29% Black and 18% white, according to the report.” But if anyone including him thinks that Joe Biden continuing to obstruct energy projects to keep the price high is going to win votes, well, try it and see.
In the email “Climate Briefing/ Our environmental crisis and how to fix it” newsletter touting this story Flipboard, which irritatingly does not make such things linkable and uses the hated term “curated“, also hyped a CNET story “How War in Ukraine Is Changing Everything for Climate Activists/ Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is shaping the lives and work of European climate activists, who are asking their governments to stop financing the war through fossil fuels.” Which the German government for instance is trying to do by burning coal so the peasants will not revolt. Well, it and the governments of Italy, Austria and the Netherlands, all totally green and alarmist in theory and running scared of angry voters who rank climate way down the list in practice. (For good measure Flipboard then plugged their own story “The Threat of Extinction Facing Polar Bears/ Scientists estimate that the species could be gone by 2100, as a consequence of climate change. Zzzzzzzz.)
Australia’s new energy minister went full Baghdad Bob on the phenomenon, saying “I'm not worried about a backsliding of ambition, because I think serious leaders around the world get it that actually the transformation is more important than before”. And here in Canada, the Angus Reid Institute recently said Canadians emerged from the pandemic keener than ever on “social supports”, “environmental protection” and “creeping secularism”. But then it reported that “Highest inflation rates in forty years have Canadians tightening belts, bracing for more financial turbulence” and furnished details like “45 per cent say they are worse off now than they were at this time last year, the highest level in at least 12 years. Asked about the year ahead, one-third expect even worse… Half of Canadians say it is a challenge to afford their household grocery bill – a seven-point increase since last October. One-in-three say their expenditure on gas has increased over the past month, while nearly half say it has decreased as they use alternative transportation to save.” A third say they’d have major trouble managing a monthly expense increase of $150 and two-thirds say so about $300. And while these people know they are meant to tell pollsters they want to save the planet, and probably do want to all else being equal, all else is not equal.
In mid-June CTV ran a story that might be suspected of containing clickbait that started “As many motorists fill their tanks in increments in an effort to save on gas, some are being left stranded or forced to abandon their vehicles as soaring gas prices leave their wallets and tanks empty” and then told of a woman going to care for her ill mother who literally ran out of gas and had to busk for money to complete the drive. But you can be very sure that such experiences have more influence on people’s preferences than some unverifiable tale of a polar bear forced to forage on land. And while, typically, that story made no reference to climate change policies that deliberately make energy scarce and expensive, voters are not the fools journalists and politicians take them for even if they do often tolerate policies that suggest a worrying degree of masochism.
Another CTV story may not have wrung much sympathy for yacht owners out of the audience. But it did at least note that “Across the country, the climb continues and some experts say the federal gas tax is just too much.” And the president of ATCO Electric, a utility serving much of Alberta as well as some in the Yukon and Northwest Territories, blurted out that “Something that seems to be, more and more, front and centre, is the rising cost of energy for Canadians. And there needs to be some recognition that as we decarbonize, we are going to increase that cost”. But the operative word is “if” not “as” because at some point what people really think is going to take precedence over what politicians think they think or should think. As those governing Britain are starting to find out. (That Britain’s barmy “green” plans would also require pretty much burning up all its forests won’t help once that news sinks in too.) And those elsewhere also seem to be realizing.
News agencies may still trumpet “Thousands march in Munich to demand G7 action on poverty and climate”. But however addled this relative handful of chronically discontented people may be, there’s a conflict between action on poverty and that on climate if by the latter you mean making energy too expensive for poor people, and it’s one on which most poor people know where they stand.
As the Manhattan Contrarian recently smirked, of his forays into the “What the Cool Young People are Saying” worldview of Buzzfeed millennial readers, “the same people who have been haranguing us for years for not doing enough to end our dependence on fossil fuels – the same ones who cheered the shutdown of the Keystone Pipeline – now can’t believe the prices they must pay for gas.”
He comments that “It is remarkable that Buzzfeed can promote these twitter roundups without ever seeming to realize that suppressing fossil fuel production in an effort to address climate change would ultimately cause the price of gasoline to go up.” And indeed the Guardian also failed to connect its instalment-plan story with climate change. At least not on purpose. But it did say “The research indicates that the rising cost of living is having a direct impact on the popularity of BNPL [Buy Now, Pay Later], with more than a third (36%) of consumers saying it had become more appealing since inflation and energy costs began to climb.”
When will it stop? Well, another Canadian polling outfit called Abacus Data did a study on belief in “conspiracy theories” that warned that “One in five (20%) think it is definitely or probably true that the ‘9-11 attack was an inside job’” while 18% think it is definitely or probably true that the ‘Royal Family killed Princess Diana’. Another 35% seem to feel it is plausible.” Also “Almost 5 million Canadian adults (16%) think it’s definitely or probably true that ‘The US election was stolen from Donald Trump’. Another 29% think it’s possible or aren’t sure.” And then the clincher “13% (or 3.8 million) think ‘Climate change is a hoax’. Another 16% think it’s possible or aren’t sure.” Oh, and “11% (or 3.2 million) believe it is definitely or probably true that ‘the moon landing was faked and never happened.’ Another 22% think it is possibly true or aren’t sure either way.”
The media loved it, of course, as did left-wing politicians, since it not only showed that Canadians have their own basket of deplorables from which left-thinking persons must save us, it smeared the tar of Trumpism, the convoy and worse all over climate skepticism.
Our own view at CDN, repeatedly expressed particularly in social media debates, is that climate alarmism is an error not a “hoax”. But we also say that if you believe that everyone who tells a pollster they think the moon landing was faked really thinks so, you’ll believe anything. Including that skepticism about climate change is on a par with 9/11 trutherism. And report it. And be amazed that the decline in trust in institutions continues.