Climate change and panic


BECAUSE they believe so ardently in what they say, the warnings emerging from the 2019 UN Climate Change Conference known as COP25 are largely apocalyptic. To listen to some of the 29,000 attendees at the Madrid climate summit, the future of the human race, if not of many other life forms, is already doomed.

Over the last twenty years the environmentalist lobby has been outstandingly successful. The argument has moved from a relative handful of dedicated activists to center stage. No politician dares be without some sonorous policy pronouncements on mitigating, if not actually reversing climate change. Virtually all the media are on board. Renewable energy and the polluting effects of internal combustion engines and fossil-fueled power generation are the subject of disapproving news stories on an almost daily basis. Desk editors are busy looking for the fresh features on how families in the First World are doing their bit for the environment by installing solar panels, buying electric cars, cutting their water consumption and using low energy light bulbs, while bombarding social media with Likes for any and every online environmental campaigner, not least the movements remarkable mascot, the 16 year-old Swede Greta Thunberg.

Nor is this powerful campaign stopping there. In the last few years vegetarians and the even stricter vegans have been driving a movement to abandon the raising and eating of meat, because of what they deem a use of land that is wasteful when compared to the production of fruits, vegetables and cereals. Farm stock also produces significant quantities of methane.

It is all an earnest and worthy effort spearheaded very largely by the prosperous and comfortable First World. But this huge movement carries within it dangers above and beyond the vituperative attacks on any scientists who chose to question and seek to re-examine the findings underpinning the massed prophets of doom. The primary insistence is that human activity is directly responsible for what is happening to the climate. It follows therefore that human intervention, on a most radical scale, can stop and then reverse it. There is remarkably little acknowledgement of good data that make clear that over the millennia, there have been profound differences in climate.

The biggest criticism that can be leveled against these activists is that the cost of far-reaching changes they are demanding will channel economic resources away from key areas such as health and education. They will also have a disproportionate impact on Third World countries, still aspiring to the comfort and security enjoyed by those in the First World.

Moreover there is a strong measure of double-speak amongst climate activists. The celebrity Greta Thunberg may have been powered by wind when she travelled to and from North America; however it can be certain that the majority of those in Madrid for the two-week COP25 conference will have flown into Spain.

Environmentalists argue that they simply have to inject a note of panic into their demands because this is the only way to be sure that the world’s leaders will, not only sit up and take notice, but actually implement the changes that the activists deem necessary. Their demands are shrill and almost debate on the issues is now excluded. But can sensible political decisions really be brought about by high emotion and panic?