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Climate change: project fear II

2021-11-02 06:40:41

It seems that a lot of people are having some difficulty detecting where the line is drawn between politics and science at the CoP26 eco-fest. But this is hardly surprising as the distinction has been deliberately blurred, so much so that we have people who purport to be scientists making overtly political statements.

On the other hand, the buffoon Johnson is acting like a born-again climate worshiper, asserting:
We are in roughly the same position, my fellow global leaders, as James Bond today – except that the tragedy is this is not a movie and the doomsday device is real. The clock is ticking to the furious rhythm of hundreds of billions of pistons and furnaces and engines with which we are pumping carbon into the air faster and faster … and quilting the Earth in an invisible and suffocating blanket of CO2 raising the temperature of the planet with a speed and abruptness that is entirely man-made.
This, of course, is verbose dribble – quasi-scientific flannel that a politician of Johnson's ilk has no business making, and no qualification either to assess or make on behalf of those who tell him that this is the case. If he believes this, on the basis of what he has been told, then the tenor of the speech he made at the opening of CoP26 should have been to acknowledge that he accepted the advice he had been given and was working on a policy to deal with it.

But Johnson, quite clearly, has lost track of the fact that he is a politician. He has no business acting as an advocate for the climate worshipers. His task is to work round the issue, take soundings from as wide a range of professional advisors as he can muster, and then respond with a measured policy which protects the interests of the UK and the British people.

If that, in turn, demands a global response, then he needs to be spending his time assessing what is practical in the context of any realistic timeframe, and then seeking the cooperation of his counterparts.

But, as we know, Johnson has gone to this madcap conference with policy ideas already set out, in the form of his "net zero" obsession. His specific purpose has been to use the self-destructive aspirations of the British government as an example for others willing to follow – and not many are. They really are not that stupid as to fall for such a transparent ploy.

Thus, even with nearly the two full weeks to go, it matters not in the least what the outcome of CoP will be. Johnson has already committed to a form of outlandish stupidity which goes far further down the path of national self-destruction than any other nation's leader will countenance.

And, to assert thus is not to make a judgement on the science – such that it is. We need a political response to the fears and predictions of a gang of people, many of whom aren't actually scientists – much less climate scientists – who purport to convey certainty about a future which in all truth is so larded with uncertainties that any predictions should be treated with extreme caution.

That is something for Johnson to ponder about as he departs, flying back to London on a private aircraft, after spending two days warning world leaders to reduce their emissions.

He leaves the frenzy in Glasgow closely approximating the social phenomenon of a moral panic – a type of mass hysteria that one sometimes sees in girls' schools where pupils (but not staff) are suddenly caught up in a wave of sickness which has no discernible cause. It is probably no coincidence that some of the more prominent actors in this grotesque drama happen to be teenage girls.

Within this emotionally-charged melee, as much as it is Johnson's task to calculate a policy response, his responsibility should also extend to addressing the possibility that he is being confronted with an outbreak of mass hysteria, with much of what he has been told being either wrong or grossly exaggerated.

Needless to say, that line of thought is not being encouraged, with the wilder climate worshipers insisting that we are facing irreversible climate change which brooks no deviation from the most extreme of their nostrums, even if only the weak-minded will give them house room.

At least, though, the Independent recognises the fragility of Johnson's position, having journalist Sean O'Grady writing under the headline: "A referendum on Britain’s net zero policy? It’s Brexit all over again".

"Those who want 'net zero' to happen", O'Grady writes in his sub-heading, "have to learn the lessons of the lost battles of Brexit – and start to take on the arguments against the net zero plan that are resonating with people".

The piece starts by telling us that Johnson understands that it's not what the politicians or the corporations think about the "climate crisis" that matters, but what the "punters" think. This is a premise with which O'Grady agrees.

However, while Johnson also asserts that people are demanding change, there is also that opinion poll that suggests a sizeable chunk of the population – arguably a majority – wants a referendum on whether or not we should pursue the government's "net zero" policy.

O'Grady notes that are "a few voices being raised in support of the idea". He cites MPs Steve Baker and Iain Duncan Smith, and a small social media campaign, Car26, which was responsible for the opinion poll and has set up a petition for a referendum on its website.

Interestingly, O'Grady doesn't mention our petition, which is now topping 5,000 signatures, after a slow weekend. He has all the hallmarks of a "white-stick" journalist, who must be led everywhere before he actually notices anything.

He has noticed Nigel Farage, though, who has belatedly declared that the referendum might be his next campaign. In reality, that would probably mean that he did very little, waiting – like he did with the EU Referendum – for other people to do the heavy lifting before stepping in and claiming the credit. Nevertheless, that is enough for O'Grady to announce: "So, yes, it's Brexit all over again, folks".

Despite general public support for the principle of climate change measures, O'Grady accepts that there is little enthusiasm for paying for them. The danger, he concludes from this is that, "if any opportunity arises for that uncertainty to bubble up into political influence it will weaken the resolve of political leaders to hold the line against it – just like Brexit". 

To put it crudely, he says, "the movement for a referendum on 'net zero' is being used as a kind of Trojan horse or entry drug for full-on climate crisis denial and the abandonment of the target by the UK, just as the campaign for an 'in/out' EU referendum ended up with the pretty hard and antagonistic Brexit we have today".

This is a somewhat distorted view, and the comparison with Brexit is laboured, but exactly what you would expect from an Independent writer. The idea of "people's consent" for an expensive and intrusive policy doesn't enter into his mind.

Instead, he sees the situation through the filter of his own prejudices, arguing that all a referendum needs is for the anti "net zero" lobby to capture the Conservative Party through a combination of external pressure and internal activism. This, he asserts, was what forced David Cameron to promise a referendum, when he was threatened with being ousted in around 2013-14.

To counter this, O'Grady suggests learning the lessons of the lost battles of Brexit, taking in the arguments against "net zero" that are resonating with people. The climate change version of project fear, he says, won't make people support prohibitively expensive change. Even Switzerland has rejected its government's climate "crisis plan".

In what might be seen as encouraging, O'Grady fear that "the climate deniers" will win the arguments. The term "democrats", it seems, is not part of his vocabulary. "There is lots of complacency around the climate crisis", he adds, "but the most dangerous of all is that the arguments have been won, and the case has been made, and all we need to do is to get on with it".

But, he warns, "the arguments have not been won, and the punters are not yet pushing their leaders to implement the necessary changes". Quite the opposite, he notes, and "that's the scary thing".

What O'Grady can't get his little head round, though, is that idea that, if the measures that constitute "net zero" are so well-founded and necessary, he should be welcoming a referendum campaign as an opportunity to make the case, and push Johnson into action.

But, here we do have a similarity with the Brexit campaign. When push came to shove, the Remainers were no more able to make their case than can the climate worshippers. Project fear is common to both and, as experience shows, it won't be enough.

Also published on Turbulent Times.