Carl Bildt, the former Swedish prime minister, wrote recently, ‘The pandemic offers important lessons for managing future challenges, particularly climate change’ which ‘warrants urgent attention’. There are at least eight common elements linking the two agendas. I discuss three today.
When the world’s top leaders met at the G7 summit in Cornwall last year, they copped a lot of merited criticism for hypocrisy. They social distanced and masked up for photo-ops but hobnobbed in close proximity sans masks in partylike atmosphere in private: one law for me, a member of the entitled elite, and another law for thee of the deplorable plebs. Last week the party-gate scandal continued to dog Boris Johnson. The upsetting aspect of this was not the trivial details of partying after work with colleagues. Rather, it is proof that the very people who wrote draconian rules and gave the police full licence to indulge their inner bully in a brutal crackdown that brooked no excuse, even for the most absurd, unhealthy, cruel and heartless rules, knew the rules to be nonsense. The photos of Johnson and aides partying are politically toxic because of the searing images of a masked Queen sitting alone at her husband’s funeral. Similarly, in the US any number of photos show former president Barack Obama, California Governor Gavin Newsom and progressives’ darling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez living it up on glittering occasions sans mask while the serving staff had to be masked.
There was a second example of hypocrisy from a British politician last week. Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees was the UK’s first city mayor to declare a climate crisis. On 28 May the BBC reported he had flown over 7,000 km each way for nine hours to Vancouver to deliver a 14-minute TED talk calling for urgent climate action, creating over 2,000kg of CO2. This followed reports from Davos of large numbers of captains of industry and Hollywood glitterati arriving by private jets to lecture the rest of us on the climate emergency. At the UN climate talkfest in Glasgow last year, they could not accommodate all the private jets at one airport. Not to forget footage of Joe Biden’s gas-guzzling planes and limousines in Europe last year.
There are multiple examples of the disconnect between what the ‘progressive’ elites preach and practise. Harry and Meghan have been widely mocked for jetting around the world to warn people about global warming. When Harry traveled to Sicily in July 2019 for an A-list climate gathering organised by Google, he was among 114 delegates who put on a ‘hypocritical display of mega yachts, private jets and conspicuous consumption while billions live in energy poverty’, Alberta’s Premier Jason Kenney tweeted. Swedish child-prophet Greta Thunberg’s highly publicised sea voyage to New York from Europe in 2019 raised questions on the carbon footprint in the construction of the ‘zero-carbon’ carbon-fibre racing yacht. Some members of her sailing crew returned to Europe by plane, while others flew across the Atlantic to sail the vessel back.
A second common element between Covid and climate change is the mismatch between models that inform policy and data that contradict the models. Professor Neil Ferguson’s long track record of abysmally wrong catastrophist predictions on infectious diseases is if anything exceeded by the failures of climate change alarmist predictions. Atmospheric scientists and former IPCC members Richard McNider and John Christy note that climate modelling forecasts have ‘always overstated the degree to which the Earth is warming compared with what we see in the real climate’. One of the real signals of CO2-induced warming is in the deep atmosphere at 75,000 feet. Satellite data had shown only one-third the warming (0.70C) predicted by climate models.
Calls for urgent climate action based on the language of ‘edging towards “tipping points”’ have been made over many years. In 1982, UNEP Executive Director Mostafa Tolba warned of an irreversible environmental catastrophe by 2000 without immediate urgent action. This was repeated by another senior UNEP official in 1989. In 2004, a Pentagon report warned that by 2020, major European cities would be submerged by rising seas, Britain would be facing a Siberian climate and the world would be caught up in mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting. In 2007, IPCC chair Rajendra Pachauri declared, ‘If there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late’. He added ahead of the Bali climate meeting, ‘This is the defining moment’. In 2009, Nasa scientist Jim Hansen said President Barack Obama had only four years (i.e., his first term) to save the world from climate catastrophe. In Montana, the Glacier National Park installed ‘Goodbye to the glaciers’ plaques, warning, ‘Computer models indicate the glaciers will all be gone by the year 2020’. Come 2020, all 29 glaciers were still there but the signs were gone, taken down by embarrassed park authorities. It’s hard to overstate the damage such failed predictions have caused to the climate change narrative. Used as a tactic to grab policymakers’ attention, over time it gets trapped in the crying wolf syndrome. In January 2019, Ocasio-Cortez warned the world will end in twelve years if we fail to address climate change. Don’t be surprised if around 2030, the point of no return is stretched out a bit farther once again.
The frequency of natural disasters has increased steeply since 1900, but the death tolls have plummeted dramatically, especially from floods and droughts and as a proportion of the total population. The deadly natural disasters in more recent times have been earthquakes and tsunamis that are unrelated to global warming. Around four million people (about 13 per cent of the population) died in the great Ukrainian famine of 1932–33. The primary blame for it rests with Stalin’s policies. Mao’s farming policies contributed to the great China famine that killed tens of millions in 1959–61. Today China and Russia are among the biggest polluters and, like putting healthy populations under mass house arrest as a weird but futile policy to protect vulnerable elderly people from Covid, pressure on the little guys on the global warming block may make us feel good but will fail to do good for the climate.
Third, an important reason for both Covid and climate catastrophism is to spread fear and panic in the population as a means to spur drastic political action. Both agendas have been astonishingly successful. Polls have consistently shown the hugely exaggerated beliefs about the scale of the Covid threat. On climate change, the gap between the stringent actions required, the commitments made and the actual record thus far is used to create panic. The notion that we are already doomed promotes a culture of hopelessness and despair perhaps best epitomised in recent times by Thunberg’s cry of ‘How dare you’ steal my dreams and childhood with empty words.
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