As readers of this blog know, I am a pragmatic environmentalist. I believe in the dangers of climate change and unlike most of my critics, I live a low-carbon lifestyle and have actually helped achieve policies that reduced my province’s carbon footprint. From my pragmatic perspective, I can only marvel at the blockheadedness of the activists in the climate change community who seem intent on doing everything they can to set back the implementation of the policies needed to achieve our climate goals. They do this by alienating potential allies, demanding absolute purity of thought from everyone who might be interested in helping to advance the cause and showing a bull-headed unwillingness to compromise on energy technologies needed to achieve our common goal.
I have written previously about this topic in a post the climate crew, alienating potential allies and worshiping false idols where I highlighted the folly of Michael Mann insulting and alienating Dr. Andrew Leach, the Chair of the Province of Alberta’s Climate Change Advisory Panel. For those who don’t know, Dr. Leach and his panel spent three months of their lives travelling the province doing the consultation necessary to build up the technical support and political and social goodwill necessary to allow Alberta to put a price on carbon. This is the man Dr. Mann went out of his way to insult calling him a “troll”.
This last couple weeks the climate crew has once again gone out of its way to alienate allies and potential allies while setting back the cause all in the name of intellectual purity and goodthink. In the following post, I will discuss how the climate crew are systematically sabotaging their cause and simultaneously hamstringing our ability to fight climate change.
Let’s start this discussion by talking about the New York Times. As people interested in achieving a low-carbon future know, Brad Plumer was recently hired by the New York Times to work on its energy and climate desk. For those of you who don’t know him, Brad Plumer and David Roberts are two of the writers who turned Vox.com into the place to go for intelligent, but readable, stories on climate change and energy. For the New York Times to scoop up Brad Plumer is an boon for those interested in seeing intelligent, readable stories on energy and climate in the paper of record. Coincidental to the Times hiring Mr. Plumer, they also hired an op-ed writer by the name of Bret Stephens. Mr. Stephens is a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer who specializes in international affairs but has also written some controversial articles about climate change.
So how have the environmental activists responded to these two hires? Well as expected they have said almost nothing about the arrival of Brad Plumer while organizing a campaign to cancel subscriptions over the hiring of Stephens. Yes, you heard that right, in a country where the Republicans control Congress and Donald Trump is President the climate activists have decided the organization they want to de-fund the most is the New York Times. A paper that has dedicated more ink to climate than virtually any other news organization in North America. Does anyone wonder which jobs will be the first to go if the environmentalists manage to damage the Times’ bottom line. I’m guessing the climate beat will take the hit as the remaining subscribers will be heavily tilted to other topics.
The most frustrating part of this whole debate is how the environmental activists claim this is all about punishing the Times for allowing contrary voices to be heard. The best way to understand the people you are fighting is to listen to their arguments and formulate responses. Unfortunately, in this era of media fragmentation we see the exact opposite with groups collecting themselves into silos while simultaneously insulting anyone who doesn’t hew to their exact world-view. Purity of thought is the only thing that matters. In the process these blinkered thinkers stop bothering to even try to understand what the other side is trying to say. Instead they argue against cartoonish strawmen and parade around bragging about how right they are.
Any reasonable read of Mr. Stephen’s first piece identifies some very important arguments that the climate activists have failed to address. The unrealistic confidence the climate activists have placed in their models even though those models are barely able to hindcast, let alone forecast. The growing divide between what climate scientists are saying about climate change and what the climate activists claim they are saying. Most importantly the growing disconnect between what the scientists are saying about the risks of climate change and public sentiment about the topic. Having read numerous “rebuttals” of the Stephens piece let’s consider a top rated one on Google which fails to acknowledge that the climate activists are anything but pure; insists Mr. Stephens is a dumb f..k; and the people who disagree with Mr. Stephen’s critics are too stupid and/or selfish to care that we’re mutilating our planet. Yes, that is how you bring people over to your side call them stupid and selfish.
From a Canadian perspective we see this insane approach to allies clearly with Bill McKibben’s recent Guardian piece where he claimed that Justin Trudeau is a disaster for the planet and no better than Donald Trump. Let’s look at this from a sane perspective. Justin Trudeau was recently elected with a mandate to completely change the political landscape of Canada after over a decade of rule by the Harper Conservatives. This has left Trudeau with dozens of potential issues to concentrate on. Given all these alternatives, one of the first files Prime Minister Trudeau chose to take on was climate change. Our new PM used his political clout to essentially strong-arm a bunch of hesitant Premiers into accepting a national price on carbon. For outsiders a quick note, under the Canadian constitution both energy and environment are provincial jurisdictions so the Prime Minister could not act alone. It took a lot of work and political capital from Prime Minister Trudeau to get this win. He pulled a lot of Premiers along with him and went much father than many thought was possible. It was a tremendous win for the fight against climate change against a backdrop of an Australian Prime Minister who eliminated their carbon tax and a US government under Trump which appears to be actively working against advances in fighting climate change.
So how does the environmental community thank Prime Minister Trudeau for his environmental leadership? They call him an environmental laggard and compare him to Donald Trump. Honestly folks do you think Prime Minister Trudeau is going to spend his remaining political capital on another of your political causes when he has so many other alternatives to work on. Do you expect him to take an international leadership role next time and stake his political career for a group of people that not only don’t have the decency to acknowledge what he has done but instead compare him with Donald Trump.
From a BC perspective, we have another example where the climate folks insist it is their way or the highway. As I have pointed out previously, British Columbia gets approximately 25% of its energy from low-carbon sources. If we are going to fight climate change we need to electrify everything which means we will have a need for new, low-carbon electricity. One of the biggest low-carbon electricity projects in North America is the Site C Dam in northeastern BC. Now climate activists aren’t fans of large reservoir hydroelectric or nuclear energy. They have a mistaken belief that we can achieve 100% renewable using technologies that exclude new large-reservoir hydro and/or nuclear. So when our government starts building a hydro project do they accept that low-carbon energy is better than high-carbon energy? No, they fight the low-carbon alternative tooth-and-nail while spouting platitudes about how we can all do this with wind, water and sun but failing to do anything about it. To argue against this project, they compare the cost of the fully built facility (connected to a newly upgraded power grid) to the cost of an installed wind turbine unconnected to the grid with no associated storage. You see they want to fight climate change, but only if we do it their way; otherwise they would prefer that we do nothing. Being pure is better than being effective.
Look at today’s People’s Climate Marches. They include entire sections dedicated to the anti-nuclear movement. Can anyone tell me what happens when you pull nuclear out of your energy mix? Well Energieweinde showed that the nuclear was not replaced by renewables, but rather by coal. When Diablo Canyon closes in California, the result will be an increase in the amount of greenhouse gases emitted as they will be making up that low-carbon power with natural gas.
So what have the climate crew done for us recently? They are punishing one of their biggest allies in the free press, while alienating political leaders who have gone to bat for them. They are fighting against low-carbon energy alternatives because those alternatives don’t represent their preferred technologies. Rather than accepting compromises that could help advance their cause and implement policies that can provide realistic reductions in carbon emission they are out on the streets holding their protests. Protests where they reserve entire sections for groups intended solely to the task of attacking potential allies. I despair for my cause and have started to resign myself to failure because these people are more interested in political and intellectual purity than they are to fighting climate change.