Blind Climate Faith Leaves Us In The Dark

Written by:
16 February 2024
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In this article, John Storey contextualises and disseminates the IPA’s research into climate change.

The West’s Net Zero policies are the ultimate act of zealous faith

The climate change debate is frequently couched in quasi-religious terms. There are the ‘believers’ on one side, and the ‘sceptics’ and ‘deniers’ on the other. Religious concepts like original sin (our carbon footprint), penance (carbon credits), fasting (a meat-free diet), and an apocalyptic vision of the future (complete with a Noah-like global flood caused by melting polar caps) are all features of modern climate change activism.

And there is little wonder why. To believe that the energy and environment policies currently being adopted in Australia and across the West will save the planet is the ultimate act of zealous, blind faith.

To believe that our current policies are on the right track – and one needs only to look to the blackouts in Victoria this week to see how they work in practice – policies like closing reliable and affordable coal-fired power stations, banning the mining of fossil fuels, and mandating or subsidising expensive and unreliable wind and solar power. All of this requires faith in the following five propositions…

The first is that human made carbon emissions will have an impact on the climate. Some sceptics jump off at this point, but to be fair even critics of climate alarmism like Danish author Bjorn Lomborg believe that carbon emissions can have an impact on the climate, with potentially negative consequences.

The second proposition is that these impacts will be devastating, perhaps existential. This is where the Lomborg’s of the world exit. He claims climate change is a problem, but not an existential one, and the difference is crucial. If the planet will boil if we stay on our current path, then any cost to prevent that seems justified. But if the impacts will be a mild reduction in future growth, then the enormous cost of replacing the electrical generation system of the entire planet is likely to cause far more pain than the problem itself.

The third proposition is that not only is climate change an existential threat, but it is the only such threat. An activist must discount the likelihood of other existential risks, like war, disease, and non-climate related natural disasters like volcanoes, earthquakes, or asteroids. This is because dealing with these other threats effectively requires growing our economy, not destroying it. Prosperity reduces the risk of war, and our current policies – by weakening the energy security of the West – have dramatically increased the risk of global conflict. Economic growth funds everything from researching cures for future diseases to improving emergency services and disaster relief capacity. Being poorer and reducing fossil fuel consumption may or may not help stop climate change, but it certainly reduces our preparedness for other disasters.

The fourth proposition is that the negative consequences of climate change are imminent, about to strike within years or a few decades at most, and will not unfold slowly over a century or more. It is only this belief in urgency that justifies the mad panic to shut down perfectly good power plants with years of effective life left in them and mandating the use of unproven, and likely unworkable, alternatives by 2030 or some other arbitrary date. In contrast, if we have time, we can invest in finding better and cheaper alternatives in the future. Impoverishing ourselves now, in order to reduce carbon emissions immediately, will necessarily mean less money in the pie for research, innovation and education – which are far more likely to produce affordable solutions than bureaucrats setting artificial use-by dates on proven technology.

The fifth proposition is that the largest and fastest growing carbon emitters – particularly China and India – will significantly cut their carbon emissions in line with the West. This is where we leave the realm of science and enter the world of politics. Unlike oil leaks, toxic waste, or soot from chimneys which primarily harm the environment and people that are proximate to the pollution, the emission of carbon is claimed to have a global impact. A ton of carbon emitted in Melbourne has the same effect as a ton emitted in Shanghai or Mumbai. And the idea that these developing countries will cut their emissions is laughably naïve. As comedian Konstantin Kisin said in his now famous Oxford Union address ‘you are not going to get these people to stay poor’.

Every tonne of carbon emissions that is reduced in the West is being more than matched by increases in the developing world, with no realistic end in sight. And short of war, there is nothing the West can do about it. We cannot control the dictatorship in China and our moralising won’t sway the billion voters in India steadily emerging from poverty on the back of cheap fossil fuels.

If a believer in climate change has come this far, fully believing the apocalyptic projection of imminent climate disaster, then an honest appraisal of international affairs can only lead to the conclusion that climate disaster is inevitable. There is nothing Australia or the West can do to prevent it. So, if it is inevitable, our best chance of surviving and dealing with it is to have a strong vibrant economy, not an impoverished one. A strong economy can fund the hardened infrastructure, emergency services, and relocation of people that such an outcome entails.

Instead, the West is busy weakening itself. This all but guarantees other calamities will befall us and that we will not be prepared to deal with them. Only the blindly faithful can conclude otherwise.

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