Sunday, February 25, 2024
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Give us a vote on Net Zero before the lights go out


THE recent COP26 environmental jamboree was attended by 25,000 people, none of whom was Vladimir Putin or Xi Jinping. 

The two men, both mega-polluters, were absent for a number of reasons, not the least being this one: Russia is tapping into vast reserves of Arctic natural gas, inexhaustible in our lifetime, which it will sell to China and use itself for domestic purposes regardless of what the West says or does. 

Natural gas is, of course, anathematised by environmental purists who insist that sun and windmills are the only legitimate providers of the essential power supply that separates our entire way of life from every century prior to the 20th. Our dependence on electricity is total. 

Given that we cannot know about what the green future will look like and the possible disasters that may arise from acting without knowing, Boris Johnson looks like a monomaniac driven by hubris. The madness lies in forcing us to abandon fossil fuels which are abundant for alternative energy sources which are not remotely adequate now and may never be. 

Everyone knows the sun doesn’t always shine, nor the wind blow – everyone that is except the famous man of science, Johnson. His government is leading us blindly into a future which is unforeseeable because the technology necessary for its sustenance does not yet exist. 

For the green dream to come true, it may be that we need the unknowable technology of the 22nd century to solve an unproven problem in the here and now. How about that for a conundrum? 

Unless green politicians compromise and lift their veto on fossil fuels and nuclear power and because efficient means of solar and wind energy storage remain undeveloped, the lights will certainly go out – because the electricity will not be there to do the mundane things we expect of it. 

Even our saviour, the electric car, needs electricity, never mind our industries, our means of communication – including iPhones, the internet and trains – our hospitals, our homes and bureaucrats in their offices.  

In the brave new world, filing cabinets will replace computers. How do you get to the top of a liftless skyscraper? Goodbye to New York and a large swathe of almost every Western capital. 

None of this bothers the true believers, from the Sierra Club to Extinction Rebellion. The West’s politicians are on course to turn the clock of civilisation into reverse from 2030 onwards unless they are stopped. 

We live in a time of particular anxiety due to political and generational divides, never-ending Covid and concern about our nebulous green future, which is being foisted on us despite never obtaining a single specific vote of consent. 

The closer the arbitrary deadlines approach, the more fearful we will become and the less predictable the potentially dangerous social and political consequences will be for us all. A happy-clappy gabfest like COP26 involving thousands of politicians, bureaucrats and activists who already agree with each other, foments rather than allays anxieties. 

Covid’s apparently hard choices came suddenly from nowhere, or so it seemed at the time, putting the Western world into a state of panic and hysteria – leaving the public with no clear idea of what to do except to agree to a policy nominally aimed at protecting hospitals from being overwhelmed. 

The goal of net zero carbon, the result of a much longer domestic history of scaremongering, is, by contrast, self-inflicted, an adoption of the precautionary principle to counter a speculative problem on a scale never seen before. 

China and Russia say they’ll become carbon neutral by 2060 and India by 2070, compared with 2050 in the West. They will not go green before seeing what happens to us. We will be committed to the irreversible consequences at the cost of trillions of dollars while they retain the possibility of escaping before it is too late. No wonder Putin and Xi dodged COP26. 

So long as Russia, China and India keep pumping carbon, the effects of our self-immolation will be nugatory anyway, because the atmosphere is global and carried by wind. 

The crucial thing about the West’s transition to carbon neutrality is that not a single politician can tell us what it will cost, or guarantee that it will happen as seamlessly as their deadlines demand. Is there any other area of government where absolutely everything depends on a Hail Mary pass? 

As with our unpopular membership of the EU, UK politicians have agreed a policy which they have no intention of changing, whatever people think. It took the 2016 referendum, not a general election, to put an end to the EU. We need another referendum on greenery and carbon. 

The green revolution will not work unless the populations affected assume ownership of it via popular vote. A green referendum would be like any other. Both sides would make their case and the electorate would decide.  

The danger is that the BBC and the mainstream media would not allow an open and fair debate. The Government is gambling with the future of our children. We have to insist on it. 

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Donald Forbes
Donald Forbes
Donald Forbes is a retired Anglo-Scottish journalist now living in France who during a 40-year career worked in eastern Europe before and after communism.

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