BY the end of last week, most of us were already finding the outpourings of Extermination Rebellion rather passé. The protesters had called on the Government to announce a climate emergency, reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025, and create a Citizens’ Assembly to oversee the changes. A big ask, as they say. Especially for someone like Ed Miliband, who when confronted with his enormous air-miles footprint, made fatuous comments on Politics Live about how we can’t just see this on an individual basis.
But we shouldn’t dismiss that element of the child Thunberg’s entreaties that all signatories to the Paris Agreement 2018 should be prepared to honour their commitments (such an old-fashioned concept). This aims, inter alia, to hold the increase in average temperature to well below 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit this temperature increase to 1.5 degrees C.
But – you have to laugh – the contributions each country should make are determined by them individually (known as ‘nationally determined contributions’, or NDCs) and they should be ambitious. Furthermore, the contributions themselves are not binding as a matter of international law, and there is no enforcement mechanism if a set target is not met. Janos Pasztor, the UN assistant secretary general on climate change, has called this a ‘name and encourage’ plan. In other words, a virtue-signalling wish-list.
Well, good luck with that. You may or may not agree with the Climate Change Gospel – though even suggesting that you might not will get you vilified like poor old Liam Fox. Just suggesting that taking personal responsibility might be a sensible option has been described by Labour’s Barry Gardiner as ‘staggering ignorance’ and ‘not acceptable behaviour by a cabinet minister’. But scientifically it seems clear that a carbon-free environment is not conducive to Life on Earth, human, animal or vegetable. The only solution now has to be Management – of global consumption of resources, minimising pollution, and establishing a responsible lifestyle, acceptable to people in the West. (Have a go at that one, Greta.)
Yes, we’re talking about Western lifestyle. The latest virtue-babble we have been treated to by a Government Minister is from Greg Clark, who has been launching the Climate Change Committee’s report, calling for a legally binding target of zero net emissions by 2050, and also for the recommendation to turn down our thermostats to 19 degrees C in winter. Answers on a postcard about how the Climate Change Police plan to enforce this, especially in houses where there isn’t a thermostat. And all this in the face of pronouncements that the ideal temperature we should aim for is around 18-21 degrees C, especially for the very young, the very old, and presumably those in the inhospitable North.
In the end, I reckon it will come down to the Ratchet Effect. Once you’ve been allowed heat, light, travel, consumerism, tourism, and all the rest, you won’t be prepared to give very much of it up.
When I was a child in West Ayrshire, our house in winter had more ice on the inside of the windows than on the outside. Very early on I was hospitalised with ‘laryngitis causing strangulation’ – in those days, usually a death sentence. I survived, but all my clothes, and my beloved cloth bunny, had to be incinerated, and I was in isolation for weeks. Only the minister was allowed to visit; not even my mother. In later life, blanketed by central heating and personal car transport, I never again suffered the throat or breathing problems of my damp childhood. It wasn’t all down to antibiotics. This is the basic expectation of Western societies. We have grown accustomed to the benefit ratchet of living in a comfort-driven post-industrial society.
And it is confirmed in the latest Sky Data poll. Give up meat, driving, flying – no way! Any agenda recommending all that threatens not just our central heating and our traditional Sunday roast, but all the other drivers of western GDP – food and clothing consumerism, housing quality, tourism, and the Great Unmentionable: the mobile phone. Even people on benefits, with children fed on free school meals and food banks, won’t voluntarily give up their phones. All this massive mobile phone and computer use guzzles very rare metals, extracted from open-cast mining, and requires vast server farms in the Arctic, churning out endless heat, to keep the show on the road. (Maybe this is why the Arctic ice is melting, while the Antarctic continues to freeze over?)
We have to fess up to what it is we really like about living in the West (and why so many non-Westerners desperately want to join us). Having it all. The eco-teams want us to accept the need to go backwards, something no political team has ever achieved other than in wartime. People just won’t accept a reverse in their living standards, especially when the elites continue to be chauffeur-driven, club-class flown, and security protected: all paid for by us, whom they reckon should be happy to go without. They keep trying to come up with acceptable solutions. First, it was ditch petrol, and go diesel. Well, that one worked. Now it’s ditch petrol and diesel, and go electric. Except it’s not that simple. It never is.
Unfortunately for the eco-teams, as reported in the Brussels Times, a German study shows that the introduction of electric vehicles won’t lead to a reduction in CO2 emissions from road traffic. In fact, says Christoph Buchal of Cologne University, electric vehicles are responsible for significantly higher CO2 emissions than diesel cars, owing to the significant amount of energy used in the mining and processing of lithium, cobalt and manganese, essential raw materials for electric car batteries. The researchers criticise the fact that EU legislation classifies electric cars as zero-emission vehicles. This, they state, is a deception. Electric cars, such as the Tesla Model 3, with all factors included, produce more emissions than diesel vehicles by Mercedes. In addition all EU countries generate significant CO2 emissions from re-charging the vehicles’ batteries using dirty power plants, as illustrated in Zero Hedge.
And so it goes on. During my recent Irish jaunt, which contrary to expectation was a seriously friendly experience, even though it rained every single day, one of my eco-responsible chums was pleased to tell us she had junked petrol and gone electric. When I let her know about the Cologne research, she was aghast. ‘Oh no!’
What we have to acknowledge in our ratcheted-up western lifestyles is that there’s no going back. All these virtuous government promises aren’t going to change the basics. When will the Prince of Wales agree to drive a Nissan Micra? When will Ed Miliband agree to journey to America by sailing boat? And if they won’t, why should we?
It’s going to take clever entrepreneurial science and pragmatically targeted investment to enable us to maintain this lifestyle. As well as individual responsibility. And maybe no further population growth . . . But in the current political ‘climate’, it would appear that climate change measures are – just like taxation – only for the little people.