I TEND not to indulge in schadenfreude but I couldn’t resist a smile at the sight of private jets frozen on the runway of Munich airport – and thus unable to make their way to the COP28 climate conference in Dubai. One can only imagine the embarrassed explanation of the tardy or absent invitees: ‘I’m sorry that I won’t be able to give my talk on global warming and the need to drastically reduce CO2 emissions. This was due to unusually cold weather grounding my private jet in Germany.’
We are hearing a lot about private jets as COP28 unfolds. Those on the sceptical side of things love to focus on the screaming hypocrisy of the mansion-dwelling climate-change clerisy with their fondness for luxury, gas-guzzling, CO2-emitting travel while lecturing everyone else to stay put in their tiny frigid homes with only an ineffective heat pump, if they can afford one, for comfort. COP28 will see one of the largest fleet of jets ever gathered in one place, and Rishi Sunak, David Cameron and King Charles each took his own to the conference. The urge to expose this humungous double standard and stupendous waste is irresistible.
But how effective is it? Going on about Rishi and David or, for that matter, Leo and the Sussexes is fun but it is starting to get a bit stale and doesn’t seem to have dissuaded any of the zealots from maintaining their cognitively dissonant lifestyles. And on the rare occasions when the climate elite answer the hypocrisy charge they have, sort of, excuses to hand. The US’s Climate Czar John Kerry explains his jet-setting with a regretful ‘It just isn’t possible to do all the travelling I need to do (saving the world) on commercial flights’. Others, such as bona-fide world leaders will cite security concerns and time pressures, while Emma Thompson, who once flew first-class from New York to spend a day at an Extinction Rebellion event in London, and then flew back first-class, claims to offset her carbon footprint by planting trees.
The biggest problem, though, is that by focusing on their jets and their beachside mansions sceptics implicitly cede ground to their opponents, seemingly acknowledging that CO2 does cause dangerous global warming, only making the point that it is hypocritical to say so and then not modify your own behaviour. They may not practise what they preach, seems to be the message, but that doesn’t mean the sermon is flawed. It is similar in strategy to much of the criticism of Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil which focuses entirely on their antics while giving their core scientific argument, such as it is, a free pass.
If I were of a conspiratorial bent I might even be attracted to the idea that eco-zealots are perfectly happy to have their high-flying hypocrisy exposed. It not only distracts the sceptics from making more effective arguments but feeds their massive egos. The desire to have the world reminded that you are rich enough to fly a private jet, that you are part of a super exclusive elite, easily overpowers any feelings of modesty, conscience, or for that matter, concern for the environment in those that see themselves as masters of the universe. And If people hate them for it, so what? Let them fly coach, as a modern-day Marie Antoinette might say.
A better approach then might be to focus a bit more on the hard science of climate change, which is looking increasingly like fertile ground for sceptics. There has been a steady stream of reports challenging the orthodoxy lately, and even the chairman of COP28, Sultan Al Jaber of the UAE, says there is ‘no science’ behind the scenario of imminent apocalypse and the rush to phase out fossil fuels. Al Jaber is hardly a disinterested party, and his appointment as chairman was controversial, but that doesn’t mean he’s wrong in raising the issue of flawed or non-existent science, and his assertion wasn’t effectively countered by anyone at COP28.
There are plenty who would agree with Al Jaber and go further. The World Climate Declaration, an ever-growing network of currently 1,800 of the world’s most distinguished scientists and researchers, including several Nobel laureates, have dismissed the man-made climate crisis narrative, demolishing its model-based hypotheses as no more than politicized junk science. They emphasise that IPCC warming models have been consistently, hopelessly inaccurate and make the point, entirely absent from any climate alarmist forum, that C02 has not only been far higher in the past but is not a pollutant and is a net benefit to the planet (it is plant food after all).
The highly respected and greatly experienced scientists backing the WCD would no doubt be regarded as beneath contempt by the COP attendees, if they were even aware of them, but even without their input there is enough ammunition from within the climate change community to mount an effective campaign. As Peter Lilley, one of the tiny band of far-sighted MPS who opposed the UK’s Climate Change Act 15 years ago points out, the IPCC’s own report predicts very little in the way of consequences if no action is taken to limit emissions:
‘For most economic sectors, the impact of climate change will be small relative to the impacts of other drivers.’
He also reminds us that the Socratic approach, posing some basic questions, can work well.
‘I asked ministers [at the time of the Climate Change Act] if they know of any peer-reviewed study accepted by the IPCC that forecasts the extinction of humanity if the world takes no action to phase out fossil fuels. The answer was clear: there are none.’
A bit of plane-spotting, especially when the planes are Lear Jets ferrying the great and the good to a conference one of whose themes is that no one should be flying, is satisfying, but it is also a bit lazy and it lets the alarmists off the hook. It’s a glancing blow when a solid punch to the solar plexus is what is needed. And there is a soft underbelly of scientific ignorance and junk data that positively invites such an assault.