The climate change activism, and in particular, its more hysterical Extinction Rebellion/School Strike “we’re all going to die” variety, are very much a Western phenomenon, despite the issue of climate change (formerly known as “global warming”) itself being of course global in nature. This is arguably because the governments and the peoples of the developing world are far more concerned about lifting themselves out of poverty and getting ahead in life than what the weather might be like in half a century from today. Conversely, in the developed, world where the populations enjoy the highest standards of living ever achieved in history, the middle classes are comfortable enough materially and barren enough spiritually to fully enjoy that extra luxury of self-flagellation and moral angst.
At the heart of the New Catstrophism lies an inconvenient truth: the United States – or Australia – could cut their emissions to zero today (or by 2030) and it would make a negligible difference to the global temperatures.
There are two reasons for that: firstly, the CO2 emissions in the United States, the European Union, Canada and Australia have actually been declining in the past 10-15 years. Secondly, the CO2 emissions throughout the developing world have been skyrocketing. And this is not just in relative terms, which disregard the massively different starting points, but in absolute terms. Consider these two graphs, prepared by Robert Rapier at Forbes:
While China now produces more CO2 than the United States and the European Union put together, the Asia-Pacific region (which does include a few industrialised countries, like Japan, Taiwan and South Korea, but is mainly in the “developing” category, with China, India and Indonesia the most prominent examples) emits nearly twice as much CO2 as the United States and the European Union combined. And rising.
This is what you always have to keep in mind whenever you hear about the great progress being made in China (and to a lesser extent in India) in embracing the renewables. It’s a case of “yes, but…” It might be true, as far as it goes, yet still India’s coal-powered electricity generation capacity is expected to increase by over 22 per cent to 2022; China itself, for whatever else it’s doing with wind and hydro, is also building hundreds of new “old” power stations as it’s creating the largest middle class in history. And while it’s true that in emissions per capita the developing world still leads the rest of the world where all the billions live, the climate only cares about the absolute numbers.
St Joan of Arc of the Children’s Crusade against Carbon, Greta Thunberg, should be going to Beijing or Bangalore and staging her protests there instead of, or at least in addition to, Sweden or New York. She should be hounding President Xi and Prime Minister Modi about their shameful emissions. She should be leading throngs of Asian kids out of schools for her Friday student strikes. She should be castigating the industries and the consumers of the developing world for destroying the planet and killing humanity in the process. She should be doing all this if she were serious about the global nature of the problem. But I won’t be holding my breath.
Most countries around the world are “doing something” about reducing their emissions and switching to green energy; some more successfully than others. If the target is reached, which is always a big if, by 2030 the European Union wants 35 per cent of its electricity generated from renewables. Perhaps a greater number of ambitious targets could be met in the future if the tens of billions being spent on subsidies were instead spent on R&D to make alternative energy price-competitive and reliable for base power. Be that as it may, the quest to make the developed economies carbon-free by 2030, as touted by Thunberg, Extinction Rebellion and the rest of the Green religion, would require a drastic deindustrialisation and an equally drastic growth in the power and reach of governments to restrict people’s freedom and choices in every aspect of their lives, from how they move around to what they eat.
For some (see my old post about the distinction between the radical “activists” and apolitical mass of “supporters“), such radical transformation is a feature and not a bug, with “climate change” being treated as a convenient excuse to implement their anti-capitalist, anti-growth, anti-freedom agenda. As this week’s “Economist” proclaims, “because the processes that force climate change are built into the foundations of the world economy and of geopolitics, measures to check climate change have to be similarly wide-ranging and all-encompassing. To decarbonise an economy is not a simple subtraction; it requires a near-complete overhaul.” For the formerly liberal flagship that is now the voice of the woke conventional wisdom (“Ecommunist”?), this is something to be looked forward and embraced; for the self-avowed socialist and budding authoritarians like George Monbiot (“For the sake of life on earth, we must put a limit on wealth”), Ocasio-Cortez and Thunberg it is even more so. “A near complete overhaul” of the capitalist economy, which built the modern world and modernity over the past three centuries, is every leftie’s wet dream. Saving the planet? Maybe, but far more importantly saving socialism. If this takes traumatising entire generation of children by making them believe they have no future if the world warms by 2 degrees, so be it.