Scottish Sheep Square

After all the hypocrisy what would be a good outcome for COP26?

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IN THE THEATRE of the absurd, in Glasgow, an extraordinary degree of self-congratulation and virtual signalling is on display with the great and good outdoing themselves to compare ‘the emergency’ on a par with war and atrocity – at ‘a minute to midnight.’

Act now or we are doomed. They speak of certainty where there is none but it suits their political purpose.

Such ‘end of the world is nigh’ stuff is not new. It seems to be a flaw in our makeup that many get themselves in to a hysteria on the latest ‘science’. I am not a scientist but just as in economics hypotheses are challenged and often overturned so too is that the case in science. Indeed it is the whole basis of the scientific method. The periodic table may be ‘fact’ but much of the rest is theory which is continually refined and occasionally overthrown.

As an example Thomas Malthus of course speculated that, as the population expanded, we would be unable to feed ourselves with mass starvation ensuing. The opposite occurred. The population expanded and global malnutrition rates fell.

More recently, in the 1970’s, it was said oil would run out and to compound this horror we were entering a new ice age.

In the first case, the arch pessimist Malthus simply underestimated human ingenuity as yields increased and productivity improved. In the latter case the last ice age was just over 10,000 years ago so it remains very possible, within the normal standard deviation of natural climatic fluctuation, although hopefully not in my immediate family’s lifetime.

And on oil, well we have become better at finding new oil, extracting more from existing discoveries and dare I even say the rediscovery of old technology – fracking.  Mankind is prone to polemic and panic so let’s just drop the hysteria and be slightly more measured.

This is not a debate between good and bad, dirty and clean, science and anti-science that the high priests of climate activism might have you believe. Fall in with them and you are virtuous, question them, or deny and you are bad and not worthy of voice.  Like the late David Bellamy at the BBC, you can and will be cancelled.

I am sure 99% of people, this author included, wish to live in a green and pleasant land. I have no desire to live in a land of dark satanic mills, if one is to take Blake literally and not philosophically.

Let us agree that a world of ordered beauty, quiet nature and living is a good world. Let us agree that minimal use of artificial fertilisers, polluting stacks and plastic is advisable. Let us agree not be wasteful and let us embrace the technological advance that has cast Thomas Malthus into the bin. These scaremongers are on the wrong side of history.

Let us be aware of the challenges and apply those challenges to our land and let the response thus by proportionate, not hysterical. Here are just two of the challenges and ask yourself how does this compare with the UK?

Challenge One. Africa’s population was 179 million in 1950. It is estimated at 1122 million today and if the UN is to be believed will grow to 2000 million by 2040, a more than tenfold increase in less than 100 years. Improved longevity as a result of better medicine, hygiene and living conditions have been a tremendous triumph but with it inevitably comes much greater power usage.

Challenge Two. China represented 3% Global GDP as recently as 1999. Today that has expanded to 18%. With it China’s carbon footprint has also exploded to become the world’s greatest polluter. More, while British carbon energy use has declined by 28% since 2000, China’s use has more than doubled and that was from a much higher base. Today China’s carbon usage for power is twice the EU, 50% greater than the US and a staggering 20x the UK’s usage.

I listen aghast at the consensus of our major political parties who talk as if we the people are the problem. We the people are the solution through our ingenuity, good sense and proportionality. These politicians have it the wrong way around. They are the ultimate Jerimiah’s. The Malthus of today.

Whether one believes in man-made climate change, or whether one believes that there has always been natural climatic variation, it remains a contested theory, far more contested than the media and politicians claim. Moreover, rather than self-apologise over alleged failure the West should learn from its ingenuity as it has already made very significant strides in reducing its carbon footprint.

This has been done at no small cost but now what is now proposed is of an entirely different magnitude. Worse it will make not one jot of difference, particularly for the UK, which has already reduced its footprint more than almost any other country on earth and accounts for less than 1% of total global carbon output anyway.  Less than 1%.

What we – and frankly the entire West – do is of little moment compared with the increasing demand for power notably in China and Asia today and soon to be in Africa.

Frankly China is adding one third of total UK electricity output each and every year with new coal-fired power stations alone. Johnson’s odd conversion in less than a decade – from a well published archive of scepticism on climate change and wind power in particular – needs some explaining and he needs to explain clearly just why the British population should make such a sacrifice when what we do will make almost no difference at all?

Detailed plans are outlined to uproot every aspect of our way of life. Make no mistake the Government’s advisers have lost no time in plotting ways to enforce a population to follow their demand.  A recent internal study (available here) showed the UK Government has learned from the nudge behavioural science that in getting a population to accept lockdown it may be able to do the same over the ‘climate emergency.’

Not only is ‘aggressive nudge’ being proposed – already major ideas are routinely media tested to see if a weary population can be made to accept them. It’s almost impossible to keep up with the daily torrent of kite-flying demanding major changes in lifestyle by force, not free will.

Already at the stroke of a pen the combustion engine is to be all but outlawed in less than a decade, despite literally hundreds of thousands of livelihoods directly impacted by such a decision and despite highly uncertain new technology at many levels. (Consider the lack of charging points –especially in apartment buildings, recycling of spent batteries, demands on the National Grid when home heating is apparently switching to electrical power at the same time, etc.)

It is not right to ban. I, like many, welcome R&D and technological innovation into new forms of transport, but it should be our choosing as to what kind of transport we use. That is what a free society is, one we are free to choose, not be coerced. It is my call not yours, Mr Johnson, as to whether I buy a diesel, electric or hydrogen car. The choices of the many – called the market – are consistently shown to be superior to the choices of a few – called a planned economy, more well known as socialism.

Now the target, truly extraordinarily, is red meat.

Well we have eaten red meat as a civilisation since the cave, literally. My family has a flock of sheep at home, a beautiful and timeless sight and frankly they have roamed this land for a thousand years, or more. Since the reign of King Edward III the Lord Chancellor has sat on the woolsack in order to symbolise the critical importance of the humble sheep to the wealth of the nation.

Perhaps the Lord Chancellor should forthwith sit on a dung heap of fleas instead to symbolise the hubris of our times as red meat is taxed, regulated and smeared in favour of battery-fed insects for protein instead?

These are mad times when our leaders, like sheep, have gone astray. This land has been a free land where the people have been trusted with their good sense to act according to their instinct. Now our leaders, despite barely a peep in their election manifestos, seek to enforce extreme political and cultural change with the irony that their hubris will make barely a jot of difference.

Thus a good COP26 would be to celebrate our enormous engineering, scientific and technical innovation leading to much greater efficiency and lower pollution in this land and the west generally. We are on the cusp of radical advance through innovation and market efficiency achieved organically. That is what should be encouraged.

A good COP26 would recognise that people should be free to choose how they live their lives. Free will – not coercion based on political expediency – knowing that the vast majority of people absolutely get the need to live in a green and pleasant land and if we are to have civil society trust is key not micro management, regulation and bans.

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Photo bSnapTPhotography from Shutterstock

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