(August 7, 2015) Recognizing its early mistakes, the English-speaking world is abandoning its infatuation with climate change theory.
This article, by Lawrence Solomon, first appeared in the National Post
The greatest constellation that the world has ever created of free markets, property rights, the rule of law and economic liberty — the Anglosphere of Britain and the former colonies that broadly adopted its ever-adaptable culture and resilient political structure — has been dominant now for centuries, first through the British Empire, then through America’s supremacy. The same virtues that allowed Anglo-exceptionalism to flourish is leading the way again in the greatest environmental controversy of our age, as evidenced by the Anglosphere’s flirtation with, then rejection of, the global warming orthodoxy.
The first flirt among world leaders to warn about global warming was U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who in 1988 helped establish the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and in 1990 funded and opened the government’s Hadley Centre, which with the U.K.’s Climatic Research Unit became one of the world’s premier alarmist organizations. Only later, after many billions of research dollars failed to find evidence of harm from man-made climate change, did cooler heads emerge. Thatcher herself became a skeptic, deriding global warming “doomsters” and highlighting the absence of evidence in her 2003 book, Statecraft, in a passage entitled “Hot Air and Global Warming.”
The public turned, too, in the recent U.K. election choosing the Conservatives under David Cameron after he promised to cut wind subsidies and “to get rid of all this green crap” in order to lower electricity bills. The new U.K. government has cut wind and solar subsidies and last month ended the previous government’s flagship “Green Deal” program, which had been described as the greatest energy saving program since the Second World War. The U.K. now promises to go “all out for shale,” to emulate the success of the Anglosphere’s largest economy and ever-skeptical country, the United States.
Although President Bill Clinton signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1998 and his vice president, Al Gore, became the poster boy for global warming, Clinton never submitted the treaty to the U.S. Senate for ratification, to avoid an embarrassing defeat. The Senate, sensitive to the views of the electorate, the previous year had voted 95-0 against ratifying the treaty. No subsequent president, including Obama, dared attempt ratification either. Obama’s attempt to pass carbon cap and trade legislation, the 2009 American Clean Energy and Security Act, also failed. This week, in recognition that he will never succeed in passing lasting global warming legislation, Obama attempted to curb carbon emissions by executive order, a tactic that will last as long as the next president wants it to, if the courts don’t first strike it down during his remaining time in office.
As Gallup polls have shown, despite the media hype global warming ranks dead last among the environmental concerns of Americans. In fact, Americans are the world’s biggest global warming skeptics, according to Global Trends 2014, a study by United Kingdom’s Ipsos MORI that polled 16,000 people in 20 countries. The second biggest global warming skeptics? The British. The third biggest? Australians, who like the Americans are born of British tradition.
David Cameron promised to cut wind subsidies and ‘to get rid of all this green crap’
Little wonder, then, that Australians, in a 2013 election considered a referendum on carbon taxes, turned against a government headed by global warming alarmists to elect a new prime minister, Tony Abbott, who viewed the climate change theory as “absolute crap.” Australia then proceeded to become the first developed country to repeal its carbon tax and is now dismantling subsidies to its renewables industries. It will retain its rank as the developed world’s No. 1 per capita emitter of carbon dioxide.
Close behind, ranked No. 2, is another developed Anglophone country that also reversed a historic error in conforming to the global warming orthodoxy: Canada. To Canada’s grief, Prime Minister Jean Chretien signed onto the Kyoto Treaty. To Canada’s relief, Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2011 mitigated the damage by announcing Canada’s withdrawal from Kyoto, setting a precedent soon followed by other signatories, including New Zealand and Japan.
One other country in the Anglosphere – India – also bears mentioning, though unlike the British colonies it was not founded in the British tradition. Yet this, the world’s largest democracy and now the world’s fastest growing large economy, also owes its rise to an adoption of British institutions and also shows a willingness to dismiss the global warming orthodoxy. India’s new prime minister, Narendra Modi, recently suggested climate change is a natural process that we should accept, rather than resist, and he made clear his intention to buck the alarmists who would restrain India’s growth.
“The world guides us on climate change and we follow them? The world sets the parameters and we follow them? It is not like that,” Modi said in April, in asserting that India would be rapidly expanding its coal use as part of its drive to liberate hundreds of millions of its citizens from poverty.
The Anglosphere is special, driven by inquiring minds that ever-question received wisdom. That spirit, supreme in the world for centuries, has repeatedly delivered us from harms and guided us to better places. The global warming orthodoxy is but one example of the Anglosphere’s ability to peer through the murk, recognize reality, and lead the world.
Lawrence Solomon is executive director of Energy Probe, a Toronto-based environmental group. Email: LawrenceSolomon@nextcity.com.