Lawrence Solomon: Trudeau will learn a painful lesson — voters really dislike climate crusading

(March 23, 2018) Global warming is so yesterday. There’s pretty much nothing the public cares less about than climate change.

This article first appeared in the National Post

Wind turbines in Germany. Credit: Patrick Pleul/dpa via AP, file.

The United States government is expected to approve a massive US$1.3-trillion omnibus spending bill Friday, a sweeping victory for Democrats who fought for — and won — funding for virtually all of the left’s priorities, everything from Planned Parenthood to gun control to child care to public transportation. The Democrats even won funding, and plaudits, for infrastructure and domestic programs they couldn’t secure under the Obama administration.

But no one is remarking on the Democratic cause that was thrown off the omnibus — climate change — because no one still considers it a Democratic priority. Nowhere in the bill’s 2,232 pages of spending goodies do the words “climate change” or “global warming” even appear.

Global warming is so yesterday. The diehards aside, does any American still care? Not according to polling, which consistently shows the public is unwilling to support climate change policies if there’s a cost attached. There’s pretty much nothing the public cares less about than climate change.

When pollsters asks the American public to rate the importance of climate change versus other public-policy issues such as health, education, crime and homelessness, climate change comes last or next to last. When it asks the public to compare its concern over climate change with concern over other environmental issues, such as air and water quality or the state of forests, global warming again comes last.

Throughout most of the Western world, governments are slashing subsidies to renewables

Europeans also aren’t fussed much by global warming. A study of 35,000 participants in 18 European countries by NatCen, Britain’s largest independent social research agency, found that in most countries fewer than one quarter were either “extremely worried” or “very worried” at the prospect. The blasé three-quarters-plus cut across most demographics: educated and uneducated, young and old. A 25- or 35-year-old was no more likely to express concern than a 65- or a 75-year-old. The only factors that changed the degree of concern involved politics. Those on the left were more concerned than centrists or those on the right, but even then, a mere 38 per cent of these leftists considered themselves to be either extremely or very concerned.

To NatCen’s disappointment, the high level of public apathy rules out any prospect that governments will muster the wherewithal to implement reforms. “Action to tackle a problem as significant as climate change will require the consent or support of a plurality of voters,” concludes the NatCen report. “Currently we are a long way short of this.”

Politicians may claim to be concerned — no doubt some personally are — but their commitment to the cause can be seen in their actions, not their words. Throughout most of the Western world, governments are slashing subsidies to renewables. The U.S. under Trump — who was elected on a promise to scuttle climate policies — has done so dramatically and decisively, pulling out of the Paris climate agreement, cutting funding for the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and pretty much withdrawing across the board. Other developed countries have withdrawn support with less fanfare, among them the U.K., Italy, Germany, Denmark, Portugal and Japan. Countries are failing to meet their carbon-cutting targets and refusing to make binding commitments for the future. Investment in the renewable industries has plummeted and bankruptcies abound. Wind turbines are beginning to be taken down.

As the sun slowly sets on the global warming industry, fossil fuel use is soaring, with oil and gas consumption at all-time highs and 1,600 new coal plants set to expand the world’s coal-fired electricity capacity by 43 per cent.

The public’s boredom with global warming hype is also seen in media coverage. “According to a yearlong study, climate change was largely ignored by the corporate broadcast evening news and Sunday shows on ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox Broadcasting Co.,” states Media Matters, the George Soros-funded watchdog organization. “The study also found that the four corporate broadcast networks combined aired only four segments that discussed climate change in the context of natural disasters in the U.S. in 2017, despite it being a record year for weather and climate disasters.”

The press once cared about climate change; politicians did, too, whenever it appeared to further their political careers. But the public may never have truly cared, if election results, rather than public opinion polls, are the measure. Canada was a pioneer in proving how little the public cared when, in 2008, Liberal leader Stéphane Dion vowed to introduce a carbon tax if elected prime minister, earning the Liberals’ worst defeat since Confederation. Australia’s Labour Party in 2013 also suffered a crushing defeat when it explicitly made carbon taxes a major campaign issue. Since then, political parties — the Trudeau Liberals included — have prudently downplayed climate-policy costs during their campaigns. There won’t be any downplaying in Trudeau’s next election, though, in 2019, when his carbon taxes will be front and centre.

Will he be able to prevail, where all others have failed? Good luck with that!

Lawrence Solomon is executive director of Energy Probe, a Toronto-based environmental organization. Email:

About Lawrence Solomon

Lawrence Solomon is one of Canada's leading environmentalists. His book, The Conserver Solution (Doubleday) popularized the Conserver Society concept in the late 1970s and became the manual for those interested in incorporating environmental factors into economic life. An advisor to President Jimmy Carter's Task Force on the Global Environment (the Global 2000 Report) in the late 1970's, he has since been at the forefront of movements to reform foreign aid, stop nuclear power expansion and adopt toll roads. Mr. Solomon is a founder and managing director of Energy Probe Research Foundation and the executive director of its Energy Probe and Urban Renaissance Institute divisions. He has been a columnist for The Globe and Mail, a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, the editor and publisher of the award-winning The Next City magazine, and the author or co-author of seven books, most recently The Deniers, a #1 environmental best-seller in both Canada and the U.S. .
This entry was posted in Climate Change, Energy Probe News, Fossil Fuels and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s