Please aim low at Copenhagen


 You may have read a lot of articles recently debunking climate change as a myth, scandalising it as a conspiracy, or simply casting doubt on its extent. This is no such article.

It is easy to cast doubt on climate change. Just lie. The public don’t understand the science and are far too busy to learn it. So tell them that it is not real, exaggerated, or unproven. Some will believe you. Many others will consider your codswallop somewhat valid in the grand scheme of a scientific debate they play no part in. 

However, climate change campaigners, and by that I mean the very-progressive left, are a bigger problem than climate change deniers. These people will destroy the world. 

Now I’m not going to criticise campaigners who pitch tents in high profile places for a protest of scruffy clothes, agitating the police, and oodles of dope-fuelled al fresco sex with other scruffy, young, wannabe bohemian types.   

That image might have been damaging because the working and middle class majorities tend only to buy into aspiration. Just look at the many well respected and well dressed famous people in advertisements that scream luxury from our tellies and magazines. But fortunately a gaggle of clever scientists and well dressed politicians, journalists and businessmen and women lined up to express alarm and make climate change an aspirational issue anyway. 

Instead the problem is the morality arms race that leads some left wingers to more and more radical and ill-informed views.

The Copenhagen deal is the first global climate change agreement in which the world’s major polluting countries will agree to cut emissions and so reduce global warming. And yet some people, as part of their moral arms race, are now claiming the climate would be better off without a deal. 

The logic here is obviously weak. A deal involves nations saying they will cut emissions. No deal means no one says anything. As such if only one country takes its promise seriously Copenhagen at least achieves something.

But while the logic is weak, the process of arriving at the argument is overwhelming and inevitable. 

Take two people who feel the need to prove they care more and have greater insight about climate change. They will both start by saying the deal is too weak. That much is obvious since the deal will never be perfect. So to outdo the other, one of them can then argue that it will achieve even less than it claims. The other can do likewise until one of them has argued that it will actually achieve nothing at all. After that the other of the two has only one option left. He or she must argue that Copenhagen will damage the environment. 

This is not a new phenomenon. Karl Marx, after years of arguing that revolution was an impossible path to socialism, famously changed his mind in the Communist Manifesto. He did that to win favour with other radicals so his description of communism would be widely adopted as the core basis of the moment. Of course Marx was exceptional. He knew he was playing this game. Most columnists and bloggers don’t share that awareness.

And here is what Marx knew. He knew that once people had bought into his interpretation, they would stay with it and could be carried further. Likewise the anti-smoking lobby knew that once they convinced the public that smoking needed restricting on public health grounds, they would buy into that logic and take it further. Hence the long transition from filters, warnings on packets and an advertising ban, to a ban on smoking in pubs and perhaps requiring shops to keep cigarettes under the counter – as they once did with porn. 

Kyoto should have been that first step. It should have been the Communist Manifesto for Marxism, or something akin to warnings on packets for cigarettes. But it failed. It was too ambitious and so people, or in this case countries, didn’t sign up and buy into the logic. As such we are trying again with Copenhagen. 

If Kyoto had been weak enough to get the Yanks on side then maybe the logic would be well enough established in North America for a stronger Copenhagen deal. The politicians there would have had to justify the (all be it limited) Kyoto agreement and laud it as a positive. They would have had to justify measures that at least appeared to help achieve emission cuts. They would, in short, have got the establishment in America making the climate change case to its people. 

If Copenhagen fails to get China, America and the other countries not yet signed up on board, then in 20 years time we’ll be trying to take this first step again. 

The world can’t afford that. So let’s be realistic and treat this as a campaign and focus on the strategy. Let’s just get a deal, and by that I mean any deal that gets most of the world’s polluters involved. Then, perhaps, we can go further in future instead of having to start from square one again and again and again.


One Response

  1. I think another way of turning people off the issue is to tell them what Light Bulbs etc they can or can’t use.

    Also because the message is so NEGATIVE all the time
    “we must all cut down to save the planet”
    “we must all cry in our beer till doomsday”
    — which might be TRUE,
    but it doesn’t get people on side.
    In my view the point isn’t to cut down and save
    -it’s to let people do what they want, and fix the situation so that they can.

    There is no energy shortage, and there is not even a low emission energy shortage inasmuch that there is
    nuclear/renewable technology available.

    Of course there are costs involved – and is one reason I believe taxation is better than bans on light bulbs, TV sets etc, as you know from the other blog I posted on

    However, costs can also be kept down to consumers in other ways, eg long term state guaranteed utility loans
    See =
    Ironically, electricity and transport (80% of emissions)
    can be dealt with for the other advantages the changes bring – regardless of CO2 reduction –
    local advantages apparent to local citizens, whatever about flooding in Madagascar
    Yes, people should be concerned about the world – but
    how many are.
    The point is one can have one’s cake and eat it.

    Copenhagen gets everything screwed up,
    and I mean that regardless of what one thinkss of the CO2 issue
    Look at the emission trading agreement, and how badly it works in the EU and elsewhere
    PARTICULARLY in the short term they all talk about as important,
    since the allowance permit squeeze only kicks in many years away
    and YET they want to extend this system on top of much more consumer bans on TV sets, dishwashers, buildings. computers etc as announced by Commissioner Piebalgs earlier this year (see his EU Commission blog – and comments!)

    PS see reply just made on other blog to your comments!

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