By Paul Homewood
h/t Pat Swords
It is not only here that our politicians are heading lemming like towards oblivion with their obsession with climate change. But at least in Ireland some voices are making themselves heard against it:
Only 8% of the Irish public believe that tackling climate change should be the next government’s top priority, according to the results of an MRBI opinion poll published last week. This low percentage didn’t stop Fine Gael and Fianna Fail caving into the Green Party’s very far-reaching demand that we cut our carbon emissions in half over the next 10 years. The capitulation raises questions about the nature of Irish democracy. So does the largely uncritical coverage that the Green Party agenda receives.
Even during the general election, it was obvious that climate change was not a big issue for voters. Commentators and politicians noted it was rarely raised on the doorsteps. This was despite enormous media coverage of the issue, with RTE basically campaigning about it for months.
Thousands of schoolchildren had been taking part in climate strikes and we even had a children’s parliament, which took over the Dail chamber for a day to discuss the matter. The environmental campaigner Greta Thunberg seemed to be never off our screens.
Last summer, the Fine Gael government published a climate action plan, promising to reduce carbon emissions by an average of 3% a year by 2030. Every other day we seemed to have a new UN report issuing dire warnings of impending environmental doom. Here in Ireland an environmental expert, Professor Peter Thorne of NUI Maynooth, warned that, at some stage in the coming decades, a catastrophic storm during high tide would leave thousands of properties and landmark buildings in Dublin under water, with significant flooding in the city centre.
Despite all these warnings, voters still couldn’t be persuaded to put climate change at the top of their concerns. Yet this didn’t stop politicians going right ahead and making it the top priority of the next government. Of all the commitments in the new programme for government, none is as radical as the promise to cut carbon emissions by 7% a year for the next 10 years, and not 3% as first promised — a target that was already considered very ambitious and expensive.
What has been notable since the programme was published last week is how little discussion there has been of how much the 7% commitment is going to cost us, and whether it has a proper democratic mandate. The only real debate seems to be among the 3,000-plus membership of Green Party itself, with its Extinction Rebellion wing opposing the deal on the grounds that it doesn’t go far enough. Unless more than two-thirds of these members approve the programme, it’s back to the drawing board for the political parties, and maybe another election.
Perhaps we should have another election anyway, because if you are going to do something so huge and radical, it should have broad support and be properly debated. If you told people up front that the commitment on climate would cost tens of billions of euros, inhibit economic growth, and that households would be asked to pay tens of thousands on electric cars and retrofitting their houses, we would have Instant Rebellion. But we have been told none of this. A radical commitment has been slipped in as though it is the most reasonable proposal in the world.
It’s time for a proper debate, one in which we hear from a broad range of climate experts, engineers and economists, who represent a range of views, and not simply those who meet with RTE approval, such as Professor John Sweeney of NUI Maynooth’s geography department. He seems to be the go-to guy for RTE on all things climate, yet I cannot remember hearing a journalist ask him a single hard question. We are invited to believe that when Sweeney speaks, it is not simply the voice of one expert, but that of science itself, and that everything he says is indisputable.
In fact, climate models seem to be a lot like those epidemiological ones we’ve been hearing so much about. They involve lots of different assumptions and their predictions range over a wide spectrum. Although we know more about climate than we did about
Covid-19 a few months ago, even the UN itself, and its intergovernmental panel on climate change, makes a range of predictions about temperature increases and sea-level rises over the coming decades.
At a minimum, when Sweeney is on a TV or radio show, he needs to be asked which projection he himself believes in, and if he is focusing on the worst ones. Occasionally, he should have to debate with another expert who does not believe in the upper-end predictions. But is that even permitted any more? Are you now banned from the Irish airwaves if you believe in the lower-end predictions for temperature rises and sea-level increases?
Quite aside from that, we need to hear far more from engineers, because they are the ones who will have to deliver the conversion from fossil-fuel energy to green energy over the next decade. Do they think the wholesale switch promised by the programme for government is feasible? What about the promised reductions in carbon emitted by transport, never mind agriculture? And we can’t hear only from engineers approved by the Green Party. We must have a range of opinions.
Then there is the cost. A report from the Irish Academy of Engineering in November 2016 estimated that a 30% cut in emissions by 2030 — just about feasible, in their view — would cost €35bn at an absolute minimum. Yet cutting it by 50%, the new commitment, would presumably cost far more and be even less feasible from a practical point of view.
Economists need to tell us what the 7% a year cut will cost households. How much will we need to pay in higher carbon taxes, and in other charges, to fund all this? Retrofitting our homes to make them more energy-efficient would cost the average household between €30,000 and €80,000, according to one estimate. The programme for government envisages 600,000 homes doing this over the next decade. Then we also have to consider how the Green Party’s agenda might harm economic growth.
Why aren’t politicians, experts and commentators all over the airwaves asking these questions? Why do we get to hear only a narrow range of voices? That isn’t healthy. A radical green agenda is being imposed on us without our true consent. A properly democratic country would allow debate so that voters could then make informed choices. What we are being served up instead amounts to little more than Green Party propaganda.
The similarities with the UK are uncanny, with the duplicitous behaviour of the media and the cowardly conduct of government.
Ironically Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have been forced into alliance with a tiny rump of greens because of their reluctance to deal with Sinn Fein, just as Merkel has done in Germany because of her hatred of AFD. In both cases this has allowed a tiny, undemocratic pressure group to subvert democracy.
Maybe the Sunday Times will allow a similar debate to take place in Britain. But I am not holding my breath!
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June 21, 2020 at 04:06PM