NGOligarchy

The BBC reports that…

Eight of the UK’s leading environmental groups have joined forces to urge political parties to adopt a joint approach on green issues.

These eight are the usual suspects – Green Alliance, Friends of the Earth, the Woodland Trust, WWF, the Wildlife Trusts, the RSPB, the Campaign to Protect Rural England and Greenpeace.

Speaking on behalf of all the groups, Stephen Hale, director of Green Alliance, said: “Action in the next parliament is critical if we are to simultaneously reduce our CO2 emissions whilst improving the resilience of our natural environment to avoid the looming crises of food, energy and water shortages by 2030.

“It’s now or never. Support for the common cause declaration will be the threshold for credibility at the next election on environmental issues.

“The commitment to decisive action must be endorsed by all parties.

“The real contest will be over specific policies, so we urge them to include our 10 manifesto asks for 2010 in their forthcoming manifestos.”

We’ve written before about the influence of NGOs in today’s world, and the roles they seem to have positioned themselves into. When Conservative leader, David Cameron gave a press conference at Greenpeace’s HQ, the relationship between the political establishment is (symbolically, at least) transformed. Once the thorn in the side of Western governments, the organisation was now operating as a de-facto PR consultancy, lending the Tories’ energy policies the appearance of legitimacy.

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In October last year, we asked whether the arguments made by Oxfam’s campaigns were consistent with reality, and suggested that in fact they end up encouraging a very selfish understanding of ‘injustice’ in the world, as though it were experienced, not by people actually suffering injustice or inequality, but by the organisation’s would-be donors. More worryingly, the development agency increasingly appeared to be taking an anti-development line, pushing for policies that seemingly aimed to ‘protect’ traditional lifestyles on the basis that they were ‘environmentally sustainable’. But as we pointed out, this may well preclude the possibility of the ‘beneficiaires’ of Oxfam’s campaigns from asserting their own political interests, as well as realising their own ambitions for development.

There is no denying that the NGO has increased its influence over the past few decades. The questions we have concern the legitimacy of the new configuration of domestic and international politics, and the kind of elite politics it generates, and why this is happening.

The power of NGOs begins with people putting cash in tins rattled at passers by on the High Street. Increasingly, this process – once an activity of concerned citizens giving up their spare time – has become professionalised, and now consists of teams of people employed to accost shoppers with direct-debit forms, and stories and pictures about the plight of animals and African babies. They want to you to sign up, now, and rarely have any literature which you may take away with you. When the shopper gets home, he or she still is likely to be contacted by the same fund-raising teams who make calls on behalf of the same NGOs with the same stories, on the basis that they earn a commission.

Handing over cash to an organisation that putatively aims to protect Things with Wings seems like an innocuous gesture. Who wouldn’t want to protect the whale/dolphin/puffin? And indeed, if you’re worried about donkeys or elephants, there is nothing wrong with giving money to an organisation which goes about making life comfortable for creatures. But, increasingly, organisations such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (the RSPB – part of the Green Alliance) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF – also part of the alliance) aren’t engaging in the simple provision of sanctuary for bunny rabbits, nor even lobbying for a bit more recognition for the rights of grasshoppers, but are instead directing their campaigning funds at the entire business of politics. These green NGOs turn a routine concern for fluffy and feathered animals into a political force. Did the pensioner who signed up to a £5 a month direct debit to ‘save the creature’ imagine that it would be spent directly on a tiger, owl, and badger, or were they aware that it would be spent on delimiting the possibilities of democratic expression? And did those who forked out cash to aid Third World development imagine that it would be spent on precisely the opposite?

It ends with governments funding NGOs to lobby them. Groups such as Friends of the Earth and WWF are the beneificiaries of £millions of EU funds.

Back to the demands of the Green Alliance. The intention is to get each of the UK’s political parties to include the following statements in their manifestos:

1. Put the UK on track to reduce UK greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, and 80 per cent by 2050.

2. Ensure future energy and transport infrastructure is consistent with a rapid transition to a low-carbon economy by generating at least 15 per cent of energy from renewables by 2020; introducing an immediate ban on new unabated or substantially unabated coal plants and an end to airport expansion.

3. Commit to strong UK leadership at the highest levels in the EU and globally, to deliver EU energy and climate targets and to ensure global greenhouse gas emissions are falling by 2015.

4. Provide the UK’s fair share of finance for adaptation, low-carbon development and to reduce deforestation in the developing world of a least $160 billion a year from 2012.

5. Commit to making significant progress towards restoring the natural environment by 2020, including the doubling of UK woodland cover, meeting other habitat targets and ensuring that protected sites are in good condition; through utilising reforms to agricultural incentives, planning policy and other measures to create high quality landscapes rich in nature and able to adapt to climate change.

6. Ensure that everyone has the opportunity to experience and enjoy nature by providing access to natural green space within walking distance of where they live.

7. Commit to reorienting the planning system so that sustainable development rather than simply economic development is at its heart, requiring all major development plans and planning applications to show how they will contribute to carbon reduction targets.

8. Dedicate all income generated by the emissions trading scheme after 2012 to tackling climate change in the UK and internationally.

9. Protect and increase Defra and DECC budgets and introduce significant new policies to stimulate private investment in the low-carbon economy and the natural environment.

10. Launch a nationwide housing retrofit programme by 2011, which will deliver improved energy efficiency and renewable energy systems across the UK.

To the obvious questions first… Who do these people think they are, such that they can dictate the priorities and parameters of politics? Who voted for them? When was the legitimacy of their influence ever tested? No doubt there is a well-intentioned and widespread desire to help animals and poor people – frequently as though they were the same. But the engagement of this constituency is no more than a response to images, and the question: ‘do you care?’ – this money is simply guilt-offsetting. It does not represent an engagement with the political ideas that NGOs produce.

Second, if this alliance were to be successful, how could it be claimed that the consequent policies carried any democratic legitimacy whatsoever? Axiomatically, they would not have been tested democratically.

Third, these 10 demands are already the substance of all the major parties’ policies, the only difference lies in the degree to which they have been implemented (ie, the raw numbers that constitute the targets). And these policies too have not been the subject of democratic contest.

While the title of the document outlining the alliance’s demands is “Common Cause” [PDF], what is striking about the nature of this demand and the way it has been presented is precisely that it is not a common cause. If it were a genuinely common cause, it would be reflected in demands from below, not by a self-appointed Oligarchy of environmental NGOs. How could anyone – whether they were part of the ‘common’ or not – express their views about the manifesto pledges if there is no alternative view represented politically? The ‘Common Cause Declaration’ that the alliance wants the UK’s political parties to subscribe to says:

We recognise the importance of the natural environment to the people of Britain. We share their conviction that Britain’s natural environment and countryside are an integral part of Britain’s heritage and identity. They are also central to our future well-being because of the services they provide and are threatened by the impact of climate change. We will work to protect and enhance the quality of Britain’s natural environment and to take account of these impacts.

We will use the full range of regulatory, fiscal, spending and other powers available to us to achieve these goals. This will include providing businesses, communities, individuals and other actors with the opportunities and incentives they need to make their full contribution. This way we will achieve successful national and international action on climate change and the natural environment.

The contradictions evident in the lazy, alarmist rhetoric are all too plain. The crass appeal to popular values – identity, heritage, shared convictions – belie the distrust the alliance has in the abilities of the ‘commons’ to make the right democratic decisions. We’re all supposed to think the same, and yet it requires a ‘full range or regulatory, fiscal, spending, and other powers’ (what ‘other’?) to make sure we nonetheless obey our (their) consciences. We all think the same, and yet we’re not wise enough to vote ‘correctly’.

And then there is the implication that there is a gun at the heads of recalcitrants: if we don’t see things the alliance’s way, we’re likely to be responsible for wanting the whole lot to be destroyed.

The anti-democratic tendency of environmentalism needs no re-telling here. It’s always a problem for environmentalists, who want to claim that their concern transcends the petty affairs of mere humans. Our argument here on Climate Resistance is that this phenomenon needs careful attention if it is to be understood. It would be easy to say that environmentalism has been successful in its enrolling NGOs, and subverting the direction of mainstream politics. But this credits them with far too much.

The dynamic that drives this process is not the power of greens, but the weakness of contemporary political parties, organisations, movements, ideas etc. The political parties and governments have courted – or rather extended into – NGOs because it is easier to negotiate with them than it is to appeal to the public for legitimacy. Thus NGOs, with a slice of their cake in hand, bargain for greater influence in exchange for flattering the hollow agenda of which ever party is attempting to steal a march over its opponents that day. NGOs are still seen as ‘above’ politics in some way – and are thus somehow equipped to make objective statements about the way things are. The reality is that they are exactly as political and self-serving as any other political grouping. Accordingly, a background – and yes, common – concern for the plight of rare species of birds, snails, polar bears, landed country estates, whales, trees, the panda and starving and diseased babies are amplified by climate change alarmism, to preclude a democratic discussion about our ‘common’ future. It seems that the most basic and sometimes trivial of concerns are all that the political establishment – including NGOs – are capable of generating agreement on, and so these becomes the issues which represent the difference between having a future, and inviting a horrific catastrophe. There is no contest between, for instance, political ideas such as communism, socialism, social democracy, capitalism, laissez-faire, or any of their variants. So the NGO rises to the level of its banal and vapid agenda, to fill the void between politicians and the public.

For instance, the alliance quotes the government’s own advisor:

And as the Government’s Chief Scientist, John Beddington, recently pointed out, unless urgent action is taken, we’re heading for a “perfect storm” of food, energy and water shortages by 2030.

We wrote about Beddington’s prophetic vision last month.

The scene is one in which the government, NGOs, scientists quote each other, and in each turn, escalate the sense of drama about the looming crisis. This process takes the place of what was once called ‘debate’. That the agenda of advanced economies – who put men on the moon three decades ago, split the atom sixty years ago, and in which a revolution in industrial agriculture found a way of feeding a billion people in less than a generation – are dominated by discussions about matters of mere subsistence reflects the extent to which the horizons of politics have lowered, and the imaginations of politicians has shrunk.

Any fruitful discussion of what to do about climate change – however serious a problem it turns out to be – must first recognise that it is this background of degraded political aspirations that has provided the ground on which environmental politics has been able to flourish and onto which the science of climate change, resource use, and biodiversity has been superimposed. Otherwise, science becomes just another tool for the delivery of the B-movie disaster politics that is pushed by the likes of the Common Cause group and lapped upped entirely credulously, or even solicited, by mainstream parties and parliaments. The NGOs get away with it because nobody is watching.

H/t: Mark H.

Make Us Let You Eat Less Cake

We’ve flagged up Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband’s relationship with climate activists before. When he’s not snuggling up to Franny ‘Age of Stupid’ Armstrong, he’s egging on airport protesters and comparing them to past popular movements:

When you think about all the big historic movements, from the suffragettes, to anti-apartheid, to sexual equality in the 1960s, all the big political movements had popular mobilization. Maybe it’s an odd thing for someone in government to say, but I just think there’s a real opportunity and a need here.

He continued in this vein at the weekend when speaking to demonstrators at a Climate Justice event organised by Catholic aid agency CAFOD and Christian Aid:

The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Miliband urged people to continue to fight for climate justice at a rally in Doncaster at the weekend, emphasising the public’s ability to influence international green policies […]

“I think it’s incredibly important that we show governments around the world that people really care about these issues and days like today are incredibly important” Miliband told the campaigners.

“I think we are winning the battle” Miliband added. “It is an uphill struggle, but I think it’s a battle we can win and you are contributing to it by what you do today and what you are doing in your daily lives.”

“I genuinely believe that people will make the difference to whether this challenge is tackled or not and I urge you to not succumb to the defeatism that says, ‘oh well, people can’t make a difference in this, it’s really about whether governments do their bit or not’.

“I think we need to keep up the good work between now and December if we are going to get the kind of ambitious deal on climate change that we need,” he added.

But it’s not ‘the people’ influencing climate policies. Miliband is desperate, desperate, desperate to make it look like we’re all green now, and that we’re all marching in the streets. But this image does not compare to reality. Just 400 people turned up to the rally, held in Doncaster, which has a population just shy of 300,000, and lies just 20 miles from Sheffield (population 1.8 million). Even in his own constituency, with his own party activists, and with the support of a number of church groups and environmental campaigning organisations, Miliband cannot raise more than a handful of supporters. There are, regularly, and throughout the country, village and school fêtes with a bigger turn-out. More people were in supermarkets in Doncaster that day, than were at the rally. More people were in their cars, or enjoying the warm weather in their gardens.

Yet Miliband continues to play Noah. Why? Speaking at the end of the rally, he said:

“I want to congratulate Cafod on its Climate Justice campaign. We need to keep up the good work between now and December if we are going to get the kind of ambitious deal on climate change that we need,” Mr Miliband said.

The electorate didn’t ever vote for what the Government are doing to ‘save the planet’ – the UK public have been denied the opportunity to have their interest in environmentalism tested at the ballot box – Miliband knows that. His public appearances are intended to maintain the illusion that he is responding to a popular movement, and has to whip up as much support as he can muster from anyone prepared to pose alongside him.

Miliband’s courting of the radical environmental movement has had the result of attracting their attention. The latest climate protest at the site of the planned Kingsnorth power station aimed to form a ‘giant human chain’, or Mili-Band (geddit?) around the existing plant. But although this protest numbered a slightly bigger 1,000 activists (they reckon), this is hardly the demonstration of popular uprising that Miliband wants it to be, and the ‘giant human chain’ only extended a small way around the site.

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1,000 protesters turned up at Kingsnorth demanding that no new power plants should be built, and that they pledged to use direct action to prevent it. Meanwhile, the remaining 60,942,912 people of the UK weren’t at the protest, and probably all of them used electricity.

Oxfam activists were also in attendance at the Mili-Band. The ‘development’ charity encourages people to take direct action against… erm… development.

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So few in numbers are these protesters, that the only way they can get their message across is by pulling stunts rather than actual ‘demonstration’ – the only thing such small number really demonstrate is impotence. Impotence manifests as rage, however, and so conceited are these individuals that in spite of their failure to reproduce their message, that they threaten sabotage if they aren’t heeded.

So what is all this in aid of?

This has all happened as New Labour starts making announcements about its Carbon Transition Plan, which outlines how it likes to think the UK will meet its target of a 34% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2020:

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The protesters fancy themselves as revolutionary thinkers that stand against the government, and ‘the system’. But look, here they are, doing the government’s PR work for them: organising events and speaking opportunities, and creating the illusion of grass-roots support. Behind this facade, the Labour Party are suffering perhaps their worst domestic crisis of legitimacy ever. The UK government has lost any moral authority in the international arena that it ever had. A paltry opposition fails to challenge any of its ideas. A supine media fails to hold it to account. And the activists come out ten-by-ten to save the whole undignified lot. This ark is a ship of fools. It’s not designed to save people from the climate; it’s designed to save themselves from the near-total collapse of their credibility.

Hansen On ‘Democracy’

Our last post was about Guardian journalist, David Adam, and his inability to reflect critically and impartially on the climate debate. That’s not to say he’s biased… That would miss the point. Which is precisely what Adam does. Adam believes that ‘the science’ is instructive – it tells us what to do.

Adam now produces an article with the headline:

Leading climate scientist: ‘democratic process isn’t working’

Let’s not look at the article for a moment, but just consider the headline (which we accept is not necessarily Adam’s responsibility). It is a scientist’s view that the ‘democratic process isn’t working’. So what? What does a scientist know about democracy that anyone plucked off the street doesn’t know? You might be lucky and pluck a professor of political theory off the street, and he might be able to give you a detailed account of theories of democracy. But could he tell you that democracy was working? What would it mean?

Luckily, the next man walking down the street is a climate scientist. He can tell you whether democracy is working or not. He takes out his laptop, and shows you a Hockey-Stick graph. This proves that democracy is not working.

Or does it? The Penguin Dictionary of Politics begins its definition of ‘democracy’ like this:

Democracy is the most valued and also the vaguest of political terms in the modern world.

Useful, eh? The point here is that ‘democracy’ by itself isn’t a term that carries a lot of meaning, but that we’re all supposed to value. It can be weilded by someone ignorant of its many possible interpretations. Indeed, it can be an entirely meaningless concept. ‘Democracy is under attack’ is suposed to rush us to action, in the same way that the ‘cat is drowning’ is. But while we all know what a cat is, and we can all call a cat a cat, do we share the same understanding of ‘democracy’?

That is not to relativise the concept of democracy, but to point out that that its use in this case is desperately hollow. In this way, environmentalists have sought to hide their ideology behind the objectivity of ‘science’. For instance, according to many greens, climate change creates moral imperatives. Failure to act to prevent climate change by reducing your ‘carbon footprint’ makes you ‘unethical’. In this view, the morality of an action is calculated according to its consequences, not as they are experienced by humans, but to or through the ‘environment’. The environment is like a kind of karmic aether, through which moral acts are transmitted.

As with ‘democracy’, this is a much degraded form of ‘ethics’. For instance, if a person was to generally behave badly – let’s say they were inclined to assert their will violently – we can understand this ‘ethically’ in terms of the relationship that person has with others. We could say his actions prevented others from expressing themselves, or made them unhappy, or that there is something wrong in principle with violence. But we cannot do the same with CO2. A moral actor might use a gas guzzling 4×4 to make an ‘unnecessary journey’. On the other hand, he or she might use it to save a life. But both, according to the logic of environmental ethics, are as bad as the other. They leave a legacy, which will be visited on our children’s children’s children’s children. The moral actor is removed in space and time from his victim. The ghost of his action may strike thousands of miles away, hundreds of years into the future.

In other words, environmental ethics are utter bullshit.

The environmentalists’ need to naturalise ethics with climate science speaks about their inability to construct a coherent ethical perspective in human terms, with human values. It is a lack of self-confidence which forces them to seek authority in a greater force or power than humanity itself. It’s not enough to talk about how humans ought to relate to each other… the environmentalist wants to say how we should relate to the environment. That’s not because we understand how to relate to each other, it’s because the environmentalist believes that the environment exists between us as a moral fact.

What has this got to do with politics?

The same is true of ‘democracy’ as it is with ‘ethics’. Environmentalists simply don’t understand what they mean by the term. Just as the term ‘unethical’ is interchangeable with the word ‘wrong’ in environmental rhetoric, so too the term ‘democracy’ does not refer to a system of values and principles in which ideas are negotiated. It just means ‘my way’. To the article:

James Hansen, a climate modeller with Nasa, told the Guardian today that corporate lobbying has undermined democratic attempts to curb carbon pollution. “The democratic process doesn’t quite seem to be working,” he said.

What does James Hansen know about which corporate lobbying? Is it something that only the ‘other side’ do? Forget the vast lobbying power of dedicated green multinationals such as Greenpeace and WWF, do corporate interests – <cough>Enron</cough> – never lobby for environmental policies?

Speaking on the eve of joining a protest against the headquarters of power firm E.ON in Coventry, Hansen said: “The first action that people should take is to use the democratic process. What is frustrating people, me included, is that democratic action affects elections but what we get then from political leaders is greenwash.

“The democratic process is supposed to be one person one vote, but it turns out that money is talking louder than the votes. So, I’m not surprised that people are getting frustrated. I think that peaceful demonstration is not out of order, because we’re running out of time.”

What money is talking louder than which votes? Votes for whom? Votes for which party? Did someone launch a James Hansen Party, while we weren’t looking?

Hansen’s unsuitability for commenting on matters of democracy is reinforced throughout Adam’s article – even if the author himself doesn’t realise it:

“I think that peaceful actions that attempt to draw society’s attention to the issue are not inappropriate,” Hansen said.

So is it democracy that has failed the environment, or environmentalism that fails democratically? Hansen doesn’t seem to know. Why the need to draw attention to a problem that the electorate is supposedly pushing for? As we’ve argued at length on this site, there is no popular environmentalist movement, and the problem for democracy is that there is nobody for the non-environmentalist majority to vote for.

Hansen said: “What’s being talked about for Copenhagen is a strenghening of Kyoto [protocol] approach, a cap and trade with offsets and escape hatches which will be gauranteed to fail in terms of getting the required rapid reduction in emissions. They talk about goals which sound impressive, but when you see the actions are such that it will be impossible to reach those goals, then I can understand the informed public getting frustrated.”

That ‘informed public’ is perhaps the most telling of Hansen’s democratic ideals, especially when set against his complaint that corporate lobbying swamps the power of ‘one person one vote’.

Hansen’s understanding of democracy seems to be limited to the idea that a society that doesn’t get what he wants is undemocratic. And yet, Adam has again reported the mere opinion of one vociferous climate scientist, as though it automatically had authority – even on matters completely outwith his field of expertise. This is surely only possible in an arena such as climate change, where ‘the science’ not only determines policy, but also, apparently, the very definition of democracy.

Adam also simultaneously ignores the context in which that opinion is expressed. This is the same James Hansen who has, since 2007, publicly stated: A) that he has been muzzled by his superiors; B) that nobody listens to him; C) that he thinks he should perhaps try to refrain from spouting his mouth off so much in the media; D) that we have only four years left to save the planet; E) that everything is much much worse than anybody else seems to think. To name but a few. And who is now, in the popular media, calling for an (un)popular revolution.

Individually, each of these claims is silly enough. Taken together, they map a spectacular act of scientific and political self-destruction. We can only hope that he also takes those who uncritically report his pronouncements down with him.

Rhubarb-Rhubarb and Custard

First, the custard. Then, the rhubarb-rhubarb:

Direct action historically has been a major way that we’ve got change. I mean, you can look at, historically, through the Suffragettes, through the miners’ strikes, through all of the major changes. Yes, some of it is about putting yourselves in the way, as we have done, as Plane Stupid has done, putting ourselves on runways, directly reducing carbon emissions. And some of it is about debunking the lies and spin that some people have the opportunity to put across to the rest of the world. Yes, we are using the media. But Peter Mandelson is using the media. He’s not elected. He’s not working in the interest of the people and the planet. He doesn’t have science behind him. Ninety per cent of scientists now agree that climate change is a very real threat, that it’s already occurring, that it’s man-made, and that our last chance is going to run out within the next ten years. So I ask you: what else are we supposed to do when democracy is failing people in this country? You have to resort to any means necessary, as long as it’s peaceful, and as long as it doesn’t harm other human beings.

The only difference that custard-thrower Leila Deen can identify between herself and custard-recipient Peter Mandelson, UK Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (and, yes, he’s an unelected peer), is that she has science behind her and he does not. She has nothing else to cling to. By her own words: Just like Mandelson, her actions are undemocratic. Just like Mandelson, she lies and spins. And just like Mandelson, she has the opportunity to put those lies and spin out to the rest of the world. She also demonstrates perfectly why, just like Mandelson (and who wouldn’t quite like to throw custard in his face?), her organisation is deeply unpopular with the electorate.

Her problem is that the only way she can make it sound like she has science on her side is by twisting that science beyond recognition. Ninety per cent of scientists now agree what? Ten years? These are just random numbers plucked from the ether. What sort of consensus is it when ecotastrophists can’t even agree on what 90 per cent of scientists are saying? Hansen says four years, Lucas says eight, the Green New Deal Group gives us 100 months.

Given that Deen has no more science on her side than her nemesis, all that does separate them is that she’s not happy about the building of a single new runway. That runway might or might not increase aviation emissions and will have virtually no impact on UK Climate Change Act targets when aviation accounts for only six per cent of UK emissions. So she has to make up stuff about that, too:

[…rhubarb rhubarb…] the vast majority of people are against the third runway […rhubarb rhubarb…] a runway that will cause catastrophic climate change and ruin any chance that we have of stopping our carbon emissions […rhubarb rhubarb…] if we build a third runway, all other industries will have to reduce their carbon emissions to zero […rhubarb rhubarb…]

We have nothing against direct action per se. But what sort of direct action is it when the activists target those who are pushing in the same direction as themselves? And let’s not forget that the government quite likes the fact that a few silly protestors are lending some street cred to its own agenda. We recently quoted Secretary of State at the Department of Energy and Climate Change Ed Miliband on the runway protests:

When you think about all the big historic movements, from the suffragettes, to anti-apartheid, to sexual equality in the 1960s, all the big political movements had popular mobilization. Maybe it’s an odd thing for someone in government to say, but I just think there’s a real opportunity and a need here.

The custard slinging came before Mandelson spoke at the UK’s Low Carbon Summit. Here’s a video of the event’s ‘highlights’, published on 10 Downing Street’s Youtube channel:

The media focused their attention on the custard-chucking, at the expense of criticising what was being said inside the summit. Take, for example, the words of Mandelson himself:

So the point we want to start at today is this… This transition to low carbon is an environmental and economic imperative and an opportunity for us. It is also inevitable. There is no high carbon future for us.

Here we see familiar lines in action. There are imperatives, and a low carbon economy is inevitable. That is to say that democracy has no say in determining what is or isn’t an imperative, or what the Government’s priorities ought to be. But as we have pointed out before, environmentalism has never been tested democratically in the UK. All the parties absorbed its ‘imperatives’ into their manifestos in a process that has never been challenged or really even debated. Mandelson has no authority to say that there exist environmental or economic imperatives – he isn’t an elected politician; he is held widely in contempt, being seen at best as a joke or a symptom of New Labour’s intransigence and corruption; and he does not have facts on his side.

He continues:

The huge industrial revolution that is unfolding in converting our economy to low carbon is going to present huge business and employment opportunities as well as enabling us to meet our climate change targets and reduce our energy consumption

We’d like to know from Mandelson precisely where this ‘industrial revolution’ is supposed to be unfolding, and where these opportunities actually are. During the last quarter of 2008, nearly a quarter of a million people lost their jobs in the UK. Unemployment is currently just shy of two million.

There is no unfolding revolution. A revolution implies spontaneity, dynamism and popular support to shake off an old order or system. Instead, this ‘revolution’ requires regulatory laws, massive subsidies, and the creation of targets and goals – the precise opposite of a revolution. The French revolution was not achieved by setting goals for the number of aristocratic heads it intended to remove from aristocratic shoulders by a given date. It just happened. The industrial revolution did not happen because people set targets for miles of train track laid over the next ten years, it produced its own momentum and possibilities, which were, in turn, demanded. Nobody is demanding green politics. It is being foisted on us from above.

Ed Miliband pipes in:

There’s been a huge growth in the green sector and it’s already a three-trillion-dollar industry set to grow by fifty per cent. Now the question isn’t is that industry going to happen; it is going to happen. The question is, can Britain take advantage of that? That’s what our strategy is designed to do. It covers a whole range of areas from waste to recycling to renewable to all… err… a whole range of sectors. Increasing numbers of people will be working in these areas and we want Britain to be a world leader.

Again, we see the ugly leitmotif of today’s bland politics – inevitability. ‘It is going to happen’.

Of course there has been a growth in the Green sector. It has been heavily subsidised. For instance, a report from the think tank Policy Exchange estimated that the (now abandoned) biofuel subsidy (that required diesel sold to be 5% bio-diesel) cost the UK over £500 million a year. The report cited by Miliband and Mandelson (more about that report later) says that the renewable and low carbon energy sector grew by ~6% in the year 2007/8. It also says that the size of the biomass market was £5billion. Well, it doesn’t take a genius to work out what drove the biomass sector’s growth.

The other side of this sector’s growth is regulation. For example, In 2002, the UK’s Renewables Obligation order instructed electricity suppliers to source an increasing percentage of their fuel from renewable sources. In 2002 this figure was 3%. By 2008, it was 9%. Failing to meet this target means paying a price per unit of electricity generated, which is then redistributed to suppliers according to how they met the target. A 2004 report by energy watchdog Ofgem said that the Renewables Obligation scheme was ‘providing additional financial support of at least £485 million to the renewables industry this year alone.’

This ‘revolution’ is presented by the Government as something which ‘is happening’, rather than something which was caused by the Government. The worldwide growth in the renewable energy sector is manufactured, much less by spontaneous innovation opening up new opportunities than, as with Britain, new environmental laws and massive subsidies.

Premier Gordon Brown is top act of the night:

So let us set a challenge to our scientists to lead the world in this great human endeavour to create a clean environment for future generations. Let us each set a challenge to business. Let us compete to lead the world in new low carbon products. Let us set a challenge to our planners to build homes and buildings and business and then eco-towns and eco-cities around the vision of a low carbon environment. And let us set a challenge to our schools. Let us teach young people. Inspire them that a low carbon future is not only the best future we can have, but the best future they can have as young people too. And let me tell you, our low carbon future, to create the low carbon economy we need is now a national endeavour that gives us purpose for years to come.

None of Brown’s aspirations are shared by the public. They are his, and the political establishment’s aspirations. Very few people want to live in an eco-home in an eco-town or eco-city. Very few people want their children indoctrinated by eco-dogma. Brown pretends that he wants us to share his eco-centric eco-vision, but Mandelson and Miliband have already revealed that it is inevitable, and that we don’t have a choice. We are to be eco-proles, whether we like it or not.

This ‘let us…’ rhetoric in intended to be statesmanlike, imploring us to be part of some moment of change. But the moment of change has long since passed, and Brown’s vision is a hollow attempt to rescue it. After decades of decline in manufacturing output, and chronic underinvestment in housing and energy, it is a bit rich, and a bit late, for Brown to be telling us that we need eco-homes and eco-industry powered by eco-energy. We needed homes and industry as the conditions for the current economic climate were forming. His government, and previous ones, didn’t see the need then, and the need now owes less to the fact that the climate is changing, and much, much more to the fact that individuals in the Government want to use the climate change issue to generate moral authority for themselves, especially on the world stage. They can’t do that unless the UK is seen to be green, with green laws, green economy, green industry, and green people. Hence, over the last year, the UK has seen a raft of measures hurried through so that the UK contingent can arrive at the UN Climate Conference in Denmark later this year dressed as planet-saving super-heroes, not as a ship of foolish Chicken Littles, struggling to sustain their political legitimacy.

The Low Carbon Summit was, like the web page announcing it, hosted by RBS. Yes, that’s the same RBS that made a loss of £10 billion last year.

The Low Carbon Economy Summit is the only event this year to focus on the business opportunities in moving to a low carbon economy. Uniquely the Low Carbon Summit will explore what further action needs to be taken by government and business to create an environment which supports and promotes investment in low carbon solutions such as renewable power generation and carbon capture and storage as well as emissions trading.

This partnership knows far more about generating crises than stopping them. But then again, crises, real or imagined, are the bread and butter of politicians who otherwise fail to explain to the public what their ‘vision’ actually is. It isn’t until crunch time that Brown, Miliband and Mandelson unveil their ‘revolutionary’ ideas. The language about the inevitabilities and imperatives of environmental catastrophe are attempts to explain failures as success, decline as progress, and inactivity as activity. Politicians stand on their heads to complain that the world is upside down, and that all the trends actually show improvement.

Journalists, too, struggle to explain what’s going on in the world without the prospect of the catastrophe signposting right from wrong. A Guardian article on the event demonstrates its writers’ inability to subject the Government’s climate policies to any scrutiny:

In an interview with the Guardian, Ed Miliband, the climate change secretary, said there was a global race towards creating a low-carbon economy and that Britain must not get left behind. He set out the key elements required – from energy efficiency to a smart electricity grid – ahead of today’s low-carbon summit in London, with representatives from industry, unions and the environment movement.

Much is made of the alleged influence on the public mind of the odd hour of television here and there that does stand against climate orthodoxy. But the media’s failure to subject the terms of the climate debate to scrutiny has had a much more significant effect on the Government’s mind. It seems that they can do no wrong – and consequently can have their many failures overlooked – while they are being green. The only criticism they can expect from Guardian hacks is not being green enough, never mind what kind of outcome it will produce, or what kind of society it will create. There is very little question of the policies, only the echoes of mantras about ‘imperatives’, and ‘inevitability’. One of the lines in the Guardian, also picked up elsewhere was the headline that…

New jobs will be created in low-carbon industries for 400,000 people – from lagging lofts to nuclear power – the government will announce today.

This figure comes from a report by consulting firm, Innovas, commissioned by the Government. What the report said was not that ‘new jobs will be created’, and the Guardian omits the caveats attached to the report.

If the UK environmental employment baseline level grows in line with projected annual growth rates, then, potentially, an additional 400,000 jobs could be created over the next eight years ‐ representing a 45% increase on today’s level. This is a rough estimate based on the growth in market value, where employment levels are calculated on a pro rata basis. Some of this growth in employment might be due to displacement activity, as green goods and services become more acceptable than the alternatives, such as a shift from manufacturing traditional doors/windows to heat and energy efficient ones, or from carbon‐based fuels such as coal to renewable energies such as wind. However the majority of the growth in employment, particularly in the Renewable Energy industries, would represent additional economic growth to 2015.

The figure of 400,000 new jobs becomes even more dubious when it transpires that Innovas estimates that employees in the low carbon and environmental goods and services (LCEGS) sector number 881,000 people in the UK. There are roughly 30 million working people in the UK. That means 2.6% of the workforce are employed by the LCEGS. This sector has (according to Innovas) a market value of £106 billion. It seems hard to believe that such a large number of employment opportunities has been opened up by demand for green products. Yet the report projects, nonetheless:

The LCEGS sector, including supply chain, currently employs some 881,000 people in the UK, and this is forecast to increase to 1,289,000, or around 400,000 in the next eight years.

On what basis, though? The statistical summary accompanying the report claims that there are 6361 UK companies, employing 106,826 people in the ‘Alternative Fuel Vehicle’ sector. This turns out to mean ‘Alternative fuels (main Stream) for vehicles only’, and ambiguously, ‘other fuels and vehicles’. Does this lump together people who work on developing green cars and green fuel? According to www.autoindustry.co.uk, 210,000 people worked in manufacturing automobiles in 2005. Even assuming that there are still 210,000 people working in the UK’s ailing motor industry (which seems unlikely), can we really assume that half of these positions are in the LCEGS sector?

The report’s statistical summary goes on to say that 154,992 people work in ‘Alternative fuels’, 70,538 in the LCEGS ‘water and waste water’ sector, and 22,563 in the LCEGS ‘energy management’ sector. This gives us a total of 442,813 people in these LCEGS sectors. But according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), only 177,000 people worked in the energy and water sector at all. If we now include people that work in the LCEGS ‘hydro’, ‘wave and tidal’, biomass, wind, geothermal, photovoltaic, and ‘additional energy sources’ sectors, there are 626,557 people working in LCEGS energy sectors according to Innovas – many more people than the ONS claim.

It is plausible that the ONS and Innovas categorise jobs and businesses in different ways. But to claim that a greater number of people work in the LCEGS energy and water sector than work in the energy and water sector, when just a small percentage of Britain’s energy comes from renewable and alternative sources is just daft. We simply don’t believe it.

According to Eurostat, the UK produced 14,813,000 tons of oil equivalent (TOE) energy using renewables, against a total of 183,946,000 TOE. That process seems to have involved 533,455 people, according to Innovas’ statistics. If the UK’s total energy production was as efficient in terms of labour, it would have needed 6,624,378 people, or 22% of the workforce engaged in the production of energy. Perhaps this is what Brown and his fellows have in mind, when they are talking about the creation of hundreds of thousands of new jobs:

(image leaked from the UK government’s secret Low Carbon Industrial Strategy document)

Stupid custards.

Plane Selfish

Ridiculous, self-indulgent, self-absorbed, self-righteous, and self-important protest outfit, Plane Stupid broke into Stansted Airport today, to delay the reopening of a runway.

The group’s website quotes one of their number, 21 year old Tilly,

“We’re here because our parents’ generation has failed us and its now down to young people to stop climate change by whatever peaceful means we have left. We’re afraid of what the police might do to us, we’re afraid of going to jail but nothing scares us as much as the threat of runaway climate change. We’ve thought through the consequences of what we’re doing here but we’re determined to stop as many tonnes of CO2 as we can.”

Tilly might as well be 12. As might Daniel, 24.

“We fully appreciate the scale of what we’ve done here today and we know many people will struggle to understand why we’ve done it, but the Arctic ice cap is disappearing, the seas are rising and our last chance to save our future is vanishing. With people taking more flights in Britain than anywhere else on earth, we have a unique responsibility to tackle emissions from flying.”

Daniel is aware that ‘ many people will struggle to understand why [they]’ve done it’, which raises a question about what kind of protest this is. What is the point of a protest if the people you inconvenience – one of whom was a woman travelling to her father’s funeral according to a BBC Radio new item – are none the wiser as to what you’re doing?

Tilly’s reasons for the protest – ‘ to stop as many tonnes of CO2 as we can’ – are equally confused. If it’s just CO2 she’s worried about, there are a number of less irritating avenues she might have explored.

The protest is in many ways equivalent to an infantile tantrum. The protesters clearly have problems articulating their message to the generation they feel are responsible for their emotions. The sense that they have failed to get the message across results not in some self-reflection, but a loud, obnoxious and pointless remonstration. And like a small child, these protesters cannot make a sensible distinction between their failure to assert their will over the world, and the end of the world. The rhetoric of Armageddon ensues. Tilly again,

[youtube tNQCL29i0fs]

And here is something even more bizarre about the protest: they have actually got their way. Two weeks ago, Parliament committed the UK to an 80% cut in emissions by 2050, including shipping and aviation. Yet Tilly believes that the Government has failed to respond to its own climate change rhetoric. Just like a toddler, the concept of deferred gratification is beyond her.

We’ve often wondered what the difference between the Government and the environmental protest movement is. Who are the establishment, and who are the revolutionaries? They often seem to be saying exactly the same thing. Neither can claim that their actions represent the will of the general public – most people still want to fly, use cars, and so on. But both are committed to preventing people from expressing this desire. Both use the prospect of catastrophe to justify their self-importance, even though there is virtually no scientific argument that catastrophe is a possibility.

There is also more than a symbolic similarity between the way that protesting infants and the 9-11 plotters choose to make their mark on the world. So impotent are their ‘radical’ (for ‘radical’, read deeply socially conservative and retrogressive) ideas, that they impose them on the world in grand stunts. Both are indifferent to the trouble their self-righteousness causes others. In spite of their failure to generate mass support, they want to change the world, and believe that their actions are warranted by a higher purpose than the trivial concerns of mere humans.

The Government is left in a curious position. What can it really say to these spoilt children? It has indulged their every tantrum.
 

The Party Without People

Caroline Lucas again again. In the New Statesman today, talking about the Green Party’s upcoming leadership contest, she says,

There is another crucial reason why Britain needs Green leadership now. Voter turnout at all elections has been falling. Fewer than one in four people vote in many local elections. Most people simply can’t see any difference between politicians from any of the three main Westminster parties. Minor divergences in economic management emerge from time to time, but the paradigm of privatisation, liberalisation and free market dominance has killed off many progressive policies.

Funny that Lucas should talk about low voter turnout. The motor-mouthed miserablist has benefited enormously from voter apathy, as the results from the last two European elections reveal.

 
1999
2004
Party
Votes
% vote
Seats
% Electorate
Votes
%Vote
Seats
% Electorate
Conservative
661932
44.42
5
11
776370
35.2
4
12.8
UKIP
144514
9.7
1
2.4
431111
19.5
2
7.1
Liberal Democrats
228136
15.31
2
3.8
338342
15.3
2
5.6
Labour
292146
19.61
2
4.8
301398
13.7
1
5
Green Party
110571
7.42
1
1.8
173351
7.9
1
2.9
 
Electorate
6023991
Turnout
24.73%
Electorate
6034549
Turnout
36.78

As we can see, she took 7.42% of the vote in 1999, which amounts to just 1.8% of the electorate. In 2004, she increased her share to 7.9% of the vote, amounting to 2.9% of the electorate. No landslide. And yet it was enough to raise her profile well above any other European MP.

The poor showing at the European elections show how uninterested the public are in the EU. It is because so few people registered their vote that Lucas got a seat. And it is because people are so turned off by mainstream politics that the Green Party poll at all. And it is because mainstream parties cannot connect with the public that they have all turned to environmental concerns. The claim that the major parties are turning to environmentalism because it’s a vote winner defies the cold hard stats: it ain’t a vote winner.

Barr Barr Green Sheep

So, Libertarian Party presidential candidate Bob Barr has congratulated Al Gore on his stance on global warming.

Former Vice President Al Gore and I have met privately to discuss the issue of global warming, and I was pleased and honored that he invited me to attend the “We” Campaign event. Global warming is a reality as most every organization that has studied the matter has concluded, whether conservative-leaning, liberal oriented or independent.

Sceptic email lists have been busy circulating messages to the effect that it’s a great shame and a great surprise that a high-profile Libertarian has jumped on the bandwagon. It’s certainly a shame. But a surprise?

As we keep saying, Environmentalism transcends the politics of Left and Right. We are certainly not the first to say that. Many have argued that modern political philosophies fit better along a libertarian-authoritarian axis than a left-right one.

Sure, there’s something very un-Libertarian about Green politics. But Environmentalism is equally incompatible with the old political Left. But that hasn’t stop Marxists or Socialist Workers taking up the cause.

And ex-Republican Barr pushes a rather Rightish sort of libertarianism – an authoritarian version of libertarianism, even. At the very least, he seems rather unsure of his Libertarian values. Barr voted for the Patriot’s Act, for example, although now claims to regret it. He was all for the invasion of Iraq, although now claims to want to withdraw the troops. He takes a very authoritarian line on drugs.

And like all good Environmentalists, he even seems to be under the impression that the appropriate political response follows somehow directly from the science:

Barr, a former Republican congressman from Georgia, said it is time to recognize that global warming “is a very serious problem” and that it will get “dramatically worse” unless significant action is taken.

‘Significant action’? What action? Will it work? Will the cost to our civil liberties be justified? Does ‘action’ mean mitigation or adaptation? His answers to these more important questions are conspicuous by their absence.

The flip side is that there is nothing particularly Libertarian about rejecting the case for anthropogenic global warming. After all, it’s only science. It would be perfectly reasonable, theoretically, for a Libertarian to assess the evidence and come to the conclusion that global warming is happening and that human activities are to a degree behind it. Indeed, we wouldn’t have too much truck with that argument ourselves.

The issue is not whether or not global warming is happening, or is anthropogenic or ‘natural’ (although that is an issue); it’s how that evidence is handled politically. And this is where Barr starts sounding like all those other Green opportunists out there:

There obviously is a role for government,” Barr said. “There’s a role for private industry. There’s a role for nonprofits and certainly a role for the American people, individually and collectively.”

Barr’s green epiphany, like John McCain’s before him, has less to do with a realisation that they can no longer ignore the weight of scientific evidence, and more to do with a need to be seen to stand for something – anything – at a time when they can’t remember what they stand for anymore.

The US is now in a situation where its top three presidential candidates have subscribed to Gore’s Inconvenient Truth. That is surely a ‘shame’. and yet the ‘surprise’ is that the few sceptics that remain in mainstream politics object to Environmentalism for negative rather than positive reasons. All they know is that they are not Environmentalists. Rather than mounting a political case against Environmentalism, they can resort only to dismissing the movement as a leftist conspiracy and/or to rejecting outright the science that Environmentalism hides behind. We suggest that that is because mainstream climate sceptics are as directionless politically as McCain, Obama and Barr. And it’s little different in the UK. But such negative politics bodes ill for the sceptic movement. Because people don’t vote for what you are not. At Climate Resistance we believe that Environmentalism needs opposing regardless of what the science says. So who do we vote for?

Polls Apart

One of our major gripes with Environmentalism concerns the claims made by its adherents that it is some sort of popular, grass-roots movement. Time and again, polls suggest otherwise. And yet these polls are rarely, if ever, reported in terms of the undemocratic nature of Environmentalism as it is foisted upon reluctant electorates. Rather, they are presented as evidence that the public are unthinking, selfish morons brainwashed by scheming ‘deniers’.

Of course, everybody – ourselves included – will jump on a poll that can be used to support their own position. Which is why Green activist and winner of the Royal Society’s prestigious prize for popular science (fiction), Mark Lynas, picked up on last week’s ICM/Guardian poll. Writing in Comment is Free, he suggests that, in contrast to previous polls, it

shows that a clear majority favours government action on the environment v the economy, while an even larger majority supports the introduction of green taxes. 

And it does, if you believe that the answers to such leading questions as ‘Generally speaking would you support or oppose the introduction of green taxes, designed to discourage things that are harmful to the environment?’ tell you anything at all about public opinion.

But, his main point is that the poll dispels the myth that concern about climate change is a luxury of the middle-classes:

perhaps the most fascinating result of all emerges from the small print of the different social classes of the ICM survey respondents. Environmentalists are constantly accused of being middle-class lifestyle faddists, who don’t understand the day-to-day financial pressures faced by “ordinary” working people. But the number of people who thought that environment should be the government’s priority rather than the economy was substantially higher (56%) among the lower income, less well-educated DE demographic than among the better-off ABs (47%). Lower-income social groups also have a much lighter environmental footprint overall: only 42% of DEs took a foreign holiday over the last three years, whilst 77% of ABs did. Better-off people also own more cars, as you might expect – only 5% of DEs have three or more cars, whilst 15% of ABs do. 

So perhaps anti-environmental class warriors like the editors of Spiked need to find a new cause to champion. The working-class people who they claim “can’t afford to be concerned about climate change” actually care more about the future of the planet than the rich – and are doing a lot less damage to boot. So next time you hear someone defending motorway expansion or cheap flights on behalf of the British poor, ask yourself the question: whose side are they really on?

Environmentalism might not be popular, you see, but at least it’s equally unpopular across society. Lynas’s view of the “working-class people” has more to do with the idea of the Noble Savage than solidarity with those at the bottom of the social pile. In his world, poverty is something to aspire to rather than alleviate. It’s as if they cause ‘a lot less damage’ as a result of a desire to live in harmony with nature rather than the fact that they are, by definition, less able to afford the luxury of foreign holidays and cars.

Not that we should be surprised. After all, this is the same Mark Lynas who believes that alleviating poverty should be put on hold until the planet has been saved:

The struggle for equity within the human species must take second place to the struggle for the survival of an intact and functioning biosphere 

Moreover, Lynas’s attention to the ‘small print’ was not as attentive as it could have been. Otherwise he could not have reached the conclusion that he did. Yes, the responses of DE and AB respondents are comparable across the survey, but the demographics of the two groups suggest that there are good reasons for that that have little to do with social class per se. For example, 50% of the DEs were retired, as opposed to 24% for ABs. Only 18% of DEs were working full time, as opposed to 56% for ABs. And 67% of DEs were not working at all (ABs = 30%). In other words, a much higher proportion of DE respondents are unlikely to be affected by environmental tax hikes.

Lynas’s true sentiments about the masses are evident in his reply to commenters who dare to challenge his latest rant against climate change ‘deniers’:

Well I have to say that most of the comments this piece (and many of my others) has attracted simply prove my rather depressing conclusion that a lot of probably very decent people have swallowed the line pumped out by industry-funded US conservative think tanks. Almost ever denialist argument I’ve ever seen first made an appearance courtesy of them – there’s very little in the ‘denialisophere’ (apologies) which is in any way original. 

None of the citations of course mention the peer-reviewed literature, where there isn’t any discussion of whether anthropogenic global warming is real or not, because all the systematic data shows that it is. But it’s pointless to go on digging trenches – and personally I’ve got better things to do than engage with entirely close-minded people. This is a political debate, not a scientific one, and has been for a long time.

Those ‘very decent’ yet ‘entirely closed-minded’ members of the public get the blame whenever polls suggest that they are not giving environmental issues the attention they should be. For example, we reported on last year’s Ipsos Mori’s poll, which found that the majority of people are not convinced that the scientific argument for action on climate change is clear-cut. Report author Phil Downing described the results as ‘disturbing’ and ‘frightening’:

Given the actual consensus and the reality if the situation, it is a particularly disturbing statistic and does suggest one or two things. Firstly the impact of contrarian and negative messages, for example, Channel 4’s great Global Warming Swindle are having an impact. Secondly, if the public is ambivalent, and you have a disconnect between what you believe on the one hand, and how you act on the other. The easiest thing is to change what you believe, rather than how you act. 

We thought these sounded more like the words of an opinion former than an opinion pollster.

A couple of weeks ago, Ipsos Mori produced another report along similar lines, which was reported exclusively by the Observer newspaper:

The majority of the British public is still not convinced that climate change is caused by humans – and many others believe scientists are exaggerating the problem 

And whose fault is that?

There is growing concern that an economic depression and rising fuel and food prices are denting public interest in environmental issues. Some environmentalists blame the public’s doubts on last year’s Channel 4 documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle, and on recent books, including one by Lord Lawson, the former Chancellor, that question the consensus on climate change. 

We spoke to Downing, on the phone and by email. He told us that, when he used words like ‘frightening’ or ‘disturbing’ after last year’s poll, he was speaking from the perspective of the government who had commissioned it. He also said that any mention of the Swindle and Lord Lawson in the Observer article did not come from him. And anyway, he only mentioned it last year because several poll respondents cited the Swindle when talking about their doubts over the government line.

Phil Downing: [W]hen we released the report last year, we did comment that we had started to note in purely qualitative terms that people were making reference to that programme, or had picked up on some of the secondary press […] So we were saying this might be playing a role because this was the first time we were picking it up. But we see it as more of a correlation in time rather than a causation. We have no evidence of a direct link between The Great Global Warming Swindle, or any other programme for that matter, and what is driving people’s views […] We have no quantative data on the extent to which it is driving it. No one has commissioned research to gauge the impact of The Great Global Warming Swindle or An Inconvenient Truth and how the public are making sense of these different messages. 

Regardless of who made that argument in which year, however, it boils down to the point that it is democracy itself – a free press, debate, and the need to win legitimacy for political ideas by contest – that has beset the environmental movement’s intentions. Never mind the vast resources available to the Greens to push their own agenda. The fact is that the Observer can count on the fingers of two fingers the number of public challenges to environmental orthodoxy, yet Environmentalism is pushed down our throats from nearly every Government department, local authority, NGO and charity, every current affairs program on every TV channel, in every school, and, according to this article in the Shields Gazette, by Downing himself:

Keynote speaker Phil Downing, head of environmental research for Ipsos Mori, will be encouraging councils to ‘think global’ but ‘act local’ and use the regional advice and support available to inspire their communities to help tackle climate change. 

So the question is whether Phil Downing and Ipsos Mori are activists or researchers, opinion pollsters or opinion-formers. We doubt that were he taking such a side on a party-political issue he would be allowed by his employers to make such statements. It suggests that environmental orthodoxy has been established within a certain influential strata of society, who believe it to be ‘above’ politics, as though environmentalism weren’t a political ideology.

Downing told us that the line between pollster and activist is one that he is careful not to cross. And that the Shields Gazette got it wrong – he was there simply to deliver an analysis of public opinion on climate change. If anyone out there happened to attend the event, we’d love to hear from you.

Climate Resistance: Do you have strict guidelines at Ipsos Mori about not crossing that line? 

PD: Yes, it’s something that is strictly frowned upon, if you go into something contributing to one side of a debate and not the other […] there are stringent quality control procedures in place to ensure impartiality at Ipsos MORI – this extends both to the way the questions are asked as well as any material we release into the public domain. A specific and in-house team is required to sign off survey materials. As well as the interpretative text we have published the results in full on the website.

Readers can make up their own minds as to whether Ipsos Mori, in blaming a contrarian tv documentary for the public’s divergence from the government line while failing to consider the possibility that the government’s line just isn’t very convincing, should perhaps have another look at their guidelines.

CR: Is it not more likely that the reticence of the public to take up the governmental line on climate change is the result of an unconvincing governmental message? 

PD: Well, you’re more than welcome to commission a poll from us.

CR: What would that cost?

PD: Depends. If you’re looking at 1000 people, nationally representative, you’re looking at something like £700-1000 per question.

You could almost understand – if not excuse – the failure to consider the strikingly obvious if, say, the government had commissioned it, because, apparently, you get what you pay for with these things. But, intriguingly, the latest poll was not actually commissioned by anybody. Downing said that Ipsos Mori conducted it off their own backs to shed light on the complexity of the public’s attitudes and beliefs towards climate change. And yet, all it has achieved is to restate the fact that the public is ambivalent, and spawn newspaper articles that seek simplistic excuses for that finding.

To a large extent, there’s little point complaining. Everybody knows that polls are not to be taken seriously; that they are frequently spectacularly wrong; that busy people are keen to fob pollsters off with the answer that is expected of them, etc etc. And, to repeat, we are as guilty as anybody of jumping on poll results when it suits us. When push comes to shove, there’s only one type of poll that counts, and that’s the type that is conducted at the polling booths. And elections demonstrate quite clearly how unpopular Environmentalism is with the masses. The Green Party has no MPs in the UK Parliament, and the Green contingent of MEPs voted into seats in the European Parliament comprise just 5% (and the European elections have a notoriously low turn-out).

But even more telling is the spectacular decline in the number of people actually bothering to vote:

Funny how turn-out plummets as awareness of the ‘most pressing challenge of our time’ goes through the roof.

Forget the opinion polls. Contrary to the claims of Environmentalists, few people have really bought into their world-view. If anything, most people are slightly irritated by it. Environmentalism persists only because few people object vehemently to it, and because it’s as good as impossible to vote against it.

Who Are the Real Climate Criminals?

If there’s one thing that’s supposed to annoy us British about Americans, it’s their environmentally unfriendly ways. And not just George Bush and his Exxon-funded cronies. It’s the whole lot of them – as highlighted by the recent ABC News poll where “global warming” scored a big, fat zero (see page 6) in the US public’s list of priorities.

Contrast with London’s Mayoral candidates all battling to save the planet. The “central pledge” of New Labour’s Ken Livingstone to his electorate includes: “London will tackle the great environmental problems, above all climate change, to ensure that our success is sustainable.” And the whole thing is only one sentence long. Boris Johnson (Conservative) pledges “a ban on bottled water, a ban on internal flights, recycling, green procurement and sustainability”. Both claim to be against Heathrow’s third runway on environmental grounds. And there’s still somehow room for a Green Party candidate. Politics: available in any colour, as long as it’s… well… Green.

But is our superciliousness towards the green credentials of the USA really justified? Are we really that different here in the UK? Not according to an Ipsos Mori poll last year, which indicated that more than half of us are not convinced that the science of climate change is robust enough to justify a Green revolution. Despite the vast sums of cash available to the environmental PR machine to keep the looming ecopalypse at the front of our minds, nobody’s really that interested, it seems.

Funnily enough, environmentalists like to blame their failure to capture the public’s imagination on oil-funded “deniers” (whose budget is a fraction of Greenpeace’s alone). Or they’ll blame the selfishness of the public itself, who need to be hectored into making “ethical” consumer choices… and taking fewer baths.

But is there another reason for our complacency? Could it be that we have a better nose for eco-friendly bullshit than Livingstone’s “London will tackle the great environmental problems, above all climate change, to ensure that our success is sustainable”, or Boris’s “a ban on bottled water, a ban on internal flights, recycling, green procurement and sustainability” give us credit for? Both look like nothing more than attempts to convince us that they’re taking armageddon seriously, rather than serious attempts to make the world a better place.

So why, given the public’s lack of interest, isn’t there a candidate with the balls to stand up and challenge Environmentalism? Where is the candidate who thinks a third runway is a good thing? It’s not as if Londoners don’t want to use airports. Or who thinks there aren’t enough roads? Or that a new desalination plant is a better idea than saving water by hectoring Londoners with “if it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down”?

Perhaps it’s because green policies can’t actually do any harm. We might be ambivalent, but we’re hardly going to vote against saving the planet. Which is perhaps why everyone from the BNP through to Socialist Worker are striking a green pose. Environmentalism is attractive to unimaginative politicians precisely because it’s seen as inoffensive and uncontroversial.

Except that it is offensive. And it should be controversial. Just ask Gareth Corkhill, the father of four who was fined a week’s wages by Copeland Borough Council and slapped with a criminal record for overflowing his wheelie bin by 4 inches. (And environmentalism is supposed to be ‘progressive’!). Once authorities get it into their heads that human concerns can take second place to a higher purpose – saving Mother Nature, Gaia, or whatever you want to call her – no reason exists for them to imagine that they owe the public anything, or are even accountable.

Environmentalism isn’t the left-wing conspiracy that those whom it accuses of being a right-wing conspiracy are wont to accuse it of being. It’s just very convenient, that’s all. Public servants can become policemen; they can suddenly make life more difficult in the name of saving the planet. Eco-Proles can be farmed out to Eco-Homes in Eco-Towns that lack flushing toilets and where the only water you are allowed to use is that which falls on your land. And to complain is to have the blood of future generations on your hands, or to be a bin-abusing ‘carbon criminal’. Environmentalism turns the purpose of government and public service on its head.

Environmentalism is all very convenient – for everybody except real, live human beings. So who’s more in tune with their electorate on environmental matters? Copeland Borough Council? Boris? Ken? Or George Bush Jr?

"NO TO DEBATE! NO TO DEMOCRACY!"

On Friday, we wrote about the US ‘Friends of the Earth’, who have enlisted James Hansen in their campaign to censor a book on American politics because it might give the impression that there’s something to discuss. Somehow we managed to miss this gem of a page on the campaign’s website…

Tell Houghton Mifflin global warming isn’t a matter of debate
Friends of the Earth has received a copy of American Government, published by mammoth Houghton Mifflin, which is used in AP government classes in high schools nationwide. The latest edition’s chapter on “Environmental Policy” contains a discussion of global warming so biased and misleading it would humble a tobacco industry PR man:
[…]

These are not quotes from oil company press releases. These and other such statements are made by the authors of American Government in the same omnipotent, textbook tone with which we are all familiar.

Please join us in writing Houghton Mifflin right now! We will copy your governor to make sure every state is aware of the problem with this textbook.

There follows an electronic form for activists to fill in, which gets sent to Houghton Mifflin (and your governor), to tell them not to allow debate on global warming, to harass them not to allow debate to happen in American classrooms.

We have written before about FoE’s contempt for democracy. And this is one more example of how Environmentalists regard the “ethics” of climate change as trumping fundamentals of democratic society. FoE’s shame is unlikely to be forthcoming, however, because the self-importance of the Environmental movement is growing, and its latest action needs to be viewed with some perspective. And what better perspective than a quick recap of Environmentalism in all its misanthropic glory, as reported by wonderful us during our first year on the job? So…

  • In April last year, we wrote about how UK FoE director Tony Juniper dropped his enthusiasm for consensus science when it challenged his desire to return to pre-industrial society.
  • Later that month we criticised former media officer of the Royal Society Bob Ward’s campaign to have the DVD version of The Great Global Warming Swindle censored.
  • Following an article in the TLS, we wondered how interested in science former president of the Royal Society Bob May actually is when he orders us to ‘respect the facts’.
  • In May we reported on the work of German psychologist Andreas Ernst, who claimed to have identified similarities between the psychology of climate change denialists and rats.
  • Following that, we looked at the UK Government’s plans to distribute An Inconvenient Truth to every school in the country in order to manufacture an environmentally-obedient generation.
  • In July, we reported on a UK poll by Ipsos Mori about attitudes to global warming in the UK and how Green MEP, Caroline Lucas blames the media for present climate scepticism, which she equates to holocaust denial.
  • Then we caught former president of the Royal Society telling blatant fibs about Martin Durkin (director of the Great Global Warming Swindle) to an audience in Oxford.
  • In August, futurologist Jamais Casico joined others in fantasising about trying climate sceptics in criminal courts.
  • In October we reported on the UK Government’s plans to put CO2 targets for the country out of political – ie, democratic – control.
  • In November we showed how miserable George Monbiot was complaining about the only hour on television where scepticism of climate alarmism ever got an airing – Top Gear – as though people were forced to watch it.
  • We also pointed out FoE’s two-facedness on matters of democracy.
  • In December, Andrew Dessler tried to persuade us not to listen to climate sceptics by using the image of a sick child.
  • In January, we showed how claims that dissenting views on climate change have been financed by big oil interests lack any sense of proportion, and that green organisations have much more cash available to them.
  • Later that month we showed how Marc D. Davidson was attempting to diminish the moral character of Kyoto sceptics by ‘comparing’ their argument tothat made against the abolition of the slave trade.
  • The next day, David Shearman and Joseph Wayne Smith exhibit their utter contempt for democracy… It destroys the Environment, you see.
  • In February, OilChange International tried to claim that the oil companies had bought your vote.
  • Later that month, Caroline Lucas terrified people into voting Green by claiming that 70% of cancers are caused by environmental pollution.
  • Later still, we showed how David Roberts’ claim that climate-scepticism is ideological is incorrect, and how he in fact reveals his own nasty ideology, which he hides behind ‘science’.
  • And in March, we showed how Naomi Oreskes’ dismissal of climate scepticism as “the tobacco strategy” itself suffered from being a rather desperate strategy, devoid of reason.

What emerges from this list (and there’s plenty more) is the nasty, anti-democratic, anti-human fundamentals of Environmentalism. These examples show how the self-important urgency of Environmentalists allows them to diminish humans, to portray us as too stupid to engage with the decision making process,
or

too stupid to understand the issues, let alone hear the full range of arguments, lest they corrupt us. The irony is that of all the Environmentalists’ attempts to diminish the moral character of climate sceptics, to banish them, to compare them to fascists, or to reduce the public to unthinking morons undeserving of democracy, none are actually attempts to win the debate – they are just new ways of avoiding it.