Skip to content

Brendan O’Neill: Environmentalism Won’t Save People From Typhoons, Industry Will

|
Brendan O'Neill, The Daily Telegraph

Here they come, the eco-vultures. Every time there’s a natural disaster, especially one that causes massive death and destruction, cynical, hearse-chasing Greens gather on the rubble to crow: “We told you so. We told you mankind’s greed and growth would cause such devastation.”

Whether it’s bush fires in Australia, floods in Pakistan or, now, the terrible Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, enviro-activists waste no time attributing these natural phenomena to climate change, and more specifically to obese, carbon-spouting Western society’s alleged addiction to economic growth and resource depletion. These modernity-bashers effectively hold us – you, me and everyone else lucky enough to inhabit a world of stuff and cars and plenty – responsible for the sufferings of the nature-battered Third World poor, as if our morning journey by 4×4 or that cheap flight we took to Riga directly caused that swirling storm to form off the coast of the Philippines.

“Yes, Typhoon Haiyan was caused by climate change”, declares The Nation, cockily. Apparently this storm was yet another attempt by Mother Nature to “send an urgent message to humankind”. About what? About our wicked, carbon-fuelled behaviour, of course. Mother Nature’s message was “especially meant for the governments of the world that are assembling in Warsaw for the annual global climate change negotiations”, says The Nation, seeming seriously to believe that Mother Nature is a sentient (and bloody angry) force. Another green-leaning writer wonders if the Philippines should “bill developed nations for the damage from Typhoon Haiyan”, since “richer nations [have] historically contributed the bulk of the gases that cause climate change”. Rough translation: it’s Westerners’ fault that these Easterners are dying. In much of the liberal press there is talk of “climate madness”, fuelled by rich Western society’s cushy lifestyles, and how it is hammering poor countries far away.

There are two striking things about this nauseously speedy rush to blame every natural disaster on man’s thoughtlessness or wickedness. The first is how unscientific it is. As some scientists have pointed out, there is no “absolute certainty” that climate change causes things like Haiyan. Indeed, the latest IPCC report says: “Current datasets indicate no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency over the past century.” The ugly urge to say “that storm was caused by climate change”, even before serious studies have been carried out, even before the bodies have been counted, is fuelled by the weirdly self-flagellating moralism of the Green movement, by Greens’ never-flailing instinct to “prove” that modern life kills, rather than by any cool-headed assessment of the facts.

And the second striking thing about the idea that these storms are speaking to us, that Mother Nature is sending an “urgent message to humankind” through all this wind and destruction, is how backward, unenlightened and pre-modern it is. It echoes ancient notions that natural phenomena were fundamentally punishments of mankind by gods annoyed by our behaviour.

Full comment