Skip to content

“The global warming hysteria is well and truly over. How do we know? Because all the relevant factors – polls, news coverage, government u-turns and a manifest lack of interest among policy makers – show a steep decline in public concern about climate change.” Dr Benny Peiser, director of the UK’s Global Warming Policy Foundation, was speaking for the motion ‘The Global Warming Concern is Over, Time for a Return to Sanity’ at a public debate hosted by the UK’s Spectator magazine at The Royal Geographic Society in March. The London audience having heard an evening of hard facts openly debated, duly voted 428 in favor of the motion, 214 against, 31 undecided.

An insignificant representative sample you might think. Except it’s not the first time genuinely open debate – which we rarely get in the media – before a packed public audience on climate issues has delivered a ‘sceptic’ vote. In a 2007 public debate, organized in New York by Intelligence Squared, an audience considered the motion “Global Warming is Not a Crisis”. Pre-debate the vote taken showed only 30 percent agreed with the motion, 57 percent against with 13 percent undecided. Post-debate the percentages revealed around 46 percent now for the motion, 42 percent opposed and 12 percent undecided. It seems whenever hard facts are to the fore in genuine debate on global warming/climate issues alarmists lose. But then facts have always had a nasty habit of biting the alarmist bandwagon where it hurts most – in the intellect.

More significantly for politicians, is the growing evidence that signing ‘green’ economic suicide notes and presenting a clear and present danger to jobs and business is a fast-track to losing at electoral polls too.

For the general public has no confidence in the carbon jihad and Warmageddon’s been deferred. The political elites have yet to get the message.

Carbon Jihad

While a UK ‘Climate Week’ poll in March that revealed around 75 percent of older Brits had doubts or simply did not believe global warming is a threat, the UK coalition government, in its spring Budget, announced that Britain would be the first to legislate for a carbon floor price – at £16 (US$25) per ton from 2013. Even leading socialist MP Nias Griffith recognized the massive economic damage the move would inflict: “The carbon floor price is like a super tax on the UK’s manufacturing industry. It would make us uncompetitive even compared to our European competitors, and will drive companies abroad”. Her view was quickly echoed by the heads of industry. While UK chancellor George Osborne was proclaiming the move would “provide incentive for billions of pounds of new investment in our dilapidated energy infrastructure”, Karl-Ulrich Kohler, head of Tata Steel’s European operations, was pointing out the obvious flaw. Kohler sees the introduction of a carbon floor price as representing a “severe blow to the sustainability of UK steelmaking” by inducing higher costs for electricity-generation, hitting all the energy-intensive industries.

The introduction of the carbon floor price has already been described, even by the flag-waving pro-alarmists at the BBC, as a “green suicide note” with warnings of increasing hardship resulting for the poor and elderly. Even anti-carbon groups were sceptical about the move. Point Carbon reported an EU spokesman saying of the UK Government’s decision, “Under the given (EU emissions) cap, more reductions in the UK will simply be offset by fewer reductions in other member states”. In plain layman’s language: whatever the unilateral UK carbon price plan achieves, its net effect on emission cuts in the greater European carbon jihad, will likely be nil. At the beginning of April, the EU published figures that showed carbon emissions across Europe, far from being reduced, rose in 2010 by 3.5 percent, the first rise in three years.

And if David Cameron wanted evidence for just how toxic setting a carbon tax would be politically, he should take heed of how similar efforts have inflicted steep political decline on Australian PM Julia Gillard’s chances of re-election. Gillard’s fight to introduce a carbon tax has already seen her lose a critical regional election in New South Wales (NSW) by the largest margin in her party’s history. Gillard wants to impose a 30 percent tax on the country’s iron ore and coal profits by 2012. With NSW, Western Australia and Victoria’s mining resources contributing 67 percent of Australia’s AUS$1.3 trillion economy, the public is only too aware of the link between carbon floor fixing and the threat to energy-intensive industry jobs, not to mention international competitiveness.

Meanwhile, in the US, Obama’s attempt to push expensive green energy projects is proving a difficult sell to a populace which, according to the latest Gallup Poll rates global warming bottom among its environmental concerns. Just 51 percent of Americans are now concerned “a fair amount” or more about global warming, down from 66 percent in 2008. Even fewer believe global warming is a largely man-made phenomenon. US opinion polls generally, reveal global warming ranks way down the list of national concerns. None of this should be surprising given that carbon dioxide contributes just 3 percent of total CO2 emissions, and that CO2 itself is a minor greenhouse gas. But hey, were talkingopinion here, let’s not get hung up on hard facts – precisely the point being made by Benny Peiser at the recent London debate. Peiser was essentially arguing that the science has become irrelevant in the current climate debate, the public having largely made its mind up, as one observer put it to, “vote out any party that pushes the green line too far”.

Roger Helmer, a British member of the European Parliament, summed up the current disconnect between political and public priorities on climate more forcefully: “The public are sick of the climate change debate, and resentful at being constantly blamed every time they drive a car or fly to Majorca. We don’t believe it, we won’t vote for it, we won’t pay for it. And the sooner the government catches up with the mood, the better.”

But that’s hardly likely to slow down the ‘green’ social engineers who perceive global warming as a tool to achieve broader social changes. The trouble is, when it comes to global warming alarmism, believers have hit a public opinion wall known as Downs’ Syndrome.

Downs’ Syndrome

Back in 1972 Anthony Downs, a public policy and administration scholar who served as advisor the Lyndon Johnson White House, conceived what he called the public concern “issue-attention cycle”. According to Downs’ theory, while environmental events can trigger public concern, whether those problems are resolved or not, boredom and fatigue steadily sets in. This, Downs claimed, is exacerbated where huge costs are involved in solving societal problems. Commenting on the theory, Benny Peiser points out, “Unless a significant warming trend re-emerges in the next ten years” – a trend which has flat-lined over the past decade while carbon emissions globally continued to rise – “it will be near impossible to revive climate change as a major concern”.

Bottom line: planetary apocalypse or not, green politics can seriously damage your wealth – and your electoral chances.

Energy Tribune, 8 April 2011