In an excellent interview with UnHerd’s Freddie Sayers, political philosopher John Gray questions the effectiveness of current climate policies, suggesting they were implemented prematurely and lacked the necessary technology and materials. Here’s an excerpt:
I’m not a climate sceptic. I’m a disciple in that regard of a great friend who died recently, James Lovelock. He used to say that climate science is inexact, but if it has a bias, it’s probably towards underestimating the speed of climate change. He thought that climate change would consist of sudden jumps and it could transform things quite quickly, in a couple of decades. We might be in the middle of it. That’s my view – I’m not a climate sceptic.
What I am very sceptical about is Net Zero, and the kind of conventional green policies that are being launched. Firstly, they were launched before the infrastructure was there – before the technology was developed that could make them work. No consideration was given to the fact that many of the raw materials that were needed for the inputs, the batteries and so on, were now substantially or even largely controlled by China in Africa and elsewhere. It’s in Africa that the Great Game of the 19th century is being refought.
Now, they might be found in other countries; in Sweden and America, various deposits have been found. But they are not easily developed. And in the meantime, these programmes can’t go ahead. Nor were the economic costs of these green programmes properly assessed. There was a constant insistence that they would be job-creative. Even in America, they haven’t been that job-creative. And remember, America is very big, and can throw very large amounts of money at these things – the Green New Deal is largely a protectionist scheme. We can’t do that because we’re too small; we’re too exposed to flows of international capital. The idea that in Britain or in Europe these programmes could ever possibly work – it’s a bit like suffering from cancer and using candle therapy.
Some people might say: “But we’ve got to, we’ve got to show that we’re on the right side, we’ve got to accomplish it, even if other people don’t do it.” I think that’s the politics of narcissism: “I want to feel good.” But in the meantime, you’re wasting resources and you’re wasting time. There is a serious possibility that we’re now in the early stages of runaway climate change. We should be focusing everything we’ve got – not on having an infinitesimal impact on global carbon levels, which would be the case even if the whole Net Zero programme was implemented, but on policies of adaptation. And adaptation is not going to be easy. Remember, most climate scientists agree that once human-induced climate change is in the works, it goes on for decades or even centuries. You can’t just stop it. There’s a general idea among environmentalists that we started this so we can stop it. They are wrong. We started it, probably, but we can’t stop it.
I’ve said previously we’re living in an age of tragedy. I’m not too sure about that anymore. I think we’ve advanced further than tragedy. We’re entering an age of absurdity. Consider German climate policy. Germany, as we keep hearing, is incomparably more adult, more advanced, more modern and in every way superior to bungling Britain. But in Germany, the result of their closing down of nuclear and going for renewables has been an increased reliance on the dirtiest kind of coal. Well, this is tragic, but it’s even more than tragic. It is completely absurd.
And it’s difficult to put these arguments forward because people start shouting at you or they start crying or they say they can’t get up in the morning. I rather brutally suggest: “Well don’t. Stay in bed until you get a better reason for getting up. And if you don’t, well, there we are. Progress always has casualties.”
Worth reading in full.
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