Climate Activist Slams Greta Thunberg's Totalitarian 'Climate Strike'
On Friday, thousands mobbed New York City and other cities across the world (including Jakarta, Indonesia, and Dunedin, New Zealand) as part of a "Climate Strike" organized by Swedish teen Greta Thunberg. Yet Robert Colvile, himself a believer in the necessity of fighting climate change, warned that the Climate Strike statements and ideas are "fundamentally illiberal," "fundamentally misguided," and unworkable.
"If we're going to save the planet, we do need to unite behind the science. But that includes the science of economics," Colvile, director of Britain's conservative think tank the Centre for Policy Studies, wrote in a long Twitter thread about Thunberg's movement.
"I've worked as a science journalist. I devoted an entire chapter of my book [The Great Acceleration: How the World Is Getting Faster, Faster] to the impact our faster lives are having on the planet. I believe that climate change is a pressing and urgent problem," he explained. "But this manifesto would make things worse."
Colvile took a close look at the "Climate Strike" demands and came to the conclusion that they are "actively anti-science."
"Already, then, this isn't just about saving the planet - it's about 'climate justice'. Including 'reparations'. This presumably means that since Britain invented the Industrial Revolution and has bumped X million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere since, it should pay Y% of the cost," he noted. "But if you then follow the link that defines 'climate justice' you get taken to the 'People's Demands' (the people in this case being a coalition of left-wing global activist groups)."
Colvile suggested that "if the millions of people marching were told about them, I suspect they'd have a very different take."
Colvile started with the Climate Strike goal of banning fossil fuels. He supported phasing out fossil fuels and claimed that decarbonizing the economy by 2050 would cost £1 trillion overall: about £33 billion per year, or 1.5 percent of GDP.
Yet Thunberg's Climate Strike demands a zero-carbon economy by 2030, which "would be INSANELY expensive. (In fact, pretty much just insane.)."
But it gets worse: the Climate Stikers don't just want to phase out carbon; they want to do that while solving all of history's injustices. This amounts to forcing an energy revolution "with our hands tied behind our backs," Colvile argued.
The Climate Strike rejects what it calls "false solutions" such as: geoengineering; carbon capture and storage; “technofixes” more broadly; carbon trading; biofuels or bioenergy; and smart agriculture.
"In other words, we cannot use market mechanisms, economics or technology to cut carbon emissions. We need trees, not factories," he explained. Yet there are even more demands: the rejection of nuclear power; an insistence on "non-market approaches;" the exclusion of corporations; and buzzwords like "agro-ecology" and "food sovereignty."
"Agro-ecology, when you look it up, involves 'an explicit focus on social and economic dimensions of food system [and] a strong focus on the rights of women, youth and indigenous peoples,'" Colvile wrote. "Food sovereignty insists on 'culturally appropriate' food markets rather using boring things like price signals, market mechanisms and comparative advantage to ensure that we maximise output."
That sounds like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) saying Hispanic people should grow yucca in New York City, even though the climate is horrible for it. She dismissed scientific concerns about agriculture as rooted in colonialism. AOC's rejection of "colonialist" science also reminds me of the black student in South Africa who rejected science for African black magic. Talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater!
While European colonizers did abuse native peoples, this was a continuation of the tragic human experience. Conquest and slavery are as old as civilization. The new thing is limited government and free-market economics. Americans experience a rich lifestyle literally unimaginable to the most powerful person even two hundred years ago. If there is a climate emergency, the dynamism of the free market will foster solutions. Immediately rejecting the market as inherently oppressive is a recipe for tyranny, poverty, and a surrender to the climate crisis — if there is one.
Colvile, who believes in the threat of climate crisis, rightly warned that the Climate Strike manifesto "would make things worse. Because it is not asking 'What is the most cost-effective way to prevent or protect against climate change?' - or indeed 'How do we grow the maximum amount of food, as cheaply as possible, with minimum emissions?' It is instead telling us that market mechanisms like carbon taxes - by overwhelming consensus the mechanism favoured by serious economists - have no place at all in fighting climate change. Nor do drought-resistant crops, or plants engineered to withstand seawater."
"In my book, I diagnosed what I called 'utopian authoritarianism' - the idea that the only way to save the planet is for people on the left to command others, in the developed and developing world, to live poorer, meaner lives," Colvile explained.
This totalitarian grasp for control justifies activists taking over every aspect of life in the name of averting crisis and solving historic injustices. It is a recipe for power and it is not a serious response to the threat of a climate crisis. Instead, it uses the alleged crisis as a tool to control others.
I disagree with Colvile about the looming threat of a climate crisis. Alarmists have just botched far too many predictions for me to believe the hype (Remember The Maldives!). But I nevertheless welcome alternatives to carbon-based energy, if they can deliver the same amount of power at a cheaper cost. Nuclear power is particularly promising in this regard, and any serious solution to climate change must champion nuclear power.
Greta Thunberg's Climate Strike movement is not serious, however, and Robert Colvile explained why.
The manifesto sounds quite similar to the Green New Deal, a project so impossible that taxing the rich at 100 percent would still fall trillions short. In a moment of candor, AOC's former chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti admitted that the Green New Deal "wasn’t originally a climate thing at all." He asked an ally, "Do you guys think of it as a climate thing? Because we really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing."
Follow Tyler O'Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.