Many have noted the quasi-religious status of much of the environmental movement. Many seem to have elevated concern about the environment into a full-fledged religious movement, complete with prophets, holy texts, and sacred rituals.
Now there is nothing wrong with being concerned about planet earth. We should be. But hysterical over-reactions, false prophets, and hypocrisy all tarnish a legitimate concern. Take the issue of green hypocrisy for example. We have all heard of Al “An Inconvenient Truth” Gore’s double standards – living in an energy-wasting mansion, flying around the world in gas-guzzling planes, etc.
Yesterday there was an interesting piece in the press about Australia’s green hypocrites. It turns out that some of our vocal environmentalists, who are also MPs, are engaging in big-time double-standards.
Opposition leader Kevin Rudd drives one of the biggest gas-guzzlers available to MPs. His family car is a four-wheel drive Ford Territory. This car, funded by tax-payers, chews up 12.8 litres of fuel in 100km of city driving. It has one of the lowest environmental ratings of all government vehicles.
For example, the fuel consumption of the Territory is three times worse than that of a hybrid Toyota Prius. The Prius is available to MPs, but Rudd claims he was unaware of that. Given that Rudd wants to cut greenhouse emissions by 60 per cent, he really should start with his choice of personal vehicles, instead of preaching to the rest of us.
No one begrudges a legitimate concern about climate change. But a bit of consistency here would help. And a bit of humility as well. While some are arguing that the debate about climate change is over, many recognise that there still remain many questions about the extent and causes of climate change, as well as the best solutions.
Indeed, questions about climate change and global warming are many. But the mainstream media tends to obfuscate the issues, and capitulate to the scare mongers. Thus a whole new industry involved in panic-mongering has emerged, aided and abetted by the MSM.
Back in the 60s, the radical Left used to complain about the so-called “military-industrial complex”. American columnist George Will alerts us to a new threat: the “media-entertainment-environmental complex”.
In an April 12, 2007 article entitled “The media and global warming,” Will argues that the media has much to answer for in the hype and hypocrisy over global warming. Says Will, “In a campaign without peacetime precedent, the media-entertainment-environmental complex is warning about global warming. Never, other than during the two world wars, has there been such a concerted effort by opinion-forming institutions to indoctrinate Americans.”
He continues, “Democrats could demand that the president send the Kyoto Protocol to the Senate so they can embrace it. In 1997, the Senate voted 95-0 in opposition to any agreement which would, like the protocol, require significant reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions in America and some other developed nations but would involve no ‘specific scheduled commitments’ for 129 ‘developing’ countries, including the second, fourth, 10th, 11th, 13th and 15th largest economies (China, India, Brazil, South Korea, Mexico and Indonesia). Forty-two of the senators serving in 1997 are gone. Let’s find out if the new senators disagree with the 1997 vote.”
Indeed, there are many concerns about Kyoto. Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist says, “Compliance with Kyoto would reduce global warming by an amount too small to measure. But the cost of compliance just to the United States would be higher than the cost of providing the entire world with clean drinking water and sanitation, which would prevent 2 million deaths (from diseases like infant diarrhea) a year and prevent half a billion people from becoming seriously ill each year.”
And while Kevin Rudd needs to rethink the type of car he drives, perhaps the choice of the Prius as an alternative (one which two Australian Democrats and four Green Senators drive) needs to be rethought as well: “The Prius hybrid is, of course, fuel-efficient. There are, however, environmental costs to mining and smelting (in Canada) 1,000 tons a year of zinc for the battery-powered second motor, and the shipping of the zinc 10,000 miles – trailing a cloud of carbon – to Wales for refining and then to China for turning it into the component that is then sent to a battery factory in Japan.”
Moreover, opinions differ “as to whether acid rain from the Canadian mining and smelting operation is killing vegetation that once absorbed carbon dioxide. But a report from CNW Marketing Research (‘Dust to Dust: The Energy Cost of New Vehicles from Concept to Disposal’) concludes that in ‘dollars per lifetime mile,’ a Prius (expected life: 109,000 miles) costs $3.25, compared to $1.95 for a Hummer H3 (expected life: 207,000 miles). The CNW report states that a hybrid makes economic and environmental sense for a purchaser living in the Los Angeles basin, where fuel costs are high and smog is worrisome. But environmental costs of the hybrid are exported from the basin.”
Concludes Will: “We are urged to ‘think globally and act locally,’ as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has done with proposals to reduce California’s carbon dioxide emissions 25 percent by 2020. If California improbably achieves this, at a cost not yet computed, it will have reduced global greenhouse-gas emissions 0.3 percent. The question is: Suppose the costs over a decade of trying to achieve a local goal are significant. And suppose the positive impact on the globe’s temperature is insignificant – and much less than, say, the negative impact of one year’s increase in the number of vehicles in one country (e.g., India). If so, are people who recommend such things thinking globally but not clearly?”
Concern about the environment, in other words, is important. But the way we go about achieving a better environment is a complex and much-debated issue. The media-driven campaigns on global warming and the like are often simplistic, moralistic, and at times, counter-productive. Rational debate on these complicated and multi-faceted topics is needed. And there needs to be a lot less hype, hypocrisy and religious-like fundamentalism as well.