Is climate change finally losing its punch?


henley_autumn

By Andy Duncan

I noticed something very subtle, today, while reading a recent article in the Guardian. If you can bear to read it yourself, here’s the link.

I may be imagining it, but I think there has been an almost imperceptible shift in the usual recent Gramscian and culturally Marxist language of mind control.

Let’s avoid worrying too much about the actual subject of the article, which is the British government’s proposed ban on the internal combustion engine in 2040, within the expected lifetime of certain newly-built cars.

Yes, this has almost single-handedly wrecked the retail vehicle market in this country. Yes, it is simply value signalling of the worst kind. Yes, we all know that our esteemed democratic ‘leaders’ and their string-pulling fonctionnaires need to live off our taxes.

These idiotarians will never completely cripple the transport industry, through their need to constantly keep their pet statist intellectuals onside. When push comes to shove, they will abandon this measure nearer the time, to keep the taxes flowing into their gullets. All of us know that. This includes all the fonctionnaires and their diminutive politicians. Only socialist glad-handing intellectuals are fooled.

Or perhaps Theresa May.

Even if Britain still exists in 2040 and even if these appalling bureaucrats still retain control, and still insist on going through with this measure, then the prices of the rare-earth minerals needed to manufacture tens of millions of electric vehicles in Britain alone will become so prohibitive, higher even than gold and platinum, that the measure will either implode on delivery or get pushed back to 2080, whichever loses the least political face.

So there is very little possibility of this measure actually being implemented, unless the free market moves in that direction anyway through some as-yet-undiscovered technology, such as cold micro-fusion or containable liquid hydrogen.

But just look at the language.

The British government decided to value-signal this move in response to a similar announcement by the French Bilderberger Baby, Emmanuel Macron.

However, whereas the supremely well-manicured Macron used the tedious language of ‘climate change’ to justify his announcement, the British government shied away from that particular enfant terrible.

Instead, it deployed the language of ‘clean air’ policy instead.

So we abandon an entire technology, one which powered Spitfires in World War Two, and which has kept the entire economy going for over one hundred years because of ‘clean air’ policy, with other measures including the re-programming of traffic lights?

Please, pull the other one, the one that’s got bells on.

I think something else has happened. I’m fairly convinced that this measure was going to be announced using the same ‘climate change’ language as Macron employed.

But at long last, I think even British government ministers and their civil servant masters are beginning to quail at the use of such terms. With establishment state-funded ‘scientists’ in Nature magazine now beginning to row back on their own published ‘climate change’ propaganda, I think it has now grown too embarrassing for state spokespeople to keep thumping on this particular hollow tub.

The great H.L.Mencken once said that the whole aim of practical politics was to keep a populace alarmed, and hence clamorous to be led to safety, by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.

Perhaps the emperor’s clothes are wearing a bit thin on this particular hobgoblin of climate change, even for those emperors as crass and craven as those who inhabit Whitehall’s shady corridors and corrupt palaces?

I certainly think it might be a possibility.

I predict that gradually we’re going to see less and less ‘climate change’ messaging from the British state, with other more defensible hobgoblins being swapped in and out of the information mix instead.

We shall see.

Andy Duncan is an Honorary Vice-President of Mises UK and also the Chief Technology Officer of FinLingo.Com

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8 comments

  • The government’s plan as I read it is only to ban conventional, non-hybrid fossil fuel-powered engines, so even if the ban comes into effect, it’s not all that radical when you consider the direction in which the car industry is going anyway. In any case, I think cars are a nuisance and I don’t have much sympathy for motorists. I have never been a ‘car person’ and have always been baffled by the fascinating with them, which oddly seems to be associated with manliness and masculinity. To me, cars are a silly proposition in the first place: owning one makes no financial sense whatsoever and there is no enjoyment in driving them.

    I love trains and all train journeys – seeing the urban, industrial and rural parts of the country is reward enough, and there is the interest and satisfaction one derives from a train journey and sometimes social interaction as well.

    I love bicycles – there’s nothing better than riding a bike as fast as you dare along a seaside promenade on a hot English summer day, feeling the cool salty breeze in your hair, or riding out in the country on a warm autumn evening, or finding a long-forgotten trail or dried-up river or abandoned railway line and speeding along it.

    I love boats: canals, rivers, the wild, choppy green sea of northern England.

    I love walking with my dog – along beaches and windy cliffs, through woods and forests, through picturesque villages, through the streets of bustling cities.

    Cars..?? Cars don’t compare to these experiences. Cars are claustrophobic, choking, fuming, steel coffins. Every facet of cars and car ownership and their engineering, design, architecture and the infrastructure needed for them is costly, obnoxious and anti-social: the ugly dystopian motorways that scar the country, the speeding around, the aggression and shouting and self-important and self-righteous beeping of the horn, and the endless stupidity of the average driver; there is also the sense of being ‘trapped’ in a plain existence and the angst and conformity this inculcates (see for instance J. G. Ballard’s Concrete Island).

    Quite apart from that, there is the impracticality of cars. Most car journeys could probably be managed quite adequately on foot or by cycling. I also dislike our reliance on fossil fuels, which has all kinds of unattractive implications (though note that I do not say we should stop using fossil fuels or that they are a bad thing in and of themselves, I only suggest that we should not be so reliant on them). And common-sense tells me that motoring is unhealthy and probably contributes to obesity and other medical problems. Not only that, but consumer motoring is also partly responsible for our unproductive, credit-led economy. If the government actually took real steps to shift people away from cars to walking, cycling and public transport, and even to motorbikes and mopeds, that would be welcome for all sorts of reasons. It doesn’t mean we have to stop making cars or exporting them to other places, nor could it discourage those who really want to drive, nor should we dissuade from driving those who need to.

    There is nothing wrong with worrying about the environment either. I want clean air too. I also want us to minimise our impact on the environment and live more in harmony with our surroundings. Why not?

    I entirely take the author’s points that it’s all political and cynical and the science underlying it is probably wrong, manipulated, fraudulent or misrepresented, or some combination thereof, but that does not alter, let alone disqualify, the case for sustainable living, a case that can be made entirely separately to the usual guff and self-serving waffle of the control freaks who are our elites.

    • Tom, I could not disagree more fundamentally. As I wrote in one of my essays back in 2004:

      Cars are vastly superior to public transport. Consider: Your car takes you directly from the start of your journey to its end. Public transport usually doesn’t; that walk to the train (and at the other end) can make a huge difference to your total journey time. Your car goes when you are ready to go; you don’t have to wait for it. Public transport goes (when it goes) according to a schedule set by someone else, which probably doesn’t suit you. And you have to hang around waiting for it, often worrying that it will be late, or won’t arrive at all.

      Your car keeps you dry and warm; bus stops and station platforms don’t. In your car, you have space and privacy. You can be alone if you want, or you can be with those you want to be with. In public transport, you are forced into a crowd of random people, most of whom you don’t know from Adam.

      The seats in most cars are far more comfortable than the seats in buses. The seats in the best cars are luxurious, easily nicer than first class on the train. A well-maintained car travels quickly, smoothly, quietly. In contrast, trains rattle and sway, and buses grind along slowly and noisily.

      There is more. The car can carry loads quite easily; on public transport, it is difficult to take anything you cannot easily carry on your own. Most parents find it much easier to take their children wherever they need to go by car, rather than by public transport. Public transport is vulnerable to strikes. People get mugged on public transport.

      and…

      The bicycle has its problems too. Cycling is unpleasant in the wet. It does not work well in snow or ice. It does not work well when you are injured, or when you are feeling below your best. Longer journeys can simply take too long. Regular journeys can be a boring grind. And, as people get older and their bodies stiffer, bicycling becomes less and less attractive. The bicycle can never be a substitute for the car.

      And I say that as someone who once went 4,500 miles coast-to-coast across North America on a bicycle!

      I think you are far too eager to lord it over other people, and seek to impose on them restrictions that harm them, while feeling superior because you yourself aren’t badly affected.

      • [quote]”I think you are far too eager to lord it over other people, and seek to impose on them restrictions that harm them, while feeling superior because you yourself aren’t badly affected.”[unquote]

        I think you’ve read my comment at 60 mph, perhaps while speeding in the outside lane.

        Among other things, I stated that any measures that encourage people away from cars won’t stop car use by people who want to use cars and won’t dissuade those who have to (i.e. the disabled, the old, etc.). If you really want to use a car, then do so.

        I have no wish to “lord it over” other people, an idiomatic expression that cannot possibly reflect what I actually said. But with respect, it’s naive to expect that you can express a preference, which implicitly involves policy choices, but at the same time not influence social behaviour one way or the other. In that sense, we can’t avoid “lording it over other people” – unless we all want to live like Daniel Boone.

        I do think there is a profound naivety at work among those libertarians who believe in ‘neutral’ policy choices, as if decisions in society can be apolitical and not reflect some interest or other. That’s not the way things work in actuality. Every policy decision involves “lording it over” other people in that sense. If you allow or encourage cars, you are “lording it over” those who dislike cars. Did I give my consent to all these motorways? When do I get the chance to ride my bike or simply walk without having to give way all the time to your stupid steel boxes? Your use of the phrase “lording it over” was, at the least, ill-advised. It would seem I am the one being lorded over, and you are the lord.

        As for personal preferences regarding forms of transport, what you list are some of the benefits of motoring for the motorist, but these do not make cars a superior way of getting around. A view about the superiority/inferiority question has to take into account the impact of cars on other people and on the environment (I use the term ‘environment’ here not just in the sense used by politically-correct people). We need not make these social calculations with walking and biking (or at least, not to the same extent). If I choose to walk or bike somewhere, I can just get up and go. If I choose to drive somewhere on the other hand, I am making a decision that impacts more broadly on other people. To suggest that you can own and drive a motor vehicle without any impact on the rights of others is rhetoric not reality.

        • Tom,

          I’ll start at the end of your second comment. I’ve never suggested that drivers aren’t responsible for the effects of their activities on others. In fact, the whole thrust of my paper on the social cost of cars was that those who, without intending it, cause damage or risk to others should be held responsible for their share of compensating those to whom they cause that damage or risk. (But no more).

          Taking responsibility for the infrastructure we use, and for the side effects of what we do, are (supposedly) the reasons why drivers pay, and have paid for decades, motoring taxes and fuel taxes. But in reality, we have been used like milch cows. We have been made to pay far more in taxes than the costs of building and maintaining the roads we use, and of whatever environmental damage we may (or may not) cause to others.

          You say that “any measures that encourage people away from cars won’t stop car use by people who want to use cars”. But they will. No individual has infinite resources. Raise taxes on an activity high enough, and people will either have to stop doing it, or start committing crimes in order to finance it. Can’t you see the negative consequences? And the old are likely to be the hardest hit. Picture me when I’m 80, having to walk up the 1 in 7 hill from the supermarket to my home with my groceries in my rucksack, because I can’t afford to drive a car, or even to ride in a taxi.

          You mention motor bikes and mopeds as alternatives you would consider acceptable in place of cars. But environmentally, both are far worse than cars. Motor bikes cause serious noise pollution. And mopeds are (with the possible exception of diesel buses) just about the worst air polluters on the roads. You can actually smell this when you visit a city in a country like Spain or Italy, where there are lots of mopeds.

          You complain about ugly motorways. But these came about because of political decisions made back in the 1950s. In those days there was a considerable movement of population out of the cities and into suburbs and the countryside. This needed a more flexible and less radial transport system than the railways provided, particularly for freight. If you are entitled to complain about the effects of a political policy you didn’t like, am I not equally entitled to complain about the effects of a policy I don’t like? Particularly since this policy is, as you rightly say (paraphrasing Andy Duncan): “all political and cynical and the science underlying it is probably wrong, manipulated, fraudulent or misrepresented, or some combination thereof.”

          As to “lording it over” people, you are seeking to impose on other people political restrictions that will place on them far more costs, both financial and in terms of inconvenience, than any realistic measure of the damage or risk their activities cause to others. And you think you are entitled to impose such restrictions merely because you yourself aren’t a “car person?” This isn’t the only time you have put forward such anti-libertarian views here. On another thread, for example, you suggested forcing immigrants out of their homes, for no better reason than to let you and your chums have an ethnically homogeneous geographical neighbourhood without you having to take the trouble to move.

          I, in contrast, am not seeking to impose any restrictions on anyone. I only want to continue doing something which is extremely important to me, and for doing which I have already paid far more than I ought to have had to. If I wanted to mess up other people’s lives in the transport area, I might for example agitate for restrictions on motor bikes (noise) or mopeds (pollution). But I don’t do such things, because as a libertarian I don’t want to “lord it” over anyone; I merely want to live and let live.

          • But I’m not seeking to impose restrictions on anybody either. All I said is that I prefer alternatives to cars and I think cars are largely a waste of time (for those who don’t medically or physically need them). I’m not stopping anybody driving and I don’t oppose the technology and I don’t see cars as a bad thing in and of themselves. It’s just a personal preference, and it’s not unreasonable for me to express the view that society should encourage people away from cars. You can agree or disagree, but you seem to have an emotional connection to the issue, and as a result, you’ve read too much into what I say.

            I think you’re also triggered by my views on environmentalism, but I’ve never said that I support the left-wing statist green agenda, as such. All I’m saying is that sustainability is quite an important thing and can be considered on its own merits, whatever the truth or otherwise about climate change, etc. For one thing, it doesn’t strike me as very wise to place reliance on fossil fuels and non-biodegradable materials. In fact, to do so strikes me as positively foolish, a flaw in our civilisation that should be addressed pretty urgently, but that is not to say we should stop using fossil fuels altogether.

            Not seeking to impose restrictions on people does not equal not imposing restrictions on people. You may wish to live in this theoretical world where decisions can be made without infringing the freedoms of others, but that’s not the way the real world works. Your vision can only remain theoretical until you are prepared to climb down off your high horse and join the rest of us in the messy and imperfect real world.

            And what you consider “libertarian” isn’t necessarily what other people consider libertarian! You should know that, and you do. My point about immigration and deportation is that ethnic homogeneity is the basis of ethical homogeneity, and that freedom and tolerance require their opposites, otherwise they cannot exist. That was a considered response to your essay. You seem to have overlooked that crucial point and just jumped straight to the part where we throw out the immigrants, ignoring the basis of my thinking as to why and also ignoring that I said people’s property rights should be respected. I know it’s not nice to throw out immigrants – but the world isn’t nice. And somebody has to say these things, not least because your freedom to say what you like depends on having a society in which people agree you may do so. Or perhaps you think a Islamist society would be preferable?

            You come across as a typical high IQ person who hasn’t had much contact with reality. What about human nature? What about the way the world really is? When will we be discussing those things?

  • The new hobgoblin is particulate matter (PM2.5). At less than 2.5 microns in diameter, these invisible particles are horrifyingly small, current levels are higher than at any time since measurments began and the precautionary principle tells us that there is no safe level of exposure. Studies have shown… A report just out.. Scientists in America… Campaigners have called for… Due to the success of the new measures… Due to the failure of existing measures…

    Watch this one. The real target is probably outdoor smoking, and then on to the need to establish a policy on cooking food.

  • Philip Neal is on the right lines when he mentions PM2.5. But I think this is actually their next target:

    http://www.express.co.uk/life-style/cars/862624/London-Air-pollution-UK-electric-cars-ban

    There are at least two problems here. One is that the WHO guideline they refer to (10 micrograms per cubic metre) is only 40 per cent of the current EU and UK limit. That guideline was issued back in 2006. Now the WHO is a UN agency, so it does everything it can to drive limits down in its quest to destroy Western civilization. I have no idea what science there is behind that limit; I suspect not very much.

    The other problem is that no-one really knows just how toxic PM2.5 is. As I noted in my article here:

    https://misesuk.org/2017/08/02/the-social-costs-of-air-pollution-from-cars-in-the-uk/

    when the UK government tried to estimate this toxicity back in 2009, the figures they came up with had a factor of 12 between the lowest and highest estimates. Not 12% – 1,200%!

    I think this one should be easier to fight than the “global warming” scare, because the issue is how accurate the science is, not about what might or might not happen in the future. Anyone know an expert toxicologist with libertarian sympathies?

  • This is instructive of the fact that plans are afoot at a supranational to change things that are not related to whatever the justification du jour is… but never mind that, where’s my flying car?

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