As the COP 28 climate shindig comes to a merciful end, history is truly unfolding, as Marx once remarked, as farce. The perfect image of the conference in oil-rich United Arab Emirates will always be the fate of the elite jets, caught out in a snowstorm while held at Munich. Of course, activist scientists now tell us that a predicted wave of big snows, just like the lack of snow, are true signs of the imminent climate crisis.
Such ideas will no doubt be embraced by the always entertaining media and academic clowns, along with neo-feudalists like King Charles and John Kerry who have no doubt embraced COP’s session on “responsible yachting”. Of course, we can expect to be treated to the usual predictions of utter disaster if we somehow do not eliminate fossil fuels entirely post haste.
The focus on the long-term consequences of climate change largely ignores three critical, and more immediate, challenges that will also create a hellish world: shifts in global geopolitics, rising inequality throughout the west, and finally a call for the imposition of green restructuring from the commanding heights of the bureaucracy.
Climate policies, notably attempts to wipe out fossil fuels, have already placed oil autocracies like Russia and Iran at a growing advantage. Meanwhile, the coal-dependent Middle Kingdom China has expanded its market share in manufactured exports to roughly equal the US, Germany and Japan combined.
China, which now emits more greenhouse gases than the rest of the high-income world, is not alone in embracing fossil fuels. Russia, Iran, India and a host of developing countries are increasingly open about expanding the use of fossil fuels, including coal. Rather than leaving due to the climate crisis, people who run developing countries know their people are leaving mostly to escape poverty. As a result, these nations are more concerned with getting rich than begging for handouts from the plutocrats and bureaucrats of the West.
But that won’t stop Western nations from unilaterally disarming their economies. Europe’s EV obsession could devastate its last vestiges of industrial supremacy, including Germany’s vaunted auto industry and petrochemical industries. It promises to inflict the coup de grace to Britain’s increasingly pathetic manufacturing sector, notably impacting steel. Meanwhile, as EVs have piled up unsold on American car lots, ESG stocks crash.
Grassroots opposition to draconian climate solutions is surging. The increasingly beleaguered European, British and American middle and working classes, are becoming dissatisfied about an agenda that promises to lower their standard of living for the coming decades. The rebellion that started with the French gillets jaune in 2018 has metastasized and spread to other countries. We now have protests by Dutch and other European farmers, as well as those in New Zealand.
The fundamental reality is that the majority of voters do not share the convictions of their betters. In the United States, just one per cent of blue collar workers, according to a new Monmouth poll, consider climate a major concern. The Biden Administration expends hundreds of billions in taxpayer funds to “green projects” but on average Americans don’t want to spend more than $2.50 a week to combat it.
Of course, in functional democracies, such policies should naturally be adjusted to meet public views. But the only way to get the COP agenda of inflicting “effective pain” on the masses is to take power away from them. The big challenge for the climate lobby lies not in democracy or fair persuasion, but in coercion. One keenly considered solution would be to follow the model of the pandemic response, which was celebrated by the chief of “sustainable development” at the United Nations as “a fire drill”.
Towards the end of the conference, the selected climate scientists, whose will to power seems to grow even as they lose backing from the masses, now demand that policy be directed not by elected governments but by themselves. This approach may appeal to “green capitalists”, autocrats, academics, and the media. In a world facing an assault by dictatorships and class divides, we do not respond as in previous generations: with efforts to innovate, adapt and force our competitors to play by the same rules. Instead, we send in the clowns. The result will be far from funny.
This piece first appeared at Telegraph.
Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.