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RALEIGH – In the United States there is a surprisingly large contingent of climate deniers. The easiest way to understand the climate denier mindset is to use a favorite phrase of theirs: “Climate Change is a hoax.” We can see this mindset on display in a recent article that was sent to me recently:
Who is Rupert Darwell? He is the author of the book Green Tyranny: Exposing the Totalitarian Roots of the Climate Industrial Complex
His description from the book:
“Rupert Darwall is strategy consultant and policy analyst. He read economics and history at Cambridge University and subsequently worked in finance as an investment analyst and in corporate finance before becoming a special adviser to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He has written extensively for publications on both sides of the Atlantic, including the Wall Street Journal, National Review, the Daily Telegraph and The Spectator and is the author of widely praised The Age of Global Warming: A History (2013).”
If we want to look at the world through a climate denier’s eyes, Rupert Darwall certainly sounds credible. But is he right? The article contains quotes like these from Darwell:
One: “It requires tyranny if you’re going to force people to live low-carbon existences. It requires a degree of state control over people, what people do, and how they live their lives, which is unprecedented.”
Two: “I mean, no modern economy can function without cheap, abundant energy and fossil fuel derived energy.”
Three: “There are over a billion Africans, and they are energy starved. Africa is an energy-starved continent. And the effect of Western green policies is to freeze, as it were, African Development at a very low level. For Africa to flourish and develop, it needs reliable, cheap, grid-delivered electricity. And that is what people like Al Gore and John Kerry are denying Africans.”
Four: “Today, we’re talking about sacrificing the present for a clean future where the planet is safe from some kind of imaginary catastrophe. The catastrophizing is basically propaganda, it is a tool to stop debate. What it means is that if you’re questioning what they’re trying to do you are inviting a planetary catastrophe that is going to wipe out billions of people. It is a form of moral blackmail.”
These are Rupert Darwell’s main points. They are common themes among climate deniers. This video can help you better understand why climate deniers exist and where their funding comes from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f1rxv1yPQrc
What are the counterpoints to Rupert Darwell’s line of thinking? How might a rational person respond to Rupert Darwell’s points?
Why do we create laws?
Let’s start with an analogy. Let’s imagine a person named Bob Smith walks up to Rupert Darwell’s house with two jerrycans, pours ten gallons of gasoline around the house, lights the gasoline on fire, and burns Rupert Darwell’s house to the ground. Should Bob Smith be able to do this to Rupert Darwell’s house?
I think that most rational people would agree that no, Bob Smith should not be able to burn down Rupert Darwell’s house, or anyone’s house. As a society, we can agree that Bob’s actions have no place, and they should be illegal.
Therefore, as a society, we create and enforce laws against arson. If Bob Smith tries to burn down anyone’s house, we arrest Bob and put him in jail.
Are these anti-arson laws a form of tyranny? Rational people can see that, no, this is not tyranny. Anti-arson statutes help us create an orderly, civil society based on the rule of law. We have all kinds of laws:
- It is illegal to burn someone’s house down
- It is illegal to murder, assault, or rape someone
- It is illegal to rob someone on the street or steal things from their home
- It is illegal to run a red light or drive too fast on a public road
- It is illegal to walk down the street naked
We have laws that ban all kinds of behaviors. When someone violates a law, they are fined or arrested. Is it “tyranny” to have these laws? Is it an unprecedented level of “state control over people, what people do, and how they live their lives” to have these laws? I don’t believe that any rational person would argue this way. These are laws that allow us to have a free and functional nation. Laws like these are the basis of civilization.
Therefore, in Rupert Darwell’s first point, does it “require tyranny if you’re going to force people to live low-carbon existences”? No, of course not. It simply requires a law or a regulation that prevents people’s vehicles, homes, buildings, and factories from emitting carbon dioxide from fossil fuels. Is this unprecedented? No, of course not. It is just another law. Why create the law? We have learned that carbon dioxide from fossil fuels is going to burn down the planet, and we are now creating laws to make these activities illegal. This video can help understand the climate change problem we are facing and therefore the reason for the new laws and regulations: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4H1N_yXBiA
The fact is that we need to create laws to make fossil fuels illegal as quickly as we possibly can. Otherwise, we will destroy the biosphere. It does not really matter that Rupert Darwell believes otherwise, because Rupert Darwell’s opinion is entirely incorrect. It is undeniable that carbon dioxide from fossil fuels is going to destroy us if we do not take action to reverse climate change.
I would highly encourage Rupert Darwell to read articles like these with an open mind. This is the future we are facing if humanity does not change course:
- Climate change catastrophe: August 2022, 31 days of global drought & flood
- Doomsday warning: It’s time to start moving coastal cities to higher ground – here’s why
- Doomsday, shrinking rain forests and us – why we must turn the tide
- What a real war on climate change looks like
Do we – the rational people on planet Earth – wish to live on a planet where sea levels have risen by 10 feet and destroyed all our coastal cities and beaches? Do we wish to live on a planet where the Amazon Rainforest has burned to the ground and turned into a desert or savannah? Of course not. These events would be catastrophes. And thus, we need to make fossil fuels illegal as quickly as we can.
Creating a society free of fossil fuels
Now let’s look at Rupert Darwell’s second point:
“I mean, no modern economy can function without cheap, abundant energy and fossil fuel derived energy.”
The first part of his statement is true. Modern society does need energy for things like agriculture, manufacturing, healthcare, and transportation. We also use energy for household tasks like cooking, cleaning, refrigeration, heating, air conditioning, electronics, and lighting.
But does this energy need to come from fossil fuels? No, of course not, and it is easy to demonstrate this fact. For example, I live in Raleigh, North Carolina. Raleigh’s electricity comes from the Shearon Harris Nuclear Power Plant. All the factories and businesses and houses/apartments in Raleigh are running on nuclear power, not fossil fuel energy. Obviously it is possible to run a modern society without fossil fuels, because we have examples like Raleigh already in operation. These examples counter Rupert Darwell’s statements.
Raleigh is well on its way to a modern society completely freed from fossil fuels. As Raleigh residents switch over to electric cars and trucks, as we generate more and more electricity from solar panels and other carbon-free sources, and as we convert airplanes, trains and cargo ships to carbon neutral fuels, we will create a modern society that uses no fossil fuels at all. And this society will be better because it will eliminate all the pollution and environmental destruction that fossil fuels are causing.
On Rupert Darwell’s third point, the energy situation in Africa, we should absolutely help to electrify Africa. And we should do it with things like solar panels and battery storage. Why? For the simplest of reasons: solar power is now less expensive than coal-fired power plants and other fossil fuel sources of electricity. And solar power is much easier to deploy, especially to more remote areas. In addition, solar power does not require a railroad to bring in coal or a pipeline to supply natural gas. There are no ongoing costs for these fossil fuels once the solar panels are in place. This page makes a great point:
“In a report published in March 2020 it found that more than 60% of the world’s coal plants are generating more expensive electricity today than could be supplied by building new wind or solar plants. It says this figure will rise to 100% of plants in the world’s major markets by 2030.”
It would be ridiculous for Africa to build fossil fuel power plants when there are cheaper, easier, pollution-free and carbon-free alternatives available. Africa will be much better off by skipping fossil fuels altogether. And Rupert Darwell, based on his background in finance, would be doing Africa a service if he would help Africa get the financing and resources it needs to make renewable energy development possible as quickly as possible. He should watch videos like this one to gain a better understanding: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gup-cgPeIzw
Examples of past successes
And then there is Rupert Darwell’s fourth point, which in my opinion really is quite over the top in terms of its inaccuracy:
“Today, we’re talking about sacrificing the present for a clean future where the planet is safe from some kind of imaginary catastrophe. The catastrophizing is basically propaganda, it is a tool to stop debate. What it means is that if you’re questioning what they’re trying to do you are inviting a planetary catastrophe that is going to wipe out billions of people. It is a form of moral blackmail.”
To fully understand how helpful and forward-looking scientists can be for our society, here are several examples of past environmental successes:
- Back in the 1980s, everyone was talking about the huge ozone hole that had opened up and the eventual loss of Earth’s ozone layer. Was it tyranny when, in 1987, the Montreal Protocol banned a number of ozone depleting substances? No. Were scientists “catastrophizing” or spreading propaganda when they identified the threat that the entire planet faced if humanity allowed these ozone depleting substances to destroy Earth’s ozone layer? No. The scientists saved the planet from a terrible and unnecessary outcome by sounding the alarm and helping people understand the threat to the ozone layer. Everyone on Earth benefitted from the Montreal Protocol.
- In the 1980s, the problem of acid rain had gotten bad enough that it was killing plants and animals, eating away stone and concrete, ruining paint and so on. Was it tyranny when, in 1990, the EPA started to regulate sulfur emissions from coal-fired power plants in order to stop the acid rain problem? No. Were scientists “catastrophizing” or spreading propaganda when they identified the threats that acid rain created? No. These were real threats created by burning sulfur-containing coal. By identifying the problems with acid rain and inventing the scrubber technology pivotal in eliminating sulfur emissions, scientists did humanity a great service. We as a society created regulations that solved the acid rain problem, and everyone benefitted.
- Anyone in Los Angeles in the 1960s could look out at the horizon and see a brown layer of smog. The smog was becoming a real problem for air quality. Scientists pointed out that the smog came from all the cars sending unburned gasoline out their tailpipes. Therefore, in 1975 the United States created regulations that require cars to have catalytic converters that burn off the unburned gasoline. Gasoline switched from leaded to unleaded at the same time, solving another huge environmental problem caused by lead. The smog problem declined significantly over time. Was it tyranny to require catalytic converters to eliminate smog? No. Was it tyranny to remove lead from gasoline? No. The regulations made the air a lot cleaner and safer for everyone.
You may have heard that cities like Beijing in northern China can have terrible air quality problems. This video shows you how bad it can get: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2nFZaSbkf0U
This level of pollution is downright disgusting, and it happens because China for a long time has had very lax or nonexistent regulations on emissions. As you can see, the lack of environmental regulations can make life miserable for everyone. Things are slowly getting better in China now that they are creating/enforcing environmental regulations.
When climate deniers like Rupert Darwell say things such as, “we’re talking about sacrificing the present for a clean future where the planet is safe from some kind of imaginary catastrophe”, that is not what is happening at all. The approaching catastrophe is real and easy for any intelligent and observant person to understand. Look back at the climate change events in August 2022. Things like:
- The incredible heat wave China experienced
- The incredible flooding that Pakistan experienced
- The major rivers drying up all over the world
- The 1,000-year floods in many parts of the United States
- The accelerating and undeniable speed of Greenland ice melt
- The power plant shutdowns that occurred because river water and ocean water was too warm to cool the plants
- The incredible and accelerating speed of Arctic warming
See this article for the details on all of these events, all in a single month. It takes a remarkable level of deceit for Rupert Darwell to ignore all of this catastrophe. It is dumbfounding to think that a seemingly intelligent person like Rupert Darwell can be blind to all of these events, and blind to the reasons for them. In my view, the science of climate change is undeniable, and the headlines this week are undeniable:
- Antarctica’s Collapse Could Begin Even Sooner Than Anticipated
- Climate change will slow U.S. crop yield growth by 2030
- What Do We Do in a Rapidly Heating World?
Rupert Darwell and other climate deniers seem to have made themselves intentionally and completely blind to the science, and to the evidence all around us. In addition, August 2022 was just the tip of the climate change iceberg – things will get much worse going forward without serious action against climate change. Just like acid rain, photochemical smog, and the destruction of the ozone layer were real threats that scientists identified, climate change is a real threat, and it is accelerating.
The problem with climate change is that it will eventually cause biosphere collapse whether Rupert Darwell cares to believe it or not. The rest of us, the rational people who can understand science and see what is happening, need for Rupert Darwell and his climate denying friends to open their eyes and see reality. When will Rupert Darwell acknowledge that he is wrong and when will he accept reality?
- When simultaneous crop failures in several breadbasket areas cause millions of people to starve to death?
- When water shortages in the Southwestern United States and similar regions leave millions of people with no running water in their homes?
- When a major heat wave or a major flood kills a million people in one stroke?
- When the Thwaites Glacier collapses and sea levels start to rapidly rise?
Would any of these events be enough to cause Rupert Darwell to acknowledge the climate change reality that humanity faces? Or will he continue to preach his fossil fuel nonsense ad infinitum?
Here is the big problem that climate denial fosters: When one of these inevitable catastrophes definitively prove that Rupert Darwell and his climate denier cabal are wrong, millions of people will already be suffering from the effects of the catastrophe. The societal drag that Rupert Darwell creates with his unconscionable and incorrect rhetoric means that we as a society cannot act powerfully and rationally to anticipate and forestall these catastrophes.
Think about the economic vulnerability that fossil fuels create
One final point. This is something else that Rupert Darwell and other climate deniers are ignoring. Think about the economic vulnerability that fossil fuels create. Two recent examples:
- Vladimir Putin – one human being – decided to cut off the flow of natural gas in the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. Suddenly Europe is in a horrible position. An entire continent of people faces a terrible situation because of one man’s control of an important fossil fuel resource.
- Last week Saudi Arabia, and in particular Mohammed bin Salman, along with Russia and the other OPEC+ members, decided they would arbitrarily cut oil production to raise the global price of oil. People all around the world will suffer greatly as a result, and for no reason.
Why do we want a global economy for eight billion people that is this vulnerable? Why have a global economy that can be sent into turmoil by the whims of just a few people who collude together to manipulate fossil fuel resources? It is a pattern of malicious behavior that began with the 1973 oil crisis and continues to this day. It is a ridiculous proposition, and much of this vulnerability disappears by abandoning fossil fuels.
As demonstrated above, Rupert Darwell and his ilk are completely out of touch with scientific reality and the catastrophic events already underway due to climate change. Things will only get worse as humanity drags its feet on climate solutions. Planet Earth and human civilization need fossil fuels to become illegal as quickly as we can make it happen. Rupert Darwell and his misinformation slow us down.
Rupert Darwell’s thinking is holding us back from a much brighter future free of fossil fuels. Even more unfortunately, Rupert Darwell is not alone. For example:
“According to new analysis from the Center for American Progress, there are still 139 elected officials in the 117th Congress, including 109 representatives and 30 senators, who refuse to acknowledge the scientific evidence of human-caused climate change. All 139 of these climate-denying elected officials have made recent statements casting doubt on the clear, established scientific consensus that the world is warming—and that human activity is to blame. These same 139 climate-denying members have received more than $61 million in lifetime contributions from the coal, oil, and gas industries.”
The faster we understand that Rupert Darwell and his ilk are in my view denying reality – that they are completely out of touch with scientific fact + current events and are therefore spewing nonsense – the better off we all will be.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f1rxv1yPQrc – Why Climate Change Denial Still Exists In The U.S.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4H1N_yXBiA – Causes and Effects of Climate Change | National Geographic
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2nFZaSbkf0U – China’s toxic smog – BBC News
- https://wraltechwire.com/2022/10/14/fighting-doomsday-what-a-real-war-on-climate-change-look-like-marshall-brain-explains/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shearon_Harris_Nuclear_Power_Plant
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gup-cgPeIzw – How Power is Finally Coming to Rural Africa