|Global warming runs out of gas|
Rex Murphy, National Post · Aug. 20, 2011 | Last Updated: Aug. 20, 2011 3:06 AM ET
For those who have a wish to hear the grating sound of a man distempered and frustrated that the cause for which he has given at least a decade of his time, the "greatest moral challenge of our time," is lost, I recommend listening to Al Gore as he was captured during an address at an Aspen global warming conference two weeks ago. It is a revelation.
Mr. Gore is not a happy Jeremiah. You hear him on the tape near rage, repeatedly shouting "bulls--t" over the arguments of his critics. He raves about conspiracy - a rebirth of the tactics of the dreaded tobacco industry of a few decades back. He blames "media manipulation" for the refusal of people to take up his gloomy summons. He hisses at "volcanoes and sunspots" as having much or anything to do with climate. "Bulls--!" he cries over and over - perhaps it's the methane content that has him mesmerized with the word. Listen to this aria: "They pay pseudo-scientists to pretend to be scientists to put out the message: 'This climate thing, it's nonsense. Man-made CO2 doesn't trap heat. It may be volcanoes.' Bulls-t! 'It may be sun spots.' Bulls--t! 'It's not getting warmer.' Bulls--t!"
Can a person win the Nobel Peace prize twice? I surely hope so, for this is the E=mc² moment of our green time.
It is not a pretty display. The question the sorry little rant calls up is whether, in its way, this temper fit was a signal that the great global warming crusade, that has had such a sweet run for the last decade or more, is finally over. Has it run, so to speak, out of gas?
The signs are everywhere that it has. Here in Canada, for example, how far are we from those days when Stéphane Dion was the freshly-minted leader of the Liberal party, having ascended to that dubious altitude largely on the pledge that he was going to build a "green" Canada. It was telling that within the Liberal party at that time featly to a drastic and nebulous green agenda was enough to grab the leadership prize away from the perceived stronger candidates, Bob Rae and Michael Ignatieff. As so often happens, however, much as they are embraced by celebrities and touted by inside "experts," when so-called green politics are placed before the people those politics and the people who espouse them are forcefully rejected.
Some five or so years later, not a little of Stephen Harper's success in gaining a majority government came from refusing to engage, in any serious and convincing manner, with the politics of the planet-savers. Political correctness dictates some tepid genuflection towards the obsession with a warming planet, but Harper - and people know this - can be counted on not to jump on the carbon-counting express. He can be counted on to not bend in the face of the manufactured fury presented by professional activists and environmentalists, either to slow or stop the oil sands or introduce some ludicrous and wasteful "tax" on carbon dioxide. And while it may be a footnote to the national trend, Rob Ford's election as mayor of Toronto can also be read, in part, as a rebuke to the previous mayor's incessant tinkering with "environmental" measures - from plastic bag surcharges to bike lanes - at the expense of more basic municipal functions.
These are merely the local Canadian signals. But one can skip the globe and find almost everywhere that govern-ments, staring at the reality of recession and financial anxiety, have given up on their vague projections of green economics. Where is President Obama, who promised that on his accession "the rise of the oceans will start to slow and the planet begin to heal?" - surely the most fatuous declaration in the history of politics. Well, he appears to be giving speeches every second day, but none of them feature the retreating oceans or our healed planet.
In fact he's been tooling around in a $2-million bus oblivious of the carbon costs, and there simply hasn't been any signal that his White House is giving the great Gore crusade anything but the barest of rhetorical support. If there were any political value to ardent greensmanship, surely a President who is floundering on the economy and sinking in the polls would have grabbed that raft with a passion.
But there isn't anymore. Perhaps the recession has tamed the imaginations of most people and their governments. In tight economic times people are naturally unwilling to engage in the comicbook fantasies of the wilder environmentalists. Perhaps Climategate gave a too-souring glimpse into the mixture of science and advocacy that has, to some extent, corrupted both. Perhaps, finally, the unctuousness, sanctimony and sputtering righteousness of the highprofile environmentalists signal to most observers that they aren't really as certain of all this "science" as they pretend to be. Either way this long green game has lost its fundamental energies. The celebrities will find another wristband; the politicians will find a new vague distraction.
For that, Mr. Gore himself has a lot of blame to carry. His own "sputtering righteousness" and his adolescent barks of "bulls--t" to his critics may be a reverse of the Obama declaration. Gore's meltdown might just be the moment when the people of the planet saw the carney show for what it was.