By Tilak Doshi
Suicide is viewed as a crime in many countries. In a court of law, it is a serious charge and the evidence needs to be conclusive for such an accusation to stand (e.g., did you actually see him attempt to jump off the bridge?). But when societies (or at least their leaders) attempt it, one can say that it safely falls under the rubric of the sovereign right to misrule oneself. In the hallowed tradition of Western liberal democracy, so long as its political leaders are elected in free and fair elections, misrule leading to societal death by suicide is merely an unfortunate outcome of either gross negligence or culpable intention led by, say, a death-cult ideology. Nevertheless, let us proceed with the case for the prosecution.
The Circumstantial Evidence Of Societal Suicide
The first piece of evidence is an astonishing article published last week in the Boston Review by a professor of anthropology in Rutgers University . The good professor opined that Zimbabwe and Puerto Rico “provide models for what we might call ‘pause-full’ electricity”. The West, he continues, has created a vast infrastructure for generating and consuming electricity 24/7, 365 days a year. Since this is based on “planet-destroying fossil fuels and nuclear power”, we need to emulate the aforementioned poor countries and save the climate by giving up the demand for the constant supply of electricity.
To be fair, the professor also noted that the Zimbabweans and Puerto Ricans did not choose to accept electricity rationing but were imposed upon by the gross negligence and corruption of their governments. The professor cannot be lightly dismissed, and the Boston Review shares its domicile with MIT and Harvard University, the temples of wisdom in modern western civilization. And the Review has its share of kudos, at least for those of a particular persuasion: “When it comes to publishing fresh and generative ideas, Boston Review has no peer” says Robin D. G. Kelley, Professor of American History at the University of California, Los Angeles and Naomi Klein, activist and New York Times best-selling author, opines that “Boston Review is so good right now.”
Let us move on to our second piece of evidence, this time from the other side of the “climate emergency” aisle. Professor Fritz Vahrenholt is a giant among environmental circles in Germany. (The country, as is well known, is the world’s leading national champion for all things environmental and for pushing Europe for “net zero emissions by 2050”.) Prof. Vahrenholt holds a doctorate in chemistry and started his professional career at the Federal Environmental Agency in Berlin (responsible for the chemical industry) before joining the Hessian Ministry of the Environment. From 1984 until 1990 he served as state secretary for environment, from 1991 till 1997 as minister for energy and environment in the state of Hamburg.
One day before the publication of the Boston Review article on October 5th, Prof Vahrenholt stated baldly in a German TV interview that climate science was “politicized”, “exaggerated”, and filled with “fantasy” and “fairy tales”. He pronounced that “The [Paris] Accord is already dead. Putin says it’s nonsense. […] The Americans are out. The Chinese don’t have to do anything. It’s all concentrated on a handful of European countries. The European Commission in massively on it. And I predict that they will reach the targets only if they destroy the European industries.” He lambasted Germany as a country “in denial when it comes to the broader global debate taking place on climate science”. He went on to characterize Europe’s recent push for even stricter emissions reduction targets to madness akin to Soviet central planning that is doomed to fail spectacularly.
The Substantive Evidence
At this stage, the lawyer for the defence against the charge of societal suicide might well jump up before the presiding judge, saying “Enough, Your Honour, this is merely circumstantial evidence! Show this court the proof!” After all, the jury might well agree with the suggestion that despite the weighty credentials of the two professors, these are still mere individuals who in the nature of things might be prone to exaggeration or hyperbole. Where is the evidence that society is jumping off the proverbial bridge?
At this turn in court proceedings, the prosecution, possibly with a quiet confidence in its case of societal suicide, might say “let us now go beyond the circumstantial, and into the realm of substantial evidence, Your Honour… Let me now turn to the example of Germany itself”. In an analysis of 126 countries using purchasing power-adjusted data, Germany ranks 16th in the international ranking (the highest in Europe) in household electricity prices. Most of the countries with even higher prices are crisis-ridden developing countries such as such as Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso where some people cannot afford electricity at all or in isolated island countries such as Vanuatu, the Cook Islands, and Tonga. According to data for March 2020, the electricity price for households in Germany was $0.38 per kilowatt-hour (kWh), compared to $0.15 for US households, $0.17 for Sweden, $0.21 for France and $0.26 in the UK.
Germany has felled thousands of acres of its ancient Teutonic forests and threatens its endangered species of birds and bats in its sacrifice at the altar of the Green God by consecrating thousands of windmill crucifixes with arms made of petroleum-based glass-fiber-reinforced epoxy or polyester resins and made in furnaces fuelled by natural gas, its motors need rare earths such as dysprosium, neodymium and praseodymium which are extracted using fossil fuels. Windmills are constructed on thousands of tons of reinforced concrete towers with cement and steel manufactured in intensive fossil fuel-powered factories. Most disturbingly, the leading German newsmagazine Der Spiegel found that in 2014, 17% of all German households live in poverty due to an “energy cost explosion”. Since then, in the Green-propelled rush to shut down its nuclear reactors, natural gas-fuelled power and coal power plants, average electricity prices for a three-person household have risen by almost 68% over the last 15 years.
Let’s turn to another leading example of societal suicide. This is California – sometimes referred to in a decidedly non-humorous fashion by over-taxed and beleaguered small businesses as the People’s Republic of California — run exclusively by the Democratic party for decades. According to engineer Ronald Stein, “California’s green crusade direction and actions are increasing the costs of electricity and fuels which guarantees growth of the homeless, poverty, and welfare populations, and further fuels (no pun intended) the housing affordability crisis.”
California, the world’s fifth largest economy, now imports most of its crude oil from overseas (since the extraction of its ample local oil resources are practically banned) and it imports nearly a third of its electricity from neighbouring states (since nuclear and natural gas-fuelled power plants are progressively shutdown by legislation). Between 2011 and 2017, California’s electricity prices rose five times faster than they did nationally and now Californians pay 60 percent more, on average, than the rest of the nation, for residential, commercial and industrial electricity. With rolling power blackouts, it has accorded itself a third world status. Indeed it seems the state has anticipated the advice proffered by the notable Rutgers University professor of anthropology.
In a remarkable moment of candour, Governor Gavin Newsom said in mid-August that the state’s transition away from fossil fuels is a contributing factor to the state’s rolling blackouts. The elimination of fossil fuel products and the shift to solar power, windmills and other forms of green energy has led to what Newsom called “gaps” in the energy grid’s reliability. To top it off, the Governor signed an executive order on September 23 banning the sale of new gasoline-powered vehicles within 15 years to cut down on air pollution and reach the state’s goals for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) delivered this common sense verdict to the Green Governor: “California’s record of rolling blackouts – unprecedented in size and scope – coupled with recent requests to neighboring states for power begs the question of how you expect to run an electric car fleet that will come with significant increases in electricity demand, when you can’t even keep the lights on today.”
But It Is To Save The Planet!
At this juncture the lawyer for the defence would appeal to the ultimate moral arbiter of all debate related to energy policy: “We need to save the planet!”. This, the defence will conclude, is all there is to say about this overly-long court battle. “We are not committing suicide, Your Honour, but indeed we are doing our level best to avoid this headlong rush to precisely the suicide that the prosecutor so drastically misconstrues”. And with a flourish, the intrepid defence rests its case with the unveiling of the Hockey Stick Chart of Impending Global Catastrophe for maximum effect on the jury.
But the prosecution has one more arrow in its quiver. The prosecutor consults the work of Nobel Laureate William Nordhaus — whose pioneering work on the economics of climate change won him the award –and states that the best current research shows that the cost of climate change by the end of the century, if we do nothing, will be less than 4% of global GDP. This means, as the New York Times best-selling “environmental sceptic” author Bjorn Lomborg puts it, “that instead of seeing incomes rise to 450% by 2100, they might “only” increase to 434%. But “how can we trust this assertion?” a juror or the judge himself might ask. “Well, as much as the Hockey Stick chart can be trusted” comes the inevitable reply. How does one trust a predictive long-run global temperature chart which has miraculously voided the well-documented historical Roman and Medieval Warming periods with temperatures as high (or higher) as they are currently?
Ultimate Resolution: The People Will Act
At this stage, an on-looker of this courtroom drama might well raise his hands in exasperation and say that a hung jury is inevitable. But while this might be the case in our theoretical court of law, there is bound to be a resolution in real life. There is nothing theoretical about the unstoppable force of climate alarmism meeting the immoveable object of people’s attachment to their accustomed material standards of living. And such resolutions are occurring in real time, in different parts of the world, and may well be the leading indicators as to whether societal suicide is in prospect for Europe and perhaps for a post-Trump USA.
Perhaps one of the more striking examples of resolution took place in Australia’s 2019 national elections where the centre-right Liberal-led coalition Prime Minister Scott Morrison retained power despite all the opinion polls predicting an easy Labour victory. The opposition Labour party’s election strategy to make climate alarmism and anti-coal legislation the key issue badly backfired in what was widely dubbed a “climate election”. One Australian commentator remarked: “How to lose the unlosable election: be anti-coal”. The US election upset of 2016 exhibits some parallels as well. Failed presidential-hopeful Hillary Clinton claimed that her biggest regret was in doubling down on ex-President Obama’s ‘war on coal’ and stating in her campaign trail that “we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business”.
The jury is in: modern economic growth has not shown a single instance of a country successfully developing without the concomitant use of fossil fuels, and ordinary people across the world are fully aware of this.