‘Doing what’s right, even if it’s wrong’

I have been saying for some time (and I didn’t think of it first) that as the hot air goes out of the AGW balloon the believers will find another reason to tell us that we should continue with carbon taxes and subsidising renewables like wind and solar. ‘Energy security’ I offered as the new deal, or something like that.

Well, the most senior ‘climate change’ official in the European Union, Connie Hedegaard, has done just that. Connie is Danish, and she gave an interview to The (London) Telegraph, in which she responded to a question about the possibly declining role of carbon dioxide in ‘climate change’ with the following rejoinder:

I personally have a very pragmatic view. Say that 30 years from now, science came back and said, ‘wow, we were mistaken then — now we have some new information so we think it is something else’. In a world with nine billion people, even 10 billion at the middle of this century, where literally billions of global citizens will still have to get out of poverty and enter the consuming middle classes, don’t you think that anyway it makes a lot of sense to get more energy and resource efficient? Let’s say that science, some decades from now, said ‘we were wrong, it was not about climate’, would it not in any case have been good to do many of things you have to do in order to combat climate change?

She went to argue that people shouldn’t complain about rising energy prices, because increasing demand for a finite supply will mean that prices will have to rise anyway, even if there were no subsidies. ‘I think we have to realise that in the world of the 21st century for us to have the cheapest possible energy is not the answer’, she said.

The Telegraph undoubtedly sought her opinion because the coming IPCC Report on climate enters a world in which Australia and Norway have elected conservative governments opposed to carbon taxes, while the Germans are going to the polls at the weekend, and Germany is the heartland of environmentalism in Europe. EU policymakers are understandably concerned that another right-wing victory will make it very difficult for the EU to justify its ‘climate change’ policies.

Connie Hedegaard, still only 53, is a most unusual politician, who got into politics as a student leader, before entering the Danish Parliament (as a Conservative) at the age of 23, the youngest ever elected in that nation. She left parliamentary politics to become a senior journalist and television personality, re-entered politics and became a Minister in the Danish Government, and got the responsibility for setting up the Copenhagen Conference that was the high point of the AGW scare. The next year she moved to Brussels to be the EU’s first Climate Change Commissioner, and she’s still there. She’s a believer.

Bjorn Lomborg, another Dane, and a long-time critic of the EU’s ‘climate change’ policies, was not impressed with what she said, calling her ‘callous and wrong”.

EU climate policies have directly increased energy costs and caused more energy poverty — 300,000 households in Germany lost their power last year because they couldn’t pay the bills, and millions are energy poor in the UK. EU climate policies will cost £174 billion annually by 2020, [but] the EU commissioner seems to suggest wasting £174 billion is no problem. To the extent the EU climate policies have affected the world, [they have] made energy more costly, reduced growth and consigned more people to poverty.

I think he’s right, but my complaints are more basic. What Mrs Hedegaard says, in effect, is that the end justifies the means. I don’t agree with that, at all. If energy efficiency is important, then let’s argue about it and, if that is the outcome, go down the energy-efficiency path. But let’s not do it by scaring the wits out of people and telling them that the ‘science’ is right (or that a few scientists are 95 per cent confident that it’s right), and that we’re all doomed unless we cut emissions. Her argument is intellectually bankrupt.

My second complaint is that built into what she says is the notion that our children and grandchildren will not be  more knowledgable than us, and that their technology will not be superior to ours. That seems to me extraordinarily pretentious, as well as most unlikely. In any case, why do we need Connie to tell us what to do? If energy efficiency is what we’re after, what’s wrong with markets sending price signals to us, and our responding accordingly?

If oil gets to be very expensive, we’ll shift to smaller, lighter cars, go from being a two-car family to having only one, walk more, use public transport, cycle. No one will have to advise us — we’ll do it because it’s cheaper. And clever people will make car engines even more efficient. As I understand it, the future for transport is extraordinarily rich with possibilities.

I know, I’m an optimist. I grew up with the EU. It started as an attempt after the second world war to make sure there wouldn’t be another war, at least in Europe. So came the European Coal and Steel Community, then the EEC, now the EU and the European Parliament, and Connie. There’s a lot of good in the pulling together of the European countries, a process that has been going on for three hundred years.

But I’m not sure that it benefits from Connie, or from arguments as empty as hers.

 

Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Peter Bobroff says:

    “There’s a lot of good in the pulling together of the European countries”

    Possibly there is but after reading Bernard Connolly’s The Rotten Heart of Europe on the Exchange Rate Mechanism and Booker and North’s The Great Deception covering the EU project from 1918 to 2005, there is also a lot of not so good and many instances of not pulling together.

    The EU might have reduced the threat of another European war but its policies may be leading to major unrest within individual European nations.

    A few links showing how Commissioner Hedegaard brings credit to the EU:

    http://carboncrooks.tv/danish-film-lifts-lid-on-crime-of-the-century-co2-trading-scams/

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2010/may/01/europe-carbon-trading-alleged-fraud

    http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/carbonwatch/2010/06/carbon-carousel-europes-market-haven-for-tax-fraud.html

  • Peter Kemmis says:

    How can we determine together determine what the best ends should be, without an agreed means to reach such conclusions? The position that “the end justifies the means” is presumptious, and frequently utterly callous. I’ve discovered it’s now sometimes called “consequentialism”. What a weasel word to cover such sloppy thinking, what blather to hide intellectual and personal vacuity!

  • dlb says:

    The more research I do into the AGW phenomenon the more I think it is about “The Dream” rather than any prediction about the earth’s future. By the dream I mean the view that we should all be living more sustainably and in harmony with nature. A dream I also share but with the foresight that dreams and reality are often very different things. One could be charitable and call AGW a very big white (or green) lie.

    The environmentalists must have been overcome with delight when this hypothesis emerged, it was the reason they needed for going to war. It didn’t take long for allies from the left and opponents from the right to front up. The dream is the theme of a recent essay by Pointman.

  • Don Aitkin says:

    dlb — I like the ‘dream’ analogy.

    Peter Kemmis — All democracies have a rough and ready mechanism for sortint out the best ‘ends’, which we’ve seen working very recently here. More than that is very difficult indeed.

    Peter Bobroff — In my view that EU ‘dream’ has become bureaucratised and insensitive to local cultures. All being well, the tensions will sort themselves out in time. They may not, too.

  • […] sounds pretty impressive, doesn’t it. But Connie, about whom I have written before, is a former student politician, and adept at getting across her message, which may or may not be […]

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