Climate strikers need to grow up

From Greta Thunberg to Extinction Rebellion, climate-change activists are espousing mindless catastrophism.

Andrea Seaman

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Topics Politics World

From Sydney to London to New York, thousands of children, alongside many adults, went on a so-called climate strike last week. They demanded ‘urgent action’ to combat ‘climate breakdown’.

Hyperbole was the order of the day. Addressing protesters in London, Guardian columnist Owen Jones warned the planet was succumbing to ‘murder!’. Protesters’ placards, from ‘Don’t fucking kill us’ to ‘Act now or we will die’, echoed Jones’ dire warnings. Meanwhile, teen eco-prophet Greta Thunberg had just told US Congress that climate change is ‘the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced’.

These people really need to take the advice of an old geography teacher of mine. Although passionately convinced that climate change was happening and posed a serious threat, he nonetheless warned us against abandoning our critical faculties. This, he said, too often leads to worst-case thinking and catastrophism.

Sadly, too many public voices indulge in precisely this. Take, for instance, the following Guardian report, which declares that ‘the world’s insects are hurtling down the path to extinction’. Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, a scientist at the University of Sydney, bases this prediction on the fact that the total mass of insects has, over the past 25 years, been falling at an average rate of 2.5 per cent per year. So, he concludes, ‘in 10 years you will have a quarter less, in 50 years only half left and in 100 years you will have none’.

Yet the same article acknowledges that insects remain ‘by far the most varied and abundant animals, outweighing humanity by 17 times’. Variations in the global insect population are not reducible to mathematical worst-case scenarios. Sure, insect populations might have declined in some areas. But such declines are often a prelude to their renewed rise due to the reduction of the number of predators reliant on a steady diet of particular insects. To say that there will no insects at all in a hundred years is to extrapolate from a contemporary data set, and project – or rather imagine – the worst possible future scenario.

This kind of mindless exaggeration pervades the climate-change debate.

My schoolfriends and I were fortunate enough to have been taught by a geography teacher who was intellectually honest enough to keep his ideology out of the classroom. Too many teachers in the Western world are compelled by government guidelines to scaremonger about climate change. Thunberg herself says she experienced a quasi-divine revelation about how the world was going to perish when she was exposed to a propaganda film about climate change.

Such attempts at brainwashing children in schools are reminiscent of authoritarian regimes. Teachers are encouraging children to embrace fearmongering. When a teacher nods at a child’s parroted claim that climate change will cause Armageddon, children are being authorised to repeat this outside school as if it were true. Thus Thunberg can freely postulate all kinds of exagerrations and untruths, such as climate change will ‘most likely lead to the end of our civilisation as we know it’, or ‘up to 200 species’ are ‘going extinct every single day’. And those adults who have fed her all this then nod along, as if it’s the first time they’ve heard it.

Given Thunberg has not attended school recently, perhaps that explains why she knows so little about ‘our civilisation’. If she cared to learn a bit of history, she would know that modern civilisation has proved highly successful at surviving and massively improving the existence of humanity and the natural world.

Yet, there is hope. Not all students succumb to the simplicity of worst-case thinking and black-and-white moralising. Thunberg herself recalls how her classmates looked ‘concerned’ when they watched the film about climate change at school, but, ‘when it stopped, they started thinking about other things’. Thunberg was outraged at their perceived complacency. But it is good to know that most schoolchildren refuse to let themselves be consumed by the climate-fire-and-brimstone efforts of their teachers.

Too many others, from Thunberg to Jones, have embraced the catastrophism and worst-case thinking of the environmentalist movement. They happily think in moralising, black-and-white terms: either we act now or nature will quickly take us to hell in a handcart; either you’re with us or you’re against us (and nature). But climate change is not a black-and-white issue. There needs to be critical thought, reflection, and, most of all, debate. Which is precisely what Thunberg, Extinction Rebellion and the rest are opposed to.

Andrea Seaman is a writer based in Switzerland.

Picture by: Getty Images.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Comments

Andrew Clitheroe

26th September 2019 at 4:57 pm

The correlation between conservatism and climate science denial is fascinating, in a blackly ironic way. I do wonder what might have been – how much more unified and effective our efforts now – had the left not tried to save the whales all those years ago. It didn’t have to be that way – Conservatism could have easily claimed conservation and responsible, moral stewardship for its own. If anything it would have been a better fit. But here we are, with identity politics the sole reason conservatives are digging in their heels: the libtards just can’t be allowed to have been right about something first. A Doctor Strangelove for the 21st century, where people scoff at climate change alarmism and bemoan the brainwashing of children as they holster a sidearm to take to church; preach personal responsibility from one side of their mouths and “what about China?” from the other – stage-four cognitive dissonance with prescription-strength hatred of liberals as the only palliative.

Gerard Barry

27th September 2019 at 9:12 am

Not all conservative-leaning people deny that climate change is happening. What we object to is the hysteria and scaremongering. What we object to is the double standard where it is considered acceptable to spread panic about the issue when open and honest disccusion about other important issues (e.g. demographic changes caused by immigration) is deemed politically inccorrect. What we object to is people who know nothing about the subject (e.g. those in the media, politicians and naive, clueless teenagers) talking so much about climate change when we all know that msot of them know jack-shit about it. What we object to is radically left-wing parties like the Greens (especially here in Germany) hijacking the issue for political gain and using it as a vehicle to seize power and implement their radical agenda (e.g. open borders). We’re also not convinced that the consequences are as serious as we’re told they are. We’re also too busy living our everyday lives to add climate change to our long list of worries. We’re also not sure how exactly we can combat climate change – and we’re not hearing much in the way of concrete proposals from the “climate change activists” either. We’re also sick of listening to politically correct hypocrites who smugly talk about climate change in order to show how enlightened and progressive they are while they continue to fly on aeroplanes, drive cars, etc. And, last but not least, we’re aware that the life of every single person on this planet is finite anyway so what’s the point worrying about something we cannot change? We’re here for a good time, not a long time.

Andrew Clitheroe

27th September 2019 at 2:44 pm

I appreciate the well thought-through reply. I shall try to do it justice.

First objection: that it’s okay to ‘panic’ about climate change but not have ‘open and honest discussion’ about immigration. This is precisely the kind of identity-politics fuelled cognitive dissonance I’m talking about – what sense does it make to downplay climate change because ‘we’re here for a good time not a long time’, and then call demographic change an important issue? What do you think hundreds of millions displaced by climate change is going to do to immigration?

Second objection: that media, politicians and Greta talk about climate change despite ‘us all knowing’ they are ignorant. This is, again, identity-politics-fuelled backwards reasoning. If Greta were bombing around the world on a panda-powered Concorde saying climate change is no big deal, you would be the first to applaud her good sense. It is my overwhelming personal experience that those who downplay the severity of the threat, our responsibility for it and our ability to tackle it do so in ignorance or denial of the best and most well-supported facts and theories at our disposal.

Third objection: I can wholeheartedly sympathise – but as I’ve said elsewhere: it’s not the fault of the Greens that climate change was left unattended for them to monopolise. Nobody had to arm-wrestle the right for first dibs. The moment people with flowers in their hair started blockading oil tankers you ran for the hills. And started strip-mining them. Nobody’s stopping the right wing making the issue of climate change front and centre. Not only is it the best insurance against future deluges of migration but it’s proving an incredible source of new jobs and opportunities for growth! Where are the conservatives pushing alternative energy, fusion research – it’s all gravy! Right there on the plate. Just muscle those wimpy liberals out of the way and get it done.

Third, that you aren’t convinced the consequences are as serious as you’re told. Again I think this comes down to trust, or rather who you trust, and you don’t trust liberals and you’ve convinced yourself it’s only liberals doing the talking. As I pointed out elsewhere, predictions from 1980 have turned out to be conservative. Insect populations are crashing. Animal fish and bird populations are crashing. Extreme weather events are doubling and trebling. That’s not the future, that’s right now. The reason many of us haven’t seen a great deal of difference in our day-to-day lives is simple: by and large we don’t live surrounded by nature – or the nature we do see is managed and protected – gardens and parks, farmland etc. We go out into the countryside and see the rolling fields and think ‘nature’ – when often we’re looking at a near-desert, biologically speaking. And that’s nothing compared to the damage happening over the horizons we never cross.

Fourth: that you’re just too busy to worry about it. I get that. It’s hard to consider this an overriding concern but if the science is right then literally everything else is rearranging deckchairs. Both Mars and Venus had temperate periods in their pasts, and there is absolutely no reason whatsoever why Earth can’t follow in one of their footsteps if the right amount of the right chemicals are introduced to the atmosphere.

Fifth: that you’re not exactly sure what to do. Maybe listen to those damn liberals a bit? Demand investment be shifted from fossil fuel extraction to renewables and fusion, to bringing better, more eco friendly batteries (graphene etc) to market. Demand investment be made in carbon capture – macro-scale planting of trees could draw down a massive chunk of all post-industrial CO2 as well as giving animals, insects and birds a boost. There are carbon tax options that don’t burden the consumer; look into supporting those. We need to pull big, big levers. I know that whole government-picking-winners thing isn’t your bag, but we are in a situation where too many people are thinking “No point me changing because not enough other people will.” It’s called market failure.

Alex Ander

24th September 2019 at 2:45 pm

Climate change – also known as observing that it is warmer in the summer than it is in spring, autumn and winter…..

Michael Lynch

24th September 2019 at 8:29 am

Are you going to get seven billion people to act as one to defeat climate change? I very much doubt it. China and India are not going to stop burning coal like it’s going out of fashion just because Greta grimaces at Trump. Australia, land of the new woke, is the second largest exporter of coal (some 379 million tones between 2016/17) – mostly to China. Germany imported 51 million tonnes in 2017 for their relatively new power plants so Merkel says one thing and does another! The list is endless so good luck with your efforts, Greta, but you are shouting into the wind.

Jerry Owen

24th September 2019 at 8:18 am

We tend to travel abroad in early to mid September to a hot island somewhere, and we have just come back from one yesterday .. and as per usual it was colder and wetter when we arrived home as is usual for our September returns, it is part of our seasonal change.
We should not lose sight of our own personal senses, mine tell me that the earth isn’t on fire, my senses tell me that it is business as usual. Yes, it’s a microscopic view but the point is that we should all have faith in our own awareness of our surroundings, more self reliance and self believe in oneself is something we should all positively fight to retain.

Andrew Clitheroe

26th September 2019 at 4:08 pm

You make an interesting point – interesting in that you identify precisely why people are wrongly skeptical of climate change and the need to tackle it.

We cannot personally detect climate change – gradual global warming – because our senses are swamped by – are attuned to, even – the noise of short-term temperature changes. Seasons, weather, walking in and out of buildings. If you were to sit in a room for a week while I fiddled with the thermostat, making the room alternately hot and cold and warm, there is no possible way you would be able to tell me whether the average temperature on Friday was a degree higher or lower than that on Monday. And that’s a whole degree over a period of just a week.

We have a little projector for watching movies on – cheaper than a big telly and (I think) easier on the eyes. We got it three or four years ago and I know for a fact that the bulb has dimmed subtantially over that time, because that’s what projector bulbs do. Yet it seems just as bright as ever to me. Our senses are wonderful but they are simply not up to the job of monitoring global average temperatures across decades.

Since 1980 floods have quadrupled. Extreme temperature events, droughts and forest fires have doubled. Storms have doubled.

Someone else here was talking about predictions from back in the 1980s. Well, here’s how those predictions stack up forty years later:

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2012/04/evaluating-a-1981-temperature-projection/

Tim Hare

24th September 2019 at 7:32 am

The appeal to urgency seems rather misplaced. The end of civilization as a result of doing too little about climate change will not be with a bang but with a whimper. These people act as if one day we will be seven billion and the next day we will be extinct. They are all worried about their own death more than any real concern for the planet.

We are urged to act now for our children’s sake but our children and the next foreseeable generations will carry on as they have in the past. Those who lament now will not be around to feel any pain so it makes no sense to argue for something which you will never feel. No one will die as a result of climate change.

Perhaps we don’t care enough about climate change since it will not affect us. Nor is it likely to affect our children. The reality is that no one is in any real danger now. Arguing for more action on the basis of what may happen to future generations is an emotional argument. We do not know what future generations will want or if they will even exist.

Andrew Clitheroe

26th September 2019 at 4:14 pm

“No one will die as a result of climate change”

That’s a bold claim. To what degree of change would you say that holds true?

Fred Davies

24th September 2019 at 12:18 am

Yes, they do need to grow up.

But let’s face it, from the “Me Generation” of the 60s to the present we’ve been dealing with generation after generation of spoiled brats. The media, in particular, loves to fawn over juvenile spoiled brats when said brats share their ideology.

https://theredfootedbooby.com/2019/09/23/generation-douchebag-how-gen-x-became-the-baby-boomers-bottom-bitch/

We should save our harshest derision not for the silly little Gretas of the world but for those in the media and the intelligentsia who enable them and elevate them to rock star status.

For shame.

Jerry Owen

23rd September 2019 at 10:24 pm

Apparently St Greta was upset that Trump upstaged her.. a wonderful photo in the DM , her grim little brattish face priceless.
The fact that no one elected St Greta who is precisely a no one, and 60 million plus voted for the leader of the free world, we have to assume that St Greta believes she is more important than Trump. Astonishing arrogance by any sane thinking person.

Gerard Barry

24th September 2019 at 10:32 am

I must say I found her performance at the UN hard to watch. The girl is clearly unhinged as well as displaying astonishing arrogance. For a 16-year old child to show such disrespect to democratically elected leaders old enough to be her grandparents (How dare you!” etc.) is galling in the extreme. That she is indulged by the liberal media and even the bloody UN is even worse.

reality lite

23rd September 2019 at 9:10 pm

I’d say you’re a little wide of the mark saying Owen Jones is a climate catastrophist. Owen Jones is a firm believer in the lucrative business of being Owen Jones. What he believes beyond that is anyone’s guess.

Michael Lynch

24th September 2019 at 12:39 am

Couldn’t have put that better myself. He’ll jump on any old band wagon to help the Jones cause. I’m sick to death of him screaming from his pulpit every five minutes. As far as Greta is concerned, she’s being used by people who ought to know better. Why they think a child crying and demanding people to agree with her is a compelling strategy is beyond me. It’s just so off putting like the name calling when anyone dares disagree with their view.

Steve James

23rd September 2019 at 8:04 pm

I find this climate alarmism totally nauseating. There isn’t a news channel in the UK that is questioning the sanity of brainwashing kids into thinking the planet is going to end in 10 years. I’m glad I found Spiked, but we also need conservative news channels in the UK (and probably elsewhere) to provide balance.

Christopher Tyson

23rd September 2019 at 7:59 pm

At the end of the eighties REM released and album called ‘Green’. Stipe was interested in global consciousness, the stand out track was ‘World leader pretend’. A few years later REM released ‘It’s the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine)’. What I’m getting at here is the distinction between end of the world as a physical thing, and the sense of an ending psychologically. For those of us growing up during the cold war, the possibility of MAD (mutual assured destruction) was something that we lived with. Maybe we were even blasé about it. On David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust album there is a song call five years, ‘the newsman wept as he told us we had five years left to die in’, in sci-fi and pop culture the end of the world was a familiar trope. The more scientific amongst us explained that the universe was contracting and would one day collapse, also that the sun was shrinking incrementally and would one day blow out, plunging us into eternal darkness. As some have pointed out greens lack the consolation of the biblical inevitability of apocalypse and the possibility of eternal life ‘elsewhere’. Of course this all leads to Jim Morrison, I was going to say that I often quote Morrison and it would be only fair to point out where he is wrong or off the mark. One of my least favourite Door’s song is ‘Do It’ from the ‘Soft Parade Album’, I was going to question Jim’s wisdom when he sings ‘please, please, listen to the children…they are the ones who will rule the world’. Listening to children is fine, taking what they say as gospel not so fine. I checked the lyric and what Morrison say is actually ‘please, please, listen to me children…you are the ones who will rule the world’, puts a whole different complexion on things. For men of my generation the film Apocalypse Now is of great import, using the Doors’ ‘The End’ what I call an apocalyptic love song. On that song Morrison raps ‘the West is the best’ maybe ironically, maybe not. He also says ‘just picture what will be so limitless and free’. So within ‘the end’ there is the possibility of a new beginning, as Churchill said ‘this is not the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning’, but hey I’m a glass half full kind of guy. Both Stipe’s dad and Morrison’s dad were military men, I find that interesting, maybe an equanimity about destruction, maybe no connection. My own mum used to use a Guyanese saying ‘when it done, it done’ (to be fair usually in relation to her snagging the last biscuit) but my point is everything ends sometime, admittedly not much of a consolation to our little green friends.

Stephen J

23rd September 2019 at 5:12 pm

James Delingpole had this right when he said that these people, rather than being green as in cabbages, are green as in watermelons.

They look green on the outside, but cut one open and it is socialist red, all the way through.

So the truth is that they have been told what to say, there is no thought expended in the process.

It’s the little snippets that I like… e.g. When the Vikings discovered Greenland, it was far more green than it has been during the last 900 years or so (aka the Mediaeval warm period), even if it is getting a bit melty at the moment.

In other words, the mean global temperature is not a fixture. It has been much warmer in the past than it is now and with far higher concentrations of Carbon dioxide… notably during the period when it is believed that life began on earth.

It follows therefore that we human beans might succumb during a similar event. N.B. neither of the two periods mentioned above, were caused by humans, any more than the 0.3 degrees of mean rise since the beginning of 20th C.

Unfortunately stuff like that is difficult to talk about, so it isn’t in the lefty manual on global warming.

Eric Blair

23rd September 2019 at 4:19 pm

So, I look forward to the sensible article in Spiked, like the old geography teacher, outlining all the actual scientific evidence for climate change, the multiplier effects that are being increasingly recognised and the current expansionist economic systems which will only exacerbate these tendencies. Rather than the mockery of children, and badly discredited belief in economic progress as a a panacea for all ills which appear to be the received wisdom of Spiked.
The whole point about enlightenment thinking was that alongside a belief in progress there was an iron rule that this should be evidence rather than ideology-based. The evidence around man-made climate change is as clear as day.

cliff resnick

23rd September 2019 at 5:53 pm

Hi George, can I call you George, what is clear as day is that the climate is changing and somewhat more radically than we had thought would be the norm. As to the extent of human activity, the role of carbon or other man-made contributions to climate change and the natural cycle of nature is far from understood in any precise way. What there is are lots of computer models that might be right, but in all probability are not. All we hear is the doomsday scenario, whereas warming might actually turn out be a good thing overall.

James Knight

23rd September 2019 at 7:20 pm

Seriously? Their climate models cannot even get the seasonal temperatures right. And what basis is there for the claim that there is a scientific distinction between climate and weather? If so what is the time frame? The theory does not look falsifiable, it is some way off the “hard” sciences. Meanwhile Greta thinks she can “see” CO2. What an indictment of scientific illiteracy in the education system. And when every example of bad or extreme weather is blamed on global warming it becomes clear this is more eco cult than science.

The study of climate requires the study of numerous disciplines, the idea that they have found the one control knob should make any scientist sceptical. The fact they talk of “deniers” is additional confirmation this is more like religion than science. But what is more shocking is that the real moral emergency is poverty, yet sustainable development condemns millions to misery and backwardness. And it is all done with a PC green cloak of protection.

What do we want! Action on Climate! When do we during double maths on Friday!

Dominic Straiton

23rd September 2019 at 9:11 pm

Thunberg’s “as the child mascot of a society that has become infantilised through its replacement of factual evidence by childlike fantasies of a purified world”

Molly Gaughan

23rd September 2019 at 11:07 pm

James, please, go and educate yourself. Global temperature rise gives the atmosphere more energy, consequently resulting in more frequent and powerful natural hazards.

People who deny climate change are ignoring scientific evidence that has been gathered and ignored for over 30 years. So James, I’ll educate you on the effects of climate changeIf temperatures rise it will mean increased disease (eg malaria), more frequent natural hazards inculding droughts, sea levels to rise, putting low coastal areas at risk. Just off the top of my head.

Also James, sustainable development includes abolishment of poverty, just so you are aware.

In conclusion, your ignorance confounds me and I am profoundly disappointed sour tone towards children, quite frankly: why? Why should I go to double maths on Friday if climate change is going to steal my future?

Alan Burdon

24th September 2019 at 7:57 am

James. I wanted to reply to Molly’s comment on your post but no Reply button was in evidence. So I will just afirm your comments and reply to hers here.
Sea-level rise: For forty years we have been waiting for this to happen. Beyond the post-glacial warming trend it has failed to occur. How long must we wait? The forecasts back then were for a two-metre rise by 2020. It had better get a move on. The University of Auckland has done a forty year study of Pacific islands. All but two of those on their radar are more out of the water today than when the study began.
Global warming making for a more active climate: Not so. The vigour of weather events are derived from the difference in temperature between polar and equatorial regions. As the world warms this becomes less, and the second law of thermodynamics being what it is, the atmosphere quietens down. Any increased atmospheric activity is thus evidence of a cooling world; ever more likely as the solar minimum approaches.
Increased disease: It is the advancement of medicine through our technological developments that has eliminated so much disease from the world. All this is put at risk if our power supplies become too expensive and too unreliable.
Abolition of poverty: Likewise. Coal-fired power stations have been the driving force that has seen global poverty levels careering downwards in reccent decades. Just when developing nations are getting their feet into the door of health and wealth, the climate hysterics want to bring it all to a halt.
Very caring.

Steve James

23rd September 2019 at 7:56 pm

The only thing that is as clear as day is the climate change agenda. May I recommend Tony Heller? https://www.youtube.com/user/TonyHeller1/videos

Jerry Owen

23rd September 2019 at 10:18 pm

Eric Blair
Supply me with the evidence then ?

Jim Lawrie

23rd September 2019 at 4:17 pm

In sanctioning this teachers are scuppering youngsters’ development of a sense of self-awareness. That in turn translates into rudeness. A belief that they can poke their noses into other people’s business and hector and lecture.

It is no surprise that Greta had a hissy when her peers failed to worship at the altar of her Delphic wisdom. Someone her age ought not to be spending all her time with people 2 generations her senior.

christopher barnard

23rd September 2019 at 3:16 pm

The daughter of a friend of mine went on the local ER march.

Early next month she’s off to university in the car her parents have helped her to buy and insure.

Her university is in a city a mere 35 miles away from her home city, and there are scores of trains per day travelling between them.

Gerard Barry

23rd September 2019 at 3:23 pm

But her parent’s generation have stolen her future from her by destroying the planet! The least they can do to make up for that is buy her a car, surely?

Jim Lawrie

23rd September 2019 at 4:23 pm

Her parents’ generation rely heavily for life’s luxuries on chopping down the vast forests where they live. As does wee greetin faced Greta.

mark cornell

23rd September 2019 at 3:04 pm

Patrick Moore – The Sensible Environmentalist

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFHX526NPbE

Gerard Barry

23rd September 2019 at 2:38 pm

Climate change fanatics make me sick. If they’re concerned about the future of the planet, they should lead by example (e.g. no longer fly or drive anywhere, stop consuming electricity, gas and so on) instead of aggressively taking to the streets blaming everyone else for “ruining their future”. (It’s so sad that these ingrates don’t realise how much they actually owe earlier generations for making their lives as comfortable as they are.) I often wonder too why more climate change activists don’t kill themselves – after all, if humans are to blame for destroying the planet, isn’t the solution to this kind of obvious?

Jim Lawrie

23rd September 2019 at 4:00 pm

Underneath it all they want to be rid of the people whose property they envy so as to appropriate it. Their view of the world is of limited resources, with no human agency in enhancing or husbanding them, far less producing more.
Their thinking is exemplified by Labour proposals to nationalise and asset strip the private school system. A sell off to private buyers. Then have private builders throw up more of the schools Labour are famous for. All from a triumvirate who were privately educated, and most of whose children went that route.

mark cornell

23rd September 2019 at 5:13 pm

Let the Climate Warrior be the first to unplug their fridge..

Gerard Barry

23rd September 2019 at 7:38 pm

Exactly. And the first to go without a car. And the first to stop flying and so on.

Dominic Straiton

23rd September 2019 at 1:43 pm

Im looking forward to not having to pay any tax in twelve years time when were all dead.

Molly Gaughan

23rd September 2019 at 11:09 pm

Preach.

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