“Logic is the art of non-contradictory identification. A contradiction cannot exist. No concept [wo]man forms is valid unless [s]he integrates it without contradiction into the total sum of [her]his knowledge.”
- Ayn Rand
This quote might seem esoteric (being from philosophy) or confrontational (being from Rand) but it is actually relevant beyond belief. Here is what happens if you don’t think so.
Calgary has a new mayor, Jyoti Gondek. She must be good at some things – intelligent enough to get a PhD and win an election – but clearly exhibits an inability to think rationally. She has irreconcilable visions running through her head that she laid bare within a week: her first order of business was to declare a ‘climate emergency’, then several days later was enthusiastically welcoming the birth of a brand new discount airline. In case it is unclear to anyone, discount airlines make flying easier and more common, and are to emissions what fertilizer is to plants.
One more head-splitter just for fun: On the campaign trail last year, Joe Biden declared that fossil fuel executives should be thrown in jail for not taking responsibility for pollution caused by hydrocarbon production. This year, Biden is castigating those same executives for not producing more hydrocarbons. The impact on jail sentences of fulfilling his request was wisely sidestepped by his camp.
I could write seven hundred pages of such examples, but you get the point. The same fog has entered the brain of every public figure that adopts the climate emergency narrative. Average citizens pay lip service to the topic but generally ignore it (polls show a majority of citizens claiming to be concerned/extremely concerned about climate change, but in both Canada and the US almost 90 percent would not spend $500 per year to prevent it, and half would not spend more than $100).
The average citizen can live with this contradiction because they just say, ‘Whatever…” and change the channel/fuel up the car/book a holiday/get on with life. The problem with the contradiction shows up in far more consequential skulls: those of policymakers and activists.
Gondek, Biden, and every politician in between is ramming through policies that directly contradict each other, according to the very statements they make and definitions they accept. The result is the madness we see in mainstream media as it tries to interpret a situation where politicians are declaring that something massively important both exists and does not exist at the same time, where there is an emergency that demands emergency measures, but then pursues policies that can only make the emergency worse.
Activists are the wild card, and that brings us to David Suzuki. For those who might have missed it, Suzuki stated in an interview that if politicians did not change their attitude toward climate change soon, there will be “pipelines blowing up.” A few days later, in some strategic maneuver, he apologized.
It was duplicitous for him to have apologized, and if anyone’s feathers are ruffled about his comments that week, it is the apology they should be upset about. When he mentioned pipelines potentially blowing up, for once he was speaking truth, though he was loathe to get into why.
For years his cohort has fomented panic by pointing out how screwed we all are without immediate and substantial action (but one example of many – Oct 2021, headline/sub-header in The Guardian: “The climate disaster is here. Earth is already becoming unliveable.”).
Suzuki et al have relentlessly pointed to hydrocarbon combustion as the cause of this hellish future that is ‘now here’. The IEA says there can be no new fossil fuel investments post 2021 if we are to achieve net zero 2050, which would mean producing fields declining precipitously, which would mean truly apocalyptic shortages within a year. Biden knows this, which is why he is pleading for more oil.
However, if one accepts the premise that hydrocarbon combustion is causing a climate emergency, that that hellish emergency is arriving imminently or is already here, and that to prevent it hydrocarbon consumption must be halted as soon as possible, then it is a logical and moral imperative that consumption be stopped involuntarily, via sabotage if necessary, because humanity is refusing to do so voluntarily. Don’t jump on my head for calling it a moral imperative; here it is from the horse’s mouth, a Guardian article called “The moral case for destroying fossil fuel infrastructure”. There are others; the New Republic website ran a story called “The Climate Case for Property Destruction”. I’ve yet to see a fact-check site or social media moral police force take issue with either of these pieces.
It is profoundly evident that citizens and governments will not stop consuming hydrocarbons any time soon; in fact hydrocarbon usage is increasing year over year. As a significant example, the entire continent of Africa – 1.2 billion people – is just growing into its dedication to developing vast hydrocarbon resources. Much of the world’s population is no different; they wants lights and refrigeration and air conditioning and roads and parking lots more than they want to slash emissions. They may want to do all that in the most environmentally friendly way, but, like their western cousins, they won’t sacrifice a shot at a comfortable life.
What of the other others though, the not inconsequential number of people that are convinced of impending climate doom? They certainly exist – “eco-anxiety” or “eco-distress” are now syndromes recognized by the American Psychological Association, and the media’s sensationalistic take on the subject fuels the fire like gasoline. Given their fear is so real that it has a name, is Suzuki’s recanted pipelines-blowing-up warning relevant?
Not only is it relevant, it is happening already in one form or another. In October, activists attacked a remote Enbridge Line 5 pump station site. Numerous eco-distressed youths cut through a site fence to sabotage the pipeline. The dangerous stunt was of course destined for social media; one strapped on a very nice guitar and played a very bad song while a fellow cast member randomly and dangerously turned valves. The whole thing was streamed on Facebook for that afternoon’s scheduled pyre-dancing.
They had no clue what they were doing and only by chance did they not hurt themselves. Only the lack of a proper fireball separated them from what Suzuki described as coming soon. Only by sheer dumb luck did nothing explode. It surely could have, and this event predated Suzuki’s talk. So he was not wrong at all. Eco-terrorized people are already trying to sabotage infrastructure in one way or another, but the media mostly ignores it because they have not yet succeeded in causing an actual explosion. Fireballs bring eyeballs. Until then, don’t bug us.
So what was so offensive about Suzuki’s statements the other week? Nothing. Suzuki’s words were just notice that the juggernaut of fear-mongering was bearing fruit – “Hey everyone, you know, I’ve been agitating people for years and frightening them and demanding action, and now it looks like they are starting to listen to me, so better watch out.” The nihilistic anti-fuel stance he has had for years is the problem, not telling people that things might start blowing up. That train has left the station, as evidenced by articles cited above now unchallenged in the mainstream media.
The phrase climate emergency crept into the global lexicon because extremists ran wild, unchecked. We now have horror-inducing descriptions of every weather event. A heat wave is a heat dome. Abnormal rainfall is now an atmospheric river. A lack of wind in Europe is global stilling. A rapid pressure change over the ocean is now a bomb cyclone.
Each term cements the feeling of anxiety, by design. Each uncensored and unobjected-to exhortation to ‘do something’ ratchets the tension until it is acceptable to declare a moral imperative to destroy fossil fuel infrastructure. Don’t pretend these notices don’t get noticed. They do. While Trump gets banned, children read Guardian articles for class projects. Who should teach them what is a moral imperative, you or The Guardian?
An emergency is an emergency. Words mean something. Definitions mean something. The political shape-shifters have seized the cause of the environment and are debasing language to achieve political goals. Politicians blindly participate because they are frightened not to, and incapable of thinking their way to any sort of clarity.
Is there a climate emergency, caused by burning hydrocarbons? I take people seriously when they say that they believe that, and I believe that children and the energy-uneducated will believe it also, because ‘science’ and the media and the government says so. Then they will start smashing stuff up, because they are doing the right thing to prevent an apparently rapidly-escalating climate apocalypse. Why is anyone surprised at this?
My opinion is that hydrocarbons are, at present and for a long time yet, life-sustaining. Hydrocarbons provide 80 percent of the world’s energy needs (same percentage for decades) and underpin everything we use, almost all of what we eat, and heat/cool our worlds as needed.
If there really is an emergency close at hand, it is due to a lack of hydrocarbons for the world, not too much. I believe this position is more credible and tenable because a hydrocarbon-centric view does not preclude wind turbines, or solar panels, or Teslas – it simply says they have a place that will grow over time.
A climate-emergency-centric view holds no such breadth – the more one believes in the emergency, the more one must act to prevent apocalypse, which means putting a stick in the hydrocarbon wheel however your little noggin deems is necessary. Glory awaits those who do.
As an energy industry, we have a job to do: provide reliable energy in the cleanest way possible, and, as reality allows, begin transforming the system to accommodate new energy sources in a way that does not impede the ability of the existing system to do its job. That is it.
Clarity is not just important, it is critical. Either leaders back down and admit the value of hydrocarbons in today’s society, or radicals will reinforce the idea that hydrocarbons are killing us all. Wise leaders will engage the existing system, energize it and utilize it. Weak, poor thinking leaders will continue this impossible dance in their heads, preaching a climate emergency while demanding more hydrocarbons and more emissions generating activity that citizens want. The more the climate emergency belief takes hold, the stronger the moral imperative to smash hydrocarbon infrastructure. Faulty thinking has consequences.
Read more insightful analysis from Terry Etam here, or email Terry here. PS: Dear email correspondents, the email flow is wonderful and welcome, however I am having trouble keeping up. In past I replied to everything but am getting stretched. Apologies if comments/questions go unanswered; they are not ignored.