Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Maybe now we can all get some sleep

If you ask me (and admittedly no one has), the Copenhagen gabfest had an entirely fitting outcome. It was a fiasco – a modern-day Tower of Babel. Who could have expected anything else, with 193 countries jostling to advance conflicting and mainly self-serving agendas?

On one hand we saw the leaders of respectable Western democracies stampeded into “doing something” to appease public anxiety generated by highly dubious science; on the other, petty tyrants and demagogues from terminally dysfunctional states such as Cuba, Venezuela and the Sudan, eagerly seizing the opportunity to hold a gun to the heads of those same elected leaders from the West (to say nothing of China’s determined attempt to humiliate Barack Obama, first by keeping him waiting outside a meeting and then by bogging him down in line-by-line negotiations with middle-level Chinese bureaucrats. The meaning of this, coming from a country where loss of face is a matter of enormous significance, could hardly be mistaken.)

On the sidelines, meanwhile, stood a credulous media that has so completely bought into the hysteria over climate change that it seemed no mainstream journalists dared draw attention to the comic irony that even as world leaders were sanctimoniously tut-tutting over global warming, much of northern Europe and the northeastern United States was being shut down by ice and snow.

This same media, far from displaying the sceptical detachment we expect of journalists, has energetically fuelled climate change panic by repeatedly showing images of polar bears apparently marooned on ice floes, surface floodwaters on Pacific atolls, lumps of ice falling from glaciers and even street vendors in India lighting coal burners – none of which, in isolation, tells us anything about climate change, but all of which, taken collectively, help create a sense of impending global catastrophe.

But it’s not just the credibility of the media that has taken a self-inflicted hammering. Once-admirable charitable organisations such as Oxfam stand exposed as having been wholly captured by left-wing political activists who seem to model their tactics on the self-righteous bullying perfected by Greenpeace. (Speaking of which, how gloriously ironic it was that Greenpeace activists unfurled a banner on the Sydney Opera House demanding: “Stop the politics”. Ha!)

On the subject of squandered credibility, how about the climate change scientists? Any expectation that they, like the media, would assess facts dispassionately and objectively has long since been shattered. The neutrality we once expected of scientists lies buried beneath layers of emotive, fear-mongering rhetoric.

Then, of course, there are the protesters. They are the same frenzied protesters we have seen attacking businesses and storming police barricades wherever Apec leaders have met to discuss free trade.

They are young and passionate. Their minds are unencumbered by wisdom or experience. What they possess by the bucketload is the conviction that we are all helpless victims of an oppressive global capitalist conspiracy that wants to rip the hearts out of the poor and vulnerable and devour their children. Where do they pick this up? Probably in university lecture theatres. Their spokespeople seem incapable of articulating the cause of their rage in any systematic or coherent way; bumper-sticker slogans suffice. (There's an example from a local protester in the Dominion Post this morning: "Carbon trading is gambling with our future and allows polluters to profit.") What the protest leaders all share is the same telltale gleam in the eye – the mark of angry, holier-than-thou zealots the world over.

Underlying the whole Copenhagen circus was a deep antagonism toward capitalism and a burning desire to make successful capitalist democracies grovel in shame for their supposed iniquity. Climate change conveniently distracts attention from the genocide, megalomania, oppression, starvation and economic collapse that distinguishes the regimes of the democratic West’s arch-detractors.

Well, thank God the tumultuous farce is over. Maybe now we can all get some sleep.

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