Prudence Dailey’s Commentary
This ‘Net Zero’ Madness Has to Stop
‘You have stolen my dreams and my childhood’, environmental activist Greta Thunberg accused her audience at the United Nations General Assembly in 2019. The familiar message was that, by failing to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the gathered world leaders had demonstrated that their professed concern for climate change was insincere.
Since youngsters around the world began following Thunberg’s example, skiving off school to protest against perceived impending environmental apocalypse, it is clear that many genuinely believe their own rhetoric: they honestly think that, because of climate change, they are all going to die prematurely. The adults who have deliberately promulgated this existential fear amongst the young should hang their heads in shame, but they do not.
Young people’s knowledge of the world is, however, necessarily limited, since they have not lived in it for very long. In demanding an immediate reduction in the use of fossil fuels, they are not able to consider complex questions around how such a reduction might be achieved, and what its unplanned consequences might be.
Sadly, many of them are about to find out. As the fuel crisis hits—driven in no small part by ‘green’ policies that have impeded the development of fossil fuel extraction—and energy bills skyrocket, families across the UK and beyond are discovering that standards of comfort and convenience which most of us have come to regard as basic, can no longer be afforded. Greta Thunberg may have signalled her environmental virtue by sailing across the ocean rather than flying (although the crew of her boat had to fly home afterwards), but she has still enjoyed the benefits of living in a developed Western country whose infrastructure depends upon the use of fossil fuels. You cannot simply turn off the gas in the absence of sufficiently developed alternative technologies, and expect everything to keep functioning properly—and if this is even more true for those in the Third World, where economic development (and the poverty reduction that goes with it) depends upon fossil energy.
I once heard a Bishop in a General Synod speech say that he and his wife aimed ‘to tread lightly upon the earth’: while this sounds on the face of it like a laudable goal, the truth is that, by reducing Man’s impact on the planet, one inevitably increases the impact on Man of the planet—which, prior to the Industrial Revolution, was really not a very hospitable place. This is why God, in the Genesis story, instructs Man to ‘subdue’ the earth, and to ‘have dominion over’ other living creatures. Of course, we must he wise and careful custodians, which we have not always been—for example when we have overfished the oceans, or filled them with plastic waste—but there is a balance to be struck.
It is noticeable that those who are most sceptical about climate alarmism are very often the same people who were sceptical about COVID lockdowns (at a time when we were being told relentlessly that ‘The Science’ supported them). In part, this may demonstrate a mistrust of authority and of the received wisdom of technocratic experts. There is, however, another important factor that these two strands of scepticism have in common, and that is a concern for unintended consequences that often outweigh intended benefits. As Rishi Sunak recently revealed the lack of cost-benefit analysis behind government COVID policies and the quashing of dissent, will a similar critical approach be applied to climate policy before it is too late?
In an increasingly post-Christian country, climate alarmism has become a quasi-religion in itself, with doubters treated like heretics. It is therefore especially disturbing that the Church has jumped on the bandwagon, disinvesting from the fossil fuels whilst setting its own absurd target of 2030—twenty years ahead of the Government’s target—to achieve ‘Net Zero’, and throwing eye-watering (but nevertheless insufficient) amounts of money at this aim. Meanwhile, September has widely been rebranded as a new season of the Church year, ‘Creationtide’, with special resources to facilitate brow-beating about the ‘climate emergency’ that some Dioceses have declared.
This really has to stop. Alarmist and misanthropic climate policies have the potential to cause untold and needless human suffering, and thoughtful Christians should not stand for it. It is Man (under God) who is in charge around here, and not ‘Gaia’.
Miss Prudence Dailey MBE, is a long-term member of the General Synod from Oxford Diocese and was recently appointed member of the Crown Nominations Commission.