The world is making great progress in transitioning away from fossil fuels, but more must still be done, world leaders and the news media agree. The urgency comes from climate change, which is worse than ever. And nobody cares more about climate change than world leaders and the news media.
That’s all nonsense, of course. Fossil fuel use overall has steadily risen, while the largest part of the 22% reduction in carbon emissions by the United States from 2005 to 2020 came from a fossil fuel, natural gas, replacing coal. Carbon emissions peaked and declined in rich nations decades ago and were flat, globally, over the last decade.
Climate change is real, caused mainly by humans, and something we should seek less of, all else being equal. True sustainability requires leaving fossil fuels behind one day. And many, if not most, of the people attending this week’s climate summit are well-intentioned.
But climate change is neither the end of the world nor our most serious environmental problem. Transitioning from fossil fuels to nuclear will take 50 to 100 years at a minimum. And while many of the people attending climate talks are sincere, they are also pursuing an agenda that is making energy scarcer, more expensive, and more environmentally destructive, given the rejection of low-carbon nuclear power and the embrace of wood-burning by Germany and other European nations.
Nuclear makes electricity cheap, and renewables make it expensive. Average household electricity prices in the European Union in the first half of this year increased from €25.3 to €28.9 per 100 kWh compared with the same period last year, while natural gas prices rose from €8.6 to €11.9 per 100 kWh — the highest prices ever. Nuclear-heavy France has significantly lower electricity prices (€23.2 per 100 kWh), while nuclear and hydro-heavy Sweden had smaller price increases than the rest of Europe.
During last year’s climate talks, there were over 300 private jet trips, while this year, German Chancellor Scholz, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and Vice President Kamala Harris all traveled by private jet, with Sunak, his foreign secretary, and King Charles taking individual planes.
Flying on private jets to a climate conference to announce plans to make energy even more expensive for working people is bread-and-circuses, except there’s no bread, and the circus consists of rich people celebrating their wealth, morality, and superiority.
What’s going on here exactly? Why are elites behaving so badly?
Consider a recent New York Times real estate article celebrating the virtues of a millionaire couple who bought a second home, a beach home, and demolished it so they could build a larger, $7 million one.
Needless to say, their environmental impact would have been far smaller had they simply kept, and better-insulated, the older house. The best part? The New York Times published the article in the “Living Small” section.
The moral of the story is that it’s no longer good enough for the New York Times to celebrate the ruling class for being rich. The Times now celebrates the rich for being moral, too. “Everything you hate about climate change virtue signaling in the most absurd story you'll read this year” is how Alex Berenson describes the piece.
Except it’s not virtue-signaling, it’s vice-signaling. We have gone from lamenting climate hypocrisy to celebrating it.
A new study in the peer-reviewed journal, Personality and Individual Differences, of 839 German environmental activists, suggests we shouldn’t be surprised. It found a strong association between environmental activism and “the dark triad traits,” which are Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and narcissism, as well as left-wing authoritarianism (i.e., antihierarchical aggression, anticonventionalism, top-down censorship). “Most of these associations,” wrote the author, “remained significant after controlling for Big Five characteristics, demographic characteristics, political orientation, and right-wing authoritarianism. These findings suggest that environmental activism, in addition to its potential positive outcomes, may also have a dark side in terms of activists' personality.”
Even Greta Thunberg is acting out. In 2019, she melodramatically told U.N. delegates, “How dare you?” accusing them of virtue-signaling. Last summer, someone posted this video of her making fun of that speech.