C: Valeriy Kryukov / Unsplash

Are we really worried to death about Climate Change? 

The headlines across mainstream media last week referred to 79% of people agreeing that the climate ought to be a priority for the state. This is based on a survey published by the Environmental Protection Agency that was conducted in co-operation with the Yale University Program on Climate Change Communication as part of the glorious National Dialogue on Climate Action that is so dear to all of our hearts.

All that aside, when it comes to having the state, place their hands in their pocket, the public are not so keen to help stop the icecap melting. In an MRBI poll carried out in October just 14% were willing to accept higher fuel prices, with 82% opposed.  Likewise, 69% signalled their opposition to energy efficiency measures that would increase house prices. 

The EPA report is titled Climate Change in the Irish Mind and is modelled – actually pretty much copied other than changes for local purposes – on the Climate Change in the American Mind that was published by Yale in March. Perhaps this is just the latest in a series and they can become a collector’s item once you have completed the set with Climate Change in the Zimbabwean Mind.

Of course, a lot of these surveys are pretty predictable and while the methodology used appears to be rigorous enough even allowing for a certain element of self-selection, the questions are mostly on the lines of “So, do you agree that being mean to puppies is bold?”

With the pervasiveness of the popular climate change narrative, only rivalled by Covid and racism, no one other than climate enthusiasts and card carrying curmudgeons – who fill in all the boxes which indicate that they think the whole thing is a lot of nonsense but that they enjoy the thrill of imagining that somewhere an intense social scientist undergrad will read their form and experience the sort of recoiling horror that Mozart might have felt had someone teleported a Spice Girls CD to him in Salzburg in 1775 – will bother to participate. 

Some of the results are strikingly different between the Irish and American surveys. While most Americans have also clearly bought into the moral panic around climate change, the numbers of those at the extreme end of this are smaller than in Ireland. For example; while 25% of Americans surveyed are “very worried” about climate change, this rises to 37% of Irish respondents.

Likewise, those who regularly discuss climate change comprise just one third of Americans, but that number rises to 72% of Irish people apparently. I clearly – and I thank God for small mercies – am moving in the wrong circles. Even more striking is that 91% of Irish people claim that climate change is extremely or somewhat important to them compared to 67% of Americans.

Similarly, 88% of Irish people think that climate change is affecting the weather compared to 61% of Americans. The question then is why there such a discrepancy. Is it that Americans are more stupid than Irish people? Or more selfish? Or more likely to subscribe to conspiracy theories?

Or might it be that they are more likely to hear an alternative view on all of this? For all of the perceived dominance of American discourse by the same left liberal consensus that pertains in Ireland, there is actually a much more diverse media although you would not realise that if your eye on Washington is filtered via D’Olier Street and Montrose. 

This was illustrated by the fractious, and indeed fracking, debate that took place during the 2020 Presidential election where the Trump campaign put forward robust arguments against the climate extremists on the Democratic side that were not only supported by evidence, but clearly shared by a large proportion of the electorate.

An interesting aspect of the survey is that agriculture is the sector believed to be most responsible for “pollution” here. That is technically correct if one uses the criteria that measures outputs across the sectors, but it also perhaps reflects the current campaign against farming which appears to have official sanction if one were to go by the attitude of one of the current governing parties as once again highlighted today by Rural Independent TD Carol Nolan.

It also fails to take account of the fact that food production is of fundamental importance to humanity and that no one has come up with a plausible alternative to current farming practises that would be capable in the short term of ensuring food security. Indeed, the restrictions on farming in the west where climate change is now a key political factor leave Europe and the United States and Canada potentially vulnerable on that front. 

For of course, when it comes to any of the self-imposed economic and social restrictions that are being put in place by the western democracies, states such as China and Russia have no intention whatsoever of accepting any similar limits that might lead to the same handicaps.

There are also some odd statistical anomalies within the survey. For example, just 16% of people believe that climate change is impacting a “great deal” on themselves personally, whereas 33% and 27% believe that their own families and communities are being severely impacted. 

The highest % of all age cohorts who feel that their families and communities are being affected a “great deal” are the 65+’s who are also the group which has the lowest rate for being impacted on a personal level. Now, part of that may be that older people think this will all get worse after they are gone, but perhaps too it is a reflection of the guilt bombing of people who have been made feel personally responsible for destroying young people’s future, to coin a phrase.

The guilt aspect is also obvious in the fact that 81% of all respondents think that people in the “developing countries” are affected a great deal. Anyway, the point of all of that is that no-one knows how other people are affected by anything. The only reason people in Ireland think that people in sub-Saharan Africa are suffering a “great deal” from climate change is because that is what they are told. 

That is what constitutes the difference between empathy and compassion. Empathy implies that you can know what another person is suffering. You can’t. You can however feel compassion for another person, or even a group of other persons. We may feel compassion for poorer people in Africa and rightly so, but we certainly do not know that they are greatly affected by climate change, even relative to all the other things they must deal with. 

Another statistic that jumped out at me is that 72% of people believe that “the Irish way of life” is greatly or moderately impacted by climate change. Which possibly says more about how those with power would like it to change rather than any practical impact. It may of course even refer to the impact which carbon taxes and fuel prices are having on people even though 64% claim to support such taxes.

That last finding is contradicted by a 2018 poll that found that just exactly half that number – 32% – said they would support carbon taxes. Significantly, three quarters of Sinn Féin supporters said that they were opposed to carbon taxes, and that party has been extraordinarily adroit in expressing that, while at the same time spouting the same platitudes about climate change as the Greens. The shinners are just cleverer when it comes to saying one thing and doing the other. 

The fact that 73% of respondents hear about climate change in the media on a monthly or weekly basis is indicative of its omnipresence but also a clue to why so many people regard it as a major issue. As is the fact that the NGO sector which makes a tidy living from all of this is regarded by 83% as a trustworthy source of information.

The EPA itself scores amazingly high in the Circle of Trust with an approval rating of 89% well out boxing everyone else. Well, if you call yourself after the environment then it’s mother’s milk really.

On a serious note, none of this is meant to dismiss concerns over the world in which we live. I bought a copy of Comhar recently and while the fact that it was wholly devoted to climate change was not a source of joy to me, there was one interesting piece by Michael Cronin on the connection between our own heritage and the catastrophe that the Great Hunger meant for our people, and the need to balance economic organisation with the natural world. 

Cronin points to the rupture in the link between our lived-in environment and the loss of Irish as our vernacular language. Which of course was part of the destruction of our civilization under the impact of colonialism. If we lose that connection and if we regard the natural world as an expendable commodity then the future will be bleak. Just as it will if we surrender to an ideologically driven agenda that fails to take account of the need to sustain what we do have, despite their alleged devotion to that concept. 

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