Climate Policy Reckoning in Europe

Are the Waves of Green Misanthropy Beginning to Break on the Rocks of Reality?

The overly dramatic, asocial, irresponsible protests by European environmentalists last year attracted headlines around the world but have to date had little political effect. The perpetrators of street blockades, airport “glue-ins,” and attacks on paintings who have not been arrested or imprisoned are now being threatened by drivers, and government ministers  (especially Munich) are calling for their prosecution as terrorists. The press and the general populace are starting to turn against them, too, seeing them as more an annoyance than righteous heroes.

While the children of “The Last Generation” have been throwing anti-civilization tantrums in public places, the governments of their home countries have been forced to bend their knees to reality. Belgium has retreated from its plan to phase out nuclear power by 2025 and will keep at least two in operation until 2036. Even the reliable Swedish doom-shrieker Greta Thunberg proved to be a bust when the abandoned village of Lützerath was cleared recently in spite of her presence attracting both media attention and additional protestors. German police are removing protesters there who had gathered to prevent RWE from expanding coal mining operations to meet European energy needs.

Though the unexpectedly warm winter has given some relief to demand on fuel supplies, the necessities of life in a technologically advanced society make the need for oil, coal, and nuclear power – reliable, non-intermittent power sources, in other words – inescapable for the foreseeable future. And European politicians appear to be noticing. Those responsible for the orders to remove the protestors from Lützerath are members of the Green Party themselves. And the government in Berlin also recently celebrated the opening of Germany´s first LNG Terminal while at the same time, continuing to commit itself to its "climate goals" for 2050.

While the German government certainly wants to look the part of pious environmentalists by touting likely unobtainable objectives in official statements, certain environmental organizations are not entirely pleased that it’s recognizing the effects of the limitations to energy supply. One could shrug and say “there´s no pleasing some people,” or one could reflect on the implications of the concessions Greens are making to reality and ask, “Is the power of the Green movement starting to wane?”

Harming People in the Name of Saving the Planet

One can certainly hope so, and reactions to protests in Lützerath might add to that hope. But the ideologues are determined to keep Green faith alive. A few weeks ago, CBS News trotted out the discredited, perpetually wrong prophet of population doom, Paul Ehrlich, to reassure the faithful who might tune in that the world really is in danger of disaster. Disaster would, in fact, be the practical result of implementing the de-industrialization and de-population policies Ehrlich has spent 54 years advocating based on predictions of starvation and misery.

But his predictions have been wrong every single time (as have those of his ideological allies). And the policies he promoted? As former NASA Director Robert Zubrin has pointed out, they have included covert sterilization which was performed without consent and have caused immeasurable suffering for those unfortunate enough to fall under their power. The people victimized have primarily been minorities and the poor, the very constituencies that the Left claims to care about. Zubrin cites the cases of Puerto Rican and American Indian women who were involuntarily sterilized.

Ehrlich´s overpopulation alarmism has led under-30-year-olds in the affluent, politically stable West to decide not to have children because of the “climate crisis.” And that development is starting to bother even high-ranking Green politicians, such as German Finance Minister Robert Habeck, who, in an interview with Der Spiegel, decried the “increasing hopelessness” of the young, particularly in his own political party. He seems incapable of grasping, or perhaps admitting, that the psychological climate of fear and hopelessness Greens have cultivated for five decades is responsible for the hopelessness he now finds worrisome. Like it or not, telling people for most of six decades that humanity is a cancer on the planet has resulted in a deep wellspring of hopelessness about life and the future.

Germany is not alone in seeing this phenomenon. Madeleine Kearns, writing in The Spectator, refers to the rise of baby-doomers in the U.K. These would be the people who fear bringing new people into the world because of the harm they would cause to the environment. She has decried the similar trend throughout the first world, and she has the sense to point out the obvious: What would really threaten the survival of humanity is not climate change, but the refusal of fertile humans in the relatively affluent northern hemisphere to reproduce. She is concerned that much of the politics of the first world is being dominated by climate doomsaying, and that influence is the real threat to human prosperity and thriving.

Signs of Sanity?

But will it remain so?

In Germany, and the West more broadly, there are signs (thank God) that Green misanthropy is losing its grip. These can be seen not just in Lüzterath but in public intellectuals rejecting panic in favor of a human-centered response to balancing energy needs and shifting weather patterns (assuming they might be real). Jordan Peterson and Björn Lomberg, for example, wrote last December in the New York Post:

We insist on spending trillions on inefficient climate solutions — witness the $400 billion Germany is about to have spent since 2010, delivering an underwhelming reduction in fossil-fuel use from 79% to 77%. We alarm ourselves with unwarranted apocalyptic prophecies, ignoring the fact, for example, that increased wealth and resilience has actually reduced death risks from climate-related catastrophes like floods and storms by more than 99% over the past century.

And in his 2020 book, False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet, Lomberg challenged the narrative of reducing “carbon footprints”:

If you want to help people in the Mississippi floodplains lower their risk of flooding, there are other policies that will help more, faster, cheaper, and more efficiently than reducing carbon dioxide emissions. … If you want to help people in the developing world reduce starvation, it is almost tragicomic to focus on cutting carbon emissions when access to better crop varieties, more fertilizer, market access, and general opportunities to get out of poverty would help them so much more, faster and at lower cost.

We are not on the brink of imminent extinction. In fact, quite the opposite. The rhetoric of impending doom belies an absolutely essential point: in almost every way we can measure, life on earth is better now than it was at any time in history.

Lomberg went on to discuss the numerous ways in which human life in the 21st century is better than ever before, materially speaking. And in the two-plus years since his book came out, there has been no significant decline in the positive developments he mentioned. His most important point, though, is the one that Green misanthropy cannot abide - that humans can adapt and find solutions that do not involve deliberately sterilizing the poor and immiserating entire populations.

There is pushback against the doomsaying and anti-natalism, and it´s not just coming from Bible-believers who take the divine command to be fruitful and multiply to be binding today. Let us amplify their voices and join ours to theirs.

is a professional translator, missionary, and writer living in Germany, where he works with several different ministries, and lives in a Christian intentional community. He has written academic articles on medieval literature and culture and has published essays in Salvo, First Things, and Boundless. He is a native of Indiana.

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