Preparing for the wrong emergency

John Kane-Berman says we were promised climate catastrophe, instead we got Covid-19

A terrible, tragic, and bitter irony

It must be one of the most tragic ironies of all time. Just as the bulk of the world's political leaders were gearing themselves up to combat a dubious "climate emergency", the world was struck with a real one: the coronavirus Covid 19. The responses, moreover, have been radically different.

A Swedish teenager, Greta Thunberg, called on the world to "panic" about "climate change". For this she was rewarded with an invitation to appear at the World Economic Forum earlier this year, while she swiftly gathered a huge fan club around the globe, thanks to massive and largely supportive media coverage.

With a handful of exceptions, global leaders kowtowed to her while parents in dozens of countries encouraged their children to boycott class in solidarity with her call to "panic". A German teenager, Naomi Seibt, who called on people not to panic but to "think", was stigmatised as having links with one of that country's right-wing parties.

Now, of course, leaders around the world are warning everyone not to involve themselves in panic buying because of the coronavirus. Otherwise tens of thousands would have been trampled underfoot across the globe as they stampeded into supermarkets.

The spreading of alarm has all along been a key strategy of climate activists both in South Africa and elsewhere, as some of them have openly admitted. Ever since the "earth summit" in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 we have been told that the world is reaching the point of no return thanks to what was once called "global warming" but is now called "climate change". The climate apocalypse somehow recedes further and further into the future with each dire forecast.

It was of course only a matter of time before coronavirus was added to the list of disasters caused by climate change. Others already on the list include drowning polar bears, the drying up of the Victoria Falls, bark beetle plagues in German forests, roads melting in Australia, mudslides in Durban, things going awry with olive crops in Greece, more violence against women and children, South Africa's high homicide rate, maple syrup shortages in Canada, gender inequality, gang violence, various species hurtling towards extinction, wildfires in California, caterpillars hatching earlier than they should, disappearing rainforests, melting ice caps, and rising sea levels – not to mention droughts, floods, cyclones, and the like.

Among the most recent catastrophes blamed on climate change arising from modern burning of fossil fuels are swarms of locusts in East Africa. These, in a giveaway adjective, are described as "biblical".

The "settled science" on which the supposedly disastrous effects of carbon dioxide are based has been repeatedly challenged by numerous different kinds of scientists around the world. They have identified all sorts of inconsistencies in the arguments. They have drawn attention to the discrepancies between historical data and the hypothesis put forward. They have shown how actual changes in temperature have sometimes differed materially from the forecasts. They have also pointed to numerous other factors, such as solar activity, that could help to explain both rising and falling temperatures.

They have highlighted discrepancies between papers prepared for the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the subsequent "summaries" issued by the panel. In particular, they have shown how the basic research supplied to the panel has sometimes been far more tentative and uncertain in its conclusions than the dramatic claims put forward in the summaries and highlighted in media headlines.

They have, in short, put forward reasoned arguments. It is however, rare, to find the arguments of the sceptics challenged by logical argument. They are instead accused of "denialism" akin to "apartheid denialism" and/or "AIDS denialism" and/or "Holocaust denialism". From there it is but a short jump to suggestions of "climate crimes against humanity" which in due course should lead to a "climate Nuremberg".

Moreover, as this column pointed out on 13 October last year, many journalists across the globe have joined the crusade against man-made climate change. Many seem to have abandoned the critical faculties that were once the stock-in-trade of any serious journalist. And earlier this month it was reported that the names of "scientists who disagree with the scientific consensus on global warming" had been deleted from Wikipedia.

* John Kane-Berman is a policy fellow at the IRR, a think-tank that promotes political and economic freedom. Readers are invited to take a stand with the IRR by clicking here or sending an SMS with your name to 32823. Each SMS costs R1. Ts and Cs apply.