by H. Stirling Burnett, PhD
[This article is a reprint from the Climate Change Weekly, #322, with the permission of the author/editor of that periodical. The Climate Change Weekly is published by the Heartland Institute. The original article is available here. This article should be of particular interest to our forum in light of the recent discussions regarding progress, or lack thereof, in getting the skeptical point of view out to the general populace. One might conclude from this article that the skeptical community with help from climate economics may be seeing more success in changing minds than we might have thought. Ed.]
From Alberta to Australia, from Finland to France and beyond, voters are increasingly showing their displeasure with expensive energy policies imposed by politicians in an inane effort to fight purported human-caused climate change.
Skepticism about whether humans are causing dangerous climate change has always been higher in the United States than in most industrialized countries. As a result, governments in Europe, Canada, and in other developed countries are much farther along the energy-rationing path that cutting carbon dioxide emissions requires than the United States is.
Residents in these countries have begun to revolt against the higher energy costs they suffer under as a result of ever-increasing taxes on fossil fuels and government mandates to use expensive renewable energy.
For instance, in France in late 2018, protesters donning yellow vests took to the streets—and have stayed there ever since—in large part to protest scheduled increases in fuel taxes, electricity prices, and stricter vehicle emissions controls, which French President Emmanuel Macron claimed were necessary to meet the country’s greenhouse gas reduction commitments under the Paris climate agreement. After the first four weeks of protest, Macron’s government cancelled his climate action plan.
Ontario and Saskatchewan Canada
Also in 2018, in part as a backlash against Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s climate policies, global warming skeptic Doug Ford was elected as premier of Ontario, Canada’s most populous province. Ford announced he would end energy taxes imposed by Ontario’s previous premier and would join Saskatchewan’s premier in a legal fight against Trudeau’s federal carbon dioxide tax.
In August 2018, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was forced to resign over carbon dioxide restrictions he’d planned to impose to meet the country’s Paris climate commitments. His successor, Scott Morrison, announced reducing energy prices and improving reliability, not fighting climate change, would be the government’s primary energy goals going forward. Subsequently, Australia’s deputy prime minister and its environment minister announced the country would continue using coal for electricity and expand coal mining and exports.
The changes in 2018 were just a prelude for the political climate revolt of 2019.
In mid-March, the Forum for Democracy (FvD), a fledgling political party just three years old, tied for the largest number of seats, 12, in the divided Dutch Senate in the 2019 elections. FvD takes a decidedly skeptical stance on climate change. On the campaign trail, Thierry Baudet, FvD’s leader, said the government should stop funding programs to meet the country’s commitments to international climate change agreements, saying such efforts are driven by “climate-change hysteria.”
On April 14 in Finland, where climate change policies became the dominant issue in the election, support for climate skepticism surged. Whereas all the other parties proposed plans to raise energy prices and limit people’s energy use, the Finns Party, which made the fight against expensive climate policies the central part of its platform, gained the second-highest number of seats in the Parliament, just one seat behind the Social Democratic Party’s 40. The second-place finish was a big win for the Finns Party and its skeptical stance: just two months before the election, polls showed its support was below 10 percent. After the Finns Party made battling alarmist climate policies its main goal, its popularity soared. The New York Times credited the Finns Party’s electoral surge, in large part, to its expressed climate skepticism.
In Alberta, Canada, where the economy declined after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s climate policies took hold, voters on April 16 replaced Premier Rachel Notley and her New Democratic Party (NDP), which supports the federal climate policies, with the United Conservative Party, headed by newly elected Premier Jason Kenney, who vowed to scrap the province’s carbon tax and every other policy in NDP’s climate action plan. Among the other climate policies Kenny said he will reverse in an effort to revive the economy are NDP’s plans to accelerate the closure of the province’s coal power plants, and its plan to cap greenhouse gas emissions from the region’s oil sands. In addition, Kenny says he will challenge the federal government’s climate impositions in court and streamline regulations hampering Alberta’s critical oil and gas industry, including restrictions preventing pipeline construction imposed by NDP.
Even as daily headlines in the lamestream media become ever shriller, hyping climate fears based on projections made by unverified climate models, the public, especially the voting public, is becoming increasingly weary of the Chicken Little claims of impending climate doom. Voters in developed countries are saying “enough is enough” to high energy prices which punish the most vulnerable people in society and do nothing to regulate climate change.
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. is a Heartland senior fellow on environmental policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.
Prior to joining The Heartland Institute in 2014, Burnett worked at the National Center for Policy Analysis for 18 years, ending his tenure there as senior fellow in charge of environmental policy. He has held various positions in professional and public policy organizations, including serving as a member of the Environment and Natural Resources Task Force in the Texas Comptroller’s e-Texas commission.
Burnett is a former board member and past president of the Dallas Woods and Water Conservation Club; a senior fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation; an academic advisor for Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow; an advisory board member to the Cornwall Alliance; and an advisor for the Energy, Natural Resources and Agricultural Task Force at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
Burnett has an associate’s degree in arts and sciences from Eastfield Community College (1984), a B.B.A. and a B.A. in cultural anthropology from Southern Methodist University (1986), and a M.A. (1991) and a Ph.D. (2001) in applied philosophy from Bowling Green State University with a specialization in environmental ethics.