Ending fossil fuel use will not keep temperatures below 1.5°C but could ruin our societies—it’s time politicians told the public the truth
By Tom Harris, National Post, Dec. 8, 2023
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre should take a page out of Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber’s playbook. Al Jaber is the president of COP28, currently underway in Dubai. Last month he laid bare important realities few conservative politicians dare bring up: though ending fossil-fuel use may well not prevent average global temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels, any quick phaseout of coal, oil and natural gas certainly would ruin our societies.
In an online exchange with Al Jaber last month, Mary Robinson, former UN special envoy for climate change, encouraged him to declare he would champion a total phaseout of fossil fuels, repeatedly asking him, “Will you lead on phasing out, phasing out, fossil fuels …?”
Al Jaber replied, “I accepted to come to this meeting to have a sober and a mature conversation. I’m not in any way signing up to any discussion that is alarmist. … There is no science out there, or no scenario out there, that says that the phaseout of fossil fuels is what’s going to achieve 1.5C.”
Having a sober and mature conversation about climate change with an alarmist like Robinson is next to impossible, of course. Like our own prime minister, she believes ( quoting her exchange with Al Jaber) that: “The science is very acute now. We don’t have any time. They say six or seven years. ( We’ve got to) peak by 2025 latest ( in the use) of fossil fuels.”
The COP28 president does believe the phaseout of fossil fuels is eventually “inevitable,” but he clearly doesn’t want it to happen any time soon. As he demanded of Robinson: “Show me the road map for a phaseout of fossil fuel that will allow for sustainable socioeconomic development, unless you want to take the world back into caves.”
“Caves” may be an exaggeration but, as my organization explained in our report last year into the City of Ottawa’s master plan to address climate change: “Decarbonizing an entire economy would mean virtually eliminating the use of all fossil fuels used to provide energy services like heat, light, motive power and all the thousands of uses of electricity. Consequently, achieving net zero for the City of Ottawa would face insuperable technical and cost barriers, and demand unacceptable political changes for a democratic society, placing us back to standards of living of at least 150 years ago.”
Which is precisely what Pierre Poilievre and the provincial premiers should say every time the federal government makes statements as misguided as Robinson’s. That, and remind the government of the impossibility of limiting global warming to 1.5° C by phasing out fossil fuels.
Conservative strategists may conclude that climate activists’ swift and fierce condemnations of Al Jaber’s comments mean they should avoid questioning either the scientific basis or wisdom of phasing out fossil fuels. But they would be mistaken. That the COP28 president was so roundly attacked for completely straightforward remarks is precisely why they should take this tack.
‘Scientific’ basis for climate alarmism is its weakest link
Many informed environmentalists understand that the scientific backing for climate alarmism is its weakest link. They know that the 1.2 degrees of warming we have had since 1880 is anything but a crisis and that something is seriously wrong with models that extrapolate from that to climate Armageddon. My organization just released a second report about the City of Ottawa’s plans discussing exactly that. The last thing global warming campaigners want is for the public or those who would lead it to start asking tough questions about either “the science” or the feasibility of net zero.
Bomber pilots know they get the most flak when they are over critical targets. The enemy will rarely waste anti-aircraft munitions if it’s a cow pasture that’s being bombed. The fact that Al Jaber’s perfectly sensible comments drew so much flak from climate alarmists shows that his remarks hit home. That’s where those who oppose disastrous carbon interventionism should keep hitting hard.
Merely contesting the way in which Canada should meet its climate commitments, as Poilievre does, while continuing to accept the need to reduce emissions is a loser’s strategy. It’s time Conservatives fought this war to actually win it.
Tom Harris is executive director of the Ottawa-based not-for-profit International Climate Science Coalition — Canada.