The deification of Greta Thunberg shows our culture at peak panic
Sixteen-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has been likened to Joan of Arc, and a Church in Sweden calls her a “successor” to Jesus Christ. In September she was named as one of four winners of the 2019 Right Livelihood Award, known as Sweden’s “alternative Nobel Prize” for “inspiring and amplifying political demands for urgent climate action reflecting scientific facts.” Multitudes adore her, thrilling to the state of alarm she inspires in them, and can’t get enough of her fierce climate jeremiads.
Will her present sanctity endure, or is she merely enjoying her 15 minutes of fame?
Greta speaks with adult assurance, but she is still a child in her belief that if only she can adequately communicate her sense of urgency to adults apparently oblivious to the existential crisis her own uncorrupted and uncluttered mind beholds with such clarity, the scales will fall from their eyes and they will fix the problem! For it is in the nature of children to believe that adults are both powerful and competent to deal with emergencies, and that it is merely a question of will. (A few years ago, I was trying to explain some war or other to my then nine-year old granddaughter, who finally asked with a touch of impatience and extreme puzzlement, “Why don’t they all just decide to stop fighting?”)
Greta’s story has the added dramatic dimension of her mental-health issues, which are known and yet unmentionable, such is the deference expected to her authority. A commentator on Fox News—as right-wing as it gets for mainstream media in the U.S.—referred to Greta as “mentally ill” and was promptly banned from any reappearances.
Yet Greta and her family have never made a secret of her sometimes grave problems. On the contrary, her parents wrote a book about them, Scenes from the Heart, in which Greta’s depression, anxiety attacks, high-functioning autism, selective mutism, OCD, and life-threatening anorexia are all detailed. (Her younger sister Beata suffers from her own set of hobbling afflictions). If “mentally ill” is a bit harsh, surely “mentally unstable” is fair comment?
Greta’s mother Malena Ernman (a former singer, whose face is on the cover of the book) claims Greta’s autism is her “superpower.” Greta told Germany’s ZDF TV broadcaster in February that if she were not autistic, “I would simply have continued to live and think like everyone else.” She added that her black and white view of the world makes it “more realistic.” As climate change is so complex it has defied reliable prediction by the finest computer models in the world, Greta’s assumption is absurd. Yet one doesn’t see much rebuttal to anything she says.
For such is the public awe she inspires, Greta has become untouchable. She must be acknowledged as a world leader, but her age and frailty require would-be critics to pull their punches. One may call Donald Trump “crazy” with impunity, but we are supposed to avert our eyes from facts that are not only pertinent to Greta’s alarmism, but which may put her at risk of a breakdown under the relentless pressure such celebrity entails. If we don’t, we are accused of bullying a vulnerable child.
As Meghan Murphy points out in a column in Spectator USA: “I worry about a child being positioned by adults as a leader. Indeed, I think it constitutes both inappropriate pressure, and an unfair lie. If we are not permitted to think or speak critically about a leader, they cannot be a leader. We cannot have leaders that we are not allowed to hold to account. It is unethical and manipulative to prop someone up as a leader we must listen to, but also refuse to allow anything less than blind, unquestioning adoration.”
She is right. When untouchable children front for a cause, it gives the adult actors with a political agenda behind them an enormous advantage. Greta’s family crisis and the climate crisis are presented as inextricably bound up with each other, both indices of a global disorder. This should strike any rational observer as a bizarre thesis, but in an era where categorization is discouraged and “fluidity” is the new normal, it has a culturally seductive appeal.
I can understand why her parents should approve of her doomsday crusade. Activism has given Greta a purpose and a positive antidote to depression. She’s eating. She’s talking. She is receiving daily megadoses of validation. In fact her whole family has found Greta’s activism a unifying and tonic experience (Greta’s father Svante manages Greta’s career full time now). That’s nice for them. But why other parents should be happy to see their own children infected by Greta’s panic and dread puzzles me. Even if you believe her dire prognostications, terror is not a good base for rational choice and for young people it will impede the urge to do their own independent research on the subject.
Greta’s affect—her humourlessness, intensity and pharisaical self-righteousness (“How dare you!” comes so easily to her lips)—is so mesmerizing it is considered impertinent to ask if she is factually correct in her assumptions. Such a sanctified air accompanies her progress through our streets and institutions that it seems an act of lèse-majesté at this point to wonder aloud if a girl of eight can possibly have been exposed to enough information to form an independent judgment. It is surely doubtful that, once having embarked on the path of alarmism, a child of her single-mindedness would have had the inclination or curiosity to seek out dissenting views to the narrowly-focused scenario she absorbed in elementary school.
Does Greta even understand that credible, mitigating information exists? Is she aware of sites like wattsupwiththat.com or yourenvironment.ca or realclearscience.com that offer data-based information stipulating that the climate is changing, but painting a non-catastrophic picture concerning the rapidity and degree of warming? I doubt it. Greta does not want reassurance. Extreme anxiety is Greta’s comfort zone, what the briar patch was to Bre’er Rabbit in the old Uncle Remus folk tale.
It is our obligation as adults—parents and teachers—to ensure our own children do not succumb to climate hysteria. They must be aware that Greta is not omniscient, and we must expose them to sober voices with a trustworthy pedigree in climate research. For example, Bjorn Lomborg, president of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, and a credible, longtime evidence-based dissenter to climate alarmism, does not dispute the climate is changing, but promotes a combination of solutions, including adaptation.
Lomborg had the temerity to challenge Greta’s first principles—such as “people are dying [from climate change]”—in a recent op ed for the Globe and Mail. A century ago, weather-related disasters killed half a million people a year. Today, in spite of warmer temperatures, only 20,000 people a year die from weather-related events, a reduction of 95%, Lomborg says.
Lomborg also gently chided Greta for her “blinkered” first-worldism when she says that young people won’t forgive us if we don’t end fossil fuels by 2028 (which is impossible without total societal breakdown). Less coddled people, when polled about their priorities, cited health, education, jobs, corruption and nutrition as their leading concerns. Only fossil fuels can help them achieve those goals. In fact, he says, most of the world’s young people will never forgive us if we foreclose on their opportunities for the health and education entitlements Greta takes for granted.
Many of Greta’s fans would like to believe that she is a self-ignited comet, but the facts paint a more politicized picture. In the May edition of Standpoint Magazine, journalist Dominic Green illuminates a fascinating political back story to Greta’s trajectory that involves “a shadowy cabal of lobbyists, investors and energy companies seeking to profit from a green bonanza.” Worth a read.
Finally, we must also remind our children that climate alarmism has an embarrassing history of failed predictions by so-called experts who variously assured us that over-population and/or the coming ice age would starve us to death, if the demand for electricity didn’t boil dry the entire network of U.S. rivers and streams. The Competitive Enterprise Institute has published an article with a cornucopia of examples, “Wrong Again: 50 years of failed eco-pocalyptic predictions.” I recommend it to anyone who feels a Thunbergian fever coming on.
A group of young Ontarians is launching a lawsuit against Doug Ford due to the Progressive Conservative’s inaction on climate change. The youths are arguing that Ford has violated their charter rights by reducing their climate targets, according to the CBC.
The group is claiming that the Ford government’s climate policy will lead to widespread death, which if correct, would understandably violate section 7 of the charter: protection for life, liberty, and security of the person.
The group is also demanding that the Ontario government creates more ambitious legislation for tackling climate change, such as limiting global warming to 1.5 C.
The group is composed of young Ontarians, ranging from the age of 12 to 24. They are being represented by Stockwoods LLP and Ecojustice, which is a group dedicated to stopping climate change through legal action.
This form of climate action is becoming increasingly more common. Earlier this year, for example, another group of young people launched a lawsuit against Trudeau’s federal government. There have been similar lawsuits in the United States and the Netherlands.
Having said this, this is the first lawsuit filed against a provincial government for climate inaction.
America’s favourite Saturday afternoon activity, college football has now officially become a part of the culture wars. Today’s big match-up between Ivy League rivals Yale and Harvard has been disrupted by a large group of angry student protestors demanding action on the “climate crisis.”
The protestors unfurled large banners that read “NOBODY WINS: YALE & HARVARD ARE COMPLICIT IN CLIMATE INJUSTICE” in a surreal scene that Barstool Sports referred to as “peak 2019.”
Football fans all over social media were not pleased to say the least. But some saw the humour in the situation.
The protest lasted for 48 minutes. ESPN reports that many of the protestors asked to be arrested.
In April, 2014, the Globe and Mail published an article, “Climate change and health: Extreme heat a ‘silent killer.’” In it, the reporter cites the claim of an alleged expert from a non-profit, Clean Air Partnership (CAP), that maximum temperatures in Toronto could be expected to rise 7 C by 2045.
The reporter did not query the figure in her write-up, and her editor apparently didn’t take a good look at what she had written, or else he or she would have reared back and yelled, WTF? A predicted rise of 23 C in a single century? Get hold of that guy and check that you got the right figure.
Imagine if some alleged expert on health care had told the same Globe reporter that Ontario would require a budget of a trillion dollars to cover coming claims on the provincial health services. She would have gasped and challenged him. When it comes to climate alarmism, most media people have simply muted their powers of critical thinking, because they see themselves as conduits for alarmism Kool-Aid, not independent observers.
Thankfully, not all journalists march in lockstep on the issue. In an article for the American Thinker, Canadian researcher Sierra Rayne poured scorn on it: “To say [the 7 C theory] is insanely large would be an understatement.”
Rayne pointed out that a cursory perusal of the Environment Canada Adjusted and Homogenized Canadian Climate Data database would illustrate that the daily summer maximum temperatures in Toronto showed no upward trend whatsoever. She further noted that a database for the WMO-certified Pearson Airport site demonstrated there was “absolutely no temporal correlation” for extreme July or August maximum temperatures between 1938 (when the database was initiated) and 2012.
In fact, there was no source in Canada then—and still isn’t—from which CAP could have plucked that ludicrous figure. University of Guelph economics professor Ross McKitrick had at that time just created his invaluable site, yourenvironment.ca, which sets out a complete temporal record of officially recorded air and pollution levels everywhere in Canada. The data for the site is culled from provincial environment and natural resources ministries, or from Environment Canada. Over many decades, no matter where you look in Canada, the graph trends remain resolutely horizontal with tiny upward and downward spikes indicating extreme weather blips.
Every layperson who identifies as an alarmism skeptic has his or her own pivotal moment, and that idiotic “news” story in the Globe was mine. When reporters and editors act like deer in the headlights in the reception and dissemination of demonstrably impossible “information,” it’s clear evidence that they have been gripped by a socially contagious virus. These are the people who in the 19th century would have believed tulip bulb prices were never going to peak, even if every single family on the planet had enough tulip bulbs to fill a half-acre garden.
The late writer Michael Crichton, author of the best-selling 2004 techno-thriller, “State of Fear,” was one of the first independent students of environmentalism to define environmentalism as a “religion,” and to observe that its principal characteristic was to cater to the state of alarm he believed is an inherent human need. Its dogmatists act as though they have been appointed Morals Police. And they do not take kindly to dissent.
Al Gore, whose 2006 documentary film An Inconvenient Truth was received with uncritical awe, (one of my friends, normally very brainy, described it as a “religious experience”) was later found by a UK court to contain “nine key scientific errors.” It was deemed rife with “serious scientific inaccuracies, political propaganda and sentimental mush” and the judge ruled that the “apocalyptic vision” presented made it not an impartial scientific analysis, but a “political film.” He continues to hector the world as though that never happened from the depths of a home whose electricity kilowatt hours exceed twenty times the national average.
In 2007, environmental guru David Suzuki stormed out of a Toronto radio station interview when the host suggested global warming was not yet a “totally settled issue.” The incident revealed the mindset of the enviro-ayatollahs. (We see its 16-year-old version in little Pied Piper leader of the Children’s Crusade Greta “how-dare-you” Thunberg.) Suzuki perceived the radio host as a blasphemer, unworthy of his rational rebuttal. Suzuki actually felt enviro-infidels should be literally suppressed, and even opined that politicians who aren’t on board with his views should go to prison. You’d think a guy that far down the rabbit hole would be minding his own enviro P’s and Q’s, but like Al Gore, his real estate portfolio is humongous and his carbon footprint immense.
Ordinary Canadians were afraid to criticize Suzuki, but he got his comeuppance in 2013 in Australia when, speaking to an audience of actual scientist who knew their stuff, he revealed his ignorance about actual climate data. I confess to a very satisfying hour of Schadenfreude in watching him make him a fool of himself on camera. Thankfully, hopefully feeling a bit chastened, he retired from the scene in 2014.
Hard to believe, but we’re now marking the tenth anniversary of what journalist James Delingpole dubbed Climategate. The astonishing truths of the climate-change religion’s seamy underbelly revealed in the masses of internal communications by supposedly authoritative and honest alpha climatologists might have acted as a therapeutic purgative to the credulous masses, but the collusive rush to exculpation by the usual suspects put paid to any such hopes.
Let me offer a word of advice to my fellow non-scientists who think they do not deserve to have a voice in this discussion for lack of credentials. Do not allow yourself to be intimidated by those who wield the scimitar of “authority” to speak on this issue because you are not a “peer-reviewed” PhD or because you don’t cite “primary sources.” You’ll notice they don’t scold Greta Thunberg for her reliance on others.
You have a working brain. You have the ability to read and assess the argumentation of those who have been researching climate change at the primary-source level for many years. You have a pretty good understanding of the difference between actual facts and “projections.” As time passes and prediction after prediction fails to come true, you have a right to question where scientific objectivity ends and ideology begins. It’s your tax dollars that are gushing forth in the service of a policy that is very likely based on false assumptions, and which could be better spent in fighting pollution and human misery. You have a right to interrogate the premises that are turning the spigot.
Keep reading. There are many excellent websites and books that lay out evidence-based skeptics’ position. For a one-stop enlightening, comprehensive, reader-friendly and entertaining overview, I recommend the above-mentioned journalist James Delingpole’s 2012 book “Watermelons: The Green Movement’s True Colours.” In the seven years since it was published, Delingpole told me, nothing has happened to change his mind. If anything, the passage of time has confirmed his challenges to alarmism.
Greta Thunberg has left North America and is traveling back to Europe with the use of a catamaran. Thunberg will now head to Europe where she will attend the UN climate summit, according to the Daily Mail.
Thankfully for Thunberg, an Australian couple offered to sail her back from Virginia in the United States. It will take her two to three weeks to get to Portugal, depending on the Atlantic Ocean’s temperament.
During her time in North America, Thunberg met with world leaders, famous actors, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The Swedish activist even took time to visit Alberta where she received a cooler reception than other stops on her tour.