BY EFFIE DEANS
The Scottish Greens will not save the world, though if given the chance they might wreck Scotland. The deal they have made with the SNP changes nothing whatsoever. It was unnecessary for Sturgeon to form a coalition with the Greens, because she knows that they always vote with the SNP anyway. We are no closer to a second independence referendum because Sturgeon now has a majority with her Green friends. She has had them in her pocket for years. Worse still we are no closer to dealing with the world’s environmental problems.
The argument about climate change and the use of fossil fuels has been dominated by people on the extreme Left, who oppose economic growth and would prefer that we all lived a pre-industrial lifestyle with no cheap flights to get away from chilly Scotland. Those of us who have been annoyed by propaganda on the BBC with David Attenborough whispering continually about doom have made the mistake of leaving these issues to the likes of Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion. It is for this reason that rather odd people like the Scottish Greens can win so many seats in the Scottish Parliament. We have left the argument to them.
The debate about climate change was always tedious because it was political. The Left saw it as a chance to overcome its defeat when the Berlin Wall came down. It would use the need to for us to cease polluting the world to push through the socialism that Eastern Europe had rejected. There would be two prongs in the pincer movement. One would involve higher taxes and sterner regulations on our polluting lifestyles, the other would be controlling the language that we speak so that we could not object. But neither Woke nor Marxism will save the planet.
It is a good thing if we cease to use fossil fuels. It would have been a good thing even if there were no problem with climate change. Fossil fuels are dirty, inefficient and expensive. You do not therefore have to believe the latest climate alarmism or the latest predictions about the sea rising or storms happening, to believe that eliminating the use of fossil fuels as quickly as possible is sensible. Let the argument about climate change be left to the scientists. It should have nothing whatsoever to do with politics. There are good reasons to get rid of fossil fuels anyway.
We are absurdly parochial in Scotland. I read recently about how the island of Eigg is now self-sufficient in energy. That’s a good thing of course, both for those living there and as an example of what is possible, but it will not change the world. Neither for that matter will the fact that we all have to rummage in our rubbish sorting the various items into different coloured bins. It would not even matter if the Scottish Greens had their way and all of us used our cars as little as the people on Eigg and succeeded in living a rural idyll fuelled by wind, waves, woolly jumpers, high taxes and absurdly expensive flights. It would not matter because Scotland in world terms is as tiny as Eigg and produces very little carbon dioxide anyway.
The industrial revolution that Britain had in the nineteenth century depended on coal. But the only way for everyone else to have an industrial revolution today still depends on coal. It is for this reason that China and India continue to build coal fired power stations. They and other developing economies will still drive petrol cars, because they are cheaper to make, cheaper to drive and will go further. If Tesla cars are outside the price range of most Scots how much more will they be too expensive for people in Africa.
So, the idea at present is that we will be forced to give up cheap power, cheap cars and cheap flights so that the savings that we make will be overwhelmed by those in poorer parts of the world that naturally want to have a lifestyle similar to ours. This is not a plan. It will not save the planet.
The change from using horses to using cars happened remarkably quickly. We went from using oil lamps to using electricity at around the same time. But we did these things because electricity and cars were cheaper, more profitable and more efficient. Cars and electricity led to growth.
The Green movement supports alternatives to fossil fuels which invariably depend on subsidy. These alternatives make a loss. Our electricity bills will have to go up. Our cars will be more expensive and won’t drive far. But how do they expect such alternatives to be attractive to people in poorer countries?
The Scottish Greens are opposed to economic growth, because they are opposed to capitalism. But the switch over from using fossil fuels to using cleaner and better alternatives will take vast amounts of money. If this is not achieved by economic growth it can only be achieved by a decline in our living standards. They didn’t tell you about that bit.
The solution to the problem of climate change can only occur through economic growth that funds research that discovers technologies that make our lives better and less reliant on fossil fuels. We need to find ways of extracting hydrogen more cheaply. We need to develop fission reactors that are safe because they use alternatives like uranium. Ultimately, we need to make fusion power work, because that would give us both unlimited fuel and no pollution.
It is right that we attempt to burn less fossil fuel now as we await these technologies, but we must balance this with the need to keep our economy growing and to maintain our lifestyles. The public will not vote for Green initiatives if they mean that we cannot go on holiday and cannot afford to drive a car.
Only with economic growth will we be able to afford to fund the science that in time will enable us to produce cheap clean energy. At that time the Chinese, the Indians and everyone else will adopt it not because of a summit where everyone agrees to initiatives which they then ignore, but because it is cheaper and more efficient to do so, just like they once adopted the internal combustion engine and the light bulb.
If the Scottish Greens and the SNP had their way, we would have independence while running a massive deficit, which would lead to cuts. How then could we fund the drive to cleaner energy? They would turn us into the island of Eigg without a ferry. This would do absolutely nothing to help either Scotland’s environment nor would it contribute anything to solving the problems of climate change. It amounts to fiddling with pronouns while forests burn.
It is time for those who care about the environment to ditch the Scottish Greens and time for other politicians to come up with solutions that might actually change climate.
The excellent Effie Deans writes at Lily of St. Leonard’s here.