Climate change should be a core conservative issue, not left to Greta Thunberg and co – Nina Welsch

It’s hard not to get annoyed by protesters throwing soup over great works of art, but don’t let their antics turn you into a climate ‘sceptic’ and make you succumb to apathy

Bestselling author, journalist and gold-star provocateur Lionel Shriver has published a new novel this month. Entitled ‘Mania’, it is a savage dystopian satire about the ways society falls prey to ideological crazes. In the book, Shriver imagines a West in the grip of a social justice cause called the Mental Parity Movement, where the last great civil rights movement is defeating notions of intelligence.

Calling someone “stupid” is an appalling slur and measuring cleverness in any way via grades or exams is discrimination tantamount to racism. Pre-publication, Shriver wrote on the Unherd website about the various manias she believed had spread throughout society in the last decade, amongst them “transgenderism”, “#Metoo” ,and “Covid lockdowns” (you can agree or disagree with her evaluations). At the beginning of the piece, she teased that she believed we were already in the throes of the next big social mania, waiting until the end to reveal it: “climate change”.

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This is becoming an increasingly mainstream perception and is deeply concerning. Fear of the impact of the climate crisis (and it is a crisis) being perceived as a societal mania is disastrous. To be fair to Shriver and the many who potentially agree with her, it would be wrong not to concede that the behaviour of certain climate activists has some pretty maniacal vibes.

Greta Thunberg, seen being arrested in Malmo during a protest, may not be everyone's cup of tea, but that doesn't disprove climate science (Picture: Andreas Hillergren/TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Images)Greta Thunberg, seen being arrested in Malmo during a protest, may not be everyone's cup of tea, but that doesn't disprove climate science (Picture: Andreas Hillergren/TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Images)
Greta Thunberg, seen being arrested in Malmo during a protest, may not be everyone's cup of tea, but that doesn't disprove climate science (Picture: Andreas Hillergren/TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Images)
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Vandalising and virtue-signalling

People – myself included – are fed up of petulant, posh-voiced protestors throwing soup over great art works or sermonising about dairy consumption in the middle of Waitrose while pouring milk all over the floor (for a cleaner to have to mop up after they’ve skipped off). More broadly, a self-inflicted PR catastrophe for factions of the climate lobby is the association of environmentalism with a utopian revolution tied in with completely unrelated issues like LGBTQ+ rights or anti-Zionism; that being a passionate campaigner for the environment is a youth-led fad like political slogans in your Instagram bio or neo-pronouns.

Nina WelschNina Welsch
Nina Welsch

For every Tarquin or Trixie vandalising and virtue-signalling though, there are countless decent, level-headed, apolitical campaigners and scientists working tirelessly to find solutions to limit the harm for ourselves and future generations and to conserve nature. Moreover, broken watches are right twice a day. Even when it comes to these activists, the optics may be dreadful but their core message isn’t wrong.

Without naming names, I recently listened to a highly influential YouTuber and political scientist on a podcast whose argument for climate change scepticism was basically that he suspected Greta Thunberg was a narcissist. Whether she is or not is utterly irrelevant to the fact that we are in a climate crisis. It’s not the first time I’ve heard this kind of ad hominem statement being presented as argument. I’m loathe to use the phrase ‘culture war’ but of all the issues that have become unnecessarily politicised, environmentalism is the most ridiculous.

Dangerous heatwaves, rising floodwater

Acknowledging that our planet has limited resources, that we have exploited it for too long and face grave consequences if we do not drastically change parts of our lifestyles is not scaremongering or exaggeration, it’s the truth. I’ve been alarmed by the amount of otherwise intelligent and reasonable political and cultural commentators letting lines like “the science isn’t settled” go unchallenged.

This is, at best, disingenuous and, at worst, a downright lie. All right, the science isn’t settled insofar that it can be certain that on the 13th of September 2047, a climate apocalypse will ensue but it is settled in that 80 per cent of over 300 of the world’s most respected scientists agree that global warming will hit at least 2.5C this century if we carry on as we are – and that’s the most optimistic scenario.

Half predict it will reach 3C. For context, at 2C dangerous heatwaves are in the region of 100-200 times more likely and flood damage around the world would double. Hitting 2.7C would put two billion people outside the the “climate niche”, ie, reliably liveable conditions; 3C would put Shanghai, Rio de Janeiro, Miami and The Hague under water. Over 3C and we are facing famine and worldwide societal collapse, with millions of climate refugees.

This is all terribly depressing and scary and therein lies the problem. As a species, we are very bad at admitting when we are afraid and nothing scares us more than uncertainty; the climate crisis, more than any other issue, threatens our illusion of humanity as being in control and invulnerable to the same dangers that all other living things are.

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Not a left-right issue

I’m wholly sympathetic to the temptation of distraction but we should acknowledge that’s what it is. The big problem really is not climate change denial or even climate scepticism but what I’ve come to see as climate apathy, a mentality best surmised as: “I believe these things are true but I really don’t want them to be and so will look very hard in the opposite direction at something of no importance whatsoever.” A prime example happened on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme last week where the aforementioned temperature predictions were more or less laughed off by the hosts for being “gloomy”. Correct, they are.

But, in fairness, Greta Thunberg’s quite annoying at times and isn’t it easier and more light-hearted to talk about that? (Incidentally, if it seems I’m sermonising, I’ll happily admit I’ve been completely guilty of climate apathy myself and will likely fall prey in the future).

While optimism is foolish, proactive positivity is not. In fact, it’s vital. While the climate crisis never should have been politicised as a right-left issue, if I have to make the conservative case, then here it is: the clue is in the word ‘conserve’. If you believe in conserving country, beloved traditions, pride for one’s culture and history, and truth, then passion and commitment for conserving the natural world in which we live is not just in-keeping with these values, it is integral.

Nina Welsch is a freelance writer



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