Why Extinction Rebellion is the antithesis of progress - Brian Monteith

The militant climate campaign Extinction Rebellion was in the headlines again at the weekend – for attempting to halt the news headlines.
A protester holds up an Extinction Rebellion bannerat the blockade of the Newsprinters printing works t Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. Picture: PAA protester holds up an Extinction Rebellion bannerat the blockade of the Newsprinters printing works t Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. Picture: PA
A protester holds up an Extinction Rebellion bannerat the blockade of the Newsprinters printing works t Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. Picture: PA

Political activists who take to silencing their perceived opposition expose themselves as the true fascists of our age – resorting to censorship and physical force to triumph over debate and reason. Why? Because they are without or cannot articulate convincing arguments that are able to persuade the majority of us to believe their views. Faced with rejection they choose to impose their will – inflicting the greatest suffering on those they claim to be helping – the poorest or most disadvantaged in society.

There should be no equivocation from the truth: Extinction Rebellion and its adherents do not want to convert people to their cause, they literally wish to enslave us all to an economic future akin to the dark ages. The UK government is committed to a net zero carbon economy by 2050 – a target date that can be debated as being unambitious – but to argue the date should be 2025, as Extinction Rebellion does, is to seek our economy to move backwards, economic growth vaporising to becoming permanent recession and killing the tax revenues that generate the public services so many vulnerable people rely on.

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The lights would literally be turned out – and there would be no use complaining to your parliament – for Extinction Rebellion would sweep that away too, replacing it with Climate Assemblies. The economic desert that would ensue would be far worse than anything we are experiencing or are about to face due to the Covid pandemic – for governments would not be able to borrow the huge sums they are currently accessing for employment and social support. Who would lend to governments that would not have tax revenues from economic growth to pay the loans back? Subsistence economies have no profits to share or invest.

The year-zero climate alarmism is misplaced. Of course there is evidence that has to be analysed and strategies devised to protect the planet, but there are no policies that will reason with people who think it right to knowingly block ambulances from entering hospitals – as I witnessed this week. In fact there is a great deal that is being done in this world to improve the changing environment for the benefit of everyone. Ironically much of it goes unreported.

Here are some things you may not know…

Even though the world’s population grew by more than two billion people in the fifteen years between 1990-2015, the number of people living in extreme poverty actually fell by 1.2 billion.

According to World Bank figures, those who consume less than $1.90 a day, adjusted for local prices, declined from 36 per cent of the World’s population in 1990 to 10 per cent in 2015 – a staggering 130,000 people a day rising out of extreme poverty. This has been achieved not by huge state investment or five-year plans but by countries such as Vietnam and India opening up domestic and international markets to free trade. When the UN’s Millennium Summit of 2000 committed to halving extreme poverty by 2015 few expected the goal to be met by 2010, but it was and the improving trend continues.

Deaths from climate-sensitive diseases and events fell from 8.1% of all causes of the World’s age-standardised death rate in 1990 to 5.5% in 2017. Likewise the world’s age-standardised burden of disease – measured by disability-adjusted life years lost – declined from 12% to 8%. These two facts demonstrate that death and disease as a result of climate change is falling, not climbing – all while the world population continues to grow.

Taking longer term data, world deaths from all extreme weather events have fallen by a staggering 99% since the 1920s.

Deaths from heatwaves and floods have fallen for all income groups since the 1990s. Natural disasters are causing fewer deaths, thanks in part to rising economic growth allowing greater investment in protective measures such as flood prevention or earthquake-proofing of buildings. The greatest benefits have been in the developing world – again, thanks to economic growth

As recently as 1870 life expectancy in Europe, the Americas and the World was only 36, 35 and 30 years, respectively. Today it is now 81, 79 and 72 years – and rising in every continent.

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Meanwhile the earth is actually becoming greener: a 2016 paper published by 32 authors from 24 institutions in 8 countries using satellite data showed a 14% increase in green vegetation over the last 30 years.

Only on Saturday the Sun had published an article by Sir Richard Attenborough – hardly a climate change denier. Like The Scotsman, The Times, Telegraph and Sun newspapers – as with arguably all media in the UK – regularly encourage debate, evidence-based argument and a battle of ideas and opinion. Readers will seldom find Lesley Riddoch and I agreeing on opposite pages on the days when we choose to write about the same issue – and that’s how it should be. The readers can make their own minds up, possibly disagreeing with us both!

No government is perfect, I would submit I am a regular critic of all parties and all governments, and can point to the articles to show it, but it would be mendacious and dishonest to deny the good work the UK Government does do.

Just last year Boris Johnson doubled the UK’s budget on international climate finance to £11.6bn. Initiatives include the tripling size of the Darwin Fund that helps countries rich in biodiversity but poor in their ability to protect it; the establishment of a £500M Blue Planet Fund to help communities protect and restore threatened marine ecosystems; a £100M Landscapes Fund to protect and restore fragile transboundary ecosystems; and a Blue Belt program that is on course to protect 4 million Sq/km of marine life around British Overseas Territories. The minister in charge, Zac Goldsmith, admits more could be done – but to suggest nothing but damage is being done is simply perverse.

Even in the face of the current pandemic the condition of the world’s population is improving – and it is thanks to the creativity and productivity of modern free economies.

I believe in rebelling against extinction – for the extinction of capitalism will mean a poorer world for us all.

Brian Monteith is Editor of ThinkScotland.org



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