In 1979 Brother Ivo joined the then Ecology party: standing for it in a General Election; he chaired chaired the Conference debate when it changed its name to the Green Party.
You may therefore be surprised to hear, that he feels compelled to act as Devil’s advocate, to remind General Synod that there is an alternative if unfashionable case and to urge all to approach these matters with extreme caution and critical analysis.
He left the Green Party when I realised two things. First that it was turning from away from a primary purpose of preserving the environment, towards leading the anti capitalism narrative.
When Marxist modes of thought failed in one incarnation, they were reinvented within Green politics; same meat different gravy. Danny the Red became Danny the Green and there remains, incidentally, a significant anti-Christian strand within the Green movement.
Second, he had reached the conclusion that if the Nobel Prize Committe ever decided to make an award for failed apocalyptic warnings, the Green Movement would win it – every year – by a country mile.
Let us consider a little history
Brother Ivo and the Green Movement of the 1980’s predicted life in 2015
Oil reserves will have run out, we used to say.
The carbon based economies of the world will be in ruin in consequence
The rising world population cannot be sustained, beyond 6 billion: food prices will rocket and famine will rapidly increase
By 2015 we will have extracted all the known reserves of raw materials -not only oil – but gold silver tin nickel copper etc
In short, we proclaimed that if you rejected Green policies then, human life was going to be impossible by 2015.
Each prediction was advanced with precisely the same earnestness which we hear today about climate change, and each enjoyed the same levels of referenced scientific data and significant expert authority.
” Unfortunately” – in the last 30 years – that pesky capitalism .. which we despised – has enabled more people, to live longer and better lives ; humanity is better fed, better medicated than ever before. Infant mortality has reduced , worldwide literacy rates are advancing. The Gates Foundation is doing great work combatting Malaria in Africa and Aids is being reduced thanks to the US PEPFAR initiative.
By every rational metric measuring human welfare, the world is living in better times. Despite the world population continuing to increase, the % of people living in absolute poverty has reduced from 53% of the world’s population in 1981 to just 17 % today . Far too many – and a long way to go – but a remarkable statistic. How did this turnabout happen?
It is thanks to The Free market – built on cheap energy
Contrary to Green expectation Energy reserves continue to be found: when coupled with clever ways of extracting, at previously uneconomic levels, we now have about 400 years of energy reserves, buying us the necessary time in which to perfect alternatives to the carbon economy, none of which are currently viable without subsidy; those green subsidies, are of course, totally dependent upon the carbon based economy. Without the carbon economy and nuclear power energy prices go through the solar panels on the roof.
Let’s flag up flag up some paradoxes.
For all the handwringing over carbon emissions, Carbon free nuclear energy remains viscerally opposed by green activists.
Low carbon shale gas , developed by those which General Synod invited to reject , is also capable of delivering safe,secure, long term cleaner energy. Because shale gas is so economic, all other energy prices are driven and held down.
Unlike many renewables, this truly offers affordable energy for the poor. It is also less destructive of habitat than some of the vast floodings required by the hydro electric schemes such as those of of Brazil & Southern China. There is no green energy/ecological free lunch.
The strenuous and irrational opposition to such cleaner energy amongst a movement, which – incidentally also vigorously opposed the closing the the coal mines- tells you that there is more going on here than pure non-political concern for God’s creation.
Show me a country with cheap and abundent energy and I will show you a country lifting the poor from misery . Except Venezuela, the country with the largest oil reserves in the world -which thanks to anti-capitalism is now an economic basket case with widespread and wholly unnecessary privation.
May General Synod hold that thought in mind.
What we will be debating may not Green energy TO help the poor, but rather the choice “Green energy OR help the poor.” Put that way the moral choice is not so clear or comfortable.
One wishes the theological material representatives have been offered to reflect upon, included the Exodus passage on the tyranny of being required to make bricks without straw.
Human material welfare occurs where there are three factors in play; 1 The growth of functional democracy with accountable government. 2 free markets. 3 Cheap energy
Evidence based thinking in this debate has to have regard to this history even when it points to such inconvenient truths
Given the predictive failure of the Green Movement of which Brother Ivo was part, you will appreciate why he now says – beware those whose predictions are “beyond question”
In 2001 a group of scientists identified the problem
“In Climate Change research and modelling we should recognise that we are dealing with a coupled non linear chaotic system & therefore that long term prediction of future climate States is not possible”
Who issued that warning about overstating the predictive capacity of science? … Well, it was the International Panel on Climate Change in its 2001 report at p774.
They were right : for the past 18 years there has been no rise in temperature, confounding their predictions. No model or theory explains this.
When St Mark posed the question ” Who is it that has the authority to still the storm?” (change the weather) Brother Ivo does not think he had in mind answer “the International Panel on Climate Change!”
We know that if you compare the computer modelling of the climate change lobby against the real time date when it is known, – there is no correlation.
In these circumstances, responsible scepticism is not some moral failure or idiosyncratic character flaw, but rather a necessary duty of the intellectually robust.
The exclamation ” but … but .. expert opinion” needs to be tempered by an historic regard to a lengthy history of expert predictive failure.
As we contrast practical successes of the Free Market in actually advancing human welfare with the failures of those who often wish it ill As General Synod reflects upon those figures of more people fed despite rising numbers, more lifted from poverty, does it not have to ask itself .
“Is this the time to kill the goose that lays the golden egg?”
The final point is this .
If Synod pass a motion to disinvest one of two things will happen. Either it will be ineffective and prove nothing more than ‘gesture politics’ which never brings credit to anyone.
Alternatively it will achieve its objective.
Others will be inspired follow the Anglican Church’s lead and the western carbon based economy will rapidly crumble. We do not actually have any viable replacements in many spheres. The battery of the Nissan Leaf cannot fetch Synod members from London to York let alone carry all those delegates by air to the next Climate Change jamboree in Paris
The share prices of BP, & Shell – which incidentally pays 8% of UK pensions, will collapse thanks to our far sightedness, but the good news is they will be bought up -along with their drilling rights and technical expertise- by Russian oligarchs, Middle Eastern Soverign Wealth Funds and Chinese Billionnaires. They will not leave the oil in the ground but will then enjoy the monopolists privilege of setting the worldwide price of energy. They could drive renewable energy out of business by predatory pricing. Where would we be then?
Despite an acknowledged appalling record as a former green futurologist, Brother Ivo is prepared to hazard one final modest prediction if such a policy secured its objectives.
It will not turn out well.