Are Voters Really Too Stupid to Solve the Greatest Challenge Facing Mankind?

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It had to happen. The recent IPCC report on the doomed Earth has got the press corps in such a lather that they’re now going after ordinary citizens. This is new, and well worth pondering.

Yesterday’s Globe and Mail piece by veteran national-affairs columnist Gary Mason is typical. Mason appears to be genuinely baffled by the failure of the IPCC to terrify the people of the world into breakneck decarbonization. “Unfortunately,” he writes, “the dire cautions being levelled by climate scientists these days don’t seem to be precipitating the global panic and outrage that they should.” From there Mason segues, apparently without irony, into a full-frontal attack on the usual Canadian suspects—Scott Moe, Brian Pallister, Doug Ford, Jason Kenney, Andrew Scheer—for their “often misleading scaremongering.”

What in the world would compel so many of Canada’s political leaders to be so barbaric as to hasten the death throes of the planet? “Politicians such as Mr. Ford and his ilk couldn’t care less about pollution,” Mason avers, “or taking measures to radically reduce emissions. He believes the people who make up Ford Nation, the people who voted him into office, only care about their next paycheque.” But here’s the pièce de résistance. According to Mason, Premier Ford et al are not only playing politics with the only measure that can guarantee the future of the biosphere, i.e. carbon taxation, but they

are betting people are too stupid to figure that out. And they may be right about that, too. Yes, politicians will have blood on their hands when the seas start rising. But it’s not just politicians. It’s the people who voted them in knowing these so-called leaders didn’t care about trying to solve the greatest challenge facing mankind.

Wow.

What are we to make of such brazen attacks on the intelligence of Canadian voters?

For starters, we might imagine that in virtually any other context, Canadians’ resistance to a propaganda offensive designed to foment “global panic” would be commendable. Secondarily, we might err on the side of defending the democratic right of Canadians to assess for themselves the political landscape and its bearing on their well-being, now and in the future. And if extending these two benefits of the doubt to Canadian voters can’t mitigate the tragedy of their being “too stupid” not to vote for politicians who “couldn’t care less about pollution,” we might even take refuge in the time-honoured mantra of democrats everywhere and allow that Canadians have the constitutionally guaranteed right to be stupid.

But Canadians are not stupid. And in any other circumstance, the abject failure of the Canadian commentariat to follow the bouncing ball on the decarbonization debate would be both obvious and risible.

Take polling. In yesterday’s Toronto Star—which, like the Globe, covered the IPCC report with unbounded hysteria—EKOS pollster Frank Graves is cited alongside eco-radicals like NDP MP Niki Ashton, Environmental Defence director Dale Marshall and Catherine Abreu, executive director of Climate Action Network Canada. Graves is quoted as musing that “an issue like climate change, as it is now cast in almost apocalyptic possibilities—that can be very emotionally engaging.” But, in fact, his own survey data suggest precisely the opposite—which, of course, is why climate-change activists are beside themselves. Graves is paraphrased in the Star as saying, “a majority of Canadians already rank climate change and the environment amongst their top concerns [but] there is still a solid base of voters receptive to the Conservative attack on the carbon tax.”

How in the world to explain this paradox?

Here’s how. For thirty years, i.e. starting with James Hansen’s dramatic pitch to the U.S. Congress in 1988, Canadians (and others) have been told that global warming is an existential threat to the planet. For the last twenty years, they’ve been told that the science is settled. And for the last decade at least, thanks to Al Gore and others who pontificate as he does, they’ve been told that anyone who does not subscribe root-and-branch to climate-change orthodoxy will be likened to a Holocaust denier and publicly shamed. Indeed, the hermetic seal on this orthodoxy is so tight that no one under the age of forty can recall a time when conversing even privately about climate policy was not a matter of intense social scrutiny and stigmatization. And now, all these decades later, we have the likes of Gary Mason telling us that if we do not think as he does, and vote as he does, we’re stupid. So when the phone rings in the kitchens of Canadians and pollsters like Frank Graves ask them what they think about climate change, how are they apt to answer?

The straitjacketing of the global climate conversation is one of the most egregious intellectual offences of the early twenty-first century world—the more so because it has its origins not in some paranoid dictatorship but in the country that gave us the First Amendment. But having put it in motion—having browbeaten thoughtful voters everywhere into silence—we should hardly be surprised that many of them are quietly but firmly drawing their own conclusions and voting their own consciences.