About the only nice thing to come from the wholesale adoption by climate activists of the Tobacco Strategy is that we can predict what’s coming next.
Why they adopted the Tobacco Strategy is an open question–the activist strategy against tobacco companies failed miserably.
Oh, the activists got their show trials and reparations were paid to some. But Big Tobacco is bigger and richer than ever before. The strategy failed.
At any rate, it is easy to see the next steps in the climate activists’ march to glory–glory, perhaps, but not success.
Activists may be able to convince a jury or even a judge somewhere that fossil fuel companies should have told investors that some day their products would fall out of favor. And it is indeed possible that politicians will regulate fossil fuels or impose a carbon tax that will make this chart from BP obsolete:
If activists are successful in the demonization of fossil fuels and their producers, however, it is just one step in a path that parallels that taken by those who successfully demonized Big Tobacco without harming their businesses in any way. As Exxon has some bright people on board, they may recognize this and accede to public shaming for a while and then get back to business.
That business is selling fossil fuels to us. We are the ones who clamor for their product, who can’t live without it.
And make no mistake, we are the next ones in the sights of climate activists. In the same way that the tobacco activists followed their show trial ‘victories’ over Big Tobacco with a concerted attack on public behavior, so too will climate activists segue into a never-ending attack on consumers of fossil fuels.
Oh, they’ll go after the big consumers first, of course. But once they’ve established the logic of punishing consumption, it will trickle down to we the people. Just as no-smoking zones were first trialed on airplanes and in hospitals but then grew to public parks and beaches, stadiums and 30 meter zones outside of any public building, so too will rationing, permissions and mandatory cutbacks be the new order of the day.
Tobacco activists achieved their temporary victories, not because of what they did to tobacco companies, but because of the social change they induced in the general population. They shamed the companies, but then blamed the smokers. As long as tobacco companies sold their wares to the developing world, the companies didn’t mind and neither did the activists. It was a win-win situation.
This is the strategy explicitly adopted by climate activists. It may well achieve the same results–fossil fuel consumption being channeled heavily into the developing world while the richer countries adopt a puritanical aversion to the stuff. But hey–we already import toys and electronics from the developing world, we can get all the stuff made using fossil fuels from them, too. We can pedal our bicycles past the abandoned factories and use our laptops for six hours a day when the sun is shining on our solar panels.
The net impact on climate change will be zero. Just as tobacco companies today churn out three trillion cigarettes annually, fossil fuel consumption will double, conveniently out of sight, just as those dying from their nicotine consumption are hidden from Western view. But those activists will sure get rich and famous–which is all that matters from their strategic point of view.
Where’s Shailene Woodley when we need her?