When serious climate-change news is funnier than satire, is it the end of the world or the rebirth of common sense?

Promoting a book is not easy, in large part because to do so successfully requires full participation in the foul world of social media. It looks simple but simple mistakes can cost you an arm or a career (ask Howard Dean, a US politician who obliterated his political career with a singular yowling noise he brought forth in a speech; a fatal error in the speed-of-light digital era). I made a rookie mistake on Twitter recently, and was fortunate to emerge unscathed – I was not savaged for the error, nor did it go viral. Going viral is a delicate affair – in a positive way it is the key to modern success; going viral in a negative way is like inhaling a whole envelope of anthrax.

So, what happened was that I noticed a tweet in the endless stream from one of the sharpest minds I’ve encountered on the web, a fearless jouster known as DawnTJ90. She (I assume, who knows) posted a link to a story about how climate change is making sharks right handed. I marvelled in a quick comment that these parody sites are getting very creative and funny. Then I followed the link, read the story, and realized that it was serious – yet another group of grant-harvesters was “studying” this climate-change consequence and had actually published research on it, with a straight face. I therefore hastily deleted my tweet; can you imagine being such a social media loser as to be unable to tell the difference between a parody site and the real thing? I have no interest in following Howard Dean’s career down the toilet, and luckily there were no further humiliating consequences.

Shortly after, much wiser now, I stumbled across another article entitled “Situation Worsens In Venezuela, Bolivia, U.S., Japan, Mexico, Iraq, Spain” which inflicted some eye-rolling at yet another “countries that are warming faster than others” climate-change catalog of horrors. Even the most sober and solemn new sites are full of such goose-stepping analyses nowadays. I read through it to see what the catastrophe was this time.

But damn it I got it wrong again. That headline, as it turns out, emanated from The Onion, self-billed (with tongue firmly in cheek) as “America’s Finest New Source”.  You can judge that for yourself (I tend to agree) by pondering a few of their other recent headlines: “New MLB Rules Limit Number of Mound Conjugal Visits”; “Panicked Man completely out of things to talk about 5 minutes into marriage“; “Proud Business Owner tapes first Customer to Wall“; “Doctor Alarmed by How Little Time Family Needed to Decide to Pull Plug on Grandfather” and so on and so forth. The article I read was cut from similar cloth, listing unnamed ailments from virtually every country on earth as some sort of pointed commentary on how dumb those types of articles have become.

So, where does this leave us? Well, the movement to save the world has extrapolated from a simple “a warming planet may imply gradually shifting local climate characteristics”, which is reasonable and science-y enough, to teeth-rattling bombast about how any theoretical scenario imaginable that is bad is coming straight down the pipe. It’s true that we don’t really know if right-handed sharks are going to create problems, other than that they may be more analytical and less artistic, but through the lens of climate change, all that matters is that this is bad.

This is all very funny, until it’s not. The spreading fog of lunatic climate predictions springs forth from a group that also has the noose out for the petroleum industry, and they’re waddling relentlessly forward in that molten, smothering, revolutionary-but-unthinking communist way, oblivious to the fact that they are trying to strangle the source of their livelihood. To point out that the industries they wish to annihilate are keeping them alive is to be no different than an 80-year-old on crutches standing in the path of ten thousand stampeding buffalo.

This mass hysteria isn’t unprecedented; in fact, mob rule is a common human habit that has popped up through the ages. We are steps away from another mob takeover, a potentially massive one; we have loons gluing themselves to roadways in Europe to protest something or other (despite the sounds coming out of their mouths, they aren’t protesting for what they say they are, or they would never fly or use fossil fuels again). Other vacuous climate-saving tacticians climb over pipeline-facility fences to mindlessly start turning valves, which they apparently believe to be some sort of earth thermostat.

The lunacy is not a nightmare, it is all real, and it is a revolution fuelled by true believers who think they are saving civilization. The consequences are going to be fascinating, particularly since the world’s thirst for hydrocarbons grows every day, every year.

We can expect to see more strangulation of global capital supplies, meaning that any new petroleum infrastructure in the western world will become harder and harder. As a consequence, any entity that owns quality petroleum assets, and has the ability to get them to market (sit down, Canada), is going to be in excellent shape as petroleum prices rise (increasing demand and shrinking supply will do that). Some parts of the world that aren’t as worried about public environmental pressure (stand up, Russia, Middle East, Africa) will become more dominant in petroleum supplies, but there is not much we can do about that.

While that is going on, the public will reach the crossover point, just as I did, where it can no longer tell the difference between parody and the news. We are very close. At that point, the world will smell a rat with respect to all the climate doom predictions, once people realize that they aren’t dying as quickly as they are supposed to be, that their world has not been turned into a desert or been submerged, and that shark bites feel exactly the same whether the beast throws with its right fin or left.

Once we reach that phase on a large scale in the mass media, where it is obvious to all that the whole fear-machine has turned farcical, the activists will disappear into the tall grass like rats fleeing a burning building, and we will finally be able to discuss potential changes to the world’s energy systems in a coherent manner. Until then however, good luck trying to differentiate between climate change news articles that terrify you and those that make you laugh.  It’s getting really hard.

About the Author

Terry Etam is an independent senior consultant for small and midsize oil and gas companies. His website Public Energy Number One is dedicated to energy education and he is the author of The End of Fossil Fuel Insanity.