Tales from the Carbon Cult in Glasgow

CEI's visiting investigative writer, Kevin D. Williamson, shares tales from COP26

Photo Credit: Getty

Myths of the 21st Century

There is a whiff of incense in the air, sweet and heavy as tree sap. The theme is “Spiritual and Religious Perspectives on the Climate Emergency,” and Calder Tsuyuki-Tomlinson is conducting a tea ceremony — “sitting with the future, sipping the present” — and thereby illuminating the “intrinsic ephemerality of things.” I enjoy the smell of the incense, but here at COP26, the annual United Nations climate-change convention, we are all about the Science!, and the Science! doesn’t think much of burning incense indoors: particulate matter, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, etc. Burning wood may be carbon-­neutral, according to the EPA, but it is a serious indoor-air-quality concern, if you’re concerned about that kind of thing — about Science! At COP26, I met monks, mystics, and misanthropes, but I didn’t meet one person who knew the first thing about indoor-air quality.

The climate movement likes to wear the cloak of Science!, but here on the streets of Glasgow, inevitably described as “gritty,” it is a movement of slogans — fruity and loopy and hippie and New Agey inside the Scottish Exhibition Center, where the U.N.-approved activists and critics and RINGOs and QUANGOs and YOUNGOs offer up their predictable maxims (“We Have a Right to Climate Education” and “The Future Is Female” and the inevitable “Black Lives Matter”), but they get angrier and ragier and a good deal less grammatical as you move outward through the concentric circles of Serious Power, centered today on the most sacred person of Barack Obama, paying a surprise visit and upstaging the official U.S envoy, haughty private-jet enthusiast John Kerry, which is plainly part of the former president’s extended “Hey, Joe Biden Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time!” tour. And the mottos and calls to arms and such grow positively hostile as you land on the actual Glaswegian street, outside of the barricaded zone of U.N. approval, where there is talk of Nuremberg-style trials for “climate criminals” and naked anti-humanism (“Love the Planet: Hate Children!”) and graffiti scrawled either by some quasi-illiterate climate warrior with approximately Greta Thunberg’s education or by some ingenious and nihilistic street philosopher offering up Plato-by-way-of-N.W.A.:

“F*** the Polis!”

This particular rainy and postindustrial polis — well, someone already has done the deed, and that some time ago. Glasgow is a charming third-tier city that is in no way ready for globalist do-goodery on this scale. It actually takes longer to get a taxi at the airport than it takes to fly here from London, and as I wait, muttering to myself in the cold and damp — and then in the cold and damp and the dark when the lights outside the airport go off — I can’t help but think some seriously climate-criminal-type thoughts, like: “Well, here we are in more or less the future you greenie-weenie utopian ass-clowns have planned for us, cold and wet and exhausted and longing in the darkness for the gentle rumble of an internal-combustion engine turning dinosaur juice into convenience.” You can tell the COP26 gang, at least the young ones, by their shiny new North Face backpacks, none of which has ever seen a day’s camping. But the kids from Oberlin and Haverford aren’t riding their bikes off to their hostels or Airbnbs or hotels, and they aren’t taking the bus — they are getting into the back seat of an automobile and exchanging currency for services rendered. I don’t mind their looking to their comfort, but I could do with a good deal less sanctimony out of them, these smirking and scowling and po-faced youngsters assuring one another that what happens here in Glasgow this week will make or break the future of the human race, and doing so with the kind of confidence that can be mustered only by people who have never made a mortgage payment — the generation that put the “I” in iPhone.

Read the full piece at the National Review