Yes, Emily, There Is Hypocrisy

One of my faithful readers (and oldest friends) knows that I dislike when children misuse the word “hypocrisy”. For example, a young man who was falling deeper into drugs informed me that his father couldn’t say anything to him “because he used to smoke pot”.

I eventually convinced him that someone who quit drugs was not a hypocrite. The key to enlightenment was the Beastie Boys’ Fight For Your Right with its key phrase “That hypocrite smokes two packs a day.”

But this op-ed was by a grown woman at the New Republic, of all media. Emily Atkin wrote Al Gore’s Carbon Footprint Doesn’t Matter

The key phrase is “climate change advocates who don’t live a carbon-neutral lifestyle aren’t hypocrites because, FOR THE MOST PART, they’re not asking you to live a carbon-neutral lifestyle. They’re asking governments, utilities, energy companies, and large corporations to increase their use of renewable energy so that you can continue to live your life as you please, without contributing to global warming.”

So they ARE asking you, but not completely you. Thus they ARE hypocrites, just not 100% pure.

Yes, yes, my snark is showing. It usually does when, like Humpty Dumpty in Alice in Wonderland, a journalist uses a word to mean whatever she wishes it to mean.

Atkins contends that wealthy people can live as they please; she recognizes that rich climate change advocates “won’t be affected by climate change. If rising seas threaten their vacation properties, they can just move. And they will always be able to afford air conditioning, no matter how high electricity rates climb.”

What she overlooks is that people who aren’t rich cannot continue to live life as they please. Their choices will be restricted by the cost and availability of power. I’ll use electricity as an example.

Ontario had a drastic increase in the price of electricity. Costs rose even as demand fell. When it closed its coal plants, the provincial government not only commissioned natural gas*, solar, and wind plants but also upgraded infrastructure. (There’s an excellent article on the increase, including the impact of influential NIMBYs stopping plants being built near the areas of greatest demand.)

The South Australia black-out in September exemplified what happens when renewable sources like solar and wind power can’t meet demand: No air-conditioning, no water pumps, etc. Lower-income people don’t have the luxury of back-up generators, either.**

That’s just electricity. Wealthy climate change advocates can still live as they please when gasoline (aka petrol) costs treble, but not the white-collar worker commuting from low-cost housing to a decent-salaried job.

So yes, the hypocrites should practice what they preach!

And just to tease my dog-loving, environment-cherishing readers: Cats and dogs    aren’t green. (The pup is Black and Tan to be precise. And not “green”, either. A certain talented Mr. Ripley fetches TREES!)

But even if you decided against having dogs in the future, you won’t expect everyone else sacrifice their pets, either. You aren’t hypocrites.

The wealthy advocates could afford to try that philosophy, too.


* Natural gas is a fossil fuel and non-renewable, but burns cleaner. Canada’s main source of electricity is more problematic: nuclear. The Bruce plant near Lake Huron and a proposed nuclear waste facility a few miles inland have been controversial.

**My neighbors with stand-by generators had them installed when they built their houses. They paid more than $3000 for the generators alone. Portable generators – the kind common at construction sites – are less expensive and less powerful but a bigger hassle to set up and run.