Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is supposed to be – as its website makes clear – “policy-neutral, never policy-prescriptive.” Yet practically every time its chairman, Rajendra Pachauri, opens his mouth he advocates specific responses to climate change. Nor does he restrict himself to discussing measures that governments should embrace – he wants to talk about you and me, as well.
I have a problem with this since I was provided with no opportunity to elect – or reject – Pachauri. As far as I’m concerned he’s some distant bloke associated with a United Nations body that is looking less accountable by the minute. So I actually don’t care what he thinks of my personal lifestyle choices.
Nevertheless, it’s important to be aware of the judgmental, highly moralistic nature of this man’s views. An interview he gave in May 2009 currently has me shaking my head. Toward the end, he’s asked:
What do you say to those people in India and China who see curbs on global warming as constraints that will keep them from catching up with the West?
Note, especially, Pachauri’s smug tone of certainty:
That argument is rather foolish: a case of cutting your nose to spite your face. If we were to follow the same lifestyle as the Western world, it would clearly be a mistake. The Western lifestyle will have to change. Therefore, it would be far easier for us to embark on a very different path of development…because there would be much less pain in doing that than to go after exactly what the West has done and then to have to cut down drastically. [bold added]
When asked what lifestyle changes are necessary, he replies:
First, we need to reorient our value systems. We need to start feeling responsible for our own individual carbon footprints…The thermostat for air conditioning or heating being kept at a level where you feel some degree of discomfort. You need to use public transport much more. You need to walk, you need to bicycle. Last but certainly not the least, there’s the issue of our diet…I’m not asking people to become vegetarian. I’m telling them to eat less meat. There are huge benefits in eating less meat, and I tell everyone that you will be healthier, and so will be the planet. There are some societies in this world that are consuming excessive quantities of meat. That’s not desirable.
Got that? This man thinks he has a right to replace your value system with his value system. He thinks you and your children should feel chilly in the winter and too hot in the summer. He wants to dictate how you travel from point A to point B. He also thinks it’s his business to decide what amount of meat consumption is healthy and desirable.
Here are his final remarks:
So, there’s a whole range of changes we’ll have to make, and I don’t think this will in any way rob us of our economic welfare or of things that make human beings happy. If anything, it will probably make us a little happier. We’ve gone overboard, really. This binge of greater and greater consumerism—producing and consuming more and more goods and services—without regard for the environmental impacts is something we are paying a very heavy price for. We really need to get out of this rut.
According to Pachauri, therefore, you won’t be given a choice. There are certain lifestyle changes that everyone will simply have to make. But don’t worry, he doesn’t think all those truck drivers, visiting nurses, or oil field workers will be economically affected when restrictions on automobile petrol become commonplace.
Honestly. The gall of this man. Pachauri is entitled to choose asceticism if he wishes. But this is where I smile sweetly and announce that, since I’m a grown-up, I’ll decide for myself what makes me happy – and whether or not I’ve gone overboard in my relationship to consumer products.