Prince Charles and The Timetable of Doom

by Andrew Stuttaford

Writing in the Spectator, Charles Moore draws attention to the calendar:

It is traditional for me, at this season, to remind readers of the Prince of Wales’s prophecy, spoken in Brazil in March 2009. His Royal Highness warned that the world had ‘only 100 months to avert irretrievable climate and ecosystem collapse’. So only four years now remain.

Here’s what Mr. Moore had to say about this particular prediction from Prince Charles back at the time it was made:

In his Dimbleby Lecture last week, the Prince of Wales reminded his audience that, in Brazil in March, he had said that ‘we had 100 months left to take the necessary steps to avert irretrievable climate and ecosystem collapse’; so now, he pointed out, we have only 96 months left. By early July 2017, therefore, irretrievable climate and ecosystem collapse will be certain. If Prince Charles is right, his claim in the same lecture that, by 2050, there will be nine billion people on the planet, mostly consuming at western levels, must surely be wrong. How could nine billion people survive and flourish 33 years after the beginning of ‘irretrievable climate and ecosystem collapse’? So does he really believe what he says? Since his remedies — ‘a much more integrated way of thinking’, the use of Nature’s processes as ‘the basis of a new form of economics’ — are so vague and require such vast changes in the government of the entire world, he must know that the ‘necessary steps’ will not have been taken by 2017….

What seers such as Charles (prince, not Moore) actually believe is an interesting question. If I had to guess, at one level the heir to the British throne (May the Queen live to be at least a hundred years!) does believe quite a bit of the nonsense he regularly spouts, but it’s not a level at which much rational thought is to be found. No, that is not the wildest of guesses. 

When testing the beliefs of politicians that are in a position to do something about the dangers—as they see them—of anthropogenic climate change, it’s worth checking to see what they are doing now to prepare their cities, their states and their nations to weather the storm that they claim to see ahead. The science they profess to believe tells them that the measures that they are proposing (the windmills, the lightbulbs, the canceled pipelines and all the rest) may avert a climate apocalypse a century from now, but will have comparatively little short-term impact on lesser disasters that  they must logically anticipate are already heading the world’s way. They ought therefore to be calling for, say, better flood protection now.

But, revealingly, this is not always the case. Thus in Britain David Cameron’s nuttily, proudly and destructively green government has reduced energy policy to an expensive shambles while cutting what the country spends on flood defenses. The two halves of that equation don’t fit.

Equally, while Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of a vulnerable coastal city, is now pushing an ambitious flood-barrier plan, the question must be why—given what he said he believed about the danger that climate change posed—he did so little beforehand. 

Go figure.