“What I see all over the place is people who care about looking good while doing evil.”
So said Elon Musk last week, in a colorful interview that almost broke the internet.
Replying to questions from New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin about an advertiser boycott of pro-free speech platform X, the tech tycoon added, “I care about the reality of goodness and not the perception of it.”
Musk’s words were a timely, if brutal, wake-up call for a woke Western culture obsessed with appearance but ho-hum on substance. Hypocrisy is the word we used to use to describe the kind of virtue-signaling vacuity so commonplace today.
Nowhere is woke hypocrisy more clearly seen than in the climate movement.
Take the World Economic Forum (WEF), for instance, which claims that one of its main aims is to “limit global temperature rise and stave off disaster.”
At WEF’s 2022 annual summit in Davos, conference delegates snubbed Switzerland’s green railway network and instead arrived in the alpine resort town in 1,040 private jets. Their collective CO2 emissions equaled what 350,000 gasoline-powered cars would have exhaled over the same weeklong period.
It turns out that climate hypocrites are everywhere.
John Kerry, during his first 18 months as the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, clocked up enough private jet travel to produce 325 metric tons of CO2. In one eminently laughable incident, Kerry flew to Iceland by private jet to be decorated with the Arctic Circle award for his work on climate change. He later defended the decision as “the only choice for somebody like me who is traveling the world to win this battle.”
In 2021, billionaire Bill Gates published a book called How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, in which he urged world leaders to aim for zero emissions within 30 years to avert an alleged global catastrophe. What Gates failed to mention in his book was that he owns not one but four private jets. Elsewhere, he has called his jet collection his “guilty pleasure.”
Former Vice President Al Gore has built a post–White House career on climate exaggeration. At the most recent Davos summit, for example, he claimed that climate change is “boiling the oceans” and can be expected to create one billion climate refugees. His hyperventilation notwithstanding, Gore lives in a 20-room mansion in Tennessee that consumes roughly 34 times the energy of the average American home. Though he justifies his lifestyle by buying carbon credits to offset his “carbon footprint,” Gore has made these purchases from companies he has heavily invested in, and which have profited bountifully from his climate activism.
If you want a longer list of climate hypocrites, look no further than Hollywood.
Director Steven Spielberg says he is “terrified” by global warming, yet in just two months during 2022, he spent over $116,000 on fuel for his private jet and emitted 180 tons of carbon dioxide.
Taylor Swift has called climate change “horrific,” but she regularly lends her private jet out to friends. According to an analysis by Yard, Swift’s jet has disgorged 1,200 times the average person’s total annual emissions, making Swift the worst “emission offender” among all celebrity jet-owners.
Prince Harry recently wrote on Instagram that “every choice, every footprint, every action makes a difference” for the planet. Two days later, however, he and his wife Meghan Markle flew by private jet to Ibiza, and then a week later they took a private jet to the French Riviera.
In an article entitled “Climatism Has Gone From Virtue-Signaling To Vice-Signaling,” environmentalist Michael Shellenberger this week delivered a devastating broadside against climate hypocrites such as those listed above, writing:
Flying on private jets to a climate conference to announce plans to make energy even more expensive for working people is bread-and-circuses, except there’s no bread, and the circus consists of rich people celebrating their wealth, morality, and superiority.
“Hypocrisy is how weak leaders flex their power,” Shellenberger quipped.
He cited a new study in the peer-reviewed journal, Personality and Individual Differences, which enrolled as research participants over 800 environmental activists from Germany. The study found “a strong association between environmental activism and ‘the dark triad traits,’” which Shellenberger listed as “Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and narcissism, as well as left-wing authoritarianism.”
“These findings suggest that environmental activism, in addition to its potential positive outcomes, may also have a dark side in terms of activists’ personality,” he concluded.
Shellenberger can hardly be accused of being a “climate denier.” He began his polemic by arguing that “climate change is real, caused mainly by humans, and something we should seek less of.”
What he critiqued was the double standards of those allegedly fighting it on the front lines.
“[I]t’s not virtue-signaling, it’s vice-signaling,” Shellenberger boldly clarified. “We have gone from lamenting climate hypocrisy to celebrating it.”
“Looking good while doing evil,” as Musk put it.
Or in the words of Jesus, “On the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness” (Matthew 23:28).
Though I have my doubts, it is possible the climate hypocrites have read the science correctly. If they have, all the more reason for them to practice what they preach.
Until they do, not a word of what they say deserves to be taken seriously. The rest of us will go on stressing less about a coming climate apocalypse and instead enjoying our lives.