Climate Hypocrisy

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I recently wrote a short essay about the immorality of flying by jet on vacation – ‘If you fly, you kill‘.

My essay reaches the conclusion that flying by jet kills, and flying by jet on vacation is tantamount to murder.

Unfortunately, there are those who fly by jet on vacation, who in their day jobs are in the business of telling all and sundry that climate change is the biggest issue facing human kind and threatens our very civilization. They tell us we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 80%, at a minimum, and, more realistically by over 90% by 2050. They publish policy papers, speak at meetings, issue lists like ’10 things you can do to reduce emissions’, and run climate campaigns, all aimed, supposedly, at convincing society that the issue is serious and urgent.

I am speaking of so called climate change campaigners and environmentalists. (I say “so called” because serious, committed, climate change campaigners and environmentalists simply do not fly by jet on vacation. Actually, they fly very little, if at all.)

Yet, when on vacation some fly off to Europe, some to Africa, some to Australia, some to India. To my knowledge, they fly to most of the distant places on the planet. I don’t know how pervasive this is, but it should be non-existent.

What are we to make of such behaviour? I suggest that since their actions belie their words we can legitimately conclude:

  • They really don’t believe climate change is serious; and/or
  • For some reason they ought not be subject to the same rules as the rest of us; and/or
  • They are avid proponents of “Do as I say, not as I do”; and/or
  • They simply don’t care about the death and destruction climate change causes; and/or
  • They are morally deficient.

For sure, they are hypocrites. And, they undermine the work done by serious climate change campaigners.

So, I have the following suggestions:

  • If you are at a public meeting about climate change, or almost any environmental issue (climate change makes them all worse), stand up during question period and ask the speakers if they fly by jet on vacation. If any say yes, publically denounce their hypocrisy;
  • If you are considering donating to an environmental group, ask if any of their staff fly by jet on vacation, and what policies they have to encourage their staff to desist from such flights. If some of their staff do fly by jet on vacation, and/or you are not satisfied that the organization has adequate policies to encourage them not to, or they refuse to answer, donate your money elsewhere. It does no good to donate to the egregious hypocrisy represented by environmentalists/climate change activists who, whilst on vacation, feel free to emit large quantities of greenhouse gases and make climate change worse.

If enough people withhold their donations, the groups will respond – they all need money. And, greenhouse gas emissions will decrease a little, and climate change campaigns will gain credibility.


Cliff Stainsby is a retired researcher from the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union. He has been an environmental activist for over 30 years. Cliff worked for the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation (SPEC) for eight years in the 1970s and 1980s; for six of those years he was the Executive Director. He also served a term as President of SPEC. After SPEC, Cliff moved to Solidarity Coalition, and worked in the union movement for over 20 years. His work focuses on environment and economics and on bringing environmental groups and unions together to work on issues.


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