The great diesel disaster shows how badly wrong-headed environmentalism can harm the planet

Who do you think was responsible for Europe’s biggest environmental disaster of the past three decades; one that caused more widespread damage and killed more people than even the nuclear accident at Chernobyl?

Was it a) greedy and selfish capitalists, probably linked to Big Oil, riding roughshod over the stringent health and safety regulations our wise, caring politicians have designed to protect us and our natural environment?

Or b) an alliance of fluffy green activists, campaigning journalists and virtue-signalling politicians, united on a noble mission to save the planet from the greatest environmental threat it has ever known?

If you guessed b) then you may appreciate why we climate sceptics are experiencing such schadenfreude right now. For years we’ve been vilified by the powerful green lobby as nature‚Äìloathing, anti-science ‘deniers’ in the pay of sinister interests. Now it turns out that the real bad guys (as some of us have been saying all along) are those worthy greenies.

I’m talking about the Great Diesel Car Scandal, which has exacerbated all manner of illnesses from asthma, autism and dementia to respiratory problems, heart disease and cancer, driven city air pollution to levels sometimes higher than Beijing’s, and caused tens of thousands of premature deaths across the EU.

No one has claimed responsibility for it and almost certainly no heads will roll. But this was an avoidable, completely man-made disaster: the consequence of a state-orchestrated, tax-incentivised, EU-wide drive from the early 1990s onwards to replace petrol car engines with diesel ones, organised in the belief that it would reduce CO2 levels and thus help spare the planet from the horrors of man-made global warming.

And so it has. One expert calculation says Europe’s mass switch to diesel means that in the next half century, global warming may be as much as four thousandths of a degree Celsius less. Unfortunately, it also dramatically increased the production of more evidently harmful substances such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulates (soot particles), with consequences we are all now ruing.

How did our politicians ever fall prey to such lunacy? Why did no scientists warn them? And why did our fearless media not hold them to account? You know why already: because such was the clamour of the times, as it has been for at least three decades. Once a culture has made up its mind that a harmless trace gas is public enemy number one, the potential for suicidal regulatory idiocy is limitless. As one of the few who has been right pretty much all along about this, I’m not asking much. In fact the only thing I want (apart from my bronze equestrian statue, somewhere discreet, like maybe on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square) is for the people responsible to acknowledge their mistakes and begin undoing them as quickly as possible.

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