The Great Green Wave is cresting again. In October, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a terrifying special report predicting widespread and imminent climate catastrophe. In November, legacy bureaucrats at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released an equally terrifying “Fourth National Climate Assessment.” In both cases, news reports in establishment media included the usual cataclysmic images; starving children, dying cattle with their ribs poking through their emaciated flesh, monstrous masses of ice cascading into the ocean, and raging wildfire infernos.
Needless to say, none of these media reports bothered to explore for possible examples of exaggerated findings, or selective use of data, or political bias, much less any hidden agendas at work. In terms of providing more moderate interpretations of the data, notwithstanding the dismissive coverage of the Trump Administration’s skeptical reaction, consumers of establishment media got nothing. The BBC has now gone so far as to ban any coverage of climate skepticism; the major search engines and social media merely relegate it to the algorithmic backwaters.
Worse, however, is the establishment media’s complete inability to fathom—and report—just how utterly impossible it is to accomplish the goals supposedly required if we are to avoid climate catastrophe. One economic estimate—outlandish but at least as credible as the temperature forecasts—puts the cost of the U.N.’s climate recommendations at over $100 trillion for a reduction of 0.5 degrees centigrade.
But the experts who craft these alarming reports and temperature forecasts aren’t stupid. So what are they really up to?
Economic Development and Governance in the 21st Century
Anyone who hopes to see all the nations of the world achieve the good life enjoyed by developed nations will not have to dig very deep to recognize how hard it’s going to be to meet that challenge. Economic development requires access to affordable energy. And if everyone in the world consumed just half as much energy as the average citizen in the U.S. consumes, worldwide energy production would have to double. This is an undertaking fraught with danger. What kind of energy? Where?
It is easy to imagine dozens of epic disasters as the nations of the world rush headlong towards producing twice as much energy. Toxic air in Beijing. Oil-soaked death zones in the Niger Delta. Deforestation of thousands of square miles of Indonesian rainforest to grow palms to harvest the diesel oil. Wind turbine blades slicing endangered raptors out of the skies, while on the ground their low frequency sound drives humans mad. A generation of children enslaved and slowly poisoned, as they grub their way through filthy open pit mines looking for veins of cobalt in the rocks. Mountains removed to extract the coal. Fukushima. Deepwater Horizon. Three Gorges. Shall we double the size of this growing list? And yet we have to.
Less imaginable at first glance, but equally dystopian, are efforts rolling out especially in the developed nations to conserve energy. In every primary category of resource consumption, access to affordable abundance—which used to be a defining characteristic of a developed nation—is disappearing. But how can this relentless quest for efficiency be in dispute? Shall Americans continue to consume nearly 20 times as much energy per capita as Africans? Shall we quadruple or quintuple energy production worldwide, instead of merely doubling it, so that everyone can live more like Americans, and so Americans don’t have to sacrifice anything?
This is the charitable explanation for what’s going on. Many of the smartest climate activists know of the fundamental uncertainty in the climate theories they parrot to the masses. For them, climate alarmism is the Noble Lie. It is the best way to scare nations into cleaning up their ecosystems, developing cleaner sources of new energy, and to adopt technologies to more efficiently exploit scarce resources.
The Green New Deal
No analysis of climate alarmism, however, would be complete without the uncharitable explanation for its strength and momentum.
One honest presentation of the broader leftist agenda behind climate alarmism would be the Green New Deal, a product of the U.S. Green Party. Among other things, this sweeping political platform relies on a carbon tax to eliminate unemployment by guaranteeing government jobs to anyone, and going to “100% clean energy by 2030.”
While America’s far-left Green party may have come up with the idea of a Green New Deal, the Democrats are running with it. Led by the far-Left media darling, incoming congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and encouraged by returning House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), what is certain to generate excitement is the carbon tax. But what will fund all of these government jobs and investment in renewables after 2030, when use of fossil fuel will supposedly be eliminated?
The prospect of increasing taxes in the name of environmental protection is nothing new. But the notion that energy production on the planet can double without significant reliance on fossil fuel is ludicrous. There’s nothing wrong with developing cost-effective renewable alternatives to fossil fuel. There’s nothing wrong with adopting innovations that enable more efficient energy use. But why is it being taken to an extreme? Why are the establishment elites encouraging draconian restrictions on resource production and consumption of all sorts—energy, water, land—in a nation like the United States, where there are ample reserves of all three?
Put simply, how does one explain the paradox whereby the most successful capitalists in the history of the world are promoting what appears to be socialism, complete with rationing and redistribution?
One way to make sense out of this is to imagine Western elites—wealthy individuals, multinational corporations and international investors—as engaging in capitalism on a global scale, while at the same time promoting socialism for the populations under them. Whether or not this socialism is desirable depends on individual expectations. If one is accustomed to working and earning a middle class lifestyle in a developed nation, socialism imposes a crippling burden of high taxes and a high cost-of-living. If one is a destitute immigrant who has recently arrived from a nation where political violence, extreme poverty, and rampant corruption are a way of life, socialism in a developed nation is paradise.
The New American Experiment
The Great Green Wave that’s back at the top of the leftist agenda is part of a larger movement to transform America.
The Green New Deal, complete with carbon taxes and a “wealth tax” on fossil-fuel corporations, as a way to deliver guaranteed jobs and other redistributionist benefits, can be sold to voters by joining together several grassroots factions. Leftists, socialists, thoroughly indoctrinated environmentalist zealots, along with millions of immigrants, are all likely to support the Green New Deal.
The power of this new coalition, despite 50 years of nurturing, is only now poised to become the dominant voting coalition in America. A generation of indoctrinated K-12 students have now reached voting age, having spent their entire childhood enduring ghastly accounts of the earth being destroyed by profit mongering oil companies. Two generations of immigrants, most of them lacking advanced job skills and coming from dirt-poor nations, are also now voting by the millions. These cohorts are joining traditional liberals and turning battleground states blue, one at a time.
The burdens of green socialism will fall onto the shoulders of an American middle class that already faces extinction. American taxpayers already support a military that provides security and the rule of law in nearly every corner of the world. American consumers already pay inflated prices for prescription drugs, in order to fund pharmaceutical research and development that translates into these same drugs being profitably sold at a fraction of that price in the rest of the world. The American middle class subsidizes an overbuilt financial sector, a grossly overpriced system of higher education, and a grossly overpriced unionized public sector. Now, they will pay more for every resource—gas, electricity, water, housing, land—in order to stop climate change.
The opportunities presented by taxing and regulating carbon dioxide in all of its direct and indirect forms of utilization might actually mitigate its sheer oppressiveness. But this money isn’t going to be used to create abundance. It isn’t going to be used to build nuclear power plants all over the world to deliver cheap electricity. It isn’t going to be used for dams, aqueducts, and desalination plants, to refill Lake Chad and the Aral Sea, or to irrigate the Sahel and the Deccan Plateau.
No, it’s going to be used to monitor and micromanage the energy and resource consumption of every individual on earth, expressly starting with what will be an increasingly restive multicultural American populace. And what works in the American petri dish will be rolled out around the world.
From the enabling high-tech multinationals, to compliant mega-corporations in the anointed industries, to international financial firms and wealthy global investors, the Green New Deal and its equivalent across other Western nations will be a gold mine. Meanwhile, grassroots beneficiaries will include public sector workers, transnational bureaucrats, the lucky few who work in the correct industries, and those who had nothing before immigrating to the West. The American middle class—exploited, villainized and voiceless— will descend to the global mean.
What Is Worth Fighting For?
Two questions are worth fighting over. First, is the radical curtailment of fossil fuels really the proper course of action?
What if fossil fuels were cleaned up, so, for example, you could breathe healthy air again in Beijing, but not banned? What if the private sector were simply allowed to develop big new infrastructure around the world, sometimes in partnership with governments, sometimes on their own? What if desalination, water reuse and potable recycling, and other new water infrastructure delivered water abundance, all over the world? What if these supposedly forbidden projects were the best way, and maybe the only way, for human civilization to adapt to climate change by creating wealth and freedom?
Second—and more pertinent, since social cohesion is a prerequisite for having sufficient wealth to even consider how to direct it—to what degree do Americans and other citizens of Western nations deserve to have a higher standard of living than people in the developing world?
To hear the leftist argument, they have no right to a better standard of living, and in fact they should do nothing but atone for the misery they’ve inflicted on the world throughout the centuries. But is this accurate? Is this fair? Isn’t environmentalism a product of Western culture, along with republican democracy, capitalist innovation, nearly all advances in technology, and Christian values of charity and tolerance? Should Americans sacrifice their privileges, if they’ve earned them? Cede their national identity? Become hated strangers in their own land?
Here then, is where an uncharitable explanation for the Great Green Wave is called for.
Why aren’t environmentalists focusing on saving the oceans from overfishing, or wildlife in Africa from poachers, or forests in Indonesia from biofuel plantations? Why aren’t they replanting the mangrove forests that used to protect tropical coasts from storm surges? These are existential threats that are based on facts, not theories that are most definitely not beyond serious debate. Why is climate the prevailing yet futile obsession of our time, if not to thwart the aspirations of emerging nations and the mobility of aspiring individuals? Why shouldn’t we use private sector wealth to invest around the world in practical, cost effective, clean energy solutions including fossil fuel, and accelerate the ascendance of all nations into greater freedom and prosperity?
The reason is power and profit, justified by comforting and virtuous sounding rhetoric. Sold by international elites to whom all that power and profit will accrue, supported by a voting coalition stacked with the duped, the fanatical, the frightened, and the resentful, and swung to ballot victory by manipulable foreign imports.
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Edward Ring is a contributing editor and senior fellow with the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013 and served as its first president. He is also a senior fellow with the Center for American Greatness, and a regular contributor to the California Globe. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, Forbes, and other media outlets.
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