The Environmentalist Assault on Civilization

No reasonable person should deny the importance of protecting the environment. The accomplishments of the environmental movement over the past 50 years are undeniable; cleaner air and water, protected wildernesses, more efficient use of resources; the list is endless and illustrious. Environmentalist values are an integral part of any responsible public policy agenda. But the pendulum has swung too far.

Environmentalism, which once challenged corporate power, is now its useful puppet. And “climate change,” once a peripheral concern, is now a “climate crisis;” the self-proclaimed unassailable foundation of all environmentalism. Put another way, sixty years ago environmentalism once was a mostly good and courageous movement, but slowly transitioned until now it is wholly a front for plutocrats, relying on a big lie to sustain its momentum.

In an illuminating video posted earlier this month, Jordan Peterson interviewed Dr. Richard Lindzen on the topic of climate science. Lindzen, whose credentials on the topic of climate science are almost ridiculously germane and comprehensive, offered a withering perspective on contemporary environmentalism. He explained that in the 1960s there was a lot of hunting around for an issue that would give environmentalists power over the energy industry. In the 1960s environmentalists started tracking atmospheric CO2 and determined it was increasing.

These CO2 measurements, initially begun out of mere scientific curiosity, gave environmentalists the issue they’d been looking for. As Lindzen put it, “If you wanted to control the energy sector, CO2 was the one pollutant that no matter how clean you make it, there will still be CO2. You can’t get rid of that if you burn fossil fuel.”

This is the essence of environmentalism today. To control and ration the energy supply on which human civilization depends. Since every amenity of civilization uses energy, this control and rationing extends to every human activity. It is a recipe for total control over every individual, every business, and every nation in the world.

It’s easy enough to speculate as to who the ultimate puppeteers are who have unleashed this grandiose plot on the world. We were just treated to a host of them flocking to Davos, Switzerland, for the annual conference of the World Economic Forum. It’s even easier to identify the hidden agenda; power and profit. Micromanage the world, and only the biggest or the most anointed players survive. It’s a gigantic trickle up economic scheme, robbing from the poor and giving to the rich.

Regardless of who pulls the strings behind the scenes, however, the marionettes are in plain sight. The entire state legislature in California, where nearly every “representative” is wholly owned by an alliance of public sector unions and tech billionaires, offers a perfect example. With every regulation, another unionized public bureaucracy is created and another tech company finds new captive consumers.

The result is a soft fascism, a soul-destroying tyranny masquerading as an enlightened green utopia. California, sprawling across 164,000 square miles, has vast resources of farmland, timber, oil and gas, direct access to ocean fisheries, and valuable mineral resources. With barely 40 million people, the state is sparsely populated compared with most developed nations, and ought to be delivering the most affordable cost-of-living in the world to its residents. The opposite is true.

In the name of protecting the environment and fighting climate change, California has declared war on its own people. The state’s policymakers have neglected a once remarkable water infrastructure and as a result, millions of acres of the most productive farmland on earth are being turned into a dust bowl, driving thousands of farm operations out of business and destroying the livelihoods that sustained millions of people. They have reduced the timber industry to a less than one-quarter of the size it was as recently as the 1990s. They have declared war on oil and gas, banning most new drilling and tightening restrictions on existing wells.

Critics of California’s authoritarian progressives too often focus on the so-called woke agenda while safely refraining from challenging policies that derive from the alleged “climate emergency.” This is understandable, and woke ideology and the policies it spawns are ridiculous, destructive folly that must be crushed. But the highly visible depredations of woke activists become even more dangerous if they distract us from the encroachment of green policies into every detail of individual private lives. The harmful impact of green are in many ways far more substantial and comprehensive.

The Upside of Green Policies for Big Business

When California, and then the entire nation, bans the production of incandescent light bulbs, that is an obvious intrusion into the market and into the quality of life for everyday Californians. But less obvious is the inversion of incentives that drive the push for energy efficiency at the expense of health or affordability. As Californians pay exorbitant prices to bathe themselves in high wavelength light, disrupting their circadian rhythms, and as Californians endure the unhealthy micro-flickers of LEDs hooked to inadequate transformers, manufacturers gain new customers and sell higher priced goods.

A more subtle green inversion of economic incentives, but just as contrary to the public interest, is when electric utilities convert to “renewables,” i.e., wind farms, solar farms, and battery farms, at staggering cost, while decommissioning fully paid for nuclear power plants, hydroelectric dams, and natural gas power plants. As the electricity price to the consumer soars, the regulated public utilities earn more profit, since their pricing and hence their profits are based on a percentage markup over their costs. If your profit is limited to 9 percent, you’ll make a lot more money if you’re billing $.30 per kilowatt-hour than if you’re billing $.10 per kilowatt-hour. That’s an easy business decision.

It is obvious when dams are removed instead of new ones being built, that farmers get less water. But less obvious are the ripple effects. Without a guaranteed water supply, new housing construction can’t get approved, limiting the supply of new homes and driving up the price for all housing. Then again, housing in California is too expensive anyway, thanks to green policies that limit where new homes can get built, absurdly overwritten building codes requiring “energy neutrality,” obscenely expensive costs for building permits, a capricious approval process that can literally take decades to navigate, and the constant threat of litigation by environmentalists to stop any new construction.

For every fundamental necessity, gasoline, natural gas, water, electricity, and housing, California’s green policies have created artificial scarcity. Everything costs more. The poor have lost all hope of achieving private financial independence, the middle class shrinks, and the rich get richer. A frustrated lobbyist in Sacramento recently summed it up as follows: “Most environmentalists don’t care about people,” he said, “the old democratic party wanted to use government to make people’s lives better, but today their solution is to use government to make life harder then hook them to make them dependent on government. They want to use government to destroy the incentive to be productive. But if you kill off all the productive people, eventually society collapses.”

What’s Happening in California is Happening Everywhere

It’s one thing to impose green scarcity on California, a state that can still coast a while longer on the infrastructure investments made 50 years ago, and rely on tapping the stupefying accumulation of wealth concentrated in its high tech industry. But the marionettes that are implementing the green assault on civilization are everywhere. One of the most recent fronts in their widening war on prosperity is the farming sector, from Canada to Spain to the Netherlands to Sri Lanka and elsewhere. Based on the contention that farm fertilizer is a factor in causing climate change, policymakers have decided to shut down huge sectors of commercial agriculture. The new regulations that will permit continued operations, of course, will be far too expensive for all but the largest global agribusiness concerns.

It’s not hard to see what’s happening here. There is no economic activity, anywhere, that doesn’t create greenhouse gas. Make it impossible for all but the wealthiest corporations to comply with the new edicts, and you roll up the world.

Unfortunately, when a rare thunderstorm delivers atomic sounding sonic blasts to uninitiated Californians whose only previous experiences with sound that kinetic were the occasional punk driving by with his subwoofer turned up, they’re ready to believe the storm porn that pours out of every establishment news source. “Bomb cyclone.” “Polar vortex.” “Atmospheric River.” “Supercell,” “Snowpocalypse.” It’s all part of the “new normal,” as we allegedly encounter more and more “extreme weather events.” Except we aren’t.

Old timers can remember the 1960s, when storms pulverized California, causing floods and freezes, but back then we didn’t listen to climate agenda driven news. Storms were “storms.” And there weren’t ubiquitous high-resolution satellite images and video editing tools to allow every local weatherman to splash on to our screens terrifying images of cloud formations that covered half the Pacific Ocean. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t.

Around the world, the same game is played. Pakistan’s recent floods, despite the doomsday spin from PBS, were not abnormal because of “climate change.” They were an abnormal catastrophe because in just 60 years, the population of that nation has grown from 45 million to 240 million people. They’ve channelized their rivers, built dense new settlements onto what were once floodplains and other marginal land, they’ve denuded their forests which took away the capacity to absorb runoff, and they’ve paved thousands of square miles creating impervious surfaces where water can’t percolate. Of course a big storm made a mess. The weather didn’t change. The nation changed.

The disaster story repeats everywhere. And contrary to the narrative, the primary cause is not “climate change.” Bigger tsunamis? Maybe it’s because coastal aquifers were overdrafted which caused land subsidence, or because previously uninhabited tidelands were settled because the population quintupled in less than two generations, and because coastal mangrove forests were destroyed which used to attenuate big waves. What about deforestation? Perhaps because these nations have been denied the ability to develop natural gas and hydroelectric power, they’re stripping away the forests for fuel to cook their food. In some cases, they’re burning their forests to make room for biofuel plantations, in a towering display of irony and corruption.

The Biggest Big Lie in the World

And behind it all is a big lie: The “Climate Emergency.” It’s not true. It’s a lie. Dr. Lindzen, who is only one preeminent member among thousands of highly qualified scientists who have spent the last 20-30 years patiently attempting to explain the myriad holes in what is far from “settled science,” offered this cautionary reminder in his interview. He quoted Joseph Goebbels, a repugnant master of propaganda, who is often credited with saying “if you tell a big lie often enough it will become truth.”

Anyone hoping to stop the environmentalist assault on civilization must realize that it isn’t enough to challenge the individual policies that are supposedly designed to save the climate. It isn’t even enough to expose the preposterous absurdity of them – as if it is possible to transition to nothing but biofuel, wind, and solar energy and still deliver prosperity to 8 billion people within a decade or two.

What could work, however, would be to challenge the core premise of the climate alarmist movement. Learn the facts, evaluate the arguments of contrarian experts, and make up your own mind. If you no longer believe we actually face a climate emergency, say so, without reservations, in every venue and to every person and institution you possibly can.

Doing this may be deemed antisocial, and it may be suppressed, but it is a healthy expression of sanity. It used to be that when someone ran about claiming the world is about to end, they were considered the lunatics. Let’s go back to those days. Human civilization could be entering a golden age of progress and prosperity, but it cannot get there without producing CO2.

With prosperity we can adapt, as we always have. With tyranny, we can do nothing. Climate alarmism is tyranny, with green wrapping, delivered with terror.

This article originally appeared in American Greatness.

Voters Approve Over $3.0 Billion Per Year in New Local Taxes

When state ballot initiatives propose new taxes, it’s big news. This past November, voters rejected Proposition 30, which would have added another 1.75 percent tax on personal income above $2.0 million. The arguments for and against Prop. 30 were litigated in saturation level television campaigns waged by both sides; total expenditures were nearly $70 million.

But while every election features a handful of state tax and bond proposals that get statewide attention, additional hundreds of local state and bond proposals fly under the radar. Fortunately, after each election cycle and once all the votes are certified – something that in California doesn’t occur until 30 days after election day – the California Taxpayers Association puts out a report that shows the outcome of every local tax and bond proposal.

The impact of these hundreds of bids to raise taxes and increase borrowing, as documented by CalTax, in sum can exceed the amounts of the statewide initiatives.

We saw this demonstrated yet again this past November, when 131 bond proposals were placed on local ballots up and down the state, along with 234 local tax proposals. Of the proposed local bonds, 86 percent of them were approved by voters, dumping another $23.2 billion in debt onto Californians. In terms of budget impact, based on a 5 percent interest rate and a 30 year term, this new borrowing is going to cost taxpayers another $1.5 billion per year in principal and interest payments.

The fate of local tax proposals tells a similar story. 65 percent of them were approved by voters, adding another $1.6 billion annual burden onto California’s taxpayers.

These local increases in taxes and borrowing, which are almost exclusively regressive and will cost taxpayers at least another $3.1 billion per year, are comparable to the impact of Prop. 30, had it passed. Prop. 30, which would have affected California’s already overtaxed wealthy households, was estimated to bring in between $3.0 and $5.0 billion per year.

It’s interesting to see the categories of new local taxes. Note the projected big earner categories: “Documentary Transfer Tax,” “Gross Receipts Tax,” and “Transactions and Use Tax” (sales tax). The first two of these three are relatively recent innovations in a system that for decades relied primarily on sales tax. Expect more innovative tax schemes, such as “Vacancy Tax,” presumably designed to discourage people from owning real estate unless they plan for it to be occupied.

The propensity for voters to approve local taxes is well documented, as the next chart proves. The only category that has not performed extraordinarily well over the past ten years are General Obligation Bonds, which, still while more likely than not to pass, rarely deliver supermajority rate of approval. This is because School Bonds only require a 55 percent majority in order to pass, whereas General Obligation Bonds require a two-thirds majority.

When proponents only have to get 55 percent of voters to approve a bond, it does pretty well. Measured by the amount of proposed borrowing, school bonds consistently log over 90 percent approval by California’s local voters. The payments to service these bonds typically appear on the property tax bills of homeowners, and the amounts are not trivial. Most Californians can expect to pay considerably more than the legislated maximum of 1 percent of their home’s value, mostly thanks to local school bonds that are exempt from these limits.

As for local taxes, 2022 was a below average year for proponents, passing “only” 65 percent of them by number, and 59 percent by amount. While highly favoring proponents, this rate of approval is considerably lower than in previous elections, and may indicate voter fatigue with new taxes.

Compared to other elections in the past decade, 2022 was not bad. While California taxpayers added over $3.0 billion to their annual tax burden, voters did not approve a single statewide tax or bond proposal.

It’s a little early to look ahead to 2024, but three initiatives have already qualified for the November 2024 ballot. One of them aims to “increase personal income taxes to fund pandemic detection and prevention.” Expect additional statewide proposals to increase taxes, since California’s much vaunted budget surplus has evaporated. Voters may also count on hundreds of local tax and bond proposals, and if history is any guide, shall approve the vast majority of them.

This article originally appeared in the California Globe.



Civic Finance is written by Edward Ring, a California native who became a policy analyst and journalist after spending the first half of his career working for private companies and start-ups. In 2021 he was the founder and leader of the “More Water Now” campaign, which culminated in the drafting of the Water Infrastructure Funding Act of 2022, which the campaign attempted to qualify for California’s November 2022 state ballot.

Ring is a contributing editor and senior fellow with the California Policy Center, a nonpartisan public policy research institute which he co-founded in 2013 and served as its first president. He is also a regular contributor to American Greatness, National Review, Pacific Research Institute, Epoch Times, and California Globe. Previously, from 2007 through 2010, while working for AlwaysOn Media, Ring designed and directed their highly successful “GoingGreen” conferences, which drew clean technology entrepreneurs and investors from around the world.

During the 1990s Ring was CFO, then CEO, for Upside Magazine, a pioneering publication covering the intersection of high-tech and venture capital. Ring was CFO for Play Industries in 1999-2000, the first company to develop and commercialize a desktop platform for digital video production and internet video broadcasting. In 2003, Ring was Director of Strategic Planning for Anuvu, one of the first companies to build a prototype fuel cell vehicle.

In 2000 Ring founded the online environmental magazine EcoWorld, which he published for nine years. Up until sale in 2009, EcoWorld was a respected international voice promoting free-market environmentalism, something that is needed now more than ever. In 1998, Ring was involved in the formation and served as a founding director for Trees Water & People, an NGO that supports reforesting throughout Central America.

Ring is a prolific writer on the topics of political reform and sustainable economic development and the author of three books, Fixing California (2021), The Future is Now (2022), and The Abundance Choice: Our Fight for More Water in California (2022). His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the San Jose Mercury, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, The Economist, Real Clear Politics, The American Mind, Cal Matters, City Journal, and other media outlets. Ring has an undergraduate degree in political science from UC Davis, and an MBA in finance from USC.

Edward Ring is available to speak to your organization on topics of political reform and sustainable economic development. Examples of his radio and video interviews can be found here.

California Policy Center articles

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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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