When the likes of Jonathan Adler ask the question: What would it take to convince us, there is a lot implied in it.
To start with, the question takes it for granted that the theory is correct and AGW exists, meaning that we are responsible for it. The question was: what will it take to make conservatives take it seriously, most likely so that they can start participating in the quest to find a solution. Maybe I am paranoid, but I also felt a hint of “what will it take to get to your senses” in the question as well.
Just about anything that is proposed in relation to global warming/climate change is fundamentally statist and the first question that came to my mind when reading it was: Why should Libertarians be concerned about the environment on the terms of the statists?
Although I believe that we should be concerned, the concern should be the movement itself. Let me explain why.
The history of Global warming
Global warming has never been a science project. It started out as a political one and its political nature has never changed. This is just one take on its origins, but you can find it corroborated in many other places.
The above diagram illustrates the drivers and the feedbacks of the situation quite well. The greenhouse effect theory was around for nearly a century. It was put on the international scene by Margaret Thatcher. The main intended target was the coal miners’ union and the goal was to advance the cause of nuclear power as the clean alternative.
“Mrs Thatcher could not have promoted the global warming issue without the support of her UK political party. And they were willing to give it. Following the General Election of 1979, most of the incoming Cabinet had been members of the government which lost office in 1974. They blamed the National Union of Mineworkers(NUM) for their 1974 defeat. They, therefore, desired an excuse for reducing the UK coal industry and, thus, the NUM’s power. Coal-fired power stations emit CO2 but nuclear power stations don’t. Global warming provided an excuse for reducing the UK’s dependence on coal by replacing it with nuclear power.”
It was a successful strategy, but over time it morphed into the monster we have to deal with today. Over time, especially after the fall of Communism, it has been taken over by the political left and became progressively more ideological. As long as the Soviet Union was alive, the communists of the West were just hoping for the world-wide victory of communism. After its collapse, they were homeless. Quite a few gravitated over to the environmental movement which progressively became more bold in its aims, moved on from causes of clean air, clean water and the protection of cute little animals to larger causes and ultimately to the one to save the planet from the blight of humanity.
The political classes around the world were very quick to get the idea. The environment is the best victim of all! Far better than the racial and ethnic minorities, the women and the gays, the homeless and the jobless. It will always ‘need help’; it does not talk back (actually, maybe it does: a cooling may be coming) and what you can propose to do in its name is limitless.
Global warming is the ultimate statist bonanza. The feedback mechanism illustrated on the diagram above is actually feeding whole classes of people: the politicians, the bureaucrats, the activists, the media and the scientists. It is with the collusion of interest between these groups that the state of fear is created.
If it sounds like a conspiracy, it’s because it is a conspiracy. Not the cloak and dagger kind, not the kind with the sinister mastermind with its evil laugh, or the kind with secret meetings of some cabal, but a conspiracy of the political left, now with bona fide Marxist credentials.
I should be careful calling it a conspiracy. Can you call it a conspiracy if it isn’t really a secret?
The world and mainstream media does not pay much attention to it, but Agenda 21 isn’t exactly a secret. One of the heroines of the neo-communist movement, Naomi Klein, published a book spelling out the actual agenda. The title “This Changes Everything” says everything.
Employing the strategy she so venomously accused libertarians of using in her previous book (The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism) she advocates that this is too good a ‘crisis’ to let to go to waste and lays out the doctrine of disaster communism. The environment, “the planet” is the latest victim the leftists have to save and protect from the evils of freedom and the ingenuity of free enterprise.
It is not about the environment or the planet, it is just an excuse to ‘change everything’.
The quote on Marx’s grave says: “The philosophers only interpreted the world in various ways, the point however is to change it” …and like a good communist, Naomi wants to change everything.
She starts her book with a quote:
“We need to remember that the work of our time is bigger than climate change. We need to be setting our sights higher and deeper. What we’re really talking about, if we’re honest with ourselves, is transforming everything about the way we live on this planet.”
—Rebecca Tarbotton, Executive Director of the Rainforest Action Network
“……I began to see all kinds of ways that climate change could become a catalyzing force for positive change—how it could be the best argument progressives have ever had to demand the rebuilding and reviving of local economies; to reclaim our democracies from corrosive corporate influence; to block harmful new free trade deals and rewrite old ones; to invest in starving public infrastructure like mass transit and affordable housing; to take back ownership of essential services like energy and water; to remake our sick agricultural system into something much healthier; to open borders to migrants whose displacement is linked to climate impacts; to finally respect Indigenous land rights—all of which would help to end grotesque levels of inequality within our nations and between them.
[…………..] I have written this book because I came to the conclusion that climate action could provide just such a rare catalyst.”
“By posing climate change as a battle between capitalism and the planet, I am not saying anything that we don’t already know. The battle is already under way, but right now capitalism is winning hands down”
Since the goal is clear, I don’t know what makes it so difficult to see what makes the issues so divisive.
Why is it so divisive?
For the same reason so many other political issues are: the advocates and the adherents of the two sides represent two fundamentally different visions of reality best described by Thomas Sowell in his greatest work: “A conflict of Visions”
Proponents of AGW are representatives of the unconstrained vision, the one that gave us fascism, communism, the welfare state and Barack Obama. The vision that sees humanity with contempt on one hand and its own power to change human nature limitless.
Just as the communists had limitless faith in their five year plans the new environmentalists have unquestioning faith in their one hundred year climate predictions.
Just as the communists were trying to create homo sovieticus, the selfless hardworking communitarian, the greens are trying to create homo ecologicus, the selfless champion of a sustainable future. They both believe that it is possible and with the right set of believes they can do it.
Just as the communists believed that they are a vanguard elite entrusted with the duty to educate the less evolved masses the greens believe that they should have the power to decide how the rest of the world should live, down to the details of our most intimate bodily functions.
Just as the communist silenced their opponents, the greens prefer to bully them and to shout them down instead of engaging them.
Those with the unconstrained vision believe that they can do anything as long as they have conviction and will. Not as individuals but as a collective. They believe in equal outcomes and detest individualism.
Their opponents, including myself, have a constrained vision of humanity, of its powers over nature, and of its ability to fundamentally change either.
We think that we are small and insignificant on the one hand but able to make sensible decisions about our personal lives and environment on the other. We do not have a romantic, anthropomorphized image of mother earth Gaia, we understand that nature is harsh and unforgiving and that we should be glad to have as much control over it as we do. We put people before nature.
We also understand our own insignificance and limited ability to understand everything about the ways nature works. We know that we are the most successful species on the planet but that does not make us invincible and if we ever ‘hurt’ the planet, it will just shake us off.
We are sceptical of grand ideas, grand designs and anything overtly ideological.
We understand that our will is constrained by reality and that everything we do should be subject to a cost benefit analysis.
It is this difference of visions that is at the heart of not just the conflict and the policy preferences, but the interpretation of the science and the data itself.
When I say that the theory does not make sense to me, I am expressing my vision of reality where my existence is insignificant, where my ability to affect systems that are billions of times greater than me in either a negative or a positive way is very limited.
Let me go back to the basic argument: the idea that our marginal contribution (3.225%) to a trace element in the atmosphere (0.04%) which is less than a millionth in volume of the planet it surrounds has a greater effect than that of the 1.3 million times bigger star next to that planet is just preposterously stupid.
The idea that in the case of global warming we will deal with a positive feedback when all evidence points to negative feedbacks is preposterously stupid.
I could go on, but the point is simple: it is my vision of the world and our place in it that makes me suspect ideas that are obviously motivated by arrogant self-importance, religious like faith and a detectable hidden agenda. The fact that the evidence is missing as well is just a coincidental bonus.
Why does it matter?
Because the issue is one of the greatest threats to our liberty.
It could be argued that this is not a political issue and should be ignored, but we cannot forget that its proponents most definitely see it as a political project.
When I read “A conflict of Visions”, I found its best aspect the most worrisome as well. Sowell goes into a serious extent presenting the unconstrained (Utopian) vision in the best possible light without addressing the most fundamental difference between the two.
The constrained vision can live with competition, the unconstrained cannot, that is why it always ends up as some sort of dictatorship.
I do not need to force my views and the resulting policies on the warm-mongers, while they most definitely want to use the full power of the state to force theirs on me.
That is what I have problems with. That, and people like Jonathan Adler who want me – in the name of some imaginary greater good – to embrace their stupidity willingly.