Every so often the truth seeps out that significantly reducing global greenhouse gas emissions will require enormous sacrifices, meaning profound losses of welfare on people’s part. Bear that in mind when you hear politicians’ promises of “net zero by X date” or “50 or 80 percent carbon dioxide reductions by year X.”
In the Western world, the energy cuts and lifestyle changes required to hit net zero will mean going back to early-1800s levels of emissions. This will force enormously negative economic growth and giving up modern conveniences (and the freedoms they have created) that people in developed countries have come to take for granted over the past century.
For people in developing countries the news is even worse. They will have to be kept from developing, which will consign even more generations to premature deaths and abject penury due to energy poverty and food privation.
Oh well, climate alarmists whisper (usually in secret), you’ve got break a few eggs to make an omelet.
Socialist writer Naomi Klein has written at least two books calling on us to overthrow capitalism and restrict free choice in order to fight climate change.
In 2015, Christiana Figueres, then the executive secretary of the U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, acknowledged the goal of the organization’s climate efforts is not really to save the world from an ecological catastrophe. The true goal is to put global elites in control of the world economy, directing producers’ and consumers’ choices to goals chosen by those same elites.
“This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution,” Figueres said when discussing the Paris climate agreement then being developed. “This is probably the most difficult task we have ever given ourselves, which is to intentionally transform the economic development model for the first time in human history.”
In 2019, Saikat Chakrabarti, New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff at the time, said the Green New Deal (GND) is not about fighting climate change but instead about remaking the economy, contrary to what many people supposed.
“The interesting thing about the Green New Deal, is it wasn’t originally a climate thing at all,” Chakrabarti reportedly told Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee’s climate director, Sam Ricketts. “Do you guys think of it as a climate thing? Because we really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.”
Because the underlying goal of leading climate alarmists, if not their unthinking minions protesting in the streets and at schools, is really about imposing socialism on masses who have repeatedly rejected and overthrown it in the past, the leaders ignore the environmental destruction wrought in socialist countries in the past and present. They also disregard the vast academic literature showing authoritarian regimes or “coercive environmentalism,” in the words of one recent book, have consistently caused more environmental harm than people making free choices in liberal democracies with at least somewhat capitalist economies. The environment is just one more egg that must be broken in making the socialist omelet.
As far back as 2011, NASA’s James Hansen referred to the people of the United States as “barbarians” compared to China, whom he praised as enlightened. He ignored the fact that China, already by then the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, was increasing its emissions while U.S. emissions were declining. Hansen joined other climate scolds in blaming democracy for failing to come to grips with the climate crisis, and he said Chinese-style authoritarianism was the world’s “best hope” for fighting climate change.
Climate scientist Pat Michaels quotes Hansen as saying the United States is a “fossil-money-‘democracy’ that now rules the roost” and makes it impossible to legislate effectively on climate change.
“Unlike us, the Chinese are enlightened, unfettered by pesky elections,” wrote Michaels in conveying the view of Hansen and others who have openly longed for eco-czars to take over the world.
A recent report from Deutsche Bank picked up on this theme. The author of the report, titled “Climate neutrality: Are we ready for an honest discussion?” writes if the world is serious about fighting climate change, “[a] certain degree of eco-dictatorship will be necessary.” He explains why:
Global energy demand is likely to rise further in the coming years, driven mainly by population growth (the world’s population grows by 80m people each year) and the desire for prosperity. Fossil fuels will remain the most important source of energy for now. …
If we really want to achieve climate neutrality, we need to change our behavior in all … areas of life. This is simply because there are no adequate cost-effective technologies yet to allow us to maintain our living standards in a carbon-neutral way. … I know that “eco-dictatorship” is a nasty word. But we may have to ask ourselves the question whether and to what extent we may be willing to accept some kind of eco-dictatorship (in the form of regulatory law) in order to move towards climate neutrality.
The belief in the desirability of an eco-dictatorship is so great that many environmentalists, who normally align with liberals on social and cultural issues, are even willing to turn a blind eye to slavery. A recent column in Forbes noted the leaders of major environmental organizations are loathe to critique China’s use of slave labor and oppression of religious and cultural minorities to produce the millions of solar panels they believe are necessary to bring about a green energy Nirvana.
In fact, they are pushing for more solar panels and more wind turbines even at the cost of environmental quality. Thousands of square miles of wildlife habitat are being destroyed and millions of animals killed as solar and wind industrial facilities cover over formerly wild ecosystems. In addition, millions of acres of land and thousands of rivers and waters are being befouled, and people sickened and enslaved, in the process of mining, refining, manufacturing, and waste disposal of the chemicals, minerals, and materials necessary to make wind turbines, solar panels, and high-tech batteries.
These activities are undertaken almost exclusively in countries like China and the Congo, where environmental and labor standards are much lower than in the developed countries, if such standards exist or are enforced at all. So much for climate alarmists’ oft-voiced concerns for environmental justice and thinking globally.
Fortunately, for now, we in the United States and the people of Europe and some other countries around the globe live in democracies. As a result, we can choose whether to forego progress, freedom, and democratic rule in favor of a “benign” eco-dictatorship supposedly acting for our own good.
Let’s hope these free people make the right choices in the coming elections. If not, we will lose our freedom, our prosperity, and environmental quality. The climate won’t care either way.
To paraphrase Fox News’ slogan: I report, you decide.
PHOTO: Global Warming. Photo By: Antti Lipponen, Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. is a Heartland senior fellow on environmental policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.