Changing the Climate Change Narrativeby Logan Albright
May. 27, 2014
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It's a bit of a film cliche that the bad guys, while possessing armies of flunkies, have no loyalty to their employees and happily sell them out, or even murder them without a second thought. Many a Bond villain has left me wondering, "why would anyone agree to work for this guy?"
Of course, it's fiction and thus subject to exaggeration, but we see the same kind of thing going on in real life all the time. Government is all too happy to use a certain subset of the population to achieve a certain set of ends. And then when that usefulness is used up, they are only too happy to cast their once-favored flunkies aside without ceremony or ado.
The latest example of this is the environmentalism movement. Previously among big government's most protected and cherished classes, a persistent lack of concern for environmental issues by the public is undermining these people's usefulness as instruments of manipulation.
Global warming alarmists, at least those in the public sector, seem to at last have realized that they have lost the debate. People either don't believe or don't care about what the doomsday theorists have to say, and it looks increasingly unlikely that they will ever achieve the dramatic and destructive carbon emissions reductions they have been seeking.
So what to do when you realize you're losing the argument? Change the argument to one that you have a chance of winning. A couple of recent reports are now claiming that it is officially too late to stop the sea level rises resulting from human activity.
Frankly, this is a bit of a relief. For years we have been told that it will soon be too late to stop global warming, but the end never seemed to come. Now that it finally has, at last we can stop talking about electric cars and solar powered houses.
Of course, it is probably too much to hope that the environmental movement itself will give up preaching the evils of fossil fuels. That would require them to abandon any principles they presumably had. But it appears that the political powers that be are ready for a messaging shift, and if that means throwing the greens under the bus, so much the worse for them.
Having outlived their usefulness, those sincere environmentalists who still want to prevent global warming will find themselves suddenly out of favor with the political class, their positions of influence dispatched like just another movie henchman.
Government regulators are particularly insidious in that they have no real principles apart from the desire to control. Environmentalism was never anything more than a means for them to flex their regulatory muscles. In the face of a wall of public indifference, it is not surprising that they would abandon the movement in favor of others tactics that may be more effective.
But alas, this is not the end of the government's attempt to exert control over its citizens in the name of climate science. In fact, it may just be the beginning. The difference is that now, the focus will shift from prevention to preparation. Instead of the massive efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions through complicated schemes involving permits, credits, and allowances, the government will take the more direct route of simply taking your money and giving it to cities so that they can "prepare" for the consequences of rising sea levels sometime in the indeterminate future.
What does this preparation entail? At this point, it's difficult to say, but on some level it doesn't even matter. It is enough to know that the government will be using the vague spectre of future disaster as a justification for any and all taxes, spending programs, or new regulations that can possibly be cast in terms of "preparation."
The whole situation is eerily similar to terrible economist Paul Krugman's alien invasion theory. Krugman famously asserted that if the world were told to start preparing for an alien invasion, the massive spending that would result from building infrastructure, training soldiers, and ramping up manufacturing would create jobs and stimulate the economy even if it later turned out that there were never any aliens to begin with.
The playbook is out in the open for anyone with eyes to see. According to Krugman and leftists like him, it's okay to lie about future disaster in order to encourage noble ends, in this case economic growth. Apart from the obvious ethical concerns, Krugman's analysis fails by committing the Broken Window Fallacy: resources devoted to visible uses must necessarily be directed away from less visible uses, the loss of which outweighs the gains of the visible.
The only difference between Krugman's hypothetical and today's actual is that instead of aliens, we are supposed to be frightened of imaginary environmental catastrophe. The end result is identical: more government control of our lives, less efficient use of resources, and the resulting drain on economic growth, not to mention the outright unethical manipulation of people through the use of Plato's "noble lie."
The shift from climate change prevention to climate change preparation is nothing but a sneaky, underhanded new way for governments to control the people, necessitated by our rightful resistance to increasingly unconvincing climate lies. We can only hope the opposition to these new proposals is equally strong.
Logan Albright is a writer and economist in Washington, DC.