Friday, March 7, 2008

What Lies Beneath: The Authoritarianism Of Global Warming Activism

I'm sure that most who subscribe to the theory of anthropogenic global warming do so with the best of intentions. A lot of people seem pretty sure about it. Besides, with politicians and pundits insisting that the “science is settled,” expressing skepticism has become unpleasant. In the best of cases, the failure to fall in line is greeted with sanctimonious incredulity and, as a norm, with accusations of greed, selfishness, and heresy. That’s the thing about settled science; once you close the book on intellectual discourse you close your mind to other opinions or theories. And then you get the Spanish Inquisition. Or contemporary Iran.

Well, regardless of the standard, these global warming activists do not have the best of intentions. Authors David Shearman and Joseph Wayne Smith have published a book revealingly titled “The Climate Change Challenge & The Failure of Democracy.” You’ll never guess what the book’s thesis is.

The authors stand with Al Gore and his legion of disciples who see anthropogenic global warming as the greatest crisis to have ever faced humanity. Extinction is where we’re headed if a change isn’t made soon, they insist. Alright, we're still in familiar apocalypse territory. But, hold on, because we’re about to dive face-first into the real crazy.

Shearman argues that the climate change crisis is the most pressing problem facing humanity today and that the modern liberal-democratic state, in light of its “flaws and contradictions,” is not equipped to deal with the threat. But wait, Shearman and Smith have a solution! Since Western liberal democracies – e.g. the “institutions, laws, and the markets and corporations that provide its sustenance” – are not capable of confronting the problem head on, it is incumbent upon rational and progressive citizens to call for the implementation of authoritarian governments to replace our democracies and do what is necessary to fix the AGW problem. I’ll give you a moment to let that sink in. Okay, moment over. Are you shocked? Betrayed?

I have a friend whose husband just cheated on her. When she found out she was understandably devastated and professed to be surprised. But, after a bit of time had passed, she admitted that she wasn’t actually all that shocked. He had always been overly flirty and would sometimes take it too far. This pretty much runs parallel to my reaction to the Shearman book. The anthropogenic global warming movement is cloaked in good intentions but it is difficult to forget Henry Louis Mencken’s words: “The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it.” Even the "moderate" solutions proposed to deal with AGW involve impracticable levels of economic control by the government and a stranglehold on industry. Although I know that most AGW true-believers are well-meaning, on some level I've always been of the opinion that some of them flirt with authoritarianism far more than is healthy and that it was only a matter of time before they cheated of democracy. Um. Yes. Don't worry, the analogy is over now.

Now for the obligatory caveat: “Of course most global warming activists don’t want to replace our liberal democracies with dictatorships.” But, if nothing else, the Shearman book does us a favour by demonstrating where "solutions" for global warming would take us. Not directly into despotism but certainly on the road towards it. At the end of the day, the science is not settled on anthropogenic global warming and the debate is far from over. But even if climate change proves to be a catastrophic problem for humanity, strangling our economies and plunging the civilized world into dictatorship would be catastrophic too.

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