Monday, September 7, 2015

Is Capitalism not Climate Change to Blame?

Naomi Klein, author of "This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate," and attendee of Heartland's Sixth Climate Conference.
Naomi Klein, author of “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate,” and attendee of Heartland’s Sixth Climate Conference.
The Heartland Institute and “Heartlanders” are mentioned on at least 30 pages in Klein’s best-selling 2014 book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate (see the index). Excerpts from her interview with me appear on page 42 and elsewhere. Plainly, that interview and her attendance at the 2011 International Conference on Climate Change had a big influence on this book.
In fact, an early draft of the first one-third of the book appeared as the cover article in The Nation in 2011 shortly after the conference. No other think tank or advocacy group on the right is mentioned in This Changes Everything nearly as often as Heartland is; The Heritage Foundation is mentioned once, American Enterprise Institute twice, Cato Institute just six times, for example. Google searches and anecdotal reports show Klein also mentions me and Heartland frequently in her public presentations.
Klein probably views us as her most influential opponent in the debate because, like her, we are utterly sincere and see past the science debate to the motivation of the principal players. She doesn’t accuse us of being a front for oil or coal companies. She knows we believe the left’s interest in global warming is tactical, a pretense for calling for more government control over the economy. She agrees with us that this is a powerful tactic, one she believes socialists on the left aren’t pursuing with enough vigor.
So we often are on Klein’s mind. She uses us as a foil or a straw horse sometimes, but more often as a worthy opponent in the debate over the future of the world.
Klein often expresses her fear that her side has been co-opted by special-interest groups – ethanol producers, wind and solar companies, liberal foundations – the same way our side was at risk of being co-opted by fossil fuel companies. For both our sides, being co-opted means endorsing “technofixes” and programs that foist onto taxpayers and ratepayers the cost of a transition to expensive and unreliable renewable fuels, i.e., fascism. On this issue, socialists and libertarians unite in opposing a “third way.”
Ironically and importantly, the left’s attacks on ExxonMobil and other oil companies saved us from being co-opted by the oil industry and other corporate interests. In 2007, ExxonMobil said it would continue funding us only if we agreed to admit that man-made global warming “may” be causing a climate crisis. Had I said yes to that, the debate today would be much different. Instead, we started running ads in The Wall Street Journal and elsewhere with the headline “Global Warming Is Not a Crisis.”
Similarly, Renaissance Reinsurance (RenRe), a major Heartland donor, RenRe was comfortable with our position on climate change so long as their support wasn’t public knowledge. Our contacts with the company were at least as skeptical about man-made climate change as anyone at Heartland. In 2012, following the Fakegate incident that revealed their funding, they said they would continue to fund us only if we publicly retracted and reversed our position on the underlying science of climate change. I said “take a walk,” and they did.
As near as I can tell, nothing similar has occurred on the left. Klein is highly critical of some of the largest environmental groups and liberal foundations for using the global warming issue to steer the debate to cap and trade, subsidies to renewable energy companies, and giving money to third-world dictators to shut them up, rather than abolishing capitalism and reaching for socialism. There isn’t much money out there, apparently, to support Klein-style radicalism, though it sells lots of books.
So the left, in the climate debate, is co-opted by crony capitalists and liberal philanthropists. The right pretty much is similarly co-opted by crony capitalists and conservative philanthropists — except for Heartland, Competitive Enterprise Institute, a few other worthy and principled allies. Heartland’s efforts validated questioning the “scientific consensus,” something we realized early on was necessary to stopping the march toward cap and trade, carbon taxes, or worse. It fundamentally changed the debate, turned public opinion, and stopped the global warming movement dead in its tracks.
Klein’s understanding of climate science is superficial at best and thinly sourced in this book. That’s her greatest vulnerability: She “believes” in global warming without having looked under the hood. It’s hard to blame her for that: She has clearly spent thousands of hours researching and writing on the policy and political aspects of the issue, interviewing everyone from the left to the far left with an opinion (or financial interest) in the issue. It’s hard to find time to also master the science aspects. But as a result, her ideological fervor and confirmation bias blind her to the possibility that she is wrong.
Are we similarly blinded? I don’t think so, because the financial rewards to us of “admitting” man-made global warming “may” be a crisis are enormous. We had a strong financial incentive to truly look under the hood and decide which side we should be on.
More than ANY other think tank or advocacy group in the debate on either the right or the left, we’ve studied the science. Ask yourself: where is the Environmental Defense Fund’s or Greenpeace’s equivalent of Climate Change Reconsidered? They don’t exist. Because they don’t care enough about the science, because at the end of the day, the science doesn’t matter to them. It doesn’t affect their tactic of using global warming as a scare tactic to raise money and advance a left-wing agenda. As Klein writes, “it’s not about carbon, it’s about capitalism.”
We do care about the science. We do ask ourselves, constantly, if the science is on our side.You don’t assemble an international team of climate scientists and publish four thick volumes of pure science on an issue if you think the science doesn’t matter.
Klein’s greatest strength is recognizing that nothing less than the abolition of capitalism will achieve the drastic reductions in emissions her side is calling for… and she’s willing to say it out loud. I love that about her. The leaders of the environmental movement, who pretend this isn’t about ideology and that “stopping” climate change would be costless, hate her for revealing this.

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