The Environmental Movement’s Ulterior Motives
It’s hard to argue against environmental conservation. That’s why politicians have often used environmental issues to silence opposition, says analyst Rupert Darwall in his new book “Green Tyranny: Exposing the Totalitarian Roots of the Climate Industrial Complex.”
By tying their goals to environmental legislation, industry and political groups can cloak their ulterior motives in green, he said. For example, they can either promote or harm certain industries by portraying them as either environmentally friendly or harmful.
Although many environmentalists are genuinely concerned about the environment, environmentalism is used by some as a Trojan horse for political changes that have nothing to do with the environment, according to Darwall.
Strong environmental regulations also require strong administrative states, or a concentration of power. Alarmism around environmental issues can goad a fearful public into relinquishing its liberties, he says.
In “Green Tyranny,” Darwall examined the history of scares like acid rain and nuclear winter, showing how they were used for political and economic gain. A similar process is at work in the fight against climate change, he says. And it is “a fight for America’s soul.”
“Avoiding planetary catastrophe gives a president and the executive branch a higher dispensation than that granted by the Constitution,” he said during a talk to introduce his book at The Heritage Foundation in Washington on Nov. 28.
“This is something bigger than energy policy. It’s bigger than economics. Ultimately, this is a battle between the administrative state and America’s constitutional order. It’s about how America is governed. In a word, it’s about freedom.”
Stockholm Leads the Narrative
At the center of Darwall’s history is former Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme. In the 1960s, Palme started the scare around acid rain. He had the help of meteorologist Bert Bolin, who wrote the first-ever government report on the issue.
Darwall says that Palme wanted to gain support for his unpopular nuclear power program by killing coal. A scientific consensus in the years that followed asserted that acid rain caused by burning coal was devastating forests and lakes worldwide.
Yet a $500 million, 10-year study commissioned by the U.S. government concluded in 1990 that acid rain was not responsible for this environmental damage and that it only had a limited effect on some high-altitude trees. This study has been essentially ignored, however, even by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
In the 1970s, Palme started to express concerns about climate change. He went so far as to tell a reporter in 1974 that it worried him more than any other problem in the world.
In “Green Tyranny,” Darwall wrote: “Sweden would end the decade plagued by strikes and lockouts and the highest taxes of any industrial nation, taxes needed to fund public spending that would mushroom to 64 percent of GDP. For a prime minister to talk about global warming—global temperatures had been declining since the mid-1940s—as the issue that worried him most when the economy was falling apart might appear senseless.”
But it wasn’t senseless if used by Palme to bolster his anti-coal, pro-nuclear campaign, Darwall says. Again Bolin worked with Palme; he wrote the paper “Energy and Climate” in 1975, influencing Swedish energy policy to limit fossil fuels. Bolin and Palme were instrumental in founding the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in the 1980s. The IPCC remains central to the climate change debate today.
Sweden’s apparent neutrality has made it influential in initiating global action on such issues, Darwall says. During the Cold War, the Soviets also used Stockholm to spread the fear of a nuclear winter. The political purpose for that environmental scare was to halt U.S. nuclear armament.
With Sweden’s environmentalism comes also its mode of governance. Quoting Roland Huntford’s 1971 book, “The New Totalitarians,” Darwall wrote, “Swedish society is the product of a conformist culture that inculcates unquestioning submission to authority.”
He also quoted German poet Hans Magnus Enzensberger, who said the Swedish state had regulated “the affairs of individuals to a degree unparalleled in other free societies.” Darwall wrote, “It had not only gradually eroded its citizens’ rights but crushed their spirit.”
Stronger Regulation, Less Freedom
This kind of strong administration is what would be needed to adhere to climate change solutions like the Paris Agreement, Darwall says. The free market would not cut emissions sufficiently–only heavy government involvement could do that.
“Global warming thus poses a question about the nature and purpose of the state,” Darwall wrote. “Whether its role is to effect a radical transformation of society or whether its principal task is to protect freedom.”
The U.S. Constitution’s separation of powers is at stake, he says. “The [Paris climate] agreement’s entire architecture had been designed to circumvent the Constitution’s requirement for the Senate’s advice and consent,” he wrote. When then-President Barack Obama ratified the agreement in 2016, he bypassed the Senate.
Submission to global governance would also be necessary, Darwall said, quoting Palme: “We must overcome and arrive at a new epoch where we all realize that mutual interdependence is so important that we have to give up part of the national sovereignty.”
Palme also said that the climate-change solutions could not be reached without socialist ideas. In general, the environmental movement has been manipulated by socialist radicals, Darwall says.
Green Is the New Red
The radical leftists in Germany known as the “1968ers” became instrumental in the environmental movement. “They took the left-wing concepts of the past and dressed them up in the ecological garb we see today. Instead of Marxism’s catastrophic vision of capitalism, an eco-catastrophe. Instead of the socialist utopia, a new ecological one. Instead of the cult of the factory, the cult of the forest. Instead of the color red, the color green,” Darwall said, quoting American political writer Paul Berman.
The renewable energy rush started in Germany, and it proved costly and ineffective, Darwall says. The Renewable Energy Sources Act of 2000 was supposed to create green jobs in Germany, but instead it created solar panel factories in China.
It was supposed to cost the equivalent of a scoop of ice cream on a monthly electricity bill, but soaring prices led to a consumer backlash. Over the course of nine years, it cost consumers $304 billion in higher bills, Darwall says.
Between 1999 and 2012, German power station carbon emissions actually rose, while American power station emissions fell. That’s because the complexities of establishing a grid to handle the peaks and valleys of solar and wind power ended up driving low-emission gas plants out of business as they relied more heavily on higher-emission fuels.
Renewable Energy: a Transfer of Wealth
Germany’s renewable energy program—which did not cut emissions, had a steep price, and killed thousands of birds with its windmills—wasn’t about improving the environment, Darwall says. “[It] was a smokescreen for a radical green agenda and a massive transfer of wealth from consumers to green rent-seekers,” he wrote.
He cited a speech made in 1986 by a top German civil servant. “The official was disarmingly candid about the use of what he called ’empty phrases’ to push forward the environmental agenda,” Darwall said. “’Ecological equilibrium,’ was an example, a phrase he said quite rightly was meaningless. Another was the claim that ecology and the economy were not in conflict. … Just remember that when you come across claims about ‘green growth’ or ‘clean energy job bonanzas.'”
German environmentalism was especially influential in California. As the state increased the use of wind and solar, electricity prices rose. “By 2014, California was importing one-third of its electricity,” Darwall wrote. “Promoting itself as a model for America, it is self-evidently impossible for all the other 47 contiguous states to import one-third of their electricity from each other.”
Darwall studied economics and history at Cambridge University and held various posts in finance, including special adviser to Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer. He thinks the risks of climate change have been overstated, while the costs of climate change solutions have been understated.
What hangs in the balance is America’s economic vitality. The United States is poised to be a hydrocarbon superpower, he says.
Spiral of Silence
Darwall realizes that his view is an unpopular one, at least in public. He says that many people who would privately agree with him would not express these opinions publicly because they contradict the prevailing narrative set in the media.
“One-sided media reporting is a striking feature of the climate and energy debate,” he wrote. This creates what’s known as a “spiral of silence.” This term describes the situation in which people are unwilling to express their opinions if others around them are unlikely to agree.
Darwall cites a 2014 Pew Research Center survey, among other sources, that showed people are less likely to share their opinions when they sense their view is not widely shared. Pew explained, “An informed citizenry depends on people’s exposure to information on important political issues and on their willingness to discuss these issues with those around them.”