Terence Corcoran: Why the left loves a climate crisis
We had major breaking news Tuesday out of the United Nations’ 25th Conference of the Parties (COP 25) climate change summit in Madrid: Greta, the self-described “angry kid,” had landed. Her boat docked in Lisbon, just as the World Meteorological Organization reported that 2019 had been a cold year for Canadians.
The Greta news drowned out the WMO report, which also found 2019 produced record levels of frigidity in many parts of North America, including “the coldest February on record for several regions in Western Canada, including the city of Vancouver. It was also a rather cold first half of the year in parts of Eastern Canada. There were further outbreaks of unseasonable cold and early-season snowfall in the western and central interior of North America in late September and late October.”
But forget about Canada. Who cares? The WMO reports that 2019 was hotter on average in other parts of the world, which is why Greta Thunberg and an army of young and not-so-young leftists with radical agendas are mounting a global campaign to bulldoze market capitalism and build a new socialist democratic paradise.
Since nobody wants to overthrow capitalism for the usual trumped-up reasons — inequality, worker oppression, racism, fascism, rising corporate control, globalization, middle-class decline, greedy bankers, private property —the scientific claim of a climate crisis offers a new justification.
From Greta’s Extinction Rebellion to Green New Deal advocates in the United States to the champions of socialism in Europe, the left is using climate change to push an another agenda. In a recent commentary, Greta and two other young global activists — Luisa Neubauer from Germany and Angela Valenzuela from Chile — made it clear their objectives transcend climate change. They want climate action that is “powerful and wide-ranging.” After all, they say, “the climate crisis is not just about the environment. It is a crisis of human rights, of justice, and of political will. Colonial, racist, and patriarchal systems of oppression have created and fuelled it. We need to dismantle them all.”
In their reading of the economic world, carbon emissions are the product of market capitalism that needs to be replaced by a government-controlled system that will forcibly eliminate fossil fuels.
In the United States, Green New Deal advocates talk about a green economy, but what they have in mind is a state-directed economic system whose primary official objective is to achieve “net-zero carbon emissions.” The same objectives dominate the Green New Deal advocates in Europe.
One of those net-zero eurogreens is Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek finance minister who is in Toronto this week to participate in a Munk Debate on the future of capitalism. In case you are wondering, his aim is to tear down market systems.
Varoufakis is a superstar of the democratic socialist left and a collaborator with Canadian radical Naomi Klein and others in the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25). The objectives of DiEM25 include blending Europe’s “diverse political traditions — Green, radical left, liberal — in order to repair the EU.” By repairing Europe they mean expanding the role of government via vague notions of “democratic government.”
According to Varoufakis, a key part of the new socialist plan for Europe “will require recreating European institutions and a political economy that includes a massive Green New Deal or similar strategy.” Varoufakis said in a recent interview that he aims to “create a vision of a liberal, socialist society that is not based on private property but does use money as a vehicle for exchange and markets as co-ordinating devices.”
Well, at least we get to keep a system based on money.
How far the left will be able to ride climate change as a sort of autonomous electric vehicle on the road to socialism will depend on how soon a broader population of workers and middle-class voters realize they are being taken for a ride.
Accepting that climate change is a real global problem to be solved does not mean abandoning the benefits of market capitalism. Arthur C. Brooks (who will debate Varoufakis in the Munk Debate on Wednesday) argues that Green New Deal socialism will never happen, at least not in the United States. “There’s no evidence that any government is remotely capable of governing on the scale that they’re talking about. The result would be unimaginable levels of unnecessary secondary consequences.”
Brooks may be right about the U.S. and maybe Canada. Among the people who do not want a Green New Deal is Canadian union leader Leo Gerard, the long-time head of the United Steelworkers of America. In a recent interview with CBC radio, Gerard brought a little common sense to the climate crisis. “The reality is that you’re going to need fossil fuels for at least the next hundred years. What we need to do is, do it in a way that’s going to reduce emissions, capture carbon and be healthy to the environment.”
Gerard said that proposals to ban the mining industry, as occurred during the past U.S. election, demonstrate a lack of economic knowledge and understanding. “You can’t build a wind turbine without one to two tons of copper and cement to hold it down. You can’t do solar panels without aluminum and glass, which is made with sand. You have to mine sand.’
The vast majority of people — in North America and the world — are unlikely to embrace the idea of eliminating fossil fuels from the economy, especially if they realize going fossil-fuel free means embracing radical leftists’ visions.