Voters just not ready for extremism of Green New Deal

Voters just not ready for extremism of Green New
Deal 1

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., introduces her Green
New Deal (Wikimedia Commons)

[Editor’s note: This story originally was published by
Real Clear

By Joel Kotkin
Real Clear Energy

With the election of Joe Biden,
the environmental movement
has now established suzerainty over
global economics. Gone not only is the troublesome Donald Trump but
also the Canadian skeptic Steven Harper. Outside of those dismissed
as far right, there is virtually no serious debate about how to
address climate change in the U.S. or Western Europe outside the
parameters suggested by mainstream green groups.

In reality, though, few electorates anywhere are ready for
extreme policies such as the Green New Deal, which, as its widely
acknowledged architect,
Saikat Chakrabarti,
has acknowledged, is really a redder, more
openly anti-capitalist version of the Great Depression-era

Yet getting hysterical about the likes of Alexandria
Ocasio-Cortez is a waste of emotional energy. The real power of the
environmental movement derives from those who occupy “the
commanding heights” of our society – at the corporate, media,
and academic realms. Though arguably not holding views as
economically ludicrous as AOC’s, mainstream corporate greens are
far more likely to successfully impose their version of
environmental justice on the rest of us.

A finer shade of green

The modern environmental movement was launched from the top of
the economic food chain. The Rockefeller Brothers, for example,
funded some of the earliest environmental work, notably on
population control
. Today, these depositories of old money
built on fossil fuels, including not just
the Rockefellers
but also the
, have become leading advocates of radical climate

In 1972, the influential book Limits to Growth was published
with backing from major corporate interests, led by Aurelio Peccei
of Fiat. The book’s authors suggested that the earth was running
out of natural resources at a rapid pace and called for
establishing “global equilibrium” through restrictions on
growth and “a carefully controlled balance” of population and
capital. These conclusions, mostly accepted in top media, academic,
and political circles, turned out to be almost comically off
target, as production of food, energy, and raw materials
accompanied not the predicted mass starvation but arguably the greatest rise
of global living standards in history

Yet despite this record, a growing and powerful faction of the
corporate aristocracy still embraces the ideals of the Club of
Rome, seeking to cut human consumption and limit economic progress.
Like religious prelates in the Middle Ages, today’s
environmentalists – who The Nation’s
Alexander Cockburn
has aptly named “greenhouse fearmongers”
– see no contradiction between imposing austerity on the masses
and excusing the excesses of
their ultra-rich supporters
. Like sinful aristocrats and
merchant princes in medieval times, our “green rich” can even
buy a
modern version of indulgences
through carbon credits and other
virtue-signaling devices. This allows them to save the planet in
style. In 2019,
an estimated 1,500 GHG-spewing private jets
were flown to Davos
carrying attendees to a conference to discuss the environmental
crisis. Few high-profile climate activists, including celebrities,
seem willing to give up their multiple houses, yachts, or plethora
of cars.

The de-growth solution

These worthies likely don’t share the notion advanced by

Barry Commoner
, a founding father of modern environmentalism,
that “capitalism is the earth’s number one enemy.” Today’s
green elites have no interest in breaking up tech oligarchies,
limiting Wall Street’s financial power, or lessening the burdens
of green policies on the poor and working class. Nor are they
likely, at least for now, to embrace such things now bandied about
by extreme green academics and activists, such as considering an

insect diet
, restricting
curbing procreation
, or even advocating total human

Rather, many elites have embraced the concept of “degrowth,”
which foresees less economic expansion, a declining population, and
a radical end to upward mobility. One set of proposals from the
IPCC endorses this notion
and openly rejects “a capital-oriented culture“ seeing a more
centralized approach as critical to saving the planet.” The World
Economic Forum’s founder
Klaus Schwab
, the lord of Davos, for example, envisions the
rise of a new business class motivated by “virtuous instincts”
that include such things as eliminating fossil fuels. This woke
corporate mindset is sold as a form of “stakeholder
,” while following the progressive cultural agenda
on gender and race as well.

Though couched in laudable intentions, this agenda also is
remarkably self-serving. The British Marxist historian James
Heartfield suggests that “Green capitalism” provides a perfect
opportunity to maximize return on artificially scarcer resources,
like land and agricultural products, notably through mandates and
tax breaks for renewable energy. The green economy has already
spawned its first mega-billionaire,
Elon Musk
, whose core businesses benefited enormously on
regulatory and tax policies that favor his products. In the future,
expect other, less innovative oligarchs happy to take advantage of
centrally imposed scarcity, making money under the pretext of
“human survival.”

Who pays when things don’t work

The wealthy, such as
Jeff Bezos
– who earlier this year gave $10 billion to
environmental groups – can demand strict policies to curb climate
change because they can afford the effect of these policies. It
won’t restrict their ability to make billions, maintain mansions
in the style of Hapsburg royalty, or fly in private jets. By
contrast, oil riggers, factory employees, or construction workers
who drive old trucks to work will be seriously harmed by bans on
fossil fuels. For them, the forced march to a prearranged green
utopia won’t be so sweet, and
the promise of “green jobs”
no substitute for the real

For these workers and their families, the price of green piety
is reduced resources for schooling, medical bills, or even food.
California, with its lion’s share of multibillionaires, suffers

the highest poverty rate
, adjusted for costs, of any state and
a widespread
expansion of energy poverty
. These policies are already
threatening to raise costs on the east coast, where wind energy
prices are estimated to
be five times
conventional electrical generation. Similarly, as
many as one in four
, and
three-fourths of Greeks
, have cut other spending to pay their
electricity bills, which is the economic definition of “energy

To date, these negatives have done little to slow California’s

madcap attempt
to go “all electric.” This policy is doomed
to fail as it seeks to boost electricity use while removing the
most affordable and reliable ways to supply it. Worse yet, these
policies will also have damaging environmental effects, forcing the
creation of massive new solar plants in the state’s most
vulnerable agricultural areas and open space. A 2015
by the Carnegie Institution for Science and Stanford
University suggests that building enough solar power to reduce U.S.
emissions by 80 percent in 2050 could require upwards of more than
27,500 square miles, destroying both farmland and unique natural
habitats along the way.

California is seeking similar emissions cuts by mandating
building and transport electrification using solar and wind power,
but state climate leaders have yet to disclose the location or
scale of devastated land that their policies require. According to
a 2019 report by
The Nature Conservancy
and the state’s own technical experts,
as much as 3 million acres – nearly 4,700 square miles – could
be sacrificed by 2050, including much of the state’s Central
Valley and, if neighboring states agree, sprawling industrial
development throughout the western U.S. Overall,
electric-car production
solar plants
pose their own, though rarely reported,
environmental problems, particularly connected to
mining for rare-earth materials

The “Test runâ€

The tragic, and relentlessly disruptive, coronavirus lockdowns
can be justified as a real response to a clear, present, and
sometimes-lethal danger. But
some greens
also see the lockdowns as a “test run†for the
kinds of regulations we may face under future green regimes. The
“visionary†Davos mogul Schwab, for example, sees the pandemic
as an opportunity for a major “reset,†one preliminary to

a post-growth regime
based on the more enlightened values of
the economic elect.

This new order would follow the Davos script, locking down whole
parts of the economy and restricting consumer choice, notably for
housing and transportation. To sell this somewhat unpalatable
agenda, greens and their elite allies have imposed an orthodoxy
that excludes dissent. Today, open rational discussion about how to
best protect the planet is about as rare as open debate over
God’s existence would have been in the Catholic Church of the
eleventh century. There’s even a movement, already adopted in
France and Belgium, to make what’s called “ecocideâ€
a crime.

Today even veteran climate scientists – such as Roger Pielke,
Judith Curry, or
co-founder Patrick Moore, are treated as heretics
for questioning global-warming orthodoxy. Longtime activists such
Michael Shellenberger
and even radical propagandist
Michael Moore
, whose recent documentary “Planet of Humansâ€
exposed the ecological impact and corporate profiteering of
“green†power, have suffered de-platforming for offending the
sensibilities of green activists and their billionaire patrons.
This is a poor way to tackle a complex scientific issue, where open
inquiry and debate are needed, observes
Steve Koonin
, President Obama’s undersecretary of energy for

Are there better, fairer solutions?

What the green end game is likely to produce is an increasingly
static and hierarchical society, perhaps torn apart by raging class
conflict between the oligarchs and their allies, on one side, and
the beleaguered middle and working classes, on the other. We can
already see signs of this in
, where Latino and African-American activists object
to paying for the fantasies of the green grandees, a phenomenon
also seen in grassroots movements in France,

the Netherlands
, and Norway.
The impact on
developing countries
, in particular, could be severe, with
potentially gruesome consequences.

But, ultimately, we may not have to choose between a better
economy and a better environment. For example, we could encourage,
not ban, the substitution of cheap and plentiful natural gas for
higher emission fuels, such as coal or diesel, a strategy that has
already proven to substantially
reduce U.S. emissions
, and that could become even more
effective if carbon capture or renewable gas technologies mature.
We also could encourage the current trend to online dispersion of
work, which could hold
terrific opportunities
not only for reducing emissions but also
for reviving family life and encouraging entrepreneurialism.

We must not let our lives be constrained by the concentrated
power of an unelected ruling class, whose agenda would reinstate a
version of the hierarchical society of feudal times.


Joel Kotkin is the Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures
at Chapman University and executive director of the Urban Reform
Institute. His new book, 
The Coming of
, is now out from Encounter. You
can follow him on

[Editor’s note: This story originally was published by
Real Clear


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Voters just not ready for extremism of Green New Deal
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