I am at a loss.
I am really at a loss trying to figure out why rational, brilliant and insightful anarchists and libertarians, who use history and reason to eloquently and forcefully argue economics and philosophy in favour of liberty, refuse to accept the science of anthropogenic global warming. Why is it they suddenly jump from rationality to paranoid conspiracy theorizing when global warming or the climate crisis is involved?
Take Lew Rockwell, for instance. He is incredibly insightful when discussing the over bearing power of the state to make war, or the intrusion of the state into our lives. But he happily links to articles such as this one by Alexander Cockburn at Counterpunch, regurgitates the most of the so-called scientific evidence against global warming, every single bit of which has been debunked and refuted before.
It is clear from the preponderance of evidence, from the vast majority of climate scientists (a number that is growing, not shrinking) that global warming is really happening and is caused by human activity. Why, then do libertarians and anarchists refuse to accept it?
It seems to me they are confusing the problem of global warming with the mainstream idea of the solution. They don’t want to believe the science, because, I suspect, they think this means they must accept the so-called solution – state enforced austerity measures, regulations and ‘carbon taxes’. What self-respecting libertarian could accept that? None, but the problem is that is how the debate has been framed – either doom and gloom or near complete economic regulation to prevent it. I also suspect there is a bit of confirmation bias and ideology involved. To accept global warming is to accept that our capitalist system, the free market is the cause. It is quite ironic that Lew Rockwell links to Cockburn then as the Marxist Cockburn seems to think that the climate crisis is a capitalist invention to create demand and forced scarcity to drive profit.
Let me posit an alternative view:
First, let us accept that global warming is real and created by human activity (if only for the sake of argument). That is the problem.
Does that mean that capitalism or private enterprise are to blame?
No. As I stated in an earlier post, it is in fact state interference and regulation, at the behest of mercantilist corporations, that are the one of the reasons. Think of the destruction of public transit systems throughout the US and Canada by city councils in cahoots with GM, so the latter could sell more cars and the former could run parking lots and get money from parking tickets. The result, as anyone who has read Jane Jacobs can attest, is our car-centric, just-in-time urban lifestyles. Cars, trucks and airplanes used for transportation of people and goods are a major source of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. In my city of Ottawa, there hasn’t been a new street built with a sidewalk in over 15 years, except, ironically, if the street was to have a bus route on it.
In Canada, the biggest producers of greenhouse gases are public power generation utilities and not the private sector.
Does that mean that the solution is more regulation and state imposed austerity?
No. Ever since apple farmers were prevented from suing the factories destroying their crops with pollution, the state has been interfering in, distorting and creating the externalities in the market that have created not just the problem with greenhouse gases, but with pollution in general. As Rothbard pointed out in “Law, Property Rights and Air Pollution”, only the free market, without state interference coupled with “collapsing crime into tort”, could this kind of pollution be effectively fought, as polluters would have to bear the full costs of their polluting ways, something they can now externalize on the rest of us.
In other words, the state and regulation is the cause of the problem, not the solution. The solution is less state regulation and less (or no) state interference.
Does that mean that something can or should be done about global warming?
That is a debate that has not taken place. Ron Good’s post seems to be the first to even tangentially consider this. Global warming can be real and can be caused by human activity, but that does not mean that it is possible or even desirable to “do” anything on the grand scale. It may be that we should use the science to help us prepare for, rather than prevent the future climate changes we have caused. It may not even be possible, at this point, to do anything. Should we spend our resources cutting down on carbon, taxing fossil fuels, or looking at what we should do when the ice caps melt, or when New York or Los Angeles are underwater. It is hubris to think we can do something in 20 years to stop something we have been contributing to for over a century. It would be like trying to snap someone out of an overdose of Valium by injecting them with speed.
But then, it would be just as much hubris to do nothing and not even try. On this, I have not decided where I come down on this.
The bottom line is that it is not inconsistent with being an anarchist or libertarian to accept that global warming is real. The difference is how (and if) to deal with it. The climate crisis is caused by state interference and regulation and this should be the mantra of anarchist and libertarians when the subject comes up, rather than deny the problem even exists. Ironically, it is global warming and its cause that provide the greatest opportunity for libertarian and anarchist solutions to gain mainstream acceptance, if only we took advantage. Accepting the reality of global warming and what if anything to do about it are two different things.
We must fight the inherent statism of the global warming debate without abandoning the field of reason and pretending the problem doesn’t exist. That just makes us look stupid and drives people away from us.