Can anyone doubt that Walter Russell Mead is now our country’s most authoritative and brilliant essayist? In a series of three lengthy columns — two of which are now out — Mead takes on and destroys any pretentions to credibility that Al Gore may still have had. They appear on Mead’s blog at The American Interest. You can read part I here, and part deux, as he calls it, here.
Let me whet your appetite by reproducing the best paragraph from his first entry. In part one, Mead takes up the issue of Gore’s well noted hypocrisy. He writes:
But you cannot be a leading environmentalist who hopes to lead the general public into a long and difficult struggle for sacrifice and fundamental change if your own conduct is so flagrantly inconsistent with the green gospel you profess. If the heart of your message is that the peril of climate change is so imminent and so overwhelming that the entire political and social system of the world must change, now, you cannot fly on private jets. You cannot own multiple mansions. You cannot even become enormously rich investing in companies that will profit if the policies you advocate are put into place.
Later he adds:
But grave as that danger is, Al Gore can consume more carbon than whole villages in the developing world. He can consume more electricity than most African schools, incur more carbon debt with one trip in a private plane than most of the earth’s toiling billions will pile up in a lifetime — and he doesn’t worry. A father of four, he can lecture the world on the perils of overpopulation. Surely, skeptics reason, if the peril were as great as he says and he cares about it as much as he claims, Gore’s sense of civic duty would call him to set an example of conspicuous non-consumption. This general sleeps in a mansion, and lectures the soldiers because they want tents.
In his second installment, Mead takes up the question of why Gore’s star has fallen so fast, and why very few people at present take him seriously — even his own previous followers. The answer, Mead reveals, is the complete failure of the green movement’s own political agenda. Mead explains:
Gore’s failures are not just about leadership. The strategic vision he crafted for the global green movement has comprehensively failed. That is no accident; the entire green policy vision was so poorly conceived, so carelessly constructed, so unbalanced and so rife with contradictions that it could only thrive among activists and enthusiasts. Once the political power of the climate movement, aided by an indulgent and largely unquestioning press, had pushed the climate agenda into the realm of serious politics, failure was inevitable. The only question was whether the comprehensive green meltdown would occur before or after the movement achieved its core political goal of a comprehensive and binding global agreement on greenhouse gasses.
That question has now been answered; the movement failed before it got its treaty, and while the media and the establishment have still generally failed to analyze these developments and draw the consequences, the global climate movement has become the kind of embarrassment intellectuals like to ignore.
As for the idea of a world-wide global green treaty, Mead comments as follows:
The global green treaty movement to outlaw climate change is the most egregious folly to seize the world’s imagination since the Kellog-Briand Pact outlawed war in the late 1920s. The idea that the nations of the earth could agree on an enforceable treaty mandating deep cuts in their output of all greenhouse gasses is absurd. A global treaty to meet Mr. Gore’s policy goals isn’t a treaty: the changes such a treaty requires are so broad and so sweeping that a GGCT is less a treaty than a constitution for global government. Worse, it is a constitution for a global welfare state with trillions of dollars ultimately sent by the taxpayers of rich countries to governments (however feckless, inept, corrupt or tyrannical) in poor ones.
The end result of his critique is that Al Gore is revealed as nothing less than a demagogue in professorial clothes, whose “method of arguing is to trumpet the science of climate change and to make ad hominem arguments against its opponents.” His method is to predict “an ever-crescendoing invocation of blizzards, droughts, locusts and floods” that “aims to stampede the populace into embracing one of the most dubious and unworkable policy prescriptions ever presented to the public eye.”
Gore, Mead concludes, “overstates what is known, disregards the inherent uncertainties involved in the study of a complex system like the climate, understates the significance of the remaining gray areas, and demagogues the science to get more out of it than his case really merits.”
The poor guy. His current essay in a recent issue of Rolling Stone is relegated to the back pages, where few will bother to find it or read it. Its editors know that to feature Gore is to lose sales. And now that Walter Russell Mead has decided to take him on, I predict that Gore will quickly hide out in the boondocks and concentrate on trying to get people to watch Keith Olbermann on his TV channel.
I, for one, look forward to Mead’s third essay on what Gore gets wrong about American democracy. It will be the final knockout.