The climate change issue has collapsed. The public has moved on. The skeptics won.
You hear some variation on this refrain here and there as the climate hysteria industry goes full froth in tandem with the gradual release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report. You hear it at grassroots gatherings. You read it on blogs.
David Harsanyi has stated it most boldly at The Federalist, declaring the debate is over and environmentalists lost. Commenting on a frustrated President Obama and his fetish for the rule of the executive pen, Harsanyi says the climate change movement has suffered a rout.
But really, after all these years admitting that executive power is the only way to move (tepidly) forward on environmentalist policy is basically admitting defeat. Has there ever been a movement that’s spent as much time, energy and treasure and gotten so little in return? I suspect there are three reasons for this failure: 1. It’s difficult to fight basic economics. 2. On energy, Americans, despite what they say, have no desire to try (nor should they). 3. It’s getting more difficult, not less, to believe environmental doom and gloom.
Viewed narrowly, Harsanyi’s notion has some salience. But expand the scope of the climate issue just a little, and this notion becomes pure delusion.
The idea that environmentalists have been thrashed in the climate change debate is not devoid of merit. Facts are pigheaded things and they have done little (when they haven’t been fudged) to grease the climate change movement’s momentum. Dire predictions go unfulfilled. Temperature trends refuse to trend correctly. Extreme weather pops a Valium. Al Gore goes from A-list Hollywood celeb to B-list ass clown, albeit a very rich one, in large part on the backs of taxpayers via green energy subsidies. For almost two decades the earth has stubbornly spurned compliance with the computer climate modeling maps of doom. All despite massive increases in atmospheric CO2.
Environmentalists wring their hands over this climatic heresy. They scramble to save their computer models, to explain the earth’s confounding resilience and its profound stability in the face of human tampering. You can almost hear them thinking: “Why can’t you just die?”
Yet climate change devotees have no reason to fret. Despite the wishful decrees of skeptics, they have ample reason to celebrate. For the climate change movement has suffered not a defeat; instead they have won a decisive victory. The date of that victory can be precisely identified: April 2, 2007. On that day, a date which will live in absurdity, the Supreme Court deemed carbon dioxide, the lifeblood of the planet, a pollutant. The ruling granted the Environmental Protection Agency far-reaching and discretionary power to regulate CO2 (under the Clean Air Act) and any human activity that spews it.
That victory was reinforced on April 29, 2014, when the highest court upheld the EPA’s authority to regulate emissions from coal-fired power plants that drift across state lines. The decision virtually inoculates the EPA from legal challenges as it prepares stiff regulatory strategies to fight global warming. Science be damned.
What does this mean? It means the EPA (and the entire administrative apparatus) has its mitts firmly around the necks of each and every individual American. Energy exploration and production will gradually become more difficult. Products and services dependent on energy will become more expensive. Renewable energy mandates will cause residential electricity prices to skyrocket, as they already have in California.
But this is just the beginning of the bureaucratic maelstrom that will soon rend our lives and liberties. Because CO2 is an essential part of the earth’s ecosystem and is emitted and consumed virtually everywhere on the planet, the EPA’s regulatory authority might will intrude on virtually every human activity in the U.S. Regulations will soon hit “smaller sources” of CO2 emissions including hospitals, small businesses, schools, apartment buildings — even large homes. (Do you doubt that some enterprising climate scientist is currently hard at work calculating the C02 emissions from a semi-automatic weapon discharge?)
The potential regulatory onslaught is so all encompassing and onerous, the EPA is deferring regulatory action for these smaller sources until 2016 due to the permitting burden it imposes on the agency. Think about that. When the state takes a pause because of the stiff toll regulations exact on regulators, you know the rest of us are in deep doo-doo.
But there’s more. The EPA is developing a proposed rule, due to hit in June, that could allow states to use carbon excise taxes to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Think of it as a carbon fee that discourages the use of an energy source in exact proportion to the damage it allegedly inflicts on the climate. The rule may eventually be applied to all industrial facilities. It’s essentially cap and trade through the back door.
The effect — if not the goal — of these policies is centralized state control over individuals and communities by making energy more expensive and artificially scarce — all under the guise of environmental protection. It will spawn a rash of ever more radically defective energy policies favoring politically connected insiders — think Solyndra, Tom Steyer, A123 Systems, Fisker, NRG Energy, BrightSource Energy, etc. — all bankrolled by taxpayers and utility ratepayers.
What hath the climate change debate wrought? It has set up an environment where Americans have little say in policies that will dramatically impact their lives. It has ossified a framework where the founding principles of representative government and “consent of the governed” have essentially been short-circuited. An alliance of courts and administrative agencies is gradually subjecting Americans to rule by coercive, capricious, and unaccountable bureaucracies — each with their own SWAT team.
The “environmentalists lost” pronouncement illustrates just how oblivious many conservative pundits and grassroots activists are. They seem perpetually fixated on shiny objects, whether it be “science,” debate, ballot initiatives, and the electoral process. Meanwhile shrewd operatives, via raw legal and regulatory process manipulation, are gradually stripping away individual autonomy, swapping “the rule of law” with “the rule of rule making”; “due process” with “due force” — right under our noses.
Ultimately, the climate change movement was never about science, the environment, saving the planet, or “sustainability.” It is and always was about circumventing the electorate to concentrate raw discretionary power into the hands of a select few.
Until the conservative grassroots gets a grasp on where real power is wielded and develops guerrilla legal and disruption strategies to combat it, liberty and individual rights will be among the walking dead. That’s a debate that really is over.