A couple weeks ago, Pat Sajak, the Wheel of Fortune game show host, tweeted that global warming “alarmists are unpatriotic racists knowingly misleading for their own ends.” This is not a response to Mr. Sajak.
It’s a response to the name-calling and the politics of the global warming debate, of which Mr. Sajak’s recent comments are both indicative and symptomatic. It’s a response to the fear mongering that each side of the debate perceives in the other’s arguments. On the one hand is ecosystem destruction that surpasses the collapse of the Age of Dinosaurs. On the other hand is cultural and economic disintegration that equals the demise of the Roman Empire.
In our rather myopic modern world view, we can’t imagine a moment in human history more fraught with peril, more destined to alter the course of global history than the one which we are facing right now. And so the forces allied with the various competing ideas are using every bit of strategy that they can come up with. Those who know that global warming is human induced are convinced that if they don’t prevail then everything will fall apart. Those who know that global warming is not human induced are convinced that if they don’t prevail chaos will swallow us all.
I’m struck by the idea that the global warming debate is absolutely impossible without free-market capitalism. There is a certain amount of irony in this, given that global warming skeptics often paint the believers with socialist and Marxist colors. Nevertheless, it seems true on at least a couple counts.
First of all, the essential ingredients of global warming — excess carbon dioxide produced by fossil fuels — could never have been exploited and produced so quickly without free-market capitalism. OK, so that’s a bit like trying to prove a negative, but there is at any rate a powerful correlation between the rapid rise of the fossil fuel economy and the worldwide dominance of capitalist economic theory. I know that to some this reads like an indictment of capitalism.