The Dark Side of Climate Change: It's Already Too Late, Cap and Trade Is a Scam, and Only the Few Will Survive
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
The recent narrow passage of the Waxman-Markey energy bill, better known as cap-and-trade, marks halftime in Congress' first attempt to put a lid on national carbon emissions. The bill’s supporters ended the half on top in a squeaker -- 219 yeas to 212 nays. But it’s far from clear what this lead means, either for the bill or the climate. The legislation’s fate remains as uncertain as our own.
We can, however, be sure about one thing. Between now and the autumn Senate debate, cap-and-trade’s right-wing critics will escalate their all-cannons assault on the idea that climate change is real and demands a response. They will call "crap-and-tax" the mother of all scams, a poorly cloaked state power grab, and a major goose step down the road to eco-fascism. Given the demagogic hyperbole already on display, it can’t be long before some conservative howler warns that the bill's green facade shares hues with the Koran.
As the fight over cap-and-trade intensifies, human-driven climate change denialists like Rush Limbaugh and James Inhofe will draw the lion's share of the media spotlight reserved for the bill's critics. This is unfortunate. The real debate is not between the bill's supporters and the dead-ender climate clown club. It is between cap-and-trade’s supporters and its critics within the scientific and environmental activist communities. Groups like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth have science if not politics on their side when they decry Waxman-Markey as an industry diluted half-measure with soft gums that falls far short of what is necessary to avoid cataclysmic climate change later this century.
“The giveaways and preferences in the bill will actually spur a new generation of nuclear and coal-fired power plants to the detriment of real energy solutions,” said Greenpeace in a statement the day before the House vote. “To support such a bill is to abandon the real leadership that is called for at this pivotal moment in history. We simply no longer have the time for legislation this weak.”
This view is shared by leading climate scientists like James Hansen and his peers around the world at leading research centers such as the UK's Hadley Center for Climate Prediction and Research, which urge more significant and immediate cuts than the finance-sector friendly cap-and-trade system can deliver.
There is another, fourth voice in the debate over cap-and-trade, one ringing out from shadows rarely approached by the media. In these shadows dwell scientists who believe the time has passed for any sort of legislation at all, no matter how radical. The best known of these frightening climate gnomes is the legendary British scientist James Lovelock, father of Gaia Theory and inventor of the instrument allowing for the atmospheric measurements of CFC's. In recent years, Lovelock has emerged as the world’s leading climate pessimist, raining scorn on the new fashionable environmentalism and arguing that the time is nigh to accept that a massive culling of the human race is around the corner.
“Most of the ‘green’ stuff is verging on a gigantic scam," Lovelock told the New Scientist shortly before the release of his latest book, The Vanishing Face of Gaia. "Carbon trading, with its huge government subsidies, is just what finance and industry wanted. It's not going to do a damn thing about climate change, but it'll make a lot of money for a lot of people and postpone the moment of reckoning.”
Those who read Lovelock’s controversial 2006 book, The Revenge of Gaia, know that hope junkies should keep a safe distance from the 90-year-old scientist. Lovelock, who has been compared to Copernicus and Darwin, years ago arrived at a disturbingly stark conclusion about Earth’s climate future. His prognosis is now starker than ever. The small window of short-term hope he left open in Revenge is closed in this year’s Vanishing. In its place is a long-term hope that humanity in some form will survive the present century, though barely. The result is a dark and contrarian work that seeks to demolish the terms of the climate debate while mocking our response to the crisis at the personal, national, and species level.