THE TOTALITIES OF COPENHAGEN: GLOBAL WARMING AND THE PSYCHOLOGY OF TRUE BELIEF

December 9, 2009

One of the deeper motivations that animate global warming true believers is the totalitarian impulse.  This is not to say that global warmists are closet Stalinists, but their intellectual methods are instructively similar, says columnist Bret Stephens.

Revolutionary fervor:

  • There's a distinct tendency among climate alarmists toward uncompromising radicalism, a hatred of "bourgeois" values, and disgust with democratic practices.
  • So President Obama wants to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 83 percent from current levels by 2050, levels not seen since the 1870s -- in effect, the Industrial Revolution in reverse.
  • Rajendra Pachauri, head of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, insists that "our lifestyles are unsustainable."
  • Al Gore gets crowds going by insisting that "civil disobedience has a role to play" in strong-arming governments to do his bidding (this from the man who once sought to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution).

Utopianism:

  • In the world as it is, climate alarmists see humanity hurtling toward certain doom.
  • In the world as it might be, humanity has seen the light and changed its patterns of behavior, becoming the green equivalent of the Soviet "new man."
  • At his disposal are technologies that defy the laws of thermodynamics; the problems now attributed to global warming abate or disappear.

Anti-humanism:

  • In his 2007 best seller "The World Without Us," environmentalist Alan Weisman considers what the planet would be like without mankind, and finds it's no bad thing.
  • The U.N. Population Fund complains in a recent report that "no human is genuinely 'carbon neutral'" -- its latest argument against children.
  • John Holdren, President Obama's science adviser, cut his teeth in the policy world as an overpopulation obsessive worried about global cooling.
  • But whether warming or cooling, the problem for the climate alarmists, as for other totalitarians, always seems to boil down to the human race itself.

Today, of course, the very idea of totalitarianism is considered passé.  Yet the course of the 20th century was defined by totalitarian regimes, and it would be dangerous to assume that the habits of mind that sustained them have vanished into the mists, says Stephens.

Source: Bret Stephens, "The Totalities of Copenhagen; Global warming and the psychology of true belief," Wall Street Journal, December 8, 2009.

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