So, Libertarian Party presidential candidate Bob Barr has congratulated Al Gore on his stance on global warming.
Former Vice President Al Gore and I have met privately to discuss the issue of global warming, and I was pleased and honored that he invited me to attend the “We” Campaign event. Global warming is a reality as most every organization that has studied the matter has concluded, whether conservative-leaning, liberal oriented or independent.
Sceptic email lists have been busy circulating messages to the effect that it’s a great shame and a great surprise that a high-profile Libertarian has jumped on the bandwagon. It’s certainly a shame. But a surprise?
As we keep saying, Environmentalism transcends the politics of Left and Right. We are certainly not the first to say that. Many have argued that modern political philosophies fit better along a libertarian-authoritarian axis than a left-right one.
Sure, there’s something very un-Libertarian about Green politics. But Environmentalism is equally incompatible with the old political Left. But that hasn’t stop Marxists or Socialist Workers taking up the cause.
And ex-Republican Barr pushes a rather Rightish sort of libertarianism – an authoritarian version of libertarianism, even. At the very least, he seems rather unsure of his Libertarian values. Barr voted for the Patriot’s Act, for example, although now claims to regret it. He was all for the invasion of Iraq, although now claims to want to withdraw the troops. He takes a very authoritarian line on drugs.
And like all good Environmentalists, he even seems to be under the impression that the appropriate political response follows somehow directly from the science:
Barr, a former Republican congressman from Georgia, said it is time to recognize that global warming “is a very serious problem” and that it will get “dramatically worse” unless significant action is taken.
‘Significant action’? What action? Will it work? Will the cost to our civil liberties be justified? Does ‘action’ mean mitigation or adaptation? His answers to these more important questions are conspicuous by their absence.
The flip side is that there is nothing particularly Libertarian about rejecting the case for anthropogenic global warming. After all, it’s only science. It would be perfectly reasonable, theoretically, for a Libertarian to assess the evidence and come to the conclusion that global warming is happening and that human activities are to a degree behind it. Indeed, we wouldn’t have too much truck with that argument ourselves.
The issue is not whether or not global warming is happening, or is anthropogenic or ‘natural’ (although that is an issue); it’s how that evidence is handled politically. And this is where Barr starts sounding like all those other Green opportunists out there:
“There obviously is a role for government,” Barr said. “There’s a role for private industry. There’s a role for nonprofits and certainly a role for the American people, individually and collectively.”
Barr’s green epiphany, like John McCain’s before him, has less to do with a realisation that they can no longer ignore the weight of scientific evidence, and more to do with a need to be seen to stand for something – anything – at a time when they can’t remember what they stand for anymore.
The US is now in a situation where its top three presidential candidates have subscribed to Gore’s Inconvenient Truth. That is surely a ‘shame’. and yet the ‘surprise’ is that the few sceptics that remain in mainstream politics object to Environmentalism for negative rather than positive reasons. All they know is that they are not Environmentalists. Rather than mounting a political case against Environmentalism, they can resort only to dismissing the movement as a leftist conspiracy and/or to rejecting outright the science that Environmentalism hides behind. We suggest that that is because mainstream climate sceptics are as directionless politically as McCain, Obama and Barr. And it’s little different in the UK. But such negative politics bodes ill for the sceptic movement. Because people don’t vote for what you are not. At Climate Resistance we believe that Environmentalism needs opposing regardless of what the science says. So who do we vote for?