Canute and the Waves

Canute or Knut was a Viking king who reigned from 1016-1035. At the height of his power, he ruled England, Denmark, Norway, and parts of Sweden. He was a powerful and general good king, known for his statesmanship and good relations with the Church.

According to legend, once he sat his throne at the sea-shore and commanded the tide to halt. It didn’t and he got his shoes and robes wet. If King Canute were alive today, he would probably be an EPA administrator trying to regulate the concentration of naturally occurring components of the atmosphere.

Of course Canute’s intention was to show his flattering nobles how powerless any earthly king was next to the One King of Heaven and Earth. Too bad our modern-day Canutes show no such humility.

Gloomy Greens

Back from his trip to Brazil, Walter Russel Mead has some rather harsh words to say about the Greens and their stupidity.

I went to Rio in 1992 for the environmental summit, the disastrous meeting that focused the world’s attention on the first giant misstep of the climate change movement: the misbegotten Kyoto Protocol that consumed two decades of green political energy around the world, alienated the United States from its European allies and at great cost achieved absolutely nothing worthwhile.  Global warming was not slowed, greenhouse gas emissions were essentially unaffected, green credibility took the first in a series of crippling hits, and opposition in the US to the global green agenda hardened.

That’s what happens when green Malthusian panic meets the political system.  At Rio back in 1992 I first began to dimly suspect what now seems sadly clear: that green political activists are afflicted with a kind of reverse Midas curse.  Whatever they touch turns to — compost.

In the twenty years I’ve been tracking the global green movement since the Rio summit,  the scientific evidence for climate change, still controversial and incomplete, became more convincing — even as the evidence that the environmental movement is headless and clueless became overwhelming. There is far more evidence that environmentalists in general have no idea how to address climate change than there is that the climate is actually changing.  Between the greenhouse gasses emitted by green activists globetrotting to international conferences and the unexpected side effects of green policy fiascoes (like the ethanol from corn program in the US), the environmental movement as a whole may well be responsible for a modest net increase in greenhouse gas production over the last twenty years.  The planet, in other words, might be slightly cooler if the greens had all just shut up and stayed home.  Certainly the world’s taxpayers would be better off.

We would also likely be closer to some kind of reasonable policy mix if the green activists had spent more time perfecting their home composting techniques and less time pushing a hopelessly unworkable global agenda.  (It’s not the fault of the greens that environmental problems don’t have easy and simple solutions, by the way.  I don’t blame greens for giving us magically easy and popular solutions.  But green ideas tend to be the opposite: greens habitually propose clumsy, expensive and unwieldy programs that won’t work and will ultimately go down in flames.)

Mead is not a conservative and is broadly sympathetic to the environmentalists’ goals. He is not, however sympathetic to the kind of cluelessness and panic that leads the Greens to propose solutions that have no chance of being enacted. To put it bluntly, no sane politician is going to support policies that will lead to a drastic reduction in their constituents standard of living. Not even the Chinese are going to do that, at least not since they’ve abandoned the “let’s kill people by the millions” brand of Communism in favor of a more humane “let’s get everybody rich and hope they don’t notice they have no freedom” type of Neo-Fascism. The Greens should listen to people like Mead.

Of course the problem is that too many people in the environmentalist movement are either political activists, more interested in imposing Socialism, than in saving the earth, or adolescents, who would rather feel good than take effective action.