I can’t fully understand the right-wing response to climate change. Reading a story in the Christian Science Monitor, which reported some remarks by fellows of the U.S. ‘think tank’ the Heartland Institute—part funded by the infamous Koch brothers of fossil fuel fame—you are asked to believe that climate change is a socialist plot designed to overthrow capitalism. ‘“It’s a climate delusion. It’s a climate collusion,” James Taylor, a senior fellow at the Heartland Institute, told an audience of around 250 gathered at the Trump International Hotel in Washington for the institute’s 13th International Conference on Climate Change in late July.’ (CSM here) George W. Bush once said the Chinese (those capitalist communists) were behind it. Trump now has the ‘Squad’ of four Democrat Congresswomen in his sights, led down the Green New Deal path by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC). They are the latest vanguard of socialism in the U.S., out to destroy the American way of life if you believe Trump and his fellow tax dodging billionaires.
But why should climate change policies (as opposed perhaps to climate change itself) pose a threat to capitalism? Renewable energy for example merely offers more opportunities for investment and indeed profit. The price of solar panels and wind turbines has dropped dramatically but consumers may be left wondering why their energy bills don’t reflect that. Part of the problem is that the capitalist approach never had to account for the external costs of its activities—the despoliation of nature or the consequences of inequality. These things don’t ordinarily appear on the balance sheet and so have been ignored—until now. But isn’t capitalism supposed to welcome ‘destructive creativity’ (or is that creative destruction, I’m not sure which)? Climate change suggests an abundance of new opportunities, of new industries, and simply, e.g. in carbon offsetting, of new ways of ‘adding value’ to existing, deleterious behaviour.
What the antediluvian capitalists of the Heartland Institute and fellow climate change deniers lack is the one thing I thought capitalists were supposed to possess in abundance: imagination. They are fixated on the past and their current revenue streams, as if these were fixed for all time. As if that was the history of capitalism! On the other hand, I’m sure they would welcome a good war. That’s a feature of history that has been around for all time.