Jock’s Christmas Climate Heresy?

I'm cold. There's no doubt about it, it is cold. But that's no good reason to deny what seemingly everyone else is saying – that it's getting warmer, and dangerously so – is it? But the fact is, I'm not a climate scientist; I suspect if I were I would probably be little the wiser. But since I'm not, I do not have the evidence to say whether they are right or wrong on global warming: is it different this time from previous warming or cooling events; if it is, is it man-made; can we stop it; should we stop it; what happens if we don't. Clearly a few scientists in one of the world's newest sciences has made the case, and we're all, or nearly all at least, listening, and scared. And yes, we want to do something about it, well, lots of us anyway.

However, watching the very few snippets of news coverage from Copenhagen I have seen just makes me realise how wrong headed all this is. It's just like that G8 lot that turns my stomach so. Look, if such a great proportion of people have voted to elect people around the world on the basis of their promises to do something about climate change, if global warming and the environment more generally are so high on peoples' priorities, why on earth, in the name of all that is holy, do they think politicians and state, or supra-state, action is going to do anything about it.

Look, it is the state that has got us into this problem of anthropogenic global warming, if that's really what is going on. As any good mutualist will tell you, exploitation is only possible when the owners of capital and the appropriators of natural scarce commodities harness the power of the state in the defence of their interests. That goes for the exploitation of labour, just as much as the ability to externalise costs.

Everyone moans that libertarianism scarcely has anything to say about the environment. and it often seems that way, and even when it does its primary response is to talk about privatising the "commons" so that owners have a clear interest and a clear responsibility for the bits of it they use and if they abuse that in such a way as affects others' parts of it they can be held accountable. But I've now realised that that answer is merely touching on the symptoms, not the problem itself. And the problem is that it is the state that has created the very circumstances in which not only does such exploitation thrive, but that it is actually necessary just for economic actors to be able to deal with the economic disaster that is state "management" of macro-economic factors.

It is the state that fails, time and time again, to maintain a stable currency, resulting in great tsunamis of inflation against which producers have to swim just to stand still. It is the state that takes so much of its constituent economic actors' production that they have to double, literally, their production in order to turn an ordinary profit. And it is states that have given away huge swathes of "the commons" for virtually nothing, at the behest of the corporations who can best afford to persuade them to do so, without those corporations having to put a real value on those goods and account for them properly.

And all you folk think that states, even states working together – or herding cats as it is known – can put an end to all the environmentally destructive consequences of their previous folly? Utter codswallop. States can no more switch off the economic treadmill they have created and on which we must all run ever faster, unsustainably faster, than their leaderships appear to understand how it got started – for it is that treadmill that powers those same states, and their leaderships.

The power we need to learn to stop using, stop wasting, is that state power, which is so dependent on unsustainable economic activity to keep itself alive. It is not too late: people may claim that we have "reached the tipping point" and that things are now moving so fast that even if the real answer was once more "human scale production" and such mutualist niceties that would have meant we would have never got so far towards destroying the planet it's gone so far we need to reverse it, not merely slow down. But it's none of the sort – pull the plug on all the state protection of capital and we'd very quickly be able to shift our productive and innovative capacities into things other than the "thneeds" that economies (especially developing ones but certainly not exclusively) chuck out in unsustainable quantities because they are an easy way to maintain one's place on the treadmill.

No, I'm not a "climate change denier" – I just…don't…know. But what I am is deeply sceptical of "movements" demanding we all have to do this or that, especially when the thinly veiled, and at times over the last week or so not so veiled as the world-wide movement has become more and more shrill in its demands, calls are for some kind of world government action. If we, as individuals, really put this issue right there at the top of our concerns, then we, as individuals, will find ways, spontaneously, in a genuinely free market, one in which the actors cannot exploit either labour or nature because there can be no government to assist them in that, to respond to our demands.

And what I am sure about is that more state action is not the answer. It is that which got us to this point, and it is not that which will get us out of it, even if they can agree on anything meaningful. "Light Greens" know all this – inherently anarchist of the "human scale technology" school, brothers and sisters of mutualism and sensible liberal economics. But we are in the grip of the "Dark Greens" who appear to be nothing of the kind – a bunch of authoritarian crypto-communists who crave nothing more than some kind of world power pushing their message and the "initiatives" we will have to take to respond to that message. Let us not forget that it was and indeed is the most state controlled economies whose labour was forcibly cheap that belched out commons destroying pollution in unmatched quantities whilst doing absolutely nothing for the overall wealth of their citizens. Do we want to return to that sort of poverty – I suspect some would like us to, though they won't say so, because they know the prospect of their Green Dark Age is not one that will win them favours. They must not be given the opportunity to force us to do so.

All the emails, all the messages I've received over the last month, from demanding I get involved in something called "The Wave" to the endless e-mails from Avaaz and their likes claiming that our incompetent fool of a Prime Minister asked them to organise a world wide demo to show support for their negotiating position, have but created a movement feeding the ego-mania of a few individuals who see opportunities for themselves in global mandated action. They could have been used to create genuine democracy, operating through free markets, to create demand for the sort of innovations we will need if this "crisis" if that is what it is, is to be solved.

About the Author