Darkness and Light in Environmental Politics

Darkness and Light in Environmental Politics

I spent way too much time this morning and early afternoon re-reading Eric Voegelin and reading about Eric Voegelin, a byproduct of the fact that nearly every story in my Twitter/X timeline over the past several days has reminded me that the Gnostic revolution inarguably remains the dominant theme in Western politics.  The abandonment of the individual and the beautiful in favor of the collective and its pragmatic despondency is everywhere and affects everything.  It is the driver of our social, political, and economic lives.

Lucky for you, however, the piece I intend to write on that topic (or, heaven forbid, pieces) could not be written in the scant amount of time I left myself today.  I will instead address a related story prompted by the hilarious juxtaposition of tweets in said timeline.

First up (courtesy of a retweet by the eagle-eyed Andrew Stuttaford) was a reminder from climate-scientist-heretic Bjorn Lomborg that all of the evidence shows that people today are far less likely to die from climate-related events than they were at any time in the past.  Greta Thunberg – when she’s not out getting herself arrested for protesting the idea that Jews should be allowed to live and thrive like any other people – is incessantly telling us that we’re all doomed, that our economic progress has sealed our hellish fates at the hands of a ticked-off Mother Nature.  As Lomborg demonstrates, however, this is unadulterated nonsense:

Arguments for devastation typically claim that extreme weather (like droughts, floods, wildfires, and hurricanes) is already worsening because of climate change. This is mostly misleading and inconsistent with the IPCC literature. For instance, the IPCC finds no trend for global hurricane frequency and has low confidence in attribution of changes to human activity, while the US has not seen an increase in landfalling hurricanes since 1900. Global death risk from extreme weather has declined 99% over 100 years and global costs have declined 26% over the last 28 years.

Arguments for devastation typically ignore adaptation, which will reduce vulnerability dramatically. While climate research suggests that fewer but stronger future hurricanes will increase damages, this effect will be countered by richer and more resilient societies. Global cost of hurricanes will likely decline from 0.04% of GDP today to 0.02% in 2100.

Climate-economic research shows that the total cost from untreated climate change is negative but moderate, likely equivalent to a 3.6% reduction in total GDP.

Climate policies also have costs that often vastly outweigh their climate benefits. The Paris Agreement, if fully implemented, will cost $819–$1,890 billion per year in 2030, yet will reduce emissions by just 1% of what is needed to limit average global temperature rise to 1.5°C. Each dollar spent on Paris will likely produce climate benefits worth 11¢.

In other words, even if one believes in the existence of a climate “crisis” – and Lomborg, admittedly, does – it is largely inarguable that the economic backwardness and austerity promoted by the environmental lobby will do far more harm than good to humanity.  Of course, the last two words there are the key to understanding why the greens and their allies hate Lomborg so virulently.  He believes that science should be harnessed to improve the lives and well-being of people.  They, by contrast, find people to be irritants, parasites whose presence merely disturbs and unsettles the great and powerful Gaia.  He cares about “saving” the earth for people.  They believe in saving the earth from people.

It is all the more ironic that the next tweet in my feed this morning was this video from yesterday.  It shows a large group of protesters, led by the execrable Bill McKibben and one of the environmental groups he founded, Third Act.  They’re outside the Citibank headquarters in New York, holding “a funeral procession…to mourn of all of those killed due to the climate crisis.”  The catch, of course, is that nobody has been “killed due to the climate crisis.”  And to reiterate, even if one believes that such a crisis exists, as Lomborg shows, the fossil-fuel-driven capitalism of the last century has dramatically reduced deaths from climate-related events to almost zero.  These people are holding a funeral procession for no one.  Indeed, if they actually cared about people and their interactions with the climate, they should be celebrating the lives saved from the climate.

But they don’t care.

It’s telling that the organization responsible for the protests – Third Act – describes itself as “elders working together to save the planet.”  That usage of the term “elder” is not meant to denote old people, but old and wise people.  They use it in the religious sense – which is appropriate, given that their entire worldview, as well as the symbolism at this specific protest, are religious in nature.  For all their hooting and hollering about “following the science” and listening to the “scientific community,” the green movement in general and the climate crisis actors specifically are aggressively religious.  If they were otherwise; if they were driven by science more than faith, then they would sound more like Lomborg and less like…well…lunatics.

For most of the last century, the fate of the West was driven by quasi-religious, Millenarian/Gnostic movements that were driven either by nationalism or class consciousness.  Today, the greatest threat to our civilization is the Gnosticism of the environment, the belief that humanity itself is part of the darkness that must be purged from the world in order to restore the light of nature and “planetary balance.”  It’s much more noble and less threatening sounding than “blood and soil,” but it’s no less anti-Western and proto-totalitarian.


Stephen Soukup
Stephen Soukup
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Steve Soukup is the Vice President and Publisher of The Political Forum, an “independent research provider” that delivers research and consulting services to the institutional investment community, with an emphasis on economic, social, political, and geopolitical events that are likely to have an impact on the financial markets in the United States and abroad.