How far would you go to mitigate the effects of climate change? If you’re like most people, the answer is, probably not far at all.
According to numerous surveys, the vast majority of Americans aren’t willing to make even modest sacrifices to address global warming. For example, a 2019 survey found 68 percent of Americans wouldn’t agree to pay just $10 extra per month in higher electric bills to “combat climate change.” In the same survey, only 57 percent said they would support paying $1 extra per month.
These views are remarkable for a variety of reasons, but perhaps the most striking is that they show there is a huge chasm between how most working families view the issue of climate change compared to ruling class types in government, corporate boardrooms, and academia.
While most Americans have repeatedly resisted calls for dramatic changes to society to battle climate change, elites have worked feverishly to push the world toward adopting a “net-zero” economy. In just the past two years, thousands of businesses, including many large corporations, have committed to phasing out products linked to fossil-fuel use.
Similarly, hundreds of banks and financial institutions in the Glasgow Alliance for Net-Zero — which, together, control more than $130 trillion in assets — have agreed to use their wealth and power to force other businesses and individuals to go what they call “green.”
Push for Radical Reforms
Most disturbing of all, however, a growing movement among some in academia and environmentalist groups pushes openly for radical and in some cases downright authoritarian reforms of Western societies. Perhaps the best illustration is a recent, disturbing paper published by the American Political Science Review and Cambridge University Press, one of the most influential and highly respected academic publishing houses in the world.
In the paper, titled “Political Legitimacy, Authoritarianism, and Climate Change,” professor Ross Mittiga argues that the “climate emergency may legitimate resorts to authoritarianism, both in managing the fallout from impending or unfolding climate catastrophes (i.e., emergency of effects) and in ensuring that such events are more limited in number and scope in the future (i.e., emergency of action).”
For Mittiga, the allegedly dire nature of climate change justifies rethinking democratic norms and Western understandings of individual rights. Mittiga believes freedom is the problem when it comes to mitigating climate change, and that “authoritarianism” — his word, not mine — is justified and perhaps even necessary to ensure humanity doesn’t die from a climate catastrophe.
Reducing Meat Consumption
What, exactly, does Mittiga have in mind?
“For one,” he wrote, “governments might impel citizens to make significant lifestyle changes. One pertinent example concerns curbing meat-heavy diets, common in the Global North, given the enormous carbon footprint of animal agriculture.”
Although banning meat consumption would ordinarily be “considered an unacceptably paternalistic affront to individual autonomy,” Mittiga admits, “there is by now extensive evidence that it is likely impossible to avoid catastrophic climate change without drastic reductions in animal agriculture.”
Limiting Democracy and Free Speech
Mittiga doesn’t stop with meat consumption, either. He also suggests “a censorship regime that prevents the proliferation of climate denialism or disinformation in public media,” as well as “relaxing property rights in order to nationalize, shutter, or repurpose certain companies.”
Even democracy itself is too dangerous for Mittiga, who says governments could “justifiably limit certain democratic institutions and processes to the extent these bear on the promulgation or implementation of environmental policy.”
For example, anyone running for office could be subjected to a “climate litmus-test,” and governments “may establish institutions capable of overturning previous democratic decisions (expressed, for example, in popular referenda or plebiscites) against the implementation of carbon taxes or other necessary climate policies.”
Extremism Becoming Normalized
It isn’t surprising that a radical environmentalist would make the sort of sweeping, dictatorial suggestions made by Mittiga in his article. Far-left blogs like Daily Kos have been full of this sort of nonsense for many years.
But it is incredibly disturbing that one of the world’s most important and influential academic presses, Cambridge University Press, and one of the nation’s most prestigious academic political science journals, the American Political Science Review, would agree to promote such an extremist view. It appears to be a clear sign that environmental extremism is becoming normalized — at least among influential academics.
That might not concern you today, but it should. Every socialistic, economically disastrous, and authoritarian idea now popular today was first normalized among academic elites. Further, Mittiga’s foundational argument — that responsible governments ought to engage in authoritarian or semi-authoritarian activities when a crisis becomes large enough to justify it — has essentially become standard operating procedure in our coronavirus-dominated world.
Just a few years ago, could you imagine a world in which Australia would force its citizens to live in government concentration camps? Or one where friends and family members would be arrested in Canada for doing nothing more than trying to hold a New Year’s Eve party with six people in attendance? Or one in which churchgoers in America’s Bible Belt would be fined $500 for attending a drive-in church service without permission from the government? And yet, these policies have now become the “new normal.”
With these examples in mind, is it really so hard to envision what truly horrific things government would do if enough people were to believe that the world is on the brink of an existential global warming catastrophe? Of course not. That is precisely why Mittiga’s article and the reckless decisions by Cambridge University Press and the American Political Science Review to publish it matter so much.
If Americans don’t swiftly condemn the normalization of authoritarianism, it will become our terrifying reality. Unlike with the coronavirus, for most of us, concerns over climate change will not fade in our lifetimes. Once climate authoritarianism is in place, it might never go away.