What’s behind the cult of “global warming”? We’ve been hearing about it for years on television, in magazines, from politicians, and from certain corporate entities: Mankind is destroying the earth, and the only solution is to “go green.” Unless we radically change our behavior, the oceans will rise, catastrophe will ensue, and that will be the end of life as we know it.
Now, I’m no scientist, but I’m old enough to remember “global cooling,” an idea that was popular in the 1970’s. A 1975 Newsweek story, “The Cooling World,” reported “ominous signs that the Earth’s weather patterns have begun to change,” highlighting “a drop of half a degree [Fahrenheit] in average ground temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere between 1945 and 1968.” The article trumpeted the “truth” of the moment: “The evidence in support of these predictions [of global cooling] has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it.” Only massive government intervention could head off disaster: “The longer the planners (politicians) delay, the more difficult will they find it to cope with climatic change once the results become grim reality.”
Three decades later, Newsweek published a “correction,” admitting it had been “spectacularly wrong”—but this was no reason to take their future weather predictions with a very large grain of salt, because “in fact, the story wasn’t ‘wrong’ in the journalistic sense of ‘inaccurate.’” After all, Newsweek was just uncritically regurgitating the unfounded alarmism of some scientists.
Today, if you so much as look cross-eyed at the “official” party line, you’re deemed a “denialist”—a bit of linguistic abuse that underscores how desperate these people are to crush any and all opposition to their agenda. If you don’t accept their “science”—and plenty of reputable scientists don’t—you’re a moral monster on a par with a holocaust denier.
What accounts for this intensity? Why did the world’s leaders gather in Copenhagen recently and solemnly pledge to take unspecified “action” to fight this latest augur of worldwide doom?
Here in the United States, there’s one inflexible principle: When in doubt, follow the money. And the money trail leads to . . . Goldman Sachs, the Obama administration’s favorite investment-banking house and the chief beneficiary of the economic “reforms” and bank bailouts that have swelled Wall Street’s coffers and provoked the biggest and most unedifying spectacle of public piggery since the subprime mortgage boom.
The machinery of the “cap-and-trade” scam is a simple and fail-safe way for Goldman Sachs to create an entire market based on a government mandate. As Matt Taibbi pointed out in Rolling Stone, “Goldman won’t even have to rig the game. It will be rigged in advance.” With limits on the amount of pollution a given company can emit, it will be possible for it to buy “carbon credits” from other outfits that haven’t used up their government-mandated allotments. The “cap” on emissions will be constantly lowered, which means that these carbon credits will become scarcer—and more valuable—as time goes by.
The market for carbon credits is conservatively estimated at a trillion dollars, all made possible by government regulation of the sort one might expect the private sector to resist. But not Goldman Sachs, which has been in the vanguard of calling for radical regulation. When former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson was head of the firm, he took a personal interest in writing the bank’s environmentalist manifesto, arguing that “voluntary action alone cannot solve the climate-change problem.” Voluntary action is something Goldman Sachs cannot depend on to ensure its gargantuan profit margins, especially not in the age of crony “capitalism.” As Taibbi trenchantly puts it, the cap-and-trade scam
is really just a carbon tax structured so that private interests collect the revenues. Instead of simply imposing a fixed government levy on carbon pollution and forcing unclean energy producers to pay for the mess they make, cap-and-trade will allow a small tribe of greedy-as-hell Wall Street swine to turn yet another commodities market into a private tax-collection scheme.
The bank bailout enriched them beyond the dreams of avarice, but that wasn’t enough for Goldman Sachs. They want to replace the imploded derivatives market, and the “credit swap” and sub-prime scams, with a new rip-off. “Go green,” they exhort us—because it’s the color of money.
This article first appeared in the February 2010 issue of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture.