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Rupert Darwall discussed his new book, Green Tyranny: Exposing the Totalitarian Roots of the Climate Industrial Complex, with our own Ben Weingarten. Watch their interview below along with a full transcript of their discussion, slightly modified for clarity.
Ben Weingarten: Rupert, in Green Tyranny you write “Virtually all the themes of the modern environmental movement are pre-figured” in the Nazi’s support of wind power in the 1930s. Explain this.
Rupert Darwall: If you look at what the Nazis were doing in the 1930s, in their environmental policies, virtually every theme you see in the modern environmental movement, the Nazis were doing. It happens to be historical fact that the Nazis were the first political party in the world to have a wind power program. It also happens to be a fact that they were against meat eating, and they considered…it…terribly wasteful that so much grain went to feed livestock rather than to make bread. It’s also the case that they had the equivalent of fuel economy rules because they had the most expensive gasoline in Europe and so they basically had very few people driving cars…I think actually the most extraordinary thing that I came across was this quote from Adolf Hitler where he told an aide once, “I’m not interested in politics. I’m interested in changing people’s lifestyles.” Well, that could be…That’s extraordinarily contemporary. That is what the modern environmental movement is all about. It’s about changing people’s lifestyles.
Ben Weingarten: And the subtitle of your book is “Exposing the Totalitarian Roots of the Climate Industrial Complex.” You have Nazi practices that are focused on environmentalism, and you explore how the socialists have thrown in over time with those former Nazis. Explain the link between Nazism and Communism, and the trajectory from that [initial] union to today’s climate movement.
Rupert Darwall: It’s really embedded in German history, in post-war German history because in the first 30 years after 1945, Germany…West Germany, that is, was a model Western democracy. There’s a left wing writer I quote in the book who complains that the SPD (Social Democratic Party of Germany), the left of center party, the equivalent of the Democrats, gave up the class war and embraced the American way of life. And Germany was like “America embedded in Europe.” That began to change in the 1970s. There is no other country in Western Europe and America that had such an influx of far left radicals — the New Left, the Frankfurt school — rising to power through the 1980s and 1990s. And what is very significant is how the New Left, these extremist radicals, embraced the environmental positions of the Nazis.
Global warming is a pretext for a radical environmental agenda. It is not the primary cause that they’re seeking
Ben Weingarten: Explain the twisted and perverse logic that takes us from anti-capitalism to environmentalism. Where do those views intersect?
Rupert Darwall: Well Ben you absolutely put your finger on it…anti-capitalism is the uniting thing, and anti-freedom of the individual. And whether you care to call it extreme left or extreme right, those are the things that unite those ideologies. Now with…if you like, the extreme right, the basic categories are to do with biology and race. And with the extreme left, it used to be class. But what you had is the extreme left give up on the working class, when the working class didn’t revolt as Marx and Engels predicted. They essentially gave up on rationality, and they gave up on the working class, and they said, “The working class have been bewitched by consumerism,” and so forth. And so they therefore bought into the irrational politics of what had been, if you like, the far right. So that’s another kind of way that the far left twisted itself into…the anti-rational, the nihilistic positions of the Nazis.
Ben Weingarten: And it’s fascinating. In your book, you walk through various ideologies and show them building a coalition around several factors, anti-capitalism in and of itself…environmentalism and the anti-war movement as well. And yet when we talk about climate change, we’re theoretically talking about science, not political ideology. Isn’t that a critical point in and of itself?
Rupert Darwall: The thing to understand and the thing I learned, in fact, in writing this book, is you have to look at what people actually do rather than what they say. With climate change, we are meant to have wind and solar. But when Germans are given a choice…whether they want to cut carbon emissions, or whether they want to close down nuclear power, they choose to close down nuclear power. And of all the countries in Western Europe, Germany has had this tradition of being most hostile to nuclear power. The peace movement of the 1970s actually arose from…an anti-nuclear power — civil nuclear power — protest. And it very quickly morphed into anti – when Reagan [was elected] and [spurred] the arms build-up and so forth, the Pershing and the cruise missiles – it turned from anti-civil nuclear power to anti-the Western arms build-up in response to the Soviet SS-20s [missiles]. So all these things come together. But as I put it in the book, global warming is a pretext for a radical environmental agenda. It is not the primary cause that they’re seeking…You have to look for that elsewhere.
Ben Weingarten: And you write, and this is so pertinent, “The greening of Europe was the price the West paid for winning the Cold War.” Would it be fair to say that the environmentalist movement today is in effect another phase of the Cold War?
Rupert Darwall: West Germany was the linchpin of the Atlantic Alliance in Europe. The Kremlin decided to put in those SS-20s and it threatened to cut the Atlantic Alliance in two, because these missiles could hit Europe but they couldn’t hit the United States. So there was a big asymmetry. And it was Helmut Schmidt, the SPD West German leader, who first raised the concern about this when he said this threatens the future of the Atlantic Alliance, [and] NATO must rebalance. And so you had a German leader saying we need to put these medium range nuclear missiles into West Germany. Now that provoked a tremendous backlash in West Germany which the far left exploited, and which the Soviet Union exploited. And it led to…It really completely destabilized German politics. It took it to the left. The SPD have really never recovered from that. It led to the rise of The Greens, and The Greens, founded in 1980, very quickly became the peace movement. And a huge proportion of people in the peace movement were also greens. So all these strands came together.
Now the interesting thing is…the Cold War is won at the end of the 1980s. Who are the people who came out on top? It was people like The Greens. And there’s the famous phrase…about the “long march through the institutions.” That is what they did, and they ended up in 1998, with the first “red-green” coalition in Berlin. They took over all the institutions, and then they took over the federal government in the red-green coalition.
Ben Weingarten: Now the German influence is critical to your book, but you also emphasize the influence of Sweden. We…don’t traditionally think of Sweden as a dominant power, yet you emphasize that they are critical when it comes to environmentalism, and you also focus on the figure and impact, in particular, of Olof Palme. Walk us through Sweden’s “soft power” when it comes to the environment.
Rupert Darwall: Yeah, when we talk about exposing the totalitarian roots of this [the “climate industrial complex”], the German, the Nazi one, if you like, explains itself. What about Sweden? Is Sweden totalitarian? Well, it’s a form of soft totalitarianism [in Sweden]. They’ve had a social democratic government. It was the longest one-party rule from about the 1920s into the 1970s, so [it had an] extraordinary, extraordinary impact on Sweden. This is the party that created modern Sweden. The Swedish Social Democrats can claim direct lineal descent from Marx and Engels. And they believe in social engineering. They have socially engineered modern Sweden, and they used tools of social control to change the way people think, to change the way people behave. There’s a quote in the book from Olof Palme when he was education minister saying, “We don’t teach people individuality, we teach them to be members of a group.” And then there’s an education bureaucrat who says, “We believe in the freedom to give up freedom.” So this is…It’s not like the regimes of the former Eastern Bloc but it’s a very…It’s I think rightly called a soft totalitarian regime.
Now you…[mention] the impact of Sweden on environmental politics…[it is] enormously underestimated. This country of 12 million people, it kicked off the modern environmental [movement], at a global level — not Rachel Carson and Earth Day, but the global politics of the environment was started by Sweden. They called for the first UN Environment Conference in 1972 in Stockholm, which started the string of UN climate conferences going through Rio, Kyoto, Paris and so forth. They also put acid rain on the world. They launched the war on coal…First of all with acid rain, they wanted to have a huge nuclear power program, and they wanted to raise the specter of coals. If you don’t have nukes you have to have coal, and coal is dirty and it destroys the forests and lakes. And by the way, it causes climate change. And so, Sweden is the first country to talk about climate change. Olof Palme was talking about climate change in 1974, in November 1974. That’s when Al Gore was still at law school. This way predates anyone else on climate change.
Ben Weingarten: You characterize the acid rain movement as being the dry run in effect for today’s global warming and climate change movement. What are the implications of the history of acid rain?
Rupert Darwall: The acid rain history is not well known and it needs to be told. It is a genuine scientific scandal. There are very interesting parallels with global warming. Acid rain and global warming were both used by the Swedes for the war on coal. They both involved many of the same people. The first chair of the IPCC happened to…He was a Swede, he was close to Olof Palme and he wrote the first government report on acid rain. The national scientific academies in North America and in Western Europe all said, “The science of acid rain is more certain than any other form of…More certain than climate change.” And the interesting thing is it turned out to be wrong…Soils and forests and lakes and streams weren’t being acidified by acid rain caused by power station emissions, it was to do with changes in land use. So if you take the Adirondacks for example, what had happened there was that in the late 19th century, early 20th century, the lumber industry came along. It cut a lot of trees. It burned the stumps. And that changed the soil from being a very acidic soil where the lakes were acidified. It changed them. It reduced the acidity. So you had game fish, you had salmon. So when [President William] McKinley was assassinated, Theodore Roosevelt was actually on a fishing holiday up there. You could catch fish.
Then the conservationists came and said, “You gotta leave those trees.” The soil re-acidified. The actual science was about acidification being caused by soil creation and changes in land use. Now the truth of this became known just as the Clean Air Act Amendments were being passed by the Congress in the U.S. And what’s really interesting, here’s the real scandal, is the science was known to be untrue by the EPA, as these anti-acid rain laws were being passed and the EPA suppressed the science. They then, quite disgracefully, blackened the name of the leading scientist who developed this critique. They accused him of not being a proper scientist. They backed down when he threatened to libel them, said he’d take them to court. They FedExed an apology to him. They then further lied when they said, “Well actually, he might have got the science wrong, but we disagreed with his conclusions, that was wrong.” In private, they actually agreed with his conclusions and yet to this day you go to the EPA website and they say acid rain causes lakes to acidify.
Olof Palme was talking about climate change in 1974, in November 1974. That's when Al Gore was still at law school.
Ben Weingarten: Is climate change a fraud?
Rupert Darwall: I wouldn’t use the word fraud. What my criticism is, is two-fold. First of all, it was politicized right from the word “go,” as is very clear from the book. Global warming was used — it was kind of created. The science of it was unearthed for political reasons. Secondly is the way that the science is being presented. And the science is being presented in a systematically biased way. There is not criticism of the uncertainties, of the assumptions, of leaps of faith involved. So one’s getting a very one-sided view of the science, and that is bad science. The lack of openness to criticism, the fact that people who question the things, the forecasts and so forth, are delegitimized and told that they’re climate deniers is fundamentally anti-scientific. So I wouldn’t use the word fraud. My criticisms would be, first of all, it has always been political. It has been developed with a political purpose. And secondly, is the way that the science is being presented. And in the chapters on the creation of the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change], that is very clear, that they had to…[to achieve] the policies they wanted, [climate change-backing politicians] needed to show that there’ll be a catastrophe, what they call a “transformation,” some kind of ecological transformation, to justify emissions cuts. So they back-engineered from that conclusion to the science, and so forth.
The real scandal, is the science was known to be untrue by the EPA, as these anti-acid rain laws were being passed and the EPA suppressed the science. They then, quite disgracefully, blackened the name of the leading scientist who developed this critique.
Ben Weingarten: Now the theory of climate change as it’s popularly held, goes something like this: The climate is changing. We as human beings are contributing to this change, potentially with temperatures rising. And we have to curb that activity in order to counter all of these potentially catastrophic effects,” ultimately culminating in the mass redistribution of wealth from the First World to the rest of the world. How did that come to be the prevailing opinion held by the elites in academia, pop culture, and media? And do you attribute it to the efforts of the “climate industrial complex” as you term it?
Rupert Darwall: When we’re talking about the climate industrial complex…first of all you’re talking about multi-billion [dollar] American foundations. We’re talking about the various Rockefeller funds, you’re talking about Pew, MacArthur. These huge, huge foundations who’ve been funding some of this stuff really since, well, the Rockefeller Foundation’s been funding [since] the [influx of the] Frankfurt School. When the Frankfurt School, these far-leftist, post-Marxist academics from Germany fled Nazi Germany, they came to America. Part of their time here was financed by these foundations. Their return was financed by one of the Rockefeller Foundations. They’ve been in this game for a very long time, and in addition to which, you then have all the climate scientists and the billions of dollars of climate funding research. They depend on that stream. They’ve got to keep this going to keep the grants coming. And then you’ve got the wind and solar [movements]. And that’s not billions, that’s hundreds of billions [of dollars supporting the relevant organizations]. It’s enormous.
And then out in front of those, you’ve got what I call the “shock troops” of the climate industrial complex: The NGOs. [These include] [n]ot just the people at the World Resources Institute, if you like — they’re the more respectable kind of intellectual end of it — but you’ve got the people who go out there, like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, the Bill McKibbens of this world. And again, when you look where they get their money, it comes a lot from these large foundations, West Coast foundations. And it comes from Silicon Valley billionaires. So we are talking about something that is very large, very powerful and extremely well financed.
Ben Weingarten: This climate industrial complex has pushed green energy policies throughout Europe. What’s been the impact?
Rupert Darwall: The actual impact has been a huge increase in energy costs. And there’s a chart in [the book]…which I call…the “Renewable Hockey Stick” because it shows that once you go up above a certain level basically…energy costs just go up and up and up. So if you’re looking at the Germans and Danes, they’re paying around 30 euro cents, which is more or less the same as U.S. cents per kilowatt hour. Whereas in the U.S., you’re paying around 10 to 12 U.S. cents per kilowatt hour. When the German green energy minister said that they were going to have the energy vendor, the transition to wind and solar, he said it would cost no more than the equivalent of a scoop of ice cream on your monthly electricity bill. That scoop of ice cream has turned out to cost 1 trillion euros to the 2030s. It is the most expensive scoop of ice cream you’ll ever see.
The science is being presented in a systematically biased way. There is not criticism of the uncertainties, of the assumptions, of leaps of faith involved...The lack of openness to criticism, the fact that people who question the things, the forecasts and so forth, are delegitimized and told that they’re climate deniers is fundamentally anti-scientific.
Ben Weingarten: Another expensive scoop of ice cream comes in the form of the Paris climate accord. You write that the argument over the accord is a “fight for America’s soul.” Explain what you mean by that.
Rupert Darwall: Yeah. It is for two reasons. The first reason is that to get the Paris agreement done and to have it implemented required Barack Obama essentially to subvert the spirit of the United States Constitution. The Paris Agreement is a treaty which didn’t go to the senate, so it was constructed in a way so ostensibly it didn’t need to go to the senate. Similarly, the Clean Power Plan was constructed by the EPA. It didn’t touch either house of congress. Whereas when they were dealing with acid rain, the Clean Air Act Amendments, they passed through both houses of congress. So something like acid rain was dealt with properly, in a legislative way, whereas with carbon dioxide and global warming — which is economically a much much bigger deal — congress was ignored. That’s the first thing.
But the second thing is to do with the way the climate industrial complex behaves, and how they seek to win the argument, and that is to close down debate; it is to delegitimize dissent; it is to cull people into silence. And the penultimate chapter in the book is called, “The Spiral of Silence,” which is this notion that when people don’t hear arguments in the public square, they cease making those arguments themselves. They stop even knowing what they believe…So you can suppress debate, you can suppress the arguments, not by having an argument but just making sure you don’t have an argument. And I think that…ultimately the United States Constitution depends on the First Amendment, the right to free speech, but that’s a formality. The real thing is the essence of being able to speak freely, and that is what is at risk.
And I think there’s a further dimension to it, in the way I see this is, that this is about trying to make America more like Europe. Europe is a continent of lassitude. It’s a continent in decline. It’s a continent where we believe energy needs to be rationed, we need to preserve things. America is about dynamism, it’s about a better future, and that better future — there’s nothing that shows that better future than the fracking revolution. It is the most extraordinary thing to have happened in energy for decades because we were told the oil was running out, we’d reached “peak oil,” production was going to diminish. This oil was always there, but until fracking, horizontal fracturing came along, it couldn’t be commercial. And look what’s happened, it has transformed…There is energy abundance. And America at its best is a country of abundance. And what the environmentalists are saying is, “No you can’t have it. You have to leave it in the ground. You have to be poor. Your tomorrows will be less rich than your todays.” That to me is fundamentally anti-American.
Ultimately the United States Constitution depends on the First Amendment, the right to free speech, but that's a formality. The real thing is the essence of being able to speak freely, and that is what is at risk.
Ben Weingarten: Relating to that point is the deeply held American belief in and tradition of free market capitalism as essential to leveraging finite resources and creating abundance out of them. And there’s a quote in your book that I’d like you to elaborate on that ties into this point. You write, “Climate change is ethics for the wealthy: It legitimizes great accumulations of wealth. Pledging to combat it immunizes climate-friendly corporate leaders and billionaires from being targeted as members of the top one-tenth of the top one percent. This signifies a profound shift in the nature and morality of capitalism.” Elaborate on that for us?
Rupert Darwall: Yeah. To take the last point, Adam Smith said it isn’t through the charity of the baker or whatever, the [production of] bread, it’s because of their self-interest — that in a capitalist market society people do things for each other, not out of, because of good feelings, but because it’s in their self-interest to do it. When you have capitalists saying, “I’m gonna do something that even if it costs me,” that raises a question mark. Why are the Silicon Valley Billionaires behind green energy when we know green energy costs a lot? Well, they’re fabulously rich, aren’t they? They are unbelievably rich and they are incredibly powerful. How to defend that wealth from predators? Well you’re going to say, “We’re in the business of saving the planet. We’re fighting these evil capitalists who are destroying the planet, making the air you and your grandchildren are gonna breathe…We fight these people. We’re on the side of good and saving the planet.” I think a big part of the motivation is simply preservation of their wealth and preservation of the power they’ve accreted.
Ben Weingarten: When faced with the political situation in which we find ourselves today, where there’s a prevailing ethos, again, among the elites and academia, in government and culture, on climate change, and they’re perpetuating and propagating that perspective perpetually, what are the Achilles heels that can be targeted to compete in this battle of ideas?
Rupert Darwall: Well, the big cost to that and the parties of the left, is the parties of the left were meant to be the champions of working people. They were meant to say, “The interests of the working class…We represent the interests of working people. They’re the interest we’re gonna uphold.” What has actually happened is they’ve sold out to the green billionaires. The green billionaires have bought the Democratic Party. There’s a big divergence between where the money is, where the leadership is, where the politicians are, where the elites are, and the Democrats’ base. And that is the big opportunity. That’s the big political opportunity. The economic one is simply, this stuff is very expensive. Renewables are incredibly expensive. Do people want to have to pay more for electricity or less? Clearly, they want to pay less.
Any political party…worth its name can go after this. The left is there sitting, waiting to be absolutely destroyed because they’ve sold themselves out to environmentalists who do not have the interests of working people at heart. In fact, they actually despise working people. They despise their taste, they despise their desire for a better life, they despise their desire for consumption.
The green billionaires have bought the Democratic Party. There's a big divergence between where the money is, where the leadership is, where the politicians are, where the elites are, and the Democrats’ base. And that is the big opportunity.