The environmental movement has also been astonishingly successful in co-opting education systems, and highly skillful at exploiting universal psychological tendencies to social conformity and deference to "authority." The suggestion that climate change is primarily a "moral" problem has been a masterstroke, of which the masterstroker is Al Gore.
Invoking morality is a powerful weapon in shutting off debate. It employs the so-called "psychology of taboo" to place some claims — for example, that climate change may be natural, beneficial, or practically unstoppable — beyond the pale. Those who promote such notions must therefore be evil, or psychologically unbalanced, or in the pay of powerful corporations.
Invoking the authority of science and the democratic value of "consensus" are again both designed to cut off rational analysis. This leads to the strange phenomenon of the discussion of policy alternatives becoming delinked from likely results, as with the responses to Mr. Baird’s announcement this week. Thus the finer points of carbon taxation and/or cap-and-trade systems are debated with little or no concern about the fact that they will achieve little or nothing in terms of changing the global climate.
It is clear that American public opinion is an outlyer in this great march towards green socialism. Often, climate alarmists ascribe this to America’s supposed disinterest in environmental issues. But this argument does not stand up when one looks at the facts. The US over the last 40 years has a much better environmental record than, say, the more pious Western Europe. Our water and air are cleaner, our forests continue to expand, and the only reason Europe doesn’t discuss problems with endangered species as much as the US is because they have already killed all theirs.
No, the real reason the US is an outlyer in opinion is that it does not have the culture of blind deference to public authority that Europe has, which has led Europeans into the hands of one authoritarian after another over the last centuries. In 1808 it was Napolean; in 1908 it was the Kaiser, and later Lenin and Hitler; in 2008 it is Al Gore.