Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Bill McKibben wants the world to wage war against Climate Change, by giving governments full wartime powers to seize private property and coerce businesses into supporting the effort, and with strict government control of the economy.
A WORLD at WAR
We’re under attack from climate change—and our only hope is to mobilize like we did in WWII.
BY BILL MCKIBBEN
August 15, 2016
In the North this summer, a devastating offensive is underway. Enemy forces have seized huge swaths of territory; with each passing week, another 22,000 square miles of Arctic ice disappears. Experts dispatched to the battlefield in July saw little cause for hope, especially since this siege is one of the oldest fronts in the war. “In 30 years, the area has shrunk approximately by half,” said a scientist who examined the onslaught. “There doesn’t seem anything able to stop this.”
World War III is well and truly underway. And we are losing.
To make the Stanford plan work, you would need to build a hell of a lot of factories to turn out thousands of acres of solar panels, and wind turbines the length of football fields, and millions and millions of electric cars and buses. But here again, experts have already begun to crunch the numbers. Tom Solomon, a retired engineer who oversaw the construction of one of the largest factories built in recent years—Intel’s mammoth Rio Rancho semiconductor plant in New Mexico—took Jacobson’s research and calculated how much clean energy America would need to produce by 2050 to completely replace fossil fuels. The answer: 6,448 gigawatts.
“It was public capital that built most of the stuff, not Wall Street,” says Wilson. “And at the top level of logistics and supply-chain management, the military was the boss. They placed the contracts, they moved the stuff around.” The feds acted aggressively—they would cancel contracts as war needs changed, tossing factories full of people abruptly out of work. If firms refused to take direction, FDR ordered many of them seized. Though companies made money, there was little in the way of profiteering—bad memories from World War I, Wilson says, led to “robust profit controls,” which were mostly accepted by America’s industrial tycoons. In many cases, federal authorities purposely set up competition between public operations and private factories: The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard built submarines, but so did Electric Boat of Groton, Connecticut. “They were both quite impressive and productive,” Wilson says.
“Usually, when people from different worlds are dealing with each other, they get into conflicts and then dig in their heels deeper,” Berk says. “But because the stakes are so high and it’s moving so fast, no one doubts that if you don’t get a handle on this battle in the Atlantic, then the immediate consequences will be really grave. So they’re willing to do this kind of pragmatic trial and error. They start to see that ‘I can’t dig in my heels–I need this other person to learn from.’” In the face of a common enemy, Americans worked together in a way they never had before.
The McKibben post is well worth reading in full, amongst other things it contains interesting reflections about the climate policies of current US presidential candidates.
Leaving aside the question of whether renewables can replace fossil fuels (according to top Google engineers, they can’t), think about what a grim world McKibben wants to create.
The government would have unconstrained power to seize private property, and direct business people to work for the government for whatever “profit” the government decided was fair, on pain of having their assets forcibly removed and handed to someone else.
McKibben handily skirts around how he would deal with non business people, political opponents who object to or obstruct his war on climate, but it seems pretty obvious what would happen, if wartime history is any guide. A government willing to seize property and treat productive people as slaves simply wouldn’t tolerate opposition. At the very least public opposition to government policy would lead to long term internment – incarceration without due process.
Worst of all, McKibben’s war would never end. McKibben actually laments that control of the economy was handed back to private individuals after WW2.
That attitude quickly reset after the war, of course; solidarity gave way to the biggest boom in personal consumption the world had ever seen, as car-packed suburbs sprawled from every city and women were retired to the kitchen. Business, eager to redeem its isolationist image and shake off New Deal restrictions, sold itself as the hero of the war effort, patriotic industrialists who had overcome mountains of government red tape to get the job done. And the modest “operations researchers,” who had entered and learned from the real world when they managed radar development during the war, retreated to their ivory towers and became much grander “systems analysts” once the conflict ended. Robert McNamara, a former Ford executive, brought an entire wing of the Rand Corporation to the Defense Department during the Kennedy administration, where the think-tank experts promptly privatized most of the government shipyards and plane factories, and used their out-of-touch computer models to screw up government programs like Model Cities, the ambitious attempt at urban rehabilitation during the War on Poverty. “The systems analysts completely took over,” Berk says, “and the program largely failed for that reason.”
Read more: Same link as above
If I had written a post anywhere near as outrageous as McKibben’s jingoistic demand for a war on climate, his demand for wholesale surrender of liberty and property rights to government, I would be called a fascist. But because McKibben is a green, he gets a free pass from mainstream media to demand the unthinkable.