The New Religion of Eco-Fundamentalism?

Does a zealous green movement threaten the well-being of capitalist societies?

December 1, 2006

Does a zealous green movement threaten the well-being of capitalist societies?

For all masters of rhetoric, we present a riddle this week: Can you cover the subjects of anti-Americanism, hostility to capitalism, green protectionism, anti-poverty, Islamic fundamentalism and blasphemy — and string them together in one 220-word argument against climate change? In this Globalist Document, we present how it is done. And at the end, we also reveal the estimable author’s identity.

How — or even whether — governments should work to control their countries’ greenhouse gas emissions has become one of the most contentious public policy issues of the day. They do not suffer a lack of advice.

Passionate environmentalists, including scientists, policymakers and well-organized advocacy groups, have proposed a long list of regulations and penalties. But what is frequently overlooked is that this new religion of “eco-fundamentalism” can present at least three dangers of its own:

1. Dangerous rhetoric

The first is that the governments of Europe, fired in many cases by anti-Americanism — never underestimate the extent to which distaste for President Bush has fuelled the anti-global warming movement — may get so carried away by their rhetoric as to impose measures which do serious harm to their economies.

2. Global salvationist movement

The second, and more fundamental, danger is that the global salvationist movement is profoundly hostile to capitalism and the market economy.

There are already increasing calls for green protectionism — for the imposition of trade restrictions against those countries which fail to agree to curb their carbon dioxide emissions.

Given the fact that the only way in which the world's poor will ever be able to escape from their poverty is by embracing capitalism and the global market economy, this is not good news.

3. Eco-fundamentalism

But the third danger is even more profound. Today, we are very conscious of the threat we face from the supreme intolerance of Islamic fundamentalism.

It could not be a worse time to abandon our own traditions of reason and tolerance, and to embrace instead the irrationality and intolerance of eco-fundamentalism, where reasoned questioning of its mantras is regarded as a form of blasphemy.

There is no greater threat to the people of this planet than the retreat from reason we see all around us today.

The author of these thoughts is Nigel Lawson, who served as British Chancellor of the Exchequer under Margaret Thatcher from 1983 to 1989. They are excerpted from his November 1, 2006, lecture at the Centre for Policy Studies, entitled The Economics and Politics of Climate Change: An Appeal to Reason. In 2005, Mr. Lawson co-signed a letter published in London’s Times newspaper that voiced skepticism about the science invoked by the environmental movement on climate change.