Saturday, December 26, 2009

It's Almost a Shame They Can't Get Along

Naomi Klein decries "limited" senses of possibility

As alluded to in some of the Hadley CRU emails the climate alarmists have scrambled so frantically to write off as "insignificant", sometimes the alarmists don't get along nearly as well as some would suspect.

Writing in an op/ed column for the Guardian, Natasha Chart reports on an encounter she had with arch-leftist Naomi Klein at the Copenhagen Conference, in which Klein objected to the very idea that they shouldn't use the word "reparations".

"You Americans want to hold us all to what's possible in DC, which is apparently nothing," Klein complained. "You have such a limited sense of the possible ...[and] ... give up before you even try."

Chart complains that it's the notion of reparations that have undermined US President Barack Obama's ability to act on the climate change crisis (as it were), and that a mere change in phrase would allow Obama to proceed with the kind of climate change program he really wants.

Klein, meanwhile, would reportedly have none of it.

Whether or not one disagrees with Chart, there is a golden notion at the heart of her article, one that individuals such as Klein seem to have gleefully thrown onto what they imagine is the ash heap of history.

That notion is that, when being urged to act on a global crisis -- the alleged scope of which Klein and company cannot make a decisive case for -- people have the right to consent. Accordingly, they also have the right to not consent.

Chart seems to understand the extent to which the notion of "reparations" will undermine the ability of climate alarmists to seek consent for these kinds of programmes.

Klein, meanwhile, seems to imagine that these kinds of programmes can be extracted from the world's wealthiest and most powerful countries without their consent. While Chart seems to see the optimal solution for climate change to be one wherein people are convinced of the threat and act on it voluntarily, Klein seems to see the optimal solution as one wherein people need not be convinced and are instead coerced.

Comparing the two, Chart certainly comes across as a preferable alternative to Klein's brand of demagoguery.

But there is one point on which Chart falls flat. She pretends that to anyone outside the United States, "reparation" is just another word. But for students of, say, German history, the fact of the matter would be very different indeed. The post-World War One reparations levied against Germany by the victorious powers -- the United States, Italy (after changing sides), and the remaining members of the Triple Entente -- were vindictive and vengeful acts, meant to punish Germany for its role in staring the war.

Moreover, the reparations could be judged to be part of a historical revisionist act. While the victorious powers attempted to make Germany carry the blame -- and pay the costs -- of the war, the First World War was one its participants had largely arrived at together.

The notion that two of the world's countries that not only lead the world in carbon emissions -- China, the world's number one emitter of greenhouse gases, and India, the world's number four emitter of greenhouse gases (and the emissions of each country are growing) -- would receive reparations under the programme Klein favours, the programme favoured by the far left would itself amount to a program of historical revision.

It's one of countless reasons why a programme designed to fight a global "crisis" that seems less and less like a crisis, conceptualized and promoted almost entirely by the global left, should be rejected outright.

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