Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Save The Planet, Suspend Democracy

Most of the buzz generated by this Guardian piece about climate alarmist James Lovelock focused on his view that humans are too stupid to prevent the predicted catastrophe. But putting down humanity is nothing new in the increasingly-misanthropic climate clique. More alarming is what Lovelock had to say about the obstacle democracy poses to mounting an effective response -- and his suggested that we might have to put democracy "on hold" in order to deal with the alleged crisis.

"I don't think we're yet evolved to the point where we're clever enough to handle a complex a situation as climate change," said Lovelock in his first in-depth interview since the theft of the UEA emails last November. "The inertia of humans is so huge that you can't really do anything meaningful."

One of the main obstructions to meaningful action is "modern democracy", he added. "Even the best democracies agree that when a major war approaches, democracy must be put on hold for the time being. I have a feeling that climate change may be an issue as severe as a war. It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while."

Lovelock doesn't make any claim to expertise in political science, fortunately, but he's wrong when he says that "even the best democracies agree" that democracy should be suspended in times of war (and this is a "war" to save the planet, in the eyes of some people). This 91-year-old Brit surely must recall a nasty little dustup called World War II. Great Britain didn't take a temporary time out from democracy, or abandon freedom, even when it was being terrorized by German buzz bombs and hanging on by its fingernails. It and other democracies clung to their values even firmer, in response to the tyranny that loomed.

I can't think of a single modern case that supports Lovelock's assertion. Emergencies have led to the restriction or trampling of civil liberties in some democracies under certain circumstances (think of Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War, or the internment of Japanese during World War II). But most modern democracies have remained fundamentally democratic even in wartime.

Maybe we shouldn't care very much about what a climate crackpot says. But Lovelock's moment of candor offers a telling glimpse at the authoritarian tendencies lurking behind the green mask.

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