Climate Fear and Loathing and the Rise of Conservative Populism

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Let’s assume, as I do, that the climate science is accurate, or perhaps even worse than we know. It’s an existential crisis that needs a radical response if we are going to mitigate its devastating effects. Surely, we should all be committed to taking dramatic actions toward real solutions. 

What we know in reading the literature from the economic planners of Western democracies, is that a crisis provides the opportunity to do things that the general population would otherwise vehemently oppose. But what are the proposed climate solutions being pushed by the state sponsored economic planners?

While governments subsidize the massive energy extraction corporations to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars, the working classes are served an ever increasing amount of taxation on their carbon footprint, with the costs of living for working class individuals and families being stressed to its limits. In turn, this has an associated political backlash that is exploited by conservative politicians.

The effects of policies that are perceived as unfair or disproportionately burdensome on the general population create an incentive to support conservative populists who oppose these same policies. Meanwhile, people who have more economic security and identify as liberals or leftists are shocked by the rise of conservative populism in Europe and North America. It’s time for those who oppose the right wing populist threat to see their own part in its manifestation.

While wages have stagnated and fallen in relation to inflation, large corporations have enjoyed record profits. We experience vast attempts at greenwashing by corporate capitalists and the centrist governments they support. Trust in governments and corporate media are at an all-time low. And once again, the public mood is exploited by conservative populists. Political centrists and leftists are fearful of this trend, but unwilling to accept their own part in creating it. 

We have far to go in moving toward a more just society, and in securing social and environmental justice, but economic justice seems to have been pushed dramatically downward on the list or priorities, and the top priority of liberals and leftists is perceived to be a kind of identitarian moralism. Indentitarian moralism is adjacent to what some people call “wokeism”, which is a misnomer and is appropriative of a term that came from African American culture.

The chilling effect of the politics of identity has trended as censorship, cancel culture, and support for the worst aspects of state controlled institutions by liberals and leftists. The anti-establishment lane has been ceded to conservative populists who oppose war, censorship, and the surveillance state that intrudes into our private lives, at least in their performative rhetoric. This used to be the boilerplate foundation of liberal and left ideologies. The partisan world has now been turned upside down.

The largest carbon polluter on planet earth is the US Pentagon. And worse, many of these endless wars involve a conflict to control fossil fuel energy extraction that powers their industrial and military operations. Whoever blew up the Nordstream pipeline (nod, nod, wink, wink), was responsible for the single largest release of greenhouse gas into our atmosphere in human history. We are being gaslit into supporting ineffective climate change policies, while sociopaths are pushing us closer to an omnicidal apocalypse.

We fetishize electric vehicles, mostly purchased by people with above average incomes, and with government sponsored rebates, and claim that they are “zero emission” vehicles. While EV owners pay no gas taxes that support transit initiatives and road maintenance, much of the North American electric grid is fueled by coal and carbon fired electric generating plants. Even hydro-electric generation can have devastating environmental effects.

And further, the impact on the environment from mining the necessary elements to manufacture the batteries that support these vehicles are surely not zero emission, even when it comes from exploited child labour in far away places. This is not an indictment of EVs more than any other type of vehicle, but let’s not pretend these are rational solutions to a climate catastrophe, while the worst industrial offenders of releasing greenhouse gases into our atmosphere remain unabated in endless growth and war.

We’ve been successfully atomized, divided by identity, shamed, greenwashed, and gaslit into believing in climate solutions that are substantially corrupt, when we know a real climate crisis is increasingly urgent. Corporate grifters and the partisan politicians they own are not interested in real solutions to the climate crisis or the plight of the working classes. As Chuck D from rap legends Public Enemy said, “Don’t believe the hype.”

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