Thursday, June 1, 2017

Citizen of the What?

As I write this post we do not yet know whether President Donald Trump will withdraw from the Paris climate accords. If he withdraws or pulls back or submits the treaty for Senate approval, the outcry will be deafening. Every bien-pensant media commentator, academic expert and even business leader will exclaim that the end is nigh, that the world is about to come to an end and that it’s all Trump’s fault.

You would think that Trump’s opponents would have run out of rhetorical hyperbole by now, but repudiating  another of Barack Obama’s extra-constitutional affirmations will set them off again.

Will the Obama legacy go up in smoke this afternoon or will it live to fight another day? Such is the question. But then, is this all really about the climate? Do we really believe that we control the climate and that we know what the climate will be in ten or fifty years? How do we know which events on the Sun will influence the climate? Surely, there is no science that will allow us to assert as a fact what the climate will look like a century from now. As I have often pointed out, quoting Wittgenstein, there is no such thing as a scientific fact about tomorrow. And we will not even get into the thinking of major climate scientists like Richard Lindzen who believe that the science is seriously unsettled.

Or is it about national sovereignty? Is the Paris agreement another step toward world government through the establishment of a grand bureaucracy to regulate industry and national economies? And, while we are thinking about it, why do we imagine that without this pseudo-treaty nations will choose to pollute and to poison their citizens?

We know that some nations choose more pollution as a price to pay for rapid industrialization. They assume that they will clean up afterwards. In a better world nations could industrialize rapidly while protecting the pristine beauty of nature. In our world, such is not the case. At the least, the treaty implies that no nation alone is to be trusted to manage the difficult trade-offs between business and the environment. Without a band of bureaucrats everyone has the worst of intentions. Isn't this somewhat bizarre and exceedingly pessimistic?

So, let’s examine the narrative. Barack Obama identified himself as a citizen of the world. That is not the same as being a citizen of these United States. Obama’s political party favors open borders and mass migration. The ex-president was happy to spend some quality time two weeks ago with another champion of open borders, German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

A citizen of the world is less likely to defend his nation’s borders and will not care about the pride people gain by being citizens in good standing of their nation. Obama and his wife were barely proud to be Americans. They resented and looked down on those who felt otherwise. They wanted to replace the pride you feel in being part of a great nation with the virtue you will feel by joining with all the nations of the world in mounting a crusade against climate change. That is, against industrial capitalism.

By citizen-of-the-world reasoning you do not belong to your nation, you belong to humanity. You belong to the human species and you are as human as everyone else who belongs to the species. This form of humanism is supposed to be the antidote to nationalism, but in truth it ends up meaning nearly nothing.

If you belong to the human species no matter what you do, you can do anything you please and still be a member. You can be disloyal to your nation, as in Colin Kaepernick, and still deserve respect because you are just as human as those who are loyal. Belonging to the human species makes you feel good, but since you do not need to do anything to belong and cannot be expelled for bad behavior, this membership is ultimately amoral. It relieves you of the duties you owe to your nation and gives you license to do as you please, without risking expulsion from the group.

The new cosmopolitan thinking says that we do not inhabit nations with boundaries. We all inhabit the planet. And we must all join together to protect the planet. Bow down to our Mother Earth, the Great Goddess herself.

Of course, the new thinking divides the world between those who pollute and those who do not pollute. Those who defend the Paris agreement want to engage the good fight against those who defile the environment… And  against heavy industry, against gas guzzling cars, against coal burning power plants… and especially against all of those who work in the world of dirty energy.

It’s a battle of good vs. evil. Feminine nature-lovers vs. manly industrialists.

Fighting climate changes means fighting industrialization. Silicon Valley tech tycoons are on board. Their businesses are clean. They do not produce many carbon emissions. The regulatory apparatus of big government does not invade Microsoft to see whether or not they are burning too many fossil fuels. Besides, their businesses exist on the internet, a borderless space.

Of course, technology has produced manifold benefits. One might note that for all the hue and cry about the Industrial Revolution, that event produced vastly better sanitation systems, which contributed mightily to increased longevity. As it happens, hydraulic fracking, a product of advanced industrial technology, has replaced coal powered generators in many areas and has reduced pollution.

Since America has been identified as the world’s greatest polluter, the Paris accord punishes America. We expected nothing less from our citizen of the world. Those who defend the Paris agreement assume that without it America will continue to pollute the world and will destroy Nature.

 The Wall Street Journal editorialized this morning about the cost to America:

President Obama, meanwhile, committed the U.S. to reducing emissions by between 26% and 28% below 2005 levels by 2025. This would require extreme changes in energy use. Even Mr. Obama’s bevy of anti-carbon regulations would get the U.S. to a mere 45% of its target.

Meeting the goals would require the Environmental Protection Agency to impose stringent emissions controls on vast stretches of the economy including steel production, farm soil management and enteric fermentation (i.e., cow flatulence). Don’t laugh—California’s Air Resources Board is issuing regulations to curb bovine burping to meet its climate goals.

The winners in this agreement are the bureaucrats who will gain more and more regulatory control over everyone’s economy. Considering the cost of the massive regulatory wave produced by the Obama presidency, we are within our rights to see the Paris accords as yet another plot to cripple capitalism. Or better, to effect a wealth transfer from America and guilt-ridden Europeans to third-world nations that are lagging in economic development. If so, the agreement states that rich nations got rich by exploiting poor nations. Prosperity equals injustice and only payoffs can remedy the problem, most especially by punishing the great United States of America. 


trigger warning said...

The true goal of the climateers was candidly spoken by the UN's Christiana Figueres, Executive Sec. of the Framework Convention on Climate Change:

"This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution."

As you note, SS, it's about command-and-control leftist economics directed from the UN bureaucracy.

As Al Gore so clearly epitomizes, it means"energy for me, but not for thee". And redistribution from the "rich" Western lower middle and bourgeois classes to third world economic basket cases ruled, for the most part, by tinpot dictators.

Sam L. said...

It's a big and evil plot to ruin the USA. I am acquainted with a young man who lives in Beijing. I last saw him a couple years back, and he told me that the Chinese will not allow more than 250ppm of pollution be admitted to.

James said...

a little correction:
"And redistribution from the "rich" Western lower middle and bourgeois classes to third world economic basket cases ruled, for the most part, by tinpot dictators." It will go to bureaucrats, dictators, and globalists. Never to the poor in the third world. And I don't even believe they have any right whatsoever to what I have made and kept.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Climate Change is an intentional effort to reorder the world economy, transferring power from entrepreneurs and productive sectors of our economy to bean counters, bureaucrats and other politically monolithic "experts" who will validate the central premise. Climate Change is a gigantic fraud. Look at the cast of characters making pleas and appeals... it'll show you everything that's wrong..

Ares Olympus said...

The trajectory of the world, our economy, population, and environment are all unsustainable in the most extreme way. We can't predict our exact future, but we can extrapolate trends. We can ask how the next generation will be able to do more with less. The experiment called civilization has always been a precarious one, but in the last decades we've beaten Malthus's overshoot curve by repeatedly pulling new rabbits out of new hats, and convinced ourselves that we can't fail, since it's all worked out so far.

Technophiles now talk of the singularity, a speeding up point where technological progress advanced to the point where computers will become self-aware and our entire existence will be documented in digital recordings, and perhaps we'll all download all our experiences into our virtual avatars and live in a matrix of consciousness, unimpeded by physical reality.

And even if that is nonsense, as long as we can keep expanding our use of one-time resources, automation will continue until 10% of the population will apparently do all the work and the other 90% will have to find other means of their livelihood, unless socialism saves the day and taxes the 10% sufficiently to give everyone else a free ride. Of course, it depends on what you as "citizen" of, as Stuart points out, the world, or a country, or maybe wealth should only be shared within clans bonded by blood. There's many models, and the idealist ones only work if cheap clean energy will be with us forever.

I appreciate Geoffrey West's modeling as a physicist seeing how cities are unlike every other "organism", being "superlinear", their "metabolism" gets faster with size rather than slower, and secondly, they always hit some organizational limit, almost crash, and are reborn into a higher level of complexity to handle itself by necessity. Geoffrey West: The growth paradigm: Innovate or collapse

Meanwhile the rural areas are being emptied, although perhaps digital communications will able us to repopulate the landscape, and the superlinear magic of cities will be replaced by superlinear digital intercommunication, and in a digital sense at least we are all citizens of the world.

Climate change is certainly the slowest stressor to our "infinity and beyond" future we imagine, even if it is most predictable, since we're burning a cubic mile of oil every year alone, all from 100 million old carbon that was safely put into the ground.

The U.S. burns over 20% of the world's oil, while having 5% of the world's population, and so being a citizen of the world would seem to imply we need 4 times as much oil so everyone can be as wasteful as we are in burning a one-time energy source.

I do think local solutions will do better than global agreements, but the agreements are a starting point. A carbon tax is what economists promote.

But it does seem like distrust is too great among many, including this list. The government is the enemy, and so we must use the forces of chaos to shrink it until we can drown it into a bathtub, or except for defense of course. And if undesirable people would just die off a little faster in their supersize me diabetes, etc, there'll be more left for the rest of us successful people.

I predict collapse, because I don't see how to avoid it. West offers me the model of necessity, but also ever growing complexity and speed of life, so who wants that?

So far we've avoided collapse by growing debt, and that's the bigger lie than climate change denial.

Anonymous said...

Yes the electricity that powers the internet and those batteries that power all those internet-connected devices just magically appear without causing any pollution.

trigger warning said...

The "singularity" Goalposts of Doom just got moved (again). Tyson and Kurzweil first suggested 2029, then Kurzweil moved it to 2045, now a survey of AI computer scientists suggests 45 years from now.

No one living today should be concerned.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

The response of the Climate Changeists today tells us everything we need to know about the issue. Their comments betray their true goals. The only sustainability they carre about is their power, all tidily packaged up in an issue they relentlessly prattle on about... an "urgent catastrophe" that is hopelessly complex, but has such a simple, familiar solution: government. Why, oh why would you suppose that big business would align with government on this issue? Answer: control. The same activists who endlessly harp on "corporate greed" now shhare a bed together. Pardon me if I find it all most suspicious. What's the carbon footprint of Obama's new D.C. mansion? This is all self-evidently preposterous. Think! It must be such a hard thing to do when you imagine yourself morally magnificent and endowed with almost cosmological omniscience, combined with that high SAT score you had in high school. So enamored with analytical complexity that the simple explanation eludes your grasp. Goodie for you.

Ares Olympus said...

Anonymous said... Yes the electricity that powers the internet and those batteries that power all those internet-connected devices just magically appear without causing any pollution.

Indeed, that delusion is what makes the "Star Trek" vision work. If we solve the "cheap clean energy" problem, everything may change. But that may be like saying if we can solve the "flap my arms to fly" problem. Humans can fly, but the problem is the ground gets in the way too fast.

Technophiles say technology will save us, and we've surely not even scratched the surface of what's possible, but we have to avoid destroying ourselves, or falling into war and anarchy as our one-time energy inheritance runs dry.

Ares Olympus said...

IAC: What's the carbon footprint of Obama's new D.C. mansion?

That's exactly why a revenue-neutral carbon tax is the correct solution. There's no sound scaleable economic model for rationing fossil fuels, but taxes mean those who consume the most will pay the most. If you're a movie star who want 2 jets and 14 mansions, you'll pay for your larger carbon foot print in high proportion of the taxes.

However since the rich already pay a majority of the taxes, and those on the bottom pay nearly nothing, then any carbon tax is "income regressive" because they'll be paying higher taxes on their necessities than now. So a revenue neutral carbon tax may need to include something like "earned income tax credits" where a person may get back more from taxes than they even pay in.

I understand skeptics will say this is all "too complicated" but the reality is modern civilization has always been too complicated. But as soon as we try to simplify things, someone yells "socialism" and we're back to social Darwinism as the highest virtue.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

For all my bloviating, I neglected the most important point: That was your best post of the year thus far, Stuart!

Ares Olympus said...

I see Paul Krugman explains Right-wing denial of climate change and now specifically Trump's rejection of the Paris Climate Accord as spite. When you win an election by 46% of the vote, obviously the most important thing is to reject 100% anything or everything that the 48% losers valued.

Of course if the "liberal media" were to start playing nice to our new royal family, spite wouldn't be as much fun.
As I said, however, these days the fight against climate action is largely driven by sheer spite.

Pay any attention to modern right-wing discourse — including op-ed articles by top Trump officials — and you find deep hostility to any notion that some problems require collective action beyond shooting people and blowing things up.

Beyond this, much of today’s right seems driven above all by animus toward liberals rather than specific issues. If liberals are for it, they’re against it. If liberals hate it, it’s good. Add to this the anti-intellectualism of the G.O.P. base, for whom scientific consensus on an issue is a minus, not a plus, with extra bonus points for undermining anything associated with President Barack Obama.

And if all this sounds too petty and vindictive to be the basis for momentous policy decisions, consider the character of the man in the White House. Need I say more?

I don't know if spite is quite correct overall, but it makes sense in "The Art of the Deal", the way to "win" a negotiation is to reject 100% of whatever your rivals want, even if you'd agree with 80% of it, and make them beg for every bit of that 80%, while the 20% you don't want is off the table. That's what a master deal maker does, right?

And it's a childish but effective lesson in passive aggressiveness - whomever has the lowest standards wins.

The only thing the Democrats don't have to be beg for is expanded military spending. Everything else, including civilization itself is their issue to try to defend and be laughed at for the effort.

Anonymous said...

Paul Krugman, the Enron man, speaking of denial. Herr Krugman, the beacon of light in a dark world. This is today's NYT: whatever your mind can imagine, the virtuous world will deliver (conservatives excepted, naturally). Aha, says AO, the Dems are on the side of "civilization." Ahem, fighting against passive aggressiveness. Microagressions. Por favor. The climate agenda is a disaster for the USA. The only people for it those who can afford it. The rest of us get the f--- you. The way this is going, Trump will be reelected in a landslide. Keep the outrage coming!

Ares Olympus said...

Vox offer "Citizen of what", as "Tribalism versus cosmopolitanism." It shouldn't be an either-or but both.

Anonymous makes it clear that "resentment politics" is here to stay, because it enables powerful people to manipulate the masses against their own best interest. It obviously works on the Left and the Right, but the new Right seems much better at it. Trump is the pied piper.
Tribalism has also entirely subsumed the US conservative movement. The intellectual core has all but rotted; what remains are older, rural and suburban white men and their wives, angry that their tribe is being demoted from its hegemonic position. At a barely beneath-the-surface level, Trumpism is about restoring old hierarchies: the powerful over the powerless, whites over minorities, men over women.
They have the public on their side. Trump’s approval rating is 38 percent. Public support for the Paris accord stands at 71 percent, a majority in every state. The problem, as ever, is that tribalists have fear, and thus intensity, on their side. Calming those fears, easing the dislocations of global integration, restitching the ties of trust within and among nations, is a matter of survival in the Anthropocene.

Trump has just won a battle for tribalism. But cosmopolitanism must win the war — the alternatives are too horrible to contemplate.

Anonymous said...

Ares is upset.

Don't remember him being so upset about orphans.

Don't remember him being upset about poverty.

Don't remember him being upset about nuclear weapons.

Don't remember him being upset about murder in Chicago and Baltimore.

Don't remember him being upset about MS-13 illegal aliens in New England.

Don't remember him upset about the graduation rates in our inner cities.

Don't remember him caring about the Constitutional protections of Christian refugees as opposed to his abundant concern for Muslim refugees.

Don't remember him talking about the free speech rights of conservative groups on college campuses.

Don't remember him being interested in right to carry in order to protect oneself. Or each other.

Don't remember him pushing for the Paris climate accords. Don't remember him opposing the Paris climate accords.

But now Ares hears Trump say that Pittsburgh is more important than Paris. And Ares is upset.

I say there is amusement in the upset of Ares. Because he doesn't care about what happens to the Americans who suffer under the regulation he advocates. And that makes him a fake advocate.

Poor Ares.

Ares Olympus said...

Anon at 7:32 PM: ... Because he doesn't care about what happens to the Americans who suffer under the regulation he advocates.

Your laundry list for your lack of memory is certainly confusing.

It looks to me that Trump is the one who doesn't care what happens to the Americans who suffer under the policies he advocates.

He says he has the biggest heart, and what that apparently means saying what HIS people want to hear, making it up as he goes, and later confessing it was just a line to get cheers and votes. The only important thing is "winning".

You have my pity as well.

James said...

"For all my bloviating,"
Over the years I have maintained a very high standard of mediocre blathering of which I am quite proud. Though it takes much personal effort (goals to be met, standards to uphold etc) it has been worth it. Everyone has something to say, just not everything deserves to be listened to.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Less than 24 hours after Trump's announcement. The worldwide apoplexy is riveting. It cements my assertion that the Climate Change premise is a load of crap. The Euros say no renegotiation. Excellent news. Wow, an American president actually cares about the people he represents. These "shockers" are 25 years in the making (NAFTA). More to follow. Maybe Republicans will start to realize that ignoring some of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce agenda might help them win elections. Imagine that.

And you've gotta love this meme that Trump voters are troglodytes who never went to college. All the analysis of actual voting trends and information says otherwise. Repeat something often enough, and it just might stick.

Sam L. said...

Ares, you are ignoring the tribalism(s) of the Left.

Ares Olympus said...

Sam L. said... Ares, you are ignoring the tribalism(s) of the Left.

No, but that is an unfortunate reality. The reality is if the right suddenly supported climate change regulations, the left would see the price of electricity and gasoline going up, and complain just as hard as anyone on the right. Or many would, California apparently the unexpected outlier in all things.

Minnesota has more social cohesion, but I'm sure we'd complain here. I think its easier to sell a carbon tax here since we have no fossil fuels to extract and burn, so the more energy we use, the more wealth that is sucked out of our economy. If we taxed our own consumption, we could redirect that tax to reducing our dependence upon ever greater future consumption.