Of Gross Mischaracterizations All Over the Map


My first impulse upon reading James Kennedy’s tweet saying I’m “all over the map on how climate change activism affects poor people” is to chuckle, particularly upon reading this paragraph from the post to which he then links:

There’s a lot of goal post shifting going on in this conversation. While it’s completely reasonable to wonder what the effects of lowering carbon-intensive fuels will be for income distribution, you can see people who oppose climate action pulling wildly from both ends of the deck to cobble together an argument. For instance, over the weekend I had a conversation with Justin Katz after he grossly mischaracterized a Projo article on climate. One of his statements was that climate activism was in danger of sealing the position of the haves by reducing opportunities to exploit resources. This is not, in itself, a totally crazy hypothesis, as we saw above (though I think it’s wrong). But here you can see him calling climate change activism a conspiracy to redistribute income to the have-nots.

The cliché with which Kennedy linked to his post is particularly apropos because the idea of being all over a map relates directly to the error of thought that leads him to accuse me of making conflicting statements.  Let’s get specific; here’s the statement that Kennedy restates as “climate activism was in danger of sealing the position of the haves by reducing opportunities to exploit resources”:

[Climate change activism] absolutely benefits the winners of today by inhibiting everybody else more.

The other part of the supposed contradiction comes from a post in which I quote an environmentally concerned globalist as saying that the real goal of climate policy is to “redistribute de facto the world’s wealth.”  Note that I didn’t actually assert that this global conspiracy actually exists as a universal motivation.  I went on to suggest other ways in which people could become deluded into zealotry and to ask environmentalists how their opinion would change if they faced irrefutable proof that it was all a redistributive scheme.

For the sake of my point here, though, let’s go with the assertion that climate change policies are meant to redistribute wealth around the planet.  Only somebody who falls into progressives’ habit of thinking of people in terms of their groups rather than as individuals would see this as contradictory to my other statement.

Policies to address climate change seem uniquely designed to lock in current power structures.  Those who already have money and influence can find ways around them or just absorb (even profit from) costs and restrictions, while those who need flexibility in the economy are stymied by lost opportunity.  That isn’t just a function of “exploiting resources,” but of costs.  Even the most non-exploitative entrepreneur in the country could be thrown off the tracks with policies that drive up energy costs and collect taxes from the economy generally in order to give the money to favored businesses.

If the same policies also transfer wealth from one country to another, they can simultaneously transfer it across the borders of economic classes.  To oversimplify:  The policies of climate change alarmism have the net effect of locking in the positions of the powerful in both the rich country and the poor country while transferring wealth from the impoverished, working, and middle classes of the rich country to the elite of the poor country.

Kennedy’s perceived contradiction, in other words, is actually a blind spot precisely where he might see a problem he doesn’t want to acknowledge.