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Can They Hear Us Now?

Climate March in mid-town.

Climate March in mid-town.

The Right Goes Crazy over the Peoples Climate March

Despite CNN’s best efforts to pretend there was no march, even Fox News had to admit that the Peoples Climate March had happened and was big. The right was totally freaked out by the crowd of 310,000 to 400,000 that marched in Manhattan and many more hundreds of thousands that joined in around the world. The march was led by Environmental Justice groups and included Labor, groups of young people, students, environmentalists, anti-corporate and political groups, science groups and faith communities along with many others.

It would be hard to pin down this crowd to any one message other than to reduce global warming. That didn’t trouble the right-wing commentators who had a simple message to deliver: This was an anti-corporate, anti-democracy demonstration with the aim of creating a tyrannical, socialist government.

The Right’s Sensationalist, Hyper-Partisan Journalism

Criticisms started with the posting of a NY Post article on Fox News: “Their love for the Earth is so real, they couldn’t even use a trash can.” Of course this astute reporter failed to mention that the Department of Sanitation had removed trash cans for security reasons.

Climate Depot’s post on 9/21 led with this yellow journalistic headline “Capitalism in crosshairs as Socialism promoted at opening event of People’s Climate March.” Climate Depot’s Mike Marino singled out author Naomi Klein for saying that “ecological clock is ticking” and “We are dealing with an existential terror.” Overall, his article contains a great deal of red meat for his right-wing audience. Likewise, in a late morning email from the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) breathlessly proclaimed, “[t]he climate campaign has dropped all pretense and proudly proclaimed their true aim — world Socialism.”

In an article “The Climate March to Nowhere,” Rich Lowry of the National Review, wrote “today’s climate activists resemble the unilateral nuclear-disarmament movement of the 1980s.” He then repeated the canards about an unprecedented pause in global warming and that our influence on warming is limited. Lowry, like the Post and Fox News, also focused on the amount of garbage, which raises the question, has he ever been to a Saint Patrick’s Day Parade?

Katherine Timpf, also of the National Review, took aim at the “scores of residents” (a gross underestimate) who joined the March and wrote a screed against environmental justice activism that contained numerous anecdotes but no data. She did allow that East Harlem, where she lives, has “the highest rate of asthma hospitalization in all of Manhattan.” Recent research confirms, however, that companies and municipalities choose not just poor but minority communities for their dirty projects.

Why all this hysteria and distortion? I think it is simply because this march, along with the many around the world, show that people with many varied interests and backgrounds are waking up to the “existential threat” that climate change poses. In the words of more than one speaker, we may be the last generation that can make decisions that will avoid climate catastrophe and provide a safe landing for our grandchildren and their children’s children. This march leads the way to wielding that power.

Ignoring an Obvious Conservative Solution

In fact, there is actually a non-political and,  in fact, conservative solution to the global warming issue that should be accepted by those who are interested in market solutions. Not incidentally, it is one embraced by economists across the political spectrum: CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions (like methane) pose a danger to our wellbeing that is not paid for by the companies that emit it. Their emissions are free for them, so they do not count the price we all are paying and will pay in the future as a cost. For this reason, they see no reason not to emit as much as they choose. This is what economists call an externality. To get corporations to take the cost their emissions into account, they have to be charged for it, either through a tax or through the cost of permits to emit greenhouse gases. If they have to bear the cost of their emissions, they will change their behavior and lower their emissions or, in some cases, go out of business (Economics 101). It will also raise the cost of energy, leading energy consumers to conserve on energy or choose other energy sources, e.g., renewables. Those conservatives, including many economists, who recognize the global warming problem recommend this (pick either) solution.

That these right-wing organizations don’t see this as a conservative solution once again shows that they are really just the spokespeople for coal and oil and gas interests, not the principled conservatives they pretend to be.