The rollout of the Environmental Protection Agency’s new draft regulation to limit greenhouse gases was accompanied by a brilliant political cartoon that showed a pair of hapless fellows with automobile mufflers protruding from their mouths, apparently to prevent any renegade CO2 exhalations from polluting the atmosphere with their climate-changing carbon halitosis. Call this part of the agency’s 97 percent solution, based on the frequently made claim that the number represents the percentage of scientists who blame climate change on human activity. The fact that this figure is fiction, as pointed out in an excellent review of the findings by Joseph Bast and Roy Spencer in a recent Wall Street Journal article, deters the climate-catastrophe conjurers not one bit; the number is repeated as part of the climate-control catechism. And anyway, who’s going to quibble over a few percentage points when the fate of the earth is in the balance?
Or is it? Have the climate-change crusaders gone clinically mad, as Steven F. Hayward suggests? The answer is, it depends on how you regard their true motivations, or how you extend the likely consequences of their behavior.
Consider Anthony Downs’ portrayal of bureaucratic types that he outlined in his public administration classic, “Inside Bureaucracy,” published a half century ago. The purely self-interested officials included climbers, who “seek to maximize their own power, income, and prestige,” and conservers, who “seek to maximize their own security and convenience.” Neither type gives a whit about the betterment of their bureaus or society as a whole. More interesting are zealots who are religiously committed to a narrow policy or program; advocates, who work on behalf of their organizations; and statesmen, whose motivations extend to the broader concerns of society or the nation. These types are found in all organizations, but the point in this context is that EPA officials talk like statesmen but act like zealots. Which means that absolutely nothing should stand in the way of their policy goals; only the mission matters, nothing else.
Consider the costs of phasing out coal over the course of the next 25 years or so, which is the consequence of these new regulations. The Heritage Foundation estimates that by the end of 2023, “nearly 600,000 jobs would be lost; a family of four’s income would drop by $1,200 per year, and aggregate gross domestic product would decrease by $2.23 trillion over the entire period of the analysis.” Especially hard hit would be low-income families, manufacturers, and the Midwest, which are heavily reliant on coal. And for what? Reducing global temperature by a few tenths of a degree Celsius by the end of the century, a change that might come about anyway, and in a larger amount, by natural fluctuations in the climate.
It gets worse. In “the most breathtaking power grab I’ve seen in a long time,” according to Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey, the EPA proposed rules that would extend its jurisdiction over the nation’s “intermittent and ephemeral streams and wetlands,” generated by occasional wet seasons, or simply when it rains. Careful! That pond in your backyard could be toxic! Same with ditches and streams that are miles away from navigable waterways. This extension of control over private property and citizens’ everyday lives is breathtaking. And in spite of a recent Supreme Court decision curtailing the agency’s powers, the EPA’s proclivities remain clear.
But, this expansion of governmental power is more than just breathtaking; it is all-encompassing, especially considering that everything a person does in life somehow entails carbon and water. In this way the zealots at the EPA have discovered, or stumbled upon, a means to use environmental concerns to limit fundamental freedoms in a manner reminiscent of George Orwell. Further, EPA zealots and their allies have developed a rich Newspeak vocabulary to vilify their enemies, including comparing anthropogenic climate-change skeptics to Holocaust deniers. By this interpretation, today’s climate troglodytes have no place in a new world order where the country’s earth worshippers bow before a Big Brother symbol represented by the EPA.
Orwell’s “1984” contains a classic scene where O’Brien is torturing poor Winston Smith, telling him he is insane and that the point of his tribulations is to make him perfect. Something like this follows from the increasing misery inflicted on American citizens by this notorious agency: green is good, carbon is bad, pollution is evil. Thus, America must be strapped to that gurney and be subject to officially inflicted depredations to wring out its environmental malevolence, to cleanse it from the sin of pollution, until the nation, too, becomes perfect. And, as in “1984,” it is not enough to accept the EPA; one must love it as well. Only then can we all become pure, only then can we all become perfect. This is the job of America’s version of “1984”’s inner party: the Environmental Purity Agency.