The Spectacle Blog

MSNBC Host Attacks Capitalism. No! Wait! Climate Change. He Meant To Say Climate Change.

By on 4.22.14 | 2:15PM

Remember that time when the world's population exceeded its food production capacity, countless thousands of people dropped dead of starvation, and those of us who survived were reduced to eking out a subsistence level existence? No? That's because those late-18th century predictions of English cleric and economist Thomas Malthus never came to pass. Malthus failed to account for such factors as technologically improved means of production and declining birthrate. To any thinking person, a Malthusian prediction should be dismissed with laughter.

Check out this piece in The Nation from Chris Hayes, though. I promise you, this one is a real doozy. (Astute watchers of the left might remember Hayes as the MSNBC host who voiced his discomfort with calling fallen soldiers heroes. He has since been promoted.) In his piece, "The New Abolitionism," Hayes equates those on the front lines of what he dubiously calls the "climate justice movement" with the men and women who fought to abolish slavery. In fairness, Hayes dials back this claim, clarifying that he does not draw moral equivalency between the enslavement of human beings and the burning of fossil fuels. Nonetheless, he says that environmentalists are justly "demanding that an existing set of political and economic interests be forced to say goodbye to trillions of dollars of wealth. It is impossible to point to any precedent other than abolition." The Keystone XL pipeline project must be halted at all costs, says Hayes, but more than that, oil companies should be forced to stop searching for new reserves. Why?

Hayes cites a panic mongering Rolling Stone essay from climate extremist Bill McKibben:

The scientific consensus is that human civilization cannot survive in any recognizable form a temperature increase this century more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Given that we’ve already warmed the earth about 0.8 degrees Celsius, that means we have 1.2 degrees left—and some of that warming is already in motion. Given the relationship between carbon emissions and global average temperatures, that means we can release about 565 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere by mid-century. Total. That’s all we get to emit if we hope to keep inhabiting the planet in a manner that resembles current conditions.

Paging Malthus. Paging Robert Malthus. Smarter folks than I have already debunked McKibben, a man whose activist causes include trying to convince people to have smaller families for the good of the environment. But it speaks volumes about Hayes that he accepts such sensational claims unquestioningly. Perhaps this is because Hayes, like so-called "climate justice" activists are not interested in continuing to inhabit the planet "in a manner that resembles current conditions." Rather, they seek a radical reworking of the social order. Per Hayes:

In fact, the parallel I want to highlight is between the opponents of slavery and the opponents of fossil fuels. Because the abolitionists were ultimately successful, it’s all too easy to lose sight of just how radical their demand was at the time: that some of the wealthiest people in the country would have to give up their wealth. That liquidation of private wealth is the only precedent for what today’s climate justice movement is rightly demanding: that trillions of dollars of fossil fuel stay in the ground. It is an audacious demand, and those making it should be clear-eyed about just what they’re asking. They should also recognize that, like the abolitionists of yore, their task may be as much instigation and disruption as it is persuasion. There is no way around conflict with this much money on the line, no available solution that makes everyone happy. No use trying to persuade people otherwise.

Yes, comrades. We must mount the ramparts and take down private property rights. Mother Russia... err, I mean Mother Earth, demands it of us. These climate deniers are beyond persuasion, so we must simply take what's theirs. Later in the piece:

The movement to stop the Keystone XL pipeline is probably the largest social movement in American history directed at stopping a piece of capital investment, which is what the pipeline is. Because without that pipeline, a lot of the dirty fuel trapped in the Alberta tar sands is too costly to be worth pulling out.

The divestment movement is pushing colleges, universities, municipalities, pension funds and others to remove their investment from fossil fuel companies. So far, eighteen foundations, twenty-seven religious institutions, twenty-two cities, and eleven colleges and universities have committed themselves to divestment. Together, they have pledged to divest hundreds of millions of dollars from the fossil fuel companies so far.

Of course, that’s a drop in the global pool of capital. But some of the largest funds in the world are sovereign wealth funds, which are subject to political pressure. The largest such fund belongs to Norway, which is seriously considering divesting from fossil fuels.

Well there's a campaign slogan for you. "The Democrats. We're behind the largest movement directed at stopping capital investment. In a period in which the economy desperately needs recovery. You're welcome, America."

A bit more, if you can stomach it:

That is the current stance of the fossil fuel companies: “It’s our property, and we’re gonna extract, sell and burn all of it. What are you gonna do about it?”

Those people you see getting arrested outside the White House protesting Keystone XL, showing up at shareholder meetings and sitting in on campuses to get their schools to divest are doing something about it. They are attacking the one weak link in the chain of doom that is our fossil fuel economy.

Those bastards in big oil! How dare they subscribe to antiquated notions of property rights given us by such slouches as the American Founders. Good thing those brave disruptors in the "climate justice" movement are willing to wage their fight against capitalism or climate change or whatever.

Look, I'm not a scientist. Maybe there is something to this whole man-made climate change thing. My best guess is that the hysteria is overblown, to say the least. But either way, we must always be mindful that those who are claiming to be on the side of settled science are really calling for sweeping changes to our way of life. It is doubtful that Hayes, as a member of the media elite, would feel the adverse impacts of his agenda. We must not let claims like his go unchecked. Also, the producers of the next Indiana Jones movie might consider "The Chain of Doom" as their title.

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