The Global Warming Polcy Foundation, run by a native German if from London, links to and translates an article in Die Welt reporting on, and sounding something of an alarm over, a major recommendation from an influential commission advising Chancellor Angela Merkel, “World in Transition – Social Contract for a Great Transformation”, by Germany’s Scientific Advisory Council on Global Environmental Change (WBGU). That group os led by of all people the top dog at a major scientific institute (but, please, yes, let’s bow to science not as a provider of knowledge but policy advisor).
A telling pull quote from the story is “Germany’s green government advisors admit frankly that decarbonization can only be achieved by the limitation of democracy – both nationally and internationally.”
You can put the piece through e.g., Google translate if you wish. Otherwise, here are some choice excerpts (all emphases in original):
All nations would have to relinquish their national interests and find a new form of collective responsibility for the sake of the climate: “The world citizenry agree to innovation policy that is tied to the normative postulate of sustainability and in return surrender spontaneous and persistence desires. Guarantor of this virtual agreement is a formative state […].”
This strong state provides, therefore, for the “social problematization” of unsustainable lifestyles. It overcomes “stakeholders” and “veto players” who “impede the transition to a sustainable society.” In Germany, climate protection should therefore become a fundamental goal of the state for which the legal actions of the legislative, executive and judicial branches will be aligned.
“In order to anchor future interests institutionally, the Council recommends expanding the parliamentary legislative process with a deliberative “future chamber”. To avoid interference by interest group and political parties, the composition of this chamber could be determined, for example, by drawing lots.
…”[T] the WBGU admits frankly, that the decarbonization of the society can only be achieved by the limitation of democracy – both nationally and internationally.
Internationally, the WBGU calls for a “World Security Council” for sustainability. The members of the proposed “future chamber” for Germany would explicitly not be chosen democratically and would limit the powers of Parliament.
The WBGU requests “civic participation” – but only for the implementation of the national objective of climate protection. The required “problematization of unsustainable lifestyles” would therefore quickly amount to their stigmatization. Those who do not share the ideas of sustainability would be outside of the new state eco-order – thus all the supporters of the modern industrial society.
Assumed general will to climate policy
The strong eco-state would follow a new social contract, which the WBGU derives from the natural law of enlightenment that also forms the basis of parliamentary democracy. This attribution is incorrect because the WBGU assumes a general will to climate protection and decarbonization.
The council justifies this general primarily from the higher moral insight of its expert knowledge. The WBGU is consequently more in the tradition of the political philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. His concept of “volotonté générale” was the starting point of authoritarian and utopian Jacobinism in the Western state history.
The WBGU compares the decarbonization of the global economy to the Neolithic and the Industrial Revolution. It is wrong to claim that such a deliberately planned and radical transformation of economic and social systems is without precedent.
At least partial models of such transformations are the industrialization of the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930s, or the “Great Leap Forward” and the “Cultural Revolution” in Mao’s China.
Deprivation for generations
Whether planned or not – revolutionary transformations of economic systems always involve large sacrifices for the generation that experiences them. Existing productive economic structures are demolished and new one will have to be built.
This is clearly demonstrated by history – for example by the “social question” in the Industrial Revolution, the temporary deprivation of the workers. The price of utopian climate Jacobinism of the WBGU is too high.
What could possibly go wrong?
Of course, such arguments are not unusual in this issue area, but in fact the norm. It’s simply distrubing to see it so publicly voiced, particularly now, after all that we have learned. Does this represent confidence returning to the movement, or desperation?
By coincidence, a day or so ago I was on a call with conference organizers and an activist mathematician whom I will be debat — wait, he insisted it not be that — presenting with next month. In it he voiced similar thoughts at a much smaller scale. For purposes of our discussion, he will not entertain challenge to his scientific beliefs. They are fact. The only legitimate discourse may be found over the details of doing what it is he and those he and his associates demands.
Because that’s how the world works. Or, at least, how it’s supposed to. According to some people.
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