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Greenspan on climate change « Previous | |Next »
July 4, 2010

Alan Greenspan in devoting two pages in the 531 pages of his memoir, The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World, to the climate issue, illustrates the neoliberal minimization of the issue. What needs to be defended is the free-market ideology that rejects strong regulation of the economy.

His first tactic is minimization of the issue. He has “little doubt” that climate change is real and human induced (p. 454). But he offers merely one proposal to address the issue: an increase in the gasoline tax to protect America’s energy “security”.

There is no commitment about the need for state investments and subsidies to recast the infrastructure of consumption in the zones of transportation, housing, and power production; no urgency to cooperate with other states and international organizations to protect the earth’s forest and ocean systems, though both are key absorbers of carbon dioxide. No exploration of how changes on these fronts could also empower constituencies who seek to foster a positive and timely austerity of material desire.

Hence, his second tactic is evasion, because a robust engagement would throw his key assumptions about market control of investment, consumption, and work into disarray, and he would have to think more carefully about the need for new relays between collective patterns of consumption and state policies. What is his explicit reason for such a tactic? He says that the worst climate effects are scheduled to occur after the period he has “selected” for analysis, from today to 2030! Hence, the third tactic: deferral.

So we have neoliberal minimization coupled to corporate self-interest that functions to prevent action on climate change through a pricing of carbon. Laissez faire capitalism is a refuge for those who maintain that human can and should master and exploit nature.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:21 AM | | Comments (3)


There's a lot of dishonesty in the way conservatives and especially neo-liberals discuss climate change. They start from the premise that state regulation is not an acceptable response. That's an ideological given. The corollary, which they don't spell out very often, is that climate change is consequently inevitable and the challenge is to adapt, not to mitigate.

They also don't say very often that rich countries will be much better-placed to adapt than poorer countries; and that climate change may actually turn out to be a means of cementing current global power relations in place for a long time. In other words their own grandchildren will be fine thank you very much and it's not their responsibility to worry about anyone else's.

The denialism comes in when they reject the possibility of catastrophic feedback loops that destroy life as we know it. Once you convince yourself that the catastrophe scenario is all extremist bullshit invented by Al Gore, the adaptation strategy actually makes good sense to Spencerian survival of the fittest types which is what most of these bozos are.

When presented with unwelcome scientific evidence, many people it would seem, would rather conclude that science in general is broken in a desperate attempt to retain some consistency in their world view,

I suspect he can't really address the issue without jettisoning the vast investment (as you indicate this is not merely a financial investment but one that is often existential) made in a system reliant on growth which is funded by debt that is underwritten by an externalised ecological debt. The debt collector may only appear several generations hence but it seems increasingly likely that they will come knocking.