Climate Change "sceptics" have found a new purpose for an old conspiracy theory.
Recently the pages of the Australian newspaper and members of the Liberal Party like "fruit-loop" Senator Nick Minchin have taken their cue from American Republicans once again by erupting into indignation over what they are calling the threat of "One World Government". The Copenhagen process that aims to forge an international treaty to limit carbon pollution is, according to this narrative, a vast Left-wing plot to institute a global government. This global government will, accordingly, undermine national sovereignty and individual freedoms and, most shockingly of all, redistribute wealth from richer to poorer countries. It will even, to Janet Albrechtsen’s horror, place government "control over once free markets".
Environmental campaigners, and campaigners for science and reason generally, do not really know how to respond to accusations from the warriors of the Right that they want One World Government. This is partly because the accusation is framed in such a way that it pretends there is not already a global system of governance. The accusation has no bearing whatsoever on reality. Having denied the science of climate change, the Right slips easily into denying the existence or necessity of governance at the highest level of human activity.
The fact that there is already a weak global governance structure in place is due to the foresight and vision of the founders of the United Nations who wished to avoid another world war. Yet if the United Nations did not exist, it would still be necessary to invent it. This is because so much of human economic activity now takes place on a global scale and even our local activity can have global effects. At whatever scale sustained human activity takes place, organisation and law are needed. Wherever interests need representation and moderation and wherever both justice and law need dispensing, institutions of government are necessary.
The primary function of all such governing institutions throughout history is to provide stability. It is stability that allows for human freedom and endevour and thus economic growth and social progress.
Recently the global financial crisis demonstrated the necessity for regulation to underpin economic growth. Governments around the world threw out neo-liberal laissez-faire policies as soon as it became clear that another Great Depression could undermine social and political stability. John Maynard Keynes, whose economic ideas made such a comeback, similarly saw that stability in economic systems needed to come first, as the wild fluctuations of the laissez-faire system had delivered to humanity not only great depressions but a catastrophic world war arising out of the political collapse that comes with sustained instability. Governments and global institutions of governance reacted swiftly and decisively this time around because of the clear historical precedent. It was perhaps the first time humanity had been rescued by its knowledge of history.
For the current carbon pollution crisis there is no such precedent and the competing interests from states at vastly uneven levels of economic development combine to make individual state action much more difficult. It is a clear case where legitimate and effective institutions of global governance are required to dispense and enforce law and justice. Concerted, regulated action enforced by a legitimate and effective global authority is the only way, ironically, to maintain the stability and hence legitimacy of every sovereign state on the planet.
What the Right are effectively doing in attacking "world government" is arguing not that we should have no world government, because such a thing is impossible, but rather that global government should continue to be ineffective and unrepresentative. The Right’s loss of power in the world’s governments, particularly in their former power base in the United States, means that former neoconservatives are now left playing the role of spoilers on the global stage.
Repeatedly in the democracies, citizens have elected governments on platforms of action on climate change because citizens believe the state’s primary function is to protect them from such uncertainty. Even many non-democratic states, like China, also recognise that their legitimacy depends on stability and the progress this makes possible. It is the hope of all humanity that the individual states recognise the need for concerted action and the constitution of an effective system to govern it in the same way that those states have come together in the past to meet common challenges.
In classical political terms what is needed is a covenant between states. A covenant is a formal contract between states binding them not merely to unity, but to a common course of action. That is what is needed from the leaders of the world at Copenhagen and beyond. It is the very origin of the word "federation". Such an international federation is the next step in human progress and the evolution of our politics to the highest level of human activity.
By mobilising against global government, the Right have essentially dealt themselves into the game as nothing less than global anarchists. This is the strange tragedy of "conservatism" today: there is nothing more inherently conservative than seeking to preserve stability and the maintenance of human civilisation as we know it, but they’re acting against it. Ironically this is the cause the progressive factions have taken up, while the self-styled conservatives pray for its failure and destruction.
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