Were it not for its impact on industrialized societies’ reliance on hydrocarbon energy, theories of man-made climate change would principally be of limited academic interest. In fact, these theories were first politicized precisely because of the demands they make to decarbonize energy.
Sweden debuted global warming as part of its war on coal when Al Gore was still at law school. It was meant to have ushered in an age of nuclear power. The reason it didn’t, instead becoming an age of wind and solar, is principally because of Germany.
Despite being Europe’s premier industrial economy, German culture harbours an irrational, nihilistic reaction against industrialization, evident before and during the Nazi era. It disappeared after Hitler’s defeat and only bubbled up again in the terrorism and antinuclear protests of the 1970s and the formation of the Green Party in 1980.
German eco-ideas found their way across the Atlantic, where they fed progressives’ attack on capitalism, targeting its most concrete manifestation — the modern corporation. In the 1940s, the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter identified the corporation’s vulnerability in his prediction that capitalism would be the cause of its own downfall.
Environmentalism — the belief that mankind’s activities threaten the survival of both humanity and the planet — found a receptive audience in boardrooms and among those to whom business leaders turn to tell them what is important.
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