Over the last few years, the world has begun to wake up to the urgent reality of climate change for the first time ever.
In Britain, the US and across the world, more people than ever before are listing protecting the environment as one of their primary concerns. But that doesn’t mean a consensus is forming around the issue – yet. The denial of climate science is yesterday’s foe but the battles over how we ought to go about confronting existential threats to our natural world are only just beginning.
There’s no escaping the fact that protecting the environment is an inherently political issue. The way we approach it creeps into every nook and cranny of our economy and every second of our everyday lives. That means it’s vulnerable to politicisation. From Greta Thunberg to Extinction Rebellion and Rebecca Long-Bailey to George Monbiot, those who have been fighting for a large state and a planned economy are rallying around ecosocialism, openly weaponising climate change as a political instrument to transform society into the collectivist utopia they have long envisioned.
Be in no doubt – the left has no moral qualms about manipulating genuine concerns for the future of the natural world to extreme political ends. Saikat Chakrabarti, a senior staffer to congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and one of the chief architects of the eco-socialist manifesto and bible, the Green New Deal, said on the record that his boss’s flagship policy was not “a climate thing” but rather “a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.” If conservatives and liberals are to resist that narrative before it truly takes hold and stays put for a generation, time is of the essence.
After all, it wasn’t the left which set this global climate awareness shift in motion – it was the liberal-conservative right. More specifically, it was our very own Conservative Party. Margaret Thatcher was the first world leader to sound the alarm for saving the planet in 1990, continuing the centuries-old Burkean tradition of conserving what is good and already exists and firing the starting pistol on a decades-long international campaign for a right-of-centre environmentalism.
By having to contend with ecosocialism at all, conservatives are already on the back foot. Too many are guilty of kicking the can down the road and pretending this inconvenient problem can be ignored. There is no good reason why the environment should be widely perceived as a socialist issue – that ideological ground is ripe for the taking. As the late Sir Roger Scruton put it: “The cause of the environment is not, in itself, a left-wing cause at all. It is not about ‘liberating’ or empowering the victim, but about safeguarding resources. It is not about ‘equality’, but about conservation and equilibrium.”
Even if we were to set philosophy aside and think like utilitarians, conservative environmentalism would still be the best way forward. There is no shortage of conservative-friendly policies like measures designed to stoke biodiversity and the protection of our national parks which enrich our lives and do much more to protect the environment than any Green New Deal. Perhaps more importantly, there is no good reason for conservatives of any and all ideological stripes to shy away from safeguarding the beauty and strength of our natural world for future generations.