Beware of Climate Activists Cosplaying as ‘Conservatives’

Published May 16, 2024

As a general rule of thumb, if the only reason you would identify somebody as a conservative is because they repeatedly insist they are a conservative, they likely are not a conservative. Readers should keep this general rule in mind if they read self-proclaimed conservative climate activist Benji Backer’s new book: The Conservative Environmentalist: Common Sense Solutions for a Sustainable Future.

Backer has created a niche for himself claiming conservative politicians can and must embrace climate activism as a way to hold true to conservative principles and win over young voters. His message runs along the line of, Hey, conservatives, I am one of you. You can trust me that climate activism is truly a conservative issue.

Most conservatives, however, would not recognize Backer’s words and actions as those of a conservative. Prior to writing his book, Backer:

  • proudly described himself as “Never Trump” and preferred Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election;
  • slammed Trump’s restrictions on immigrants from terrorist-tied nations as anti-Muslim;
  • approvingly re-tweeted a statement that supported banning Trump from social media;
  • called for the reinstatement of FDR New Deal policies such as the Civilian Conservation Corps;
  • advocated government taking control of 30 percent of America’s land for environmental purposes;
  • claimed conservative Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) “encouraged” the January 6 riot on Capitol Hill, even as Johnson took to social media encouraging people to disperse;
  • made vitriolic attacks on conservative leaders Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO);
  • called Donald Trump “despicable and indefensible;”
  • asserted policymakers who do not support mass COVID-19 vaccinations “has to be one of the lowest possible lows;”
  • criticized people who did not want to wear face masks as “stupid” and not protecting others “because they want to make a political statement.”
  • literally said “thank you” to Greta Thunberg for playing “a critical role in generating worldwide awareness around this issue of climate change.”

Are these the words and actions of a conservative? Are these the words and actions of a person conservatives should trust to guide them on policy issues?

While Backer goes out of his way to venomously slam conservatives Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Ron Johnson, and Josh Hawley, he simultaneously elicits fawning praise from the political left. Van Jones, the far-left CNN pundit who served as Barack Obama’s Special Advisor for Green Jobs, praises Backer’s book as “a critical blueprint for the future of climate action.”

It’s not a coincidence that leftist political pundits praise Backer’s book. Backer wastes no time heaping praise on former President Richard Nixon for creating the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and creating the framework for the nation’s most far-reaching and much abused “environmental protection” laws. He celebrates the mandatory and controversial Green Building Standards Code in California. He admits his American Conservation Coalition is not a conservative organization at all, but is a mix of liberals, independents, and conservatives. One suspects its membership is far more liberal and far less conservative than Backer advertises.

Backer derisively refers to people who disagree with him as “deniers.” He says Alex Epstein supports an “extreme” position for saying we should maximize the benefits of fossil fuels.

Backer praises the Clean Water Act for its brevity, which allows the EPA to interpret the Act any way it wants and become a runaway authoritarian entity.

Backer bemoans the “overconsumption of coffee” because coffee cultivation sometimes occurs on previously undeveloped land. He bemoans “fashion overproduction” and “surplus luxury.” These are not conservative action items, either.

Backer praises Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act for giving “green hydrogen” subsidies that are not available to conventional energy. How are these special-interest subsidies either conservative or desirable?

Backer repeatedly advocates government-created “incentives” (i.e., taxing-and-spending to undermine and redirect market conditions). However, heavy taxation and heavy government financial intervention are not conservative policy principles. Backer can arguably claim his plan for government intervention through taxing and spending favoritism is not as terrible as some more draconian alternatives, but his government-intervention plan is still neither conservative nor desirable.

Backer provides a perfect illustration of his flawed logic and overarching worldview when he writes, “Without incentives, none of the energy sources we use today would have become as inexpensive, accessible, or clean as they are. Oil and gas became as ubiquitous as they did because federal, state, and local governments continually used incentives to generate competition among power companies to encourage better efficiency.”

No, oil and gas became ubiquitous because they are much more concentrated, abundant, dependable, and affordable energy sources than the whale oil and windmills they replaced. Backer’s logic is pretty much the same as President Barack Obama’s when he said, “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.” Claiming that the benevolent influence of government is the source of any business’ success is not a conservative worldview or conservative principle.

In its barest form, Benji Backer believes climate change is the single most important issue facing humanity today. He advocates heavy government intervention through tax-and-spend subsidies to direct people’s behavior rather than outright restrictions or mandates. However, most conservatives realize that climate change is not a significant threat and heavy government intervention, in whatever form it takes, is not a conservative policy prescription. It is no wonder that Backer finds himself agreeing with leftist policies on a wide variety of topics and singling out conservatives for particularly venomous attacks. Backer may tell people he is a conservative in order to sell them his climate activism, but the vast majority of conservatives – fortunately – see through this.

Photo by Takver. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic.