Debate rages over future of Green Party

Published February 1, 2001

Ralph Nader’s Green Party arrived on the scene last summer with a big bang. Many people feel it left with a whimper when the dust settled on the strangest of all national elections.

Founded on an environmental theme, the Green Party rarely raised those issues during the campaign of 2000, leaving observers to wonder: Will the Green Party return to its vocal fear-mongering and rejection of sound science, as it has done in Europe, or will it simply fade benevolently into the political shadows?

Ralph Hostetter of The Free Congress Foundation believes the Green Party may be on the wane. “The debate over global warming is reaching its most dangerous stage,” said Hostetter, “and it has nothing to do with the Earth’s temperature. The Greens will soon be faced with a rebellion without a cause.

The Greens’ prediction of a coming Ice Age during the 1970s melted down before their very eyes. Their global warming hoax, their subsequent and current cause, will do likewise. The answer is simple. The Greens bet all their marbles and reputation on carbon dioxide being the culprit and the principal cause of global warming.

They relied on a sympathetic press and the confusion that could be created within America’s populace because the words ‘carbon dioxide’ sound similar to the deadly poisonous gas, carbon monoxide. With the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declaring carbon dioxide a pollutant (pollutants and poisons are related in the minds of people), the Greens felt secure in their position.

But two things have happened to the Greens’ global warming cause. While these have been seldom reported in the nation’s popular media, they nevertheless mean that global warming’s exposure as a hoax is near.

  • 98 percent of automobile carbon monoxide has been eliminated by the catalytic converter, made mandatory on all new automobiles in the 1980s.
  • The claim first made in 1896 by Swedish professor Dr. Svante Arrhenius that increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere would bring about substantial increases in the Earth’s atmospheric temperatures, has been shown to be false.

Many of the “2000 scientists” who first supported the global warming cause have jumped ship. Indeed, this number was a fraud all along: It included all the peer reviewers and contributors to articles cited in the 1995 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Many of those scientists never read the report, and some vigorously dissented from its conclusion.

Preeminent among the new dissenters is NASA’s Dr. James Hansen, who stated on June 23, 1988, “There is a strong cause and effect relationship between temperature changes in the atmosphere caused by the combustion of fossil fuels.” In August 2000, Hansen essentially retracted that statement, saying “Little or maybe none of this warming of the last half of the 20th Century was caused by carbon dioxide from the combustion of fossil fuels.”

The weakness of the global warming case notwithstanding, Hostetter admits “the Greens will not give up easily. The coming rebellion without a cause could spell serious trouble for America.”

Jesse Walker of Reason magazine finds Hostetter’s view of the Green movement off-target. He told E&CN, “it is far from obvious to me that environmental issues are the central concern of the American Green Party, at least on the national level.” Kendra Okonski of the Competitive Enterprise Institute agreed, suggesting the Greens’ focus is more anti-industrial than environmental.

“The irony of the Green Party,” Okonski noted, “is that while they hate ‘bigness’ for business, they can’t see why a) big government might also be bad because it is big and b) why big government can’t solve environmental problems.

“It’s people and markets that solve environmental problems,” Okonski explained, “when property rights and contracts are enforced, and the market is left to devise wholly better, voluntary solutions to address environmental concerns.”

Green impact depends on audience

Victor Porlier of the Center for Civic Renewal expects the Green Party “will grow here, just as it has in Europe.” The environmental issue will be crucial to the Party’s future, he says, because “Radical Environmentalism seems to be the principal religion of choice on most college campuses, a place where ‘we’ have not won the debate.”

More optimistically, David Schnare of EPA assured E&CN that the Green Party has little impact on public policymaking. “Whenever I have met with local officials at a point when they must make investment decisions regarding risk management,” he said, “they abandon the ‘Green’ doctrine and apply reasoned examination of the facts. They make their best effort to understand the relative risks, the uncertainty implicit in risk estimates, and the ‘actual meaning to the public.’

“Where the rubber hits the road,” said Schnare, “the decision makers are tight with their bucks and are looking for reasons not to spend them. Sound science is a good reason for them.”

Too radical for their own good

Kenneth Green of the Reason Public Policy Institute has found signs internationally that the Greens’ anti-science approach is wearing thin.

“In the U.S., Greenpeace’s America group—the flagship moneymaker for Greenpeace—has been in receivership for several years now and has seen a precipitous decline in membership.” Green continued, “the founder of Greenpeace blames this decline on the organization’s abuse of science to further purely political goals.”

“The hooliganism at The Hague was partly responsible for the breakdown at the meeting,” Green explained, “radicalizing the various parties and creating a generalized feeling that the ‘pro-rapid-action’ people were increasingly a bunch of uncivil extremists.”

Green believes the Green Party in the U.S. might draw the Democrats further left, pulling them away from their swing voters. Moreover, the Party might provide some politicians on the right with good ammunition to attack a political party tied to eco-terrorism and lawlessness.

Other observers agree that the Green Party has become too radical for its own good. Randal O’Toole, visiting professor of political science at Utah State University, told E&CN, “the Green Party is just one more example of the marginalization of the environmental movement from the mainstream of American thinking and politics. Since Bill Clinton was elected, the movement has trended towards extreme views that turn off Americans and most politicians.”

But not everyone agrees. Joseph Bast, president of The Heartland Institute and founding publisher of E&CN, cast the most pessimistic spin on this debate.

Observes Bast, “I think the Green Party is an enormous and, to me, surprising or unexpected threat to the political viability of market- and science-based environmentalism. We have been winning the intellectual debate, and opinion polls show we have even driven environmental issues down the rank of importance for the most of the general public.

“However, politics appears to be heading in a different direction. In an era when politics is just another kind of entertainment, the Greens have shrewdly positioned themselves to be the most entertaining party on the scene.

“Last November’s election left little doubt that the center of the left has moved left, and it will be increasingly difficult to get moderate politicians to call for sound science in the face of environmental scare tactics—much less to roll back misguided legislation.”