Obstacles to environmental consensus

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Between the 1960s and 1990s, Canada and much of the Western world enjoyed a broad environmental consensus focused on real, tangible action on clean air, water and soil, with most major parties all taking moderate environmentalism and conservationism seriously.  The last real international agreement that Canada signed onto that wasn’t a mere aspirational UN confab was the 1991 Canada-US Air Quality Agreement – virtually eliminating acid rain on the continent – between the Mulroney and Reagan-Bush administrations.  It was an era that saw differences in environmental policy between major parties in most countries counted in degrees.

This consensus was possible because environmental policy was about the environment. A policy designed to reduce the presence of something in the environment could more often than not be taken at face value. But in the period between the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Kyoto Accord, the environmentalist movement in North America began taking its cues from its cousins in Europe like the German Green Party, which explicitly fused far-left class and economic theory with militant environmentalism.

The 1997 Kyoto Accord was a watershed moment in smashing the cross-ideological environmental consensus.  A plan to save the planet somehow required wealthy capitalist nations to transfer vast sums of wealth to poor developing, communist, and post-communist nations.  Wealth redistribution was now fundamentally linked with the new environmentalist movement.

In 2019, it’s difficult to find a party or group championing action on global warming that isn’t offering as the solution some form of re-treaded socialism.

Culture war

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Democrats are no more willing than social-conservative Trump supporters to lay down their culture-war objectives and enmities in order to save the constitution from the president. As Ross Douthat and others have pointed out, if liberals really believed that Trump was a threat to the constitutional order or a harbinger of fascism, they would begin doing what many liberals did after the 2004 election: making rhetorical and political gestures toward conservative churchgoers in order to mollify them and win the next election … Instead, one is tempted to think that liberals see Trump’s struggles as an opportunity to win more culture-war battles more comprehensively.