Liberals increasingly comparing global warming to slavery

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Prominent liberals are increasingly comparing global warming to slavery.

On Earth Day, liberal MSNBC host Chris Hayes published a piece for The Nation which compared the political economy of global warming to the political economy of slavery. Hayes compared the financial interests of preserving slavery to the financial interests of burning hydrocarbons which environmentalists say cause global warming.

“The last time in American history that some powerful set of interests relinquished its claim on $10 trillion of wealth was in 1865 — and then only after four years and more than 600,000 lives lost in the bloodiest, most horrific war we’ve ever fought,” Hayes said, adding he is not trying to morally equate global warming and slavery.

But while Hayes says he disavows moral equivalency, he argues that the only historical equivalent to the politics of global warming is slavery. Hayes writes that “you must confront the fact that the climate justice movement is demanding that an existing set of political and economic interests be forced to say goodbye to trillions of dollars of wealth.”

“It is impossible to point to any precedent other than abolition,” he adds.

Hayes, however, is not the first person to compare global warming to slavery. Another prominent liberal in the state of Colorado said: “You know, slavery had a lot of economic benefits, but it had an ethical problem.” (RELATED: Fracking opponent compares oil and gas practices to slavery)

That liberal was Weston Wilson, an environmental engineer and former environmental regulator who appeared in the anti-fracking film “Gasland.” Wilson made his comments at Colorado Christian University on Monday night, Complete Colorado reports.

“Burning fossil fuels is an ethical problem. You can’t put under the seas Bangladesh or Micronesia because of our collective burning of fossil fuels. That’s what’s happening,” Wilson said.

Wilson was on a panel debating hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in Colorado — a contentious issue in the state, where environmentalists are trying to ban the drilling practice. Wilson’s comments were immediately criticized by another panelist who called them “outrageous.”

Not long before Hayes and Wilson, the liberal blog Grist put out a piece titled “Is climate change the new slavery?” The piece argues that global warming will cause massive crop failures and exacerbate world hunger problems, which will drive people to sell themselves into slavery.

“There are no scientific papers to tell us this, so we must look to history instead for clues to our dystopian future,” writes Gillen D’Arcy Wood for Grist.

“Some historians have argued that it was the harnessing of carbon energy — not the abolitionists — that truly made an end to slavery possible in the 19th century,” D’Arcy Wood writes. “But in a dark historical irony, that same carbon energy, as a pollutant altering the chemistry of the atmosphere and oceans, is now ushering in a new era of global slavery.”

“Millions this century, living and yet unborn, face displaced lives without hope or freedom of choice, only desperate hardship, due to haywire changes in weather patterns,” D’Arcy Wood continues.

Last August, Al Gore likened those who are “skeptical” or “deny” that mankind is warming the planet to those who opposed civil rights, supported apartheid and slavery or opposed gay rights.

“I remember as a boy when the conversation on civil rights was won in the South,” Gore said in an interview with The Washington Post. “I remember a time when one of my friends made a racist joke and another said, hey man, we don’t go for that anymore.”

“The same thing happened on apartheid. The same thing happened on the nuclear arms race with the freeze movement,” Gore said. “The same thing happened in an earlier era with abolition.”

“A few months ago, I saw an article about two gay men standing in line for pizza and some homophobe made an ugly comment about them holding hands and everyone else in line told them to shut up. We’re winning that conversation,” Gore continued.

Long before Gore likened global warming skeptics to anti-abolitionists, former NASA scientist and environmental activist James Hansen said global warming was “on par with slavery.”

The UK Independent reported in 2012 that Hansen said at an award ceremony that “dealing with climate change is a moral issue on a par with ending slavery.” He made these comments while still a NASA scientist whose salary was paid for by taxpayers. Hansen was one of the first to sound the alarm on global warming by testifying in front of Congress on the issue in the 1980s.

Why the focus on slavery? One theory that has been put forward is that the data is no longer in favor of those pushing the most aggressive actions on the climate, driving them to make more radical arguments.

Indeed, the globe has not warmed in the last 17 years or so, a phenomenon which has confounded scientists for some time now. Also, winters have trending colder for the past two decades, despite warnings in the early 2000s that children could grow up not knowing what snow is.

There is also the issue of polar sea ice coverage. Al Gore said that there would be no ice in the north pole by 2013, but ice coverage is actually on the rebound in the arctic. Also, Antarctica has seen record ice coverage this year — it was 1.05 million square kilometers above normal as of this week.

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