As I sit in my office, three lights now burn where one used to suffice. When I walk into the room and flip the ceiling light switch, the odd, coiled compact fluorescent lamp (CFL), now the only option on the light bulb aisle of the supermarket, flickers dimly and puts out a weak gray light for several minutes before finally flaring into full luminescence. Despite its size, it’s about as bright as an old 30-Watt bulb — not enough light to work by. Fortunately, I have a lamp on my desk and a floor lamp beside my chair, both also equipped with CFLs. Together, these three lights give a reasonable approximation of a single old-fashioned 60-Watt incandescent light bulb. Today, incandescent light bulbs, one of America’s greatest inventions, are all but gone, driven out of production by a 2007 law (the Energy Independence and Security Act) that requires all light bulbs to meet energy efficiency standards largely unobtainable by incandescent light-bulb technology.
As to functionality, there is no comparison between new and old. Incandescent bulbs were easier on the eyes, brighter, and lit instantly when the switch was flicked. Also, they were cheap. A box of 10 cost only a few dollars, and lasted for many months. At the time the new efficiency standards went into effect, the only bulbs able to meet them were CFLs, which, by contrast, are dim, flickering, and take time to light up, as is true of all fluorescent lights. They are said to last many times longer than incandescent bulbs, but they’re also much more expensive; individual CFLs can run 10 or 20 dollars apiece or more. Several of the CFLs in my home were supplied for free by the electric company, anxious to promote the new, allegedly environmentally friendly technology. But that was a one-time offer; before long, the purchase of the expensive new lights will become yet another burdensome, government-imposed budget item. Working in an office scarcely brighter than if lit by oil lamps, the consequences of what has been called “light bulb socialism” are all too clear. And while LED lights, which also meet the government’s requirements, are becoming popular as they are brighter than fluorescents and newer models are better able to approximate an incandescent light bulb’s spectrum, they are still quite expensive. The ban on incandescent light bulbs is a completely unnecessary step backwards, courtesy of a federal government that seems determined to turn the clocks back to the pre-industrial age.
But the odd thing about “light bulb socialism” is that it is happening all over the world, and at the same time. Australia banned the sale of “wasteful” incandescent light bulbs in 2009, and Argentina did the same the following year. Canada banned the sale of incandescent bulbs in 2014. The European Union banned the sale of most incandescent bulbs in 2012, and many Asian countries, including India, China, and the Philippines, have pledged to do the same. The phase-out of incandescent bulbs is an accelerating global phenomenon, a fact that most American critics of the 2007 law have failed to mention.
Nor is this a coincidence. Far from being a spontaneous grassroots movement in favor of more energy efficiency, the eradication of incandescent light bulbs is actually being coordinated by a little-known initiative called en.lighten, run by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), in coordination with the Global Environment Facility (GEF), a powerful but little-known organization set up at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. According to its own website, the GEF now has become “an international partnership of 183 countries” and counts among its many “implementing partners” all of the major regional development banks, the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme, the aforementioned UNEP, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, and the World Wildlife Fund. Among its many global environmental projects, the phase-out of incandescent light bulbs has been a priority of the GEF for many years.
In 2009, the UNEP and GEF set up en.lighten to accelerate this program. Three years later, at the Rio+20 Earth Summit, 14 more countries signed up for the phase-out, fulfilling one of the major goals of the 2012 gathering. According to en.lighten, the global switch to CFLs will eventually reduce CO2 emissions by 580 million tons annually.
In other words, it’s all about combating climate change. That CFLs are much more expensive, not as bright, and full of toxic mercury that could pose major health risks in the event of breakage is secondary to the fanatical global environmentalist agenda that contemplates reducing “greenhouse gas” emissions at any cost.
The reality, unsuspected by most Americans frustrated with the new mandated light bulbs, is that they are a product of the UN’s global environmental regime. The sponsors of the 2007 energy bill in the United States, just like their counterparts in Australia, Canada, the EU, and many other nations, were implementing the UN’s climate-control agenda, and they’re far from finished. Unless Americans awaken soon to the looming reality of global UN-centered environmentalist tyranny, dim bulbs at home and in elected office will be among the least of our worries.
The Rationale and the Reality
For several generations, radical environmentalism has been one of the major pretexts for world government. It is no accident that the original Rio Earth Summit occurred in 1992, precisely at the time that the Cold War was winding down, and it was becoming apparent to everybody that a civilization-ending nuclear war between the West and the Soviet Bloc was not in the cards. The end of the Cold War meant the end of a major justification for the entire UN-centered international order, including regional defense organizations such as NATO, the nuclear disarmament drive, and UN peacekeeping initiatives in global hotspots such as the Korean peninsula. The nascent New World Order needed a new raison d’être, and the environment was Exhibit A.
Interestingly, George F. Kennan, a key architect of the United States’ Cold War policy with the Soviet Union, has also observed that environmental devastation is the “great enemy” in the post-Cold War era. In an opinion piece entitled “A Europe now free from a confining Cold War vision,” which was published by the Washington Post on November 14, 1989, less than a week after the fall of the Berlin Wall, he wrote: “The changes now sweeping Central and Eastern Europe are momentous, irreversible, and truly epoch-making.” And he concluded: “The great enemy is not the Soviet Union, but the rapid deterioration of our planet as a supporting structure for life.”
Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, and the leader when the Berlin Wall came down, also warned about this post-Cold War enemy in a speech he delivered on May 6, 1992: “The prospect of catastrophic climatic changes, more frequent droughts, floods, hunger, epidemics, national-ethnic conflicts, and other similar catastrophes compels governments to adopt a world perspective and seek generally applicable solutions.” He also approvingly stated that “an awareness of the need for some kind of global government is gaining ground.”
Elsewhere in The New American article (see here), we document that runaway global warming and related catastrophes predicted by the climate doomsayers simply have not occurred. In fact, global warming has been on pause for more than 18 years now (see here). But none of this has deterred the climate claque, which continues to bombard the public with ominous pronouncements of “the hottest summer yet” and misleading photos of underweight polar bears on shrinking ice floes.
The persistence (and even expansion, in the southern hemisphere) of polar ice caps, as well as other inconvenient climatological truths, have failed to silence the environmental extremists because, since at least the 1960s, the environmentalist movement has been grounded not in science but in politics. Climate change in particular has become a huge, government-subsidized enterprise, where elite climatologists at huge universities compete for gargantuan government grants to continue research to show that the climate apocalypse is nigh. Such claims create a powerful rationale for more government, which is why they are so popular with the political class and their media toadies.
On the other hand, research monies for scientists skeptical of the global-warming hysteria are almost non-existent, because the absence of anthropogenic global warming does not align with any political agenda. Of all the environmental causes célèbres, global warming is the most politically significant, because it provides the strongest possible credible ideological pretext for global environmental controls.
It is climate change, allegedly caused by the increased emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, that provides the rationale for the global eradication of incandescent light bulbs, as we have seen. It is also the rationale behind the accelerating drive to impose “carbon taxes” worldwide, taxes intended to penalize individual and corporate contributions to atmospheric carbon dioxide.
The central thrust of the recently concluded environmental summit in Paris was to strengthen the commitment of countries to curbing greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Supposedly, this will cause global temperatures to level off at 2 degrees Celsius higher than in the pre-Industrial Age. Of course, no one has any idea what average world temperatures were in the pre-Industrial Age, since there were no satellites or modern weather facilities to monitor such data. The evidence seems to suggest that global temperatures fluctuated widely — between the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age that followed, for example — but such matters are of small concern to climate-change zealots who are so frequently wrong but never in doubt. The Medieval Warm Period allowed the Vikings to settle in Greenland and grow a wide variety of crops. But with the arrival of the global-cooling cycle known as the Little Ice Age, most European settlements in Greenland were abandoned, though many of their churches and dwelling places stand to this day.
So-called “anthropogenic climate change” — which, as the media never tire of reminding us — is now supposedly “settled science,” is nothing more than the most sophisticated rationale for socialist totalitarianism since Marx penned the Communist Manifesto. Just as Marx framed communism as the solution to the alleged implacable antagonism between the oppressed working class and their bourgeois oppressors, so now the global environmental regime, embodied by the UNEP, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Kyoto Protocol, the new Paris accord, and the GEF, is being touted as the only possible way to halt mankind’s destruction of the environment, including his altering of the very climate. Scientists claiming that man’s impact on the climate is negligible at best are denied access to publication and vilified in the media. The very fact that “settled science” such as general relativity and quantum entanglement — first described and verified decades ago — are still routinely tested by modern physicists, while the dogma of global warming is deemed beyond critique, puts the lie to any claims of scientific validity. Environmental apocalypse-mongering is politics, designed to serve the interests of the very most dangerous political agenda of them all: the drive to bring about world government.
Presidents, prime ministers, congressmen, academics, media elites, and millions of misinformed citizens alike, in supporting the climate-change hysteria and the wild claims of radical environmentalism in general, are supporting the UN’s core agenda and the push for a socialist one world state — whether they know it or not. Beyond the banning of light bulbs and the push for carbon taxes lie more ominous possibilities. For example, the UN’s “World Heritage Site” project appears designed to create a system of global parks administered by a global authority. Then there are the so-called legally binding parts of the Paris accord, including the reductions in CO2 that would wreak havoc on our industrial society and economy if implemented. If the UN, in little over 20 years, has gone from the vague exhortations of the UNFCCC to the forced removal of incandescent light bulbs from America’s stores, is it a stretch to imagine future UN edicts getting rid of all “gas guzzlers,” private aircraft, large cattle ranches, or anything else deemed a contributor to global warming?
Twenty years ago, the UN’s ability to get rid of light bulbs would have seemed fantastical. But our new light bulb-less society is a testament to the growing power of the UN’s eco-enforcement arm — a testament to which we had better pay heed, before the lights of liberty go out altogether.
This article originally appeared in The New American's special report on climate. To order the report in either PDF or print format, click here.