The world is in turmoil. The economies of the world, rich countries and poor, from "China to Peru" (to call up a Johnsonian phrase), are plunging. Industries that have been part of the fundamental landscape of the industrial world are failing - staring at state takeovers, bankruptcy or utter collapse.
Markets are drying up, private wealth is shrinking, the engines of industry are slowing. Layoff notices are going out all over the world. Governments everywhere are leaping into urgent deficit financing on the premise that a stalled or stopped world economy must be buttressed by massive intervention. Such is the emergency that almost every government, of every political stripe, has abandoned the great dogmas that warned of the evils of public debt, and embraced with an almost frantic abandon the opposite mantra: They must spend their way out of the recession.
Is there no light amid all this gloom?
Well, if you are among the great tribe of global warming catastrophists, surely there is. If the industrial economies of the world are in a forced slowdown, if auto companies - the manufacturers of those demonic gas-guzzling SUVs - are facing ruin, if long-standing business are cutting their work forces by 20 per cent and 30 per cent and 40 per cent, if people are buying less and, consequently, business is making less, then surely the entire world's carbon emissions are, per necessitatem, going down. The world is burning less oil, because the world is doing less.
This is true on the smaller, more private scale as well. People in the grip of economic hardship will travel less, shop less. They will make do with what they have. Millions of people the world over are retrenching, determined to stay within their means. To coin a phrase, this will represent millions of (forced) green acts.
Thus, though it may be cruel and ironic, what the preachments of Al Gore and David Suzuki have failed to achieve, the crisis of the world's banking systems and consequent recession will accomplish. What their stark cries of alarm over imminent planetary collapse, the rise of the oceans and the plight of the polar bear could not move people and governments to do voluntarily, the iron laws of economic crisis will effect. What Kyoto speciously promised, the downturn, in part, will deliver. Surely, however bitter the means, this is good news from their perspective.
It would, of course, be tasteless to celebrate the fact. There is a lot of misery for a lot of people when good times turn to bad. But it would be almost unnatural for those who have been warning the rest of us for nearly two decades that we are in a "planetary emergency" - that we must forswear our dependence on fossil fuels, that petroleum is evil, that the oil sands are the dirtiest project on the planet - not to take some uplift that what they have wished for (however inadvertently) has come to pass.
Curiously, however, we hear very little from them of this "upside" to the current crisis. Maybe because it's "an inconvenient truth," and the telling of it would make explicit what has always been the real equation of the global warming scare. Which is, that if people believe the planet is on the path to apocalyptic ruin because of the world's dependence on petroleum - and that, without exaggeration, is the message of the global warming advocates - then the world's economies must radically shrink. We must do and have less of everything. We must make less, travel less, buy less - and endure the deeper hardship of more people out of work.
That is the inescapable message of a serious belief in global warming. No amount of chatter about a "green economy" or Twittering about all the "green jobs" about to materialize as soon as we "wean ourselves from our carbon dependency" - all rhetorical sugar-coating - will change it.
If Prince Charles, another Horseperson of the eco-Apocalypse, really believes that "the threat of catastrophic climate change calls into question humanity's continued existence on the planet," then, in some secret chamber of his royal heart, he must be cheering the great blizzard roiling the world's economies. For it is surely, as night follows day, reducing the call on the world's energy and "downsizing" the dreaded "carbon footprints" of whole nations. But we do not hear his cheering or the cheering of the Sierra Clubs or the Earth Hour glee clubs because that would be acknowledging the truth of what their prescriptions for a new economy the "green economy" really mean.
Do you really wish to know what this "green economy" will look like? Look out the recession's window. We're in it.