Climate science is not settled science. The climate is a complex system of interactions that includes everything on this planet and many things off it. The breaths you are taking right now contribute to the climate as does the tilt of the earth and the gravity of the moon. The sheer extent of this supersystem makes many of the predictions issued by so-called climate experts absurd on their face. And yet, an enormous amount of policy is being pursued based on what we “know” about the climate and its future.
Take, as an obvious example, President Biden’s revocation of permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. This executive order is rather pretentiously called “Executive Order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis.” Don’t you see? Science has been restored, and it says that the climate is in crisis. That means that Biden’s action—which cost many thousands of jobs, international trade, and energy independence—is the edict of settled and sure science about an impending doom.
“Doom” may seem like an overwrought word, but I think it nicely matches the tenor of the Democratic talking points. Biden’s climate czar, John Kerry, doubled-down last week on the droll prediction that we are nine years away from a world-ending climate disaster. And before I give the impression that this alarmism only pervades the executive branch, it is worth noting that Congressional leadership has joined the chorus.
Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer recently advocated increasing executive power and removing checks on pure majoritarianism by declaring a climate emergency. “If there ever was an emergency, climate is one,” he said.
What utter rubbish! Perhaps we should require politicians to carry dictionaries and read aloud the definition of a word when challenged. It would help curb this ridiculous abuse of language.
An emergency is imminent. It is happening now or will happen within a very short period of time. Emergencies pose a great risk to life and property that demands immediate action. A single climate data point is three decades of weather patterns. Emergencies are not thirty years long.
A flood is an emergency; a rise in sea levels is not. A tornado is an emergency; a greater number of storms or a tendency toward more intense storms is not. We need to keep this distinction ever before us because, as Hayek reminds us, “Emergencies have always been the pretext on which the safeguards of individual liberty have been eroded—and once they are suspended it is not difficult for anyone who has assumed such emergency powers to see to it that the emergency persists” (Law, Legislation and Liberty, Vol. 3, 1979, 124).
Needless to say, environmental alarmism has run amok on the left. What makes this crisis useful in a way that COVID-19 is not (at least, not anymore) is that “climate change” is a vague term that can encompass anything expedient for a momentary goal. A mainstream Democratic talking point is that climate change is racist. The left has found the fountain of eternal emergency, and it will never run dry.
This kind of fear mongering relies on the assumption that there are no alternatives outside of large government intervention that can solve any problem. Anything is justified if it stops the colossus. When it comes to the effects of climate change, that is certainly not the case.
To begin, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) notoriously issues catastrophic predictions that fail to materialize. As noted atmospheric physicist S. Fred Singer explained during a panel on climate change, the IPCC predicted years ago that we would all be up to our ankles in seawater by now. To make this lack of credibility even more hilarious is that, shocking as it is, the IPCC reports do not corroborate the Democratic prediction of doom.
For the benefit of the left, famous physicist Richard Feynman’s words bear repeating:
When someone says, “Science teaches such and such,” he is using the word incorrectly. Science doesn’t teach anything; experience teaches it. If they say to you, “Science has shown such and such,” you might ask, “How does science show it? How did the scientists find out? How? What? Where?”
It should not be “science has shown” but “this experiment, this effect, has shown.” And you have as much right as anyone else, upon hearing about the experiments–but be patient and listen to all the evidence–to judge whether a sensible conclusion has been arrived at.
Furthermore, we have good reason to believe that extreme mitigation efforts are not efficacious even if IPCC predictions are true. William D. Nordhaus received the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2018 for his work on this subject. His research showed that technological advancement greatly reduces the effects of climate change on humans.
The cost of direct intervention, however, is high. Undeveloped nations, in particular, rely on cheap, readily available fossil fuels to reduce poverty. Nordhaus’s model predicts that following IPCC recommendations would make the world poorer than doing nothing at all to mitigate climate change!
The problem, then, is twofold. First, the party of science(!) is not well appraised of what the IPCC reports contain, and I, at least, am convinced that those reports are themselves seriously flawed. Second, the cure proposed is far worse than the disease. Poor—and perhaps it bears mentioning for the sake of irony—predominantly black nations will struggle to survive if we try to force the world to change.
What makes this debacle particularly vexing is that a reasonable debate about how to deal with environmental impact is possible. As it currently stands, one side is simply claiming that the threat is so large, so all-encompassing that nothing short of total surrender is acceptable. That is not a debate.
Another true shame is that the environment itself is a loser in this fight. There are plenty of us on all sides who cherish the world around us and want to see healthy ecosystems. So far as I can see, those who truly desire to see a healthy planet do not parrot the extremist claims. What we lose when focus is shifted away from local problems such as polluted waterways or roadsides and toward world-ending catastrophe is the ability to act. Alarmism strips us of our agency in this fight.
Every living creature on this planet “disrupts” its environment in some way. Beavers building dams and birds buildings nests are nothing more than animals using their inherent abilities to engineer their environment so that it better suits their survival. Humans are doing the same, and I fail to see any unique evil (or any evil at all) in that course.
If we want to preserve the planet and promote healthy, balanced ecosystems. Wonderful! Let us do it. However, it cannot come at the cost of our very survival. Such foolishness should be dismissed out of hand. It has no place in discourse about the best solution all things considered, and that is precisely where our attention should be.