Politics & Policy

No One Wants to Go Broke for Ineffective Climate-Change ‘Solutions’

A resident of Tybee Island, Ga., stands on the shore as Hurricane Matthew approaches, October 7, 2016. (Reuters photo: Tami Chappell)
Economic sacrifices can’t be justified if they don’t serve their stated purpose.

America’s long hurricane drought is over. The drought was so long that just this summer, the Washington Post’s weather editor, Jason Samenow, felt compelled to write a piece making the case that the absence of hurricanes was “terrifying.” No, I’m not making this up. A major hurricane had not hit the east coast in more than a decade, and he was concerned that Americans might grow complacent, and that increasing wealth and higher populations on the coast would make the next hurricane that much more destructive.

But he also wrote to assure liberal Americans that the hurricane drought absolutely, positively did not mean that climate change wasn’t real:

Adam Sobel, a climate scientist at Columbia University, cautions that the drought in no way invalidates global warming predictions or the expectation that storms will grow more intense in future decades. The “notion that the hurricane drought in the Atlantic has somehow disproved the consensus projections of climate science is wrong, because the drought is still a relatively short-term fluctuation in a single basin, while the projections are for long-term global trends,” he writes on his blog.

Okay, sure, everyone knows that short-term weather fluctuations have little to do with long-term climate trends, but someone needs to tell the climate-change alarmists. Because weather, in the form of Hurricane Matthew, is suddenly proof of climate change again. The Huffington Post pointed to Matthew’s “unusual” strength as a climate-change indicator. A Slate piece made the same point, arguing that “October hurricanes aren’t supposed to be this scary.” Newsweek claimed that Matthew “signals the devastation that lies ahead.

The problem for alarmists, as always, is that the true devastation is always just over the horizon. The present reality never justifies the language of crisis, and as time marches on, more and more of the most hysterical predictions fail. Who can forget this incredible gem from Good Morning America in 2008?

(You’ll note that GMA was predicting the nightmare world of . . . 2015.)

Global-warming activists have always faced a three-fold challenge in coaxing Americans into taking drastic action to “save the climate.” First, they need to prove that man-made activity has a material impact on global climate. Second, they need to prove that this impact is harmful to human life. And third, they need to prove that the cure isn’t worse than the disease — that the economic sacrifices will be worth it.

Unfortunately, the debate focuses almost entirely on the first point, while environmentalists actively and energetically undermine their own case for the other two.

Is the environmentalist Left really asking Americans to lose their jobs for no meaningful reason? Well, yes.

For the sake of argument, let’s presume the truth of the first assertion, that mankind has a material effect on global climate. Let’s presume that fossil-fuel use and other forms of human activity can raise the planet’s temperature by the few degrees that many climate scientists predict. After that, the prediction game gets truly dicey.

For example, the very same Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change document that found that the world had “likely” entered the warmest decades of the last 1,400 years also found “no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency over the past century.” Indeed, regarding the droughts-storms-floods model of climate alarmism, the document frequently stated that data are lacking or that previous dire assertions are “no longer supported.” As one commentator noted, “the IPCC puts to rest general yet popular claims that climate change already results in increasing floods, droughts or hurricanes, and invalidates claims that climate change already risks the above listed catastrophic scenarios, as such claims are both scientifically unsupportable and outside the scientific consensus.”

But rest assured, disaster is coming, and so Americans are asked to make economic sacrifices that will make . . . no difference in global climate.

Wait. What? Is the environmentalist Left really asking Americans to lose their jobs for no meaningful reason? Well, yes. For example, the White House delayed and then ultimately stopped the Keystone XL pipeline despite the fact that the State Department declared that it would have “negligible impact” on the environment. In other cases, the administration has pushed through costly regulations that would reduce emissions by a total amount equal to less than two weeks of Chinese output over the next 15 years.

#related#The bottom line is that no American wants to lose his job or sacrifice his family’s prosperity if it won’t forestall an emergency that’s always in the future — an emergency that’s never quite dire enough to get a single celebrity, activist, or government official to scale back his own extraordinarily high-carbon lifestyle. As the University of Tennessee’s Glenn Reynolds is fond of saying, he’ll believe that a crisis exists when the alarmists start acting like a crisis exists.

We always knew the Atlantic hurricane drought would end. Hurricanes have been hitting the American coast since before there were Americans. But as we pray for the victims and prepare to help the survivors, let’s remember that there is still no reason to sacrifice American prosperity and American jobs for the sake of sheer speculation and elite virtue-signaling. No one wants to go broke for “solutions” that won’t stop climate change.

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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