Former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel’s famous axiom is that a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. It’s an even worse thing to manufacture.
Although President-elect Joe Biden obviously disagrees. Creating an unwarranted sense of drama and urgency around climate change is central to his approach, in order to catalyze action unsupported by the facts or common sense.
In announcing his climate and energy team the other day, Biden declared climate change a crisis requiring a “unified national response.” Going even further, he called it “an existential threat of our time,” a frankly preposterous claim if taken literally, or even seriously.
To maintain that increasing global temperatures are a threat to human existence itself entails believing that human beings — an endlessly adaptive species that has dramatically increased its own lifespan over the past century — will be snuffed out if the planet gets a few degrees hotter.
If the worst comes and sea levels rise significantly, we won’t move away from the coasts and find better ways to control flooding. If summers get much hotter in places unaccustomed to it, we won’t invest more in air conditioning. If droughts markedly increase, we won’t husband our water resources more intelligently. If some areas become uninhabitable, we won’t leave for more hospitable climes.
No, a humanity that is wealthier and more technologically proficient than ever will be content to expose itself to the worst depredations of nature that it has done so much to master over the past millennium.
This is a laughable account of how the world works. The globe has been getting warmer for decades now, with no adverse effects on human population or longevity. Heck, even polar bears, once held out as the pitiable victims of global warming, aren’t being driven to extinction.
In a climate speech during the campaign a few months ago, Biden relied on the tried-and-true alarmist tack of attributing every adverse weather event to global warming.
The flooding in the Midwest was an artifact of climate change, never mind that, as Bjorn Lomborg points out, the U.N. isn’t sure whether flooding overall is getting more or less frequent.
Somewhat counterintuitively, Biden also blamed drought in the Midwest on climate change, even though, according to Lomborg, the federal government’s National Climate Assessment says that “drought has decreased over much of the continental United States in association with long-term increases in precipitation.”
Of course, Biden maintained that California wildfires have been caused by the upward trend in global temperatures, and it is probably a factor. Still, as Lomborg notes, the amount of land that is burning around the globe has fallen sharply since the late 19th century in response to changing human behavior (e.g., more cultivation of the land).
Finally, Biden cited Hurricane Laura, the Category 4 storm that made landfall in Louisiana, as yet more climate-driven extreme weather. The studies do show more storm activity in the Atlantic, Lomborg writes, although not necessarily from climate change. Meanwhile, there’s no global trend in tropical cyclones.
Biden spoke of “a feeling of dread and anxiety” over climate change, but this isn’t a sentiment that, to the extent it exists at all, he wants to address or assuage. Instead, he seeks to stoke it, and if that requires frankly distorting the scientific consensus to paint catastrophic scenarios, so be it.
There is no doubt that human activity contributes to climate change. It is a long-term challenge that we should seek to understand better and prepare to address through adaption and innovation should the worst come decades from now.
But that’s not enough for Biden. He doesn’t want to get us thinking about climate change, but rather to suspend all rational thought about the issue — especially about the downsides of costly measures to crimp the U.S. economy in the name of saving the planet.
In short, he needs a crisis atmosphere, the facts and science be damned.
© 2020 by King Features Syndicate