Saving the Planet, or Themselves?
Since well before the publication of Al Gore's Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit in 1992, we've been told we can "save the planet" by eliminating fossil fuels. Many environmentalists ride bikes to work, refuse plastic bags at stores, and vote for more solar and windmills, but is any of it "saving the planet"?
Bjorn Lomborg's book False Alarm exposes a host of false claims by environmentalists, including the notion that warming has been producing more storms, drought, and floods. In fact, all of these have remained at the same level over the past 100 years. As Lomborg writes, "deaths caused by climate-related disasters have declined precipitously over the past century" (p. 73) — not because of fewer storms, but because increasing wealth has made it possible to protect ourselves from climate events. The real danger lies in useless spending on climate change that will bankrupt societies and make it impossible for their people to protect themselves.
The global economy has now constructed an entire edifice atop the myth of catastrophic man-made global warming, and activists like Gore collectively have made billions if not trillions of dollars off their predictions of doom. Environmental activism became a lucrative business, in the form of non-profit revenues and income from corporate consulting.
Now under Biden, activists promise to transform the global economy at a cost of hundreds of trillions. An SEC proposed rule on "climate change reporting and control" would, if enacted, lower profits and productivity for large businesses and bankrupt smaller ones. And the SEC is just one among hundreds of federal agencies targeting fossil fuel emissions and exposing the private sector to huge reporting and legal costs. According to the National Law Review, "companies will likely need to consider and quantify the impact of environmental factors on both the upstream and downstream aspects of their business."
Ironically, the global warming edifice is beginning to crack as European nations reverse their behavior, if not their rhetoric, on warming. Germany never fully complied with the Paris Agreement to begin with, but on May 24, it announced that it may use idled coal-fired power plants to compensate for lost Russian natural gas supplies. Maybe California's Gov. Newsom needs to take a tip from Germany, since California has warned of "possible summer blackouts" for at least the next three years.
All of this government action, in the U.S. and abroad, is avoidable. The reality is that wind and solar supply only 1.1% of global energy needs at present and will not supply more than 5% by 2040 (Lomborg, p. 104) — and this at a cost of trillions of dollars in subsidies and credits. It is madness for politicians and corporate leaders to promise "net zero" by 2030 or even 2050. We must face reality and insist, for both strategic and economic reasons, that an adequate supply of fossil fuels is produced in our own country.
Fortunately, there is no pressing need to "transition" to wind and solar. Environmentalists present a doomsday scenario of rising seas, catastrophic storms, and worldwide drought — none of which is happening. A simple test is to examine the number of major hurricane strikes on the U.S. soil. According to NOAA, with data going back to 1850, that number has remained entirely stable: 27 from 1850 to 1900, 32 from 1900 to 1950, and 28 from 1950 to 2000. The deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history occurred in 1900, 1919, and 1926, not in the era of so-called global warming: Katrina, the only devastating 21st-century storm, was the 33rd deadliest storm in our history — and it was devastating because of inadequate government preparation and response.
Climate alarmists also point to purported drought as evidence of warming. During the 1950s, I lived in central Oklahoma during one of the worst droughts in the state's history. Examine the evidence: a chart showing wet and dry periods in Oklahoma shows beyond all doubt that Oklahoma was far drier in the period from 1900 to 1980, and greener from 1980 to the present — just the opposite of what alarmists claim it should be. The fact is that the Central Plains, our country's breadbasket, has become greener precisely during the period of greater warming.
Even if we wished to change the climate, there's little we could do about it. That's not my assessment: it comes from the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which has admitted in the past that a portion of recent warming is due to natural causes and that even a complete global transition to "net zero" would have not prevent further temperature increases, or declines for that matter. In any case, why would we wish to return to cooler "pre-industrial" levels when there are many advantages to warmer temperatures, including higher agricultural productivity.
Today's warming of one degree Celsius is not an "inconvenient truth" — it is, for some, a minor inconvenience. But for most of us, it is not even that; it is an opportunity, as, with warmer temperatures and higher CO2 levels, plants grow more quickly and in regions where they could not have grown before. Warming increases the Earth's productivity, making it possible to feed the 10 billion persons expected by 2050. If the Earth entered a period of sudden cooling, as it well might, the Earth's poor would be at risk of starvation.
Our values with regard to climate, as with regard to so much else, have been twisted by a nihilistic generation that prefers enslavement and government control to freedom and opportunity. In the 1930s, there were millions of compulsive Nazi sympathizers living in the U.S. They enjoyed dressing up in brown uniforms and marching around like robots programmed by a charismatic leader.
Today, those compulsives wear green and agonize over consuming too much of the world's resources and burning fossil fuels in any amount. They march around in asinine protests that are intended to "save the Earth" when they could be saving it, and themselves, by getting a job and working 40 hours a week. Like the brown-shirts of an earlier era, whom they so closely resemble, today's radicals employ violence and intimidation to impose their warped vision on those who disagree with them.
It is the ordinary American who is the loser in environmental politics. Radical environmentalists have expressed pleasure at seeing working Americans paying $5 and $6 for gas and seeing the price of natural gas, which heats half of homes and offices and most electricity production, rise from an average of $2.03 per m Btu in 2020 to $6.07 in 2022.
Environmentalists celebrate the harm that comes to others who disagree with them, even as they relish their own power and control. In the end, it is a matter of who thrives and who does not. Once we realize this fact, it becomes clear that we must reject the myth of climate catastrophe and return to a rational policy allowing for the unrestricted production of fossil fuels.
The truth is that we are facing a climate catastrophe — in the form of trillions of worthless spending on so-called renewables. Our economy is already beginning to collapse under the burden of this spending, but it is not too late to save it. One must question and oppose all spending on climate change and support rational policies that include reliance on fossil fuels.
Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).
Image via Public Domain Pictures.