Sydney M. Williams
Thought of the Day
December 12, 2016
“Climate Change in the Age of Trump”
“I have not passed through fire and death to bandy crooked words with a witless worm.”
Gandalf speaking to Grima
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, 1954
J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973)
NEWS FLASH: Climate will continue to change under President Trump and EPA administrator-nominee Scott Pruitt, just as it did under President Obama, and has done during every previous President’s time in office. In fact, climate will change exactly as it has been doing since the earth was formed. Temperatures will rise and fall. Storms will increase and/or decrease in frequency and intensity. The future of weather is not dissimilar to J. P. Morgan’s response when asked to predict the stock market: “It will fluctuate.”
Climate change is real and there is no question that man has contributed to it. However, Democrats get into a twit on this issue – witness their reaction to Mr. Pruitt. In their condemnation of Mr. Pruitt, does the Left consider that the EPA has usurped powers that belong to Congress and the states. Do they think of what heats and cools their offices and homes? What allows cars to travel long distances? What life would be like without cheap and abundant electricity? Fossil fuels continue to get cleaner and the equipment that is powered by them gets more efficient. Sanctimonious Democrats belittle those who do not drink their Kool-Aid. They use climate to trivialize opponents. Skeptics simply ask: How much of climate change is due to man and how much to nature? The answer: no one knows. We do know that carbon dioxide emissions contribute to greenhouse gasses that affect weather. But we also know that other factors affect temperatures and weather: the tilt of the earth on its axis, solar output, the orbit of the earth around the sun, volcanic activity. Assigning blame makes less sense than finding means of adaption.
In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Roger Pielke, a professor at the University of Colorado in Boulder, wrote of how he was abused when he raised questions about conclusions from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in an area of his expertise. He was attacked, not just by other academics, but by media, politicians and activists. There is a “group think” mentality on the part of “climate change” advocates that is frightening, as it slanders those who dare question their assumed collective wisdom. There is much we don’t know about a host of subjects, including climate. As they should, the curious seek answers. In a statement that said more about him than his opponents, President Obama, in a post-election interview with Jann Werner of Rolling Stone, said: “The challenge is people are getting a hundred different visions of the world from a hundred different or a thousand different outlets, and that is ramping up divisions.” Is it surprising for a society of 320 million people to have myriad opinions? Would President Obama prefer we hew to a single line of thought? Civil societies are supposed to debate differences, not have leaders who demand obeisance and disparage opponents.
The vast majority of “climate change conformers” fall into one of two camps: Some, like Barack Obama, Al Gore, Michael Moore, (and perhaps Elon Musk), are in it for political advantage and/or the money. They use intimidation, but speak piously; they disdain those who disagree. Others fall into the camp that confuses preservation with conservation. Preservationists, while they would deny it, do not believe in (or understand) evolution. They want to keep things as they are. They do not recognize that all species of flora and fauna constantly change – they adapt or die. There are approximately 8.7 million species in the world. Scientists estimate that about 50,000 become extinct each year, some of which can be saved. On the other hand, scientists estimate that between 15,000 and 18,000 new species (mostly insects) are discovered each year. With or without man, the world continuously changes. Preservationists hope to keep things as they are. They want, for example, to preserve the Delta Smelt, but, in doing so, ignore the need of farmers for water. Inanimate objects can be preserved, but living creatures and nature cannot, unless you include taxidermists. On the other hand, as stewards of nature, it is our responsibility to conserve it – to protect it from unnecessary harm, including the effects of man.
But, we should be mindful that care for the environment is a rich man’s purview. In 1820, 90% of the world’s population lived in “extreme” poverty. Two major events intervened. The Industrial Revolution and the collapse of Communism. Western capitalism is demonized by many on the Left, but it was capitalism that eradicated much of global poverty and that provided resources necessary to conserve much of the natural world. While billions have moved out of poverty, there are still three billion people who live on less than $2.50 a day. These people struggle to live. Economic strength is critical to conservation success.
The Left argues that the science of climate is “settled.” But science is the continuous pursuit of discovery, not unlike Stuart Little’s search for Margalo. Even prescription medicines must change, as bacteria mutates. Regardless of political pressure, research into causes of climate change will persist, perhaps more openly under a new Administration. What is true for climate is so for all scientific endeavor. In his delightful book, The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wholleben stated a truth when he wrote about trees accessing water: “So many questions remain unanswered.” However, the risk to our system of government brought by the Obama Administration is less about his adamancy regarding climate, and more about the concentration of power he brought to the Executive, by empowering agencies like the EPA at the expense of Congress and states.
The Left seized on the issue of climate, believing it to be a political winner. But, as the election showed, people are not so easily fooled. In 2007, the IPCC concluded that rising temperatures would lead to an increase in frequency and intensity of storm activity. A year later it was shown that that the prediction was based on false data, but no acknowledgement of the error was forthcoming. In fact, storm damage over the past decade has been less than average. Roger Pielke, in the article referred to above, wrote: “…cumulative damage over the past decade is some $70 billion less than the long term average would lead us to expect.” Of the ten worst natural disasters, in terms of deaths, only one happened in this century – the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami of 2004.
Climate policies should be mindful of our environment and we should do what we can to conserve it, but we should also recognize that wealth must come first – that conservation is viable only for rich nations. We should be able to adapt, to adjust to changing conditions. We must evolve as the world we live in does. What we do not need are self-serving arguments flowing from hypocritical lips
Regardless of the Paris Accords, and regardless of allegations that man is the principal cause, climate will continue to change. Climate zealots will press their arguments in their contemptuous way. Arguing with those errant messengers is a fool’s exercise, though; for they are not interested in debate. They have a narrative by which they abide. In an aside, but one with which Tolkien would surely agree, my father once told me to never argue with a fool, for a passer-by would be unable to tell which is which. That has become the way it is with those like Barack Obama, Al Gore, Michael Moore and their apostles. They use the issue of climate to advance political agendas and, in some cases, for personal gain, while ensuring that the world’s poor will stay that way. Debating these people has become an exercise in futility.