03.3.2021

Biden’s ‘Existential Threat’ Reconsidered

By Robert L. Bradley, Jr.

“Is there any more single-minded, simple pleasure than viewing with alarm,” asked ecological economist Kenneth Boulding in 1970. In the last half-century, the scare has gone from mass starvation (the “population bomb”) to mineral exhaustion (oil and natural gas shortages, in particular) to global cooling (mini-Ice Age) to global warming (aka climate change).

President Biden’s “climate day” (January 27, 2021) continues the scare litany in the service of expanded government at home and abroad. Dense mineral energies, the fossil fuels, are the main culprit. The U.S. must lead and sacrifice in the war against oil, gas, and coal despite our 14 percent (and falling) share of global CO2 emissions.

“This executive order I’m signing today also makes it official that climate change will be at the center of our national security and foreign policy,” Biden stated.

It’s about coming to the moment to deal with this maximum threat that we — that’s now facing us — climate change — with a greater sense of urgency…. I’m signing today an executive order to supercharge our administration ambitious plan to confront the existential threat of climate change. And it is an existential threat.

Is it? Why climate change, and why now? After all, dire climate predictions and ultimatums have reached and exceeded their due date without fruition, as have the population and Peak Oil scares that hark back to the late 18th century and mid-19th century, respectively.

Consider the career-long prognostications of John Holdren, Obama’s two-term science advisor. “Some form of ecocatastrophe,” he wrote (with Paul Ehrlich) in 1971, “seems almost certain to overtake us before the end of the [twentieth] century.” In the mid-1980s, Holdren specifically predicted that as many as one billion people could die from climate change by 2020.

Compared to Holdren’s 128 deaths per 1,000 from climate change alone, all deaths last year were 7.6 per 1,000. Climate-related deaths, meanwhile, have dramatically declined due to increasing wealth and societal resiliency, a pillar of which is reliance on fossil fuels, which account for 84 percent of global energy usage today.

Calming Data

Alarmists and big-government politicians confuse weather with climate, never resisting the opportunity to hype extreme events as part of a worsening global trend. “Arguments for [climate] devastation,” Bjorn Lomborg explains, “typically claim that extreme weather (like droughts, floods, wildfires, and hurricanes) is already worsening because of climate change.”

But the data suggests otherwise, from hurricane frequency/intensity and landfall to drought and floods to U.S. wildfires to damage from ocean acidification.

Global warming, which began in the mid-19th century with the end of the Little Ice Age, has been artfully magnified into something to be feared. Temperatures rise and fall at short time intervals, even within minutes. The (daily) diurnal cycle changes by tens of degrees, yet yearly global averages (very imperfectly estimated) change by hundredths of a degree.

“NASA’s data set for global temperatures goes back to 1880 and shows that since that year, the earth’s temperature has risen by only 1.14°C,” noted David Simon, the son of ‘doomslayer’ Julian Simon. “An increase of 1.14°C over 139 years translates to an average increase of only 0.008°C per year.” Little wonder that entrepreneurial alertness has overcome counterproductive policies in the name of climate, prominently including dilute, intermittent energy forcing.

Alarmists predict that manmade warming could accelerate. But the same climate models have notoriously overpredicted recorded warming, raising questions about their ability to parameterize the microphysics of climate for reliable outputs. Further, the more the atmosphere absorbs the (trace gas) CO2, the less warming results per emission unit, a growing barrier to CO2 mitigation strategy.

Global cooling, not anthropogenic global warming, is a real planetary concern over the long term. “The good news is human influence has averted the next ice age,” states John Holdren in his stock “Meeting the Climate Change Challenge” talk. But how much have we “over-compensated,” as he goes on to assert?

Public Policy

Bjorn “Get the Facts Straight” Lomborg has emphasized the risk of climate policy, not only physical climate change. He warns against “too ambitious and overly costly climate policies” that result in “a growth path that will deliver dramatically less welfare, especially for the world’s poorest.” Adaptation is the first line of defense against inhospitable weather and climate, which means, to Lomborg, “making sure people across the planet get out of poverty.”

The “existential threat” of climate change asserts “market failure” on a global scale. But energy/climate coercionists should also recognize analytic failure in defining the problem and government failure in designing the solution.

Leave energy and the economy alone, Mr. President. A strong economy and energy freedom is the best policy, come rain or shine.

This article appeared on the Institute for Energy Research website at https://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/climate-change/bidens-existential-threat-reconsidered/

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