Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Is the Era of Climate Change Hysteria Over?

As a political issue, climate change is losing its mojo. Activists care less and less about saving the planet, and have aimed their ideological weapons at more serious issues, like unjust social inequality.

Climate change was the perfect issue for a citizen of the world like Barack Obama. His Enlightenment Era cosmopolitanism walked away from shopworn issues like national pride and patriotism, the better to focus his attention on the threat to the planet, the threat to all of humanity, the threat to all the people living everywhere. 

When we are talking about the earth’s climate we are, in principle, all in it together. Better yet, since America is one of the largest users of fossil fuels, being for the climate allowed Obama to be against America, and to blame America for polluting the atmosphere. He happily since an accord that allowed America to pay for cleaning up the mess it created. Worse yet, the Paris Climate Accord, a massive wealth redistribution scheme, was based on a narrative and on aspirations, not on real steps to reduce carbon dioxide omissions.

Of course, the world’s leading producers of greenhouse gasses are no longer the Anglo-American countries. If you believe that China is going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions because of a piece of paper signed in Paris, you are not living in the real world. Or better, you have sucked up too much gas.

No one disputes the fact that the climate changes. The climate has always changed. It’s what it does. How much human beings, and especially human beings of the Anglo-Saxon persuasion are responsible for the change…is open to some question. If a leading climate scientist like Richard Lindzen is not persuaded, we should retain our skepticism about claims of “settled science.” We ought to know that science runs on skepticism and that it is never settled. As for the planet’s future, we are dealing with prophecy, not with science. There is no such thing as a scientific fact about tomorrow.

Now, Steven Hayward writes in the Wall Street Journal (via Maggie’s Farm) that climate change hysteria is fading from public consciousness. The armies of the progressive and radical left are moving on from climate change, the better to find a more salient and more alarming threat to everything they believe to be holy.

Hayward opens his thoughtful op-ed as follows:

Climate change is over. No, I’m not saying the climate will not change in the future, or that human influence on the climate is negligible. I mean simply that climate change is no longer a pre-eminent policy issue. All that remains is boilerplate rhetoric from the political class, frivolous nuisance lawsuits, and bureaucratic mandates on behalf of special-interest renewable-energy rent seekers.

He notes that the Paris Accord, which some people consider to be one of Obama’s greatest achievements— one that he failed to submit to the Senate for ratification, thus making it vulnerable to his successor’s pen— was nothing like what it appeared to be. It was aspirational. It did not commit anyone to anything:

A good indicator of why climate change as an issue is over can be found early in the text of the Paris Agreement. The “nonbinding” pact declares that climate action must include concern for “gender equality, empowerment of women, and intergenerational equity” as well as “the importance for some of the concept of ‘climate justice.’ ” Another is Sarah Myhre’s address at the most recent meeting of the American Geophysical Union, in which she proclaimed that climate change cannot fully be addressed without also grappling with the misogyny and social injustice that have perpetuated the problem for decades.
How about that? Did you know that we cannot address climate change without addressing issues of misogyny and social justice?

It’s like throwing mud at the wall, to see whether it sticks. Hayward continues:

The descent of climate change into the abyss of social-justice identity politics represents the last gasp of a cause that has lost its vitality. Climate alarm is like a car alarm—a blaring noise people are tuning out.

To track the rise and fall of climate change hysteria, Hayward refers to a 1972 article by one Anthony Downs. In it Downs mapped out what he called the “issue-attention” cycle, in five stages. All of them will be blindingly obvious to those who have followed the unfolding process.

Hayward begins with the first stage. There, the experts run out to announce that they have discovered a great problem, one which they are well qualified to analyze and to solve. Could it be that said experts are merely talking their book and making themselves more important, the vanguard of an elite leading the world’s fight against… the Industrial Revolution and free enterprise capitalism:

The first stage involves groups of experts and activists calling attention to a public problem, which leads quickly to the second stage, wherein the alarmed media and political class discover the issue. The second stage typically includes a large amount of euphoric enthusiasm—you might call it the “dopamine” stage—as activists conceive the issue in terms of global peril and salvation. 

The end is nigh, the sky is falling… no, not figuratively, but literally. It’s not just Chicken Little who is announcing the impending doom. It’s responsible scientists.

But then, lo and behold, the accountants enter the picture and tally up the price. Guess what, the price of enacting all of the pie-in-the-sky plans of the hopers and dreamers is prohibitive. It would cause us to spend everything we have saving the planet and still, the outcome would be uncertain. Because outcomes are always uncertain:

Then comes the third stage: the hinge. As Mr. Downs explains, there soon comes “a gradually spreading realization that the cost of ‘solving’ the problem is very high indeed.” That’s where we’ve been since the United Nations’ traveling climate circus committed itself to the fanatical mission of massive near-term reductions in fossil fuel consumption, codified in unrealistic proposals like the Kyoto Protocol. This third stage, Mr. Downs continues, “becomes almost imperceptibly transformed into the fourth stage: a gradual decline in the intensity of public interest in the problem.”

So, human ardor being what it is, it starts cooling down. It has become so unrealistic that true believers stop proposing it. Besides, when you shut down all of that energy production, someone else somewhere else is very likely to pick up the slack… and eat your lunch:

“In the final stage,” Mr. Downs concludes, “an issue that has been replaced at the center of public concern moves into a prolonged limbo—a twilight realm of lesser attention or spasmodic recurrences of interest.” Mr. Downs predicted correctly that environmental issues would suffer this decline, because solving such issues involves painful trade-offs that committed climate activists would rather not make.

And besides, how much do the climate changers really want to change the climate. If they were serious, Hayward opines, they would have been out in force promoting nuclear energy. But, nuclear energy is insufficiently pristine. So they spend their money mobilizing the public, brainwashing the public and trying to shut down the fossil fuel industry.

A case in point is climate campaigners’ push for clean energy, whereas they write off nuclear power because it doesn’t fit their green utopian vision. A new study of climate-related philanthropy by Matthew Nisbet found that of the $556.7 million green-leaning foundations spent from 2011-15, “not a single grant supported work on promoting or reducing the cost of nuclear energy.” The major emphasis of green giving was “devoted to mobilizing public opinion and to opposing the fossil fuel industry.”

Hayward concludes:

Treating climate change as a planet-scale problem that could be solved only by an international regulatory scheme transformed the issue into a political creed for committed believers. Causes that live by politics, die by politics.

Apparently, it was more scientism than science. But, who knew? In truth, most of us knew.


dirtyjobsguy said...

The key in much of the Climate Change crowd is their reluctance to state the impact of their recommendations. To meet the goals they set would require much, much more change than a few LED light bulbs and electric cars. Carbon emissions would roll back to a 1910 standard of living at costs of trillions of dollars. The top activists know this but just like "single payer health care" activists they cannot make this clear without torpedoing their cause. A recent article in the NYT on how the market for recycled materials had tanked was well written but the comments are the best. The true believers are out in force demanding that packaging be eliminated etc with no questions allowed.

The current crisis in the electric power industry over coal, nuclear and gas plants (none are making any money today) is the unlimited expansion of expensive and non-performing wind and solar. Heavily tax subsidized with guaranteed markets and no requirements for meeting reliability and availability standards, they have created an unreal and unsustainable power market. The existing coal, nuclear and natural gas plants are needed to provide greater than 100% backup of renewables but the payments they get are very low. Once politicians see there is not a great public outcry for higher power prices to meet green fixations (except in crazy places like CA, MA and whenever a Cuomo is thinking of running for president) they are not starting to ease off the renewable craze

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Excellent comment... thank you!

Sam L. said...

The hysteria will continue, but I'm hoping the volume will decrease.

Ares Olympus said...

Selling "climate change" is an uphill battle, not wholly different than telling people they shouldn't smoke because they might get cancer in 40 years, and more difficult since we don't have statistics on our side with only one earth to experiment upon, and humans have never tried burning 100 million years of stored carbon in 100 years to see if that might be a problem.

My analysis puts climate change as the third of three crises. The first crisis is our debt economy that imagines the future will always be bigger than the past so we can push our liabilities into the future. And the second crisis is resource depletion, where things like fracking represent an example, spending ever more effort to get less back, but debt helps there if you can manage profits now by presuming your company just declare bankruptcy after you've extracted your personal profits. But climate change is what our hypothetical descendants in 50 to 500 years will have to deal with since even after we stop burning fossil fuels to the degree we do now, natural processes take centuries to reduce it back down again.

Technology is the wildcard, and necessity will be the mother of invention to something that is more sustainable, but that's similar to the bet addicts make as they adapt into a hell of their own making.

trigger warning said...

My analysis also suggests we have three crises to worry about:

1. “In 50 years, every street in London will be buried under nine feet of manure.”
- The Times (UK), 1894

2. "... the peak of [oil] production will soon be passed, possibly within 3 years. ... There are many well-informed geologists and engineers who believe that the peak in the production of natural petroleum in this country will be reached by 1921 and who present impressive evidence that it may come even before 1920."
- David White, chief geologist, USGS (1919)

3. “By the year 2000 the United Kingdom will be simply a small group of impoverished islands, inhabited by some 70 million hungry people...”
- Paul Ehrlich, September 1971.

But, there's Hope...

"[T]his was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal..."
- Bur'aq "Canute" Obama, 2008

We're waiting... ♫♩

Next year in Paris? :-D

Ares Olympus said...

TW, you might be interested in physicist Geoffrey West's analysis of cities and corporations, and found cities as super-linear, which means their "metabolism" increased with scale so basically larger cities do more with less, which causes large cities to keep growing until something breaks, and then cities reorganize in a more complex way to handle the old problems and finally it can start growing again. Perhaps that contains something of your "histotic predictions".

What I wish he'd look at is where the energy of cities come from, and the reality that ever larger cities demand ever larger support systems to keep them going, which now has expanded the entire globe, while cheap energy lasts. Hysteria about yet distant future risks is one problem while complacency that thinks work out on their own is the opposite problem.