En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists birthing ever more cli­mate change hype

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - OPINION - Jonah Goldberg Jon­ah­sCol­umn@ aol.com

One of the hall­marks of the “Ugly Amer­i­can” is the habit of think­ing for­eign­ers will un­der­stand what you’re say­ing if you just shout it louder and louder.

The Ugly En­vi­ron­men­tal­ist does some­thing sim­i­lar. He ex­ag­ger­ates the chal­lenge of global warm­ing by us­ing ever more hys­ter­i­cal rhetoric, think­ing that if the last dooms­day pre­dic­tion didn’t work, this one will.

For in­stance, Stephen Hawk­ing, the fa­mous as­tro­physi­cist, re­cently said the con­se­quences of Don­ald Trump’s with­drawal from the Paris cli­mate ac­cord were mon­u­men­tal: “Trump’s ac­tion could push the Earth over the brink, to be­come like Venus, with a tem­per­a­ture of 250 de­grees (Cel­sius), and rain­ing sul­fu­ric acid.”

As Nathan Cof­nas notes in the Weekly Stan­dard, this is nuts. The share of the at­mo­sphere taken up by that vile gas car­bon diox­ide (which just hap­pens to sus­tain all plant life) is 400 parts per mil­lion. It’s been much higher than that in the past with­out boil­ing the oceans or rain­ing acid from the sky. Cof­nas also men­tions that Venus is nearly 26 mil­lion miles closer to the sun, and that the share of car­bon diox­ide in the Venu­sian at­mo­sphere is 965,000 parts per mil­lion, or about 2,412 times greater than Earth’s.

And that’s Hawk­ing, a se­ri­ous sci­en­tist (at least in his own field). Jour­nal­ists, al­ways look­ing for nov­elty and drama, can be worse. A re­cent New York Mag­a­zine cover story on cli­mate change as­sured read­ers that all of the pre­vi­ous cli­mate change alarmism was too tepid. Ba­si­cally, by the end of the cen­tury, the liv­ing will envy the dead and much of the planet will be un­in­hab­it­able or a reen­act­ment of a Mad Max movie.

To the credit of some jour­nal­ists and cli­mate sci­en­tists, the New York Mag­a­zine ar­ti­cle got con­sid­er­able push­back, even from nor­mally alarmist Penn State pro­fes­sor Michael Mann.

Rachel Becker, a sci­ence writer, had a good take as well. Re­search shows that “scare tac­tics can back­fire when peo­ple put up their psy­cho­log­i­cal de­fenses against the threat­en­ing in­for­ma­tion,” Becker wrote at The Verge, “rather than de­fend­ing against the threat it­self.”

But this fo­cus on how us­ing scare tac­tics doesn’t per­suade skep­tics over­looks an­other prob­lem. What about the peo­ple it does per­suade? If you hon­estly be­lieve cli­mate change will end all life on earth (it won’t) or lead to some dystopian hell where we use the skulls of our for­mer friends and neigh­bors to col­lect wa­ter droplets from cacti, what poli­cies wouldn’t you en­dorse to stop it?

There’s a rich school of jour­nal­is­tic and aca­demic non­sense out there about how democ­racy may not be up to the job of fight­ing cli­mate change, and why peo­ple who ques­tion cli­mate change must be si­lenced by the state. It’s re­mark­able how many of the peo­ple who rightly re­coil in hor­ror at the idea of us­ing, say, the war on ter­ror to jus­tify cur­tail­ing civil lib­er­ties have no such re­sponse when some­one floats sim­i­lar ideas for the war on cli­mate change.

The en­vi­ron­ment ed­i­tor for the left-wing Bri­tish news­pa­per The Guardian, Damian Car­ring­ton, re­cently wrote a piece fret­ting about how hav­ing kids doesn’t help fight cli­mate change. Jill Filipovic, a fem­i­nist writer, en­dorsed the ar­ti­cle. “Hav­ing chil­dren is one of the worst things you can do for the planet,” she wrote on Twit­ter. “Have one less and con­serve re­sources.”

I found this in­ter­est­ingly dumb. Filipovic is pre­cisely one of those writ­ers you’d ex­pect to go bal­lis­tic if some con­ser­va­tive Chris­tian opined about the re­pro­duc­tive choices women should make. But if it’s in the name of the en­vi­ron­ment? Let’s wag those fin­gers, ev­ery­body!

I be­lieve, along with the late econ­o­mist Ju­lian Si­mon, that hu­mans are the ul­ti­mate re­source. We solve prob­lems, and I think we’ll solve cli­mate change too.

But if you re­ally want to yoke your re­pro­duc­tive choices to the is­sue of cli­mate change (a bizarre de­sire if you ask me), maybe you should have as many kids as pos­si­ble and ed­u­cate them in sci­ence and en­gi­neer­ing so they can come up with a so­lu­tion.

For in­stance, did you know Amer­ica may end up com­ply­ing with our Paris ac­cord obli­ga­tions de­spite our with­drawal? It’s all thanks to break­throughs in nat­u­ral gas, en­ergy ef­fi­ciency and re­new­able en­ergy. Thank good­ness the peo­ple who came up with that stuff didn’t have par­ents who be­lieved all the hype.

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