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This past week, the Biden administration doubled down in its campaign against climate change with the release of a suite of four reports, on national defense, financial risk, homeland security, and migration. These reports all start with the common premise that the climate crisis is now upon us in full fury. Moreover, they also all insist that the issues at hand are nonpolitical, and that the objective at all times is “to be guided by the best available science and data.” To say the least, however, the claim looks hollow, given that none of these reports offers any data whatsoever to support its major contentions.
The reports never address contrary views or even acknowledge that on some points the science is, to use the much-mooted phrase from Steven Koonin, “unsettled” on such key questions as the size of the Greenland ice sheet, the patterns of sea level rise, or the impact of expected temperature increases on economic growth over time. The reports are also dead silent on the role that technological improvements will play in reducing the raw materials or carbon dioxide output needed for any given output of energy, agriculture, or machinery. Nor do they ask whether human decisions, like poor forest management, account for increases in fires and air pollution, or whether a shift to nuclear power, natural gas, or clean coal might change the arc of history. Finally, they never acknowledge the complex interactions between American actions, international treaties, and the actions of key players, like China and the European Union.
Sadly, instead of asking any hard questions, these reports just take the worst-case scenario for granted and move on. The financial risk report summarizes this basic orientation by wrongly claiming that the report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change “concluded with high confidence that the climate crisis is ‘code red for humanity.’ ” The quoted words were not, however, from the IPCC report but rather from a florid press release by the secretary-general of the United Nations, António Guterres, which unwisely went well beyond the IPCC report.