I posted a comment on this week’s Ricochet Podcast (Bjorn Lomborg was one of the guests) and someone suggested I turn it into a post. I think that’s a great idea, so here I go.
I am essentially as much of a Climate Change Denier as one can intelligently be. Yes, the Earth’s climate is always changing, slowly, for various reasons, and yes, perhaps it is changing slightly and slowly from human activity. But the current Consensus on Climate Change that is making predictions of what is going to happen to Earth’s Climate in the next 20-100 years, I believe, is radically wrong.
Manhattan will not be underwater in 100 years. We will not all be dead from hurricanes and heat waves. We will still have plenty of snow days and blizzards, and the average person will experience everyday weather in 100 years in basically the same way we experience it today, and like they did 100 years ago. In other words, there is no Climate Change crisis, and the field of science that is telling us that there is has basically been captured by activism. This is the current residence of the new Green Movement that is, at its heart, anti-capitalist, and needs a crisis like Climate Change that can be both catastrophic and vague at the same time.
The purpose of my post is to point out how much I have noticed that conservative commentary on Climate Change has shifted, in, say, the last five years, in the direction of retreat. By that, I mean that there are very few conservative journalists and commentators who actually hold and defend what has come to be called the Climate Denier position. What has replaced it has been a kind of lukewarm position that concedes that of course Climate Change is happening, and of course it’s a problem, but. … And then comes the list of things that basically amount to a kind of changing of the subject. “But China and India are the real problem, not us.” “But thanks to fracking, we’ve actually lowered our carbon output.” These arguments basically imply that conservatives care about the problem, and we just have different ideas on how to solve it. And I suspect, for most of the commentators and columnists making them, that these arguments aren’t really sincere. At least I hope they aren’t.
I first noticed this after Trump pulled us out of the Paris Agreement. I expected to hear, from the Right, “good, because Climate Change is a load of hooey.” But I didn’t. Instead, I heard, “good, because actually, the Paris Agreement wouldn’t have really solved Climate Change. It wasn’t even binding!” This caused me to do a mental double take because it was almost as if we were suddenly pretending that we were concerned about really tackling Climate Change, and a non-binding agreement simply wouldn’t do. Of course, we don’t really believe this, because if we really thought Climate Change was a big problem, we would be proposing solutions to it. We aren’t, because we don’t.
So then why have we ceded the skeptical high ground on this subject? The burden of proof is on a very young branch of science that is making stark predictions of something that is apparently 1) already happening, and 2) going to, very soon, get catastrophically much worse. Their record of successful predictions since the 1980s (and I won’t even take the obvious cheap shot of mentioning the global cooling predictions of the 1970s) has been abysmal, and anyone saying that the Earth’s climate today is really any different than it was in 1980 is insane. The record has been failed prediction after failed prediction. So why are we now acting as if they are slowly being proven right, and we need to jump on board the Science Train lest we get left behind?
My answer to this question is that climate science, as a field and a community, has been utterly captured by this issue and the activism that has flowed from it, so there is really no alternative science being done from within its ranks. Yes, there are excellent bloggers and researchers who are holding up the Denialist conversation, but these have all been thoroughly outcast from the scientific field. So it’s hard to go on CNN and stake out a Climate Denier position because you immediately get bombarded with “but 97% of the scientific community says you are wrong!” Even people like Lomborg have taken the Lukewarmer position and run hard from accusations of being a denier. So I get that it’s hard to do. But we need to be honest about what we really think about this issue because otherwise less informed people will really start thinking the science is settled and now all that remains is discussing solutions. And once we start having that discussion, it will become apparent that a lot of people who are saying of course this is a problem, really don’t think it is, as evidenced by how much we are truly willing to sacrifice for it.
I have become, in the same time period, somewhat obsessed with reading every single pro-consensus climate article that comes across my feed, because I really want to know what is passing for evidence for climate catastrophe these days. Most of it is click-baity stuff like “This Town Has Been Ravaged By Climate Change,” and you click on the article, and it’s about a town in Louisiana that is sinking into the ocean because it was built on the Mississippi Delta. Then the article will say “a combination of sinking, unstable ground, and rising oceans is making this town get slowly swallowed by the sea,” basically handwaving the evidence of rising oceans, as if coastal flooding from sea levels is a thing that is happening in the US.
Another article came out last year in Canada’s Globe and Mail called “The Costs Of Climate Change Are Rising.” In it, the author, who presumably is an intelligent person who went to college, compares insurance claims from the 1980s to insurance claims today, and, get this, tells us that the amounts of insurance claims due to weather events are going up. Can you imagine why insurance claims due to weather events are more costly today than they were in 1980? I can’t! The lesson we are supposed to take away is that our weather today is much more extreme that it was 30 years ago, a claim that people are apparently accepting without any serious critical thinking or scientific study.
All this to say: it is clear to me that either a hardcore denialist position like I have, or perhaps a more lukewarm position like Bjorn Lomborg maintains, is going to be shown to be correct as the decades pass. Weather and climate in 2050 are going to be pretty much like it is now, and most of us will be there to see it, and point out all the hysterical predictions of our current decade that didn’t come to pass. So why would we cede the skeptic’s high ground for a kind of lukewarm “of course its a problem” middle ground that no one actually buys? I think this is one of these issues where conservatives will be shown to be on the right side of history. We should talk like we are.