One reason climate alarmists are having trouble understanding that the world is not unfolding quite as they had predicted is that they have in large measure abandoned the habit of trying to demonstrate that things they foretold are happening; they just assert that they are and move along. Extreme weather being a particular case in point. Once upon a time we were told to believe in climate change because this or that storm had hit. Now it is simply claimed vaguely in passing that everybody knows, before rushing on to insist that we can stop it by the simple and painless expedient of getting rid of the economy. Like the New York Times opinion piece on horror movies that started “These days, there’s a lot to be anxious about. There’s a lot to fear. There’s the environmental wreckage that’s increasingly evident around the world…” Such as? Well, you know. Hurricanes. Polar bears. The coral. Vanishing Pacific islands. Something. I saw it somewhere on Twitter…
Even the government plays along. For instance the Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada press release that started “The frequency and severity of natural disasters have increased in recent years. In 2014, the Northwest Territories experienced the worst wildfire season in its history and spent more than eight times its normal budget in firefighting costs” without bothering to explain why if natural disasters are increasing everywhere they had to cherry-pick one region and point to a fire seven years ago. Or NBC’s “Rebuilding after Hurricane Ida will be costly. Experts blame the pandemic and climate change.” Because cleanup after hurricanes wasn’t costly before?
There’s also a piece by National Geographic “ENVIRONMENT Executive Editor” Robert Kunzig that makes an important point that it unfortunately buries in fatuity. Kunzig wrote recently that “There are two competing global trends in how weather disasters—storms, floods, droughts, extreme heat – affect humans. First, climate change is intensifying the weather, increasing the threat. And second, we’re getting better at preparing and protecting ourselves. What will be the result of that competition over the next half-century, as climate change worsens? We don’t know yet. But we do know what has happened over the last half-century. The number of deaths caused by weather disasters worldwide has plummeted, not soared. That’s not really news, but most people probably aren’t aware of it – because journalists like me don’t talk about it enough, and because of the general nimbus of doom that tends to descend on conversations about climate change.”
We give him credit for pointing out that deaths from disasters have plummeted, and even more for talking about adaptability. And we would give him yet more credit if he recognized that the availability of inexpensive energy from fossil fuels was key to reducing the death toll from extreme weather. Better still would be if he acknowledged that most forms of extreme weather haven’t gotten worse globally, but we’re not pushing our luck. We’ll take what we get. Still, any realistic assessment of appropriate climate policy would take into account not only the expected cost of whatever bad things are anticipated but also the expected cost of protecting ourselves from them as they arise rather than trying to prevent them. But to be realistic it would also have to count the cost properly instead of just making stuff up.
So we challenge Kunzig, and journalists generally, to continue to dispel the “general nimbus of doom” by continuing to talk about the power of human ingenuity to adapt. And to get really down and dirty and explain how climate change is not actually intensifying the weather, at least according to the IPCC. Even if it makes headlines harder to write, experts say.