Climate change focus blinds liberals to real challenges

lush vegetationWhat was the great urgency for holding the massive Paris climate conference? 40,000 attendees filled Paris’ best hotels and restaurants for two weeks, a sacrifice they were willing to make, if necessary, to save the planet. President Obama claims climate change is our greatest future threat. The pope instructs it would be cultural “suicide” if we don’t prevent the climate from changing.

Inconveniently for the assembled alarmists, global warming has all but fizzled out over the last two decades, even as atmospheric CO2 levels have continued to rise. Nor has there been any increased frequency in the storms, floods or droughts that we were told would be the consequence if we didn’t make big sacrifices to reduce “greenhouse gases.”

Even if we did experience moderate global warming in the future, it may not be such a bad deal. Richard Tol, a climate economist at the University of Sussex, has shown that carbon dioxide is not only essential for plants but higher levels of carbon dioxide cause plants to grow more abundantly and to be more drought-resistant. That should help feed the world.

If the threat of impending doom seems an unlikely explanation for the international near-panic requiring serial climate summits, maybe this will crack the code for you. Christina Figueres, the UN’s climate chief, explained that the goal of the Paris talks was “to change the economic development model that has been reigning for 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution.” The Bolivian delegation agreed, chiming in that “We must destroy capitalism.”

But the record of capitalism hasn’t been that shabby, especially if you consider the plight of the poor. Over that 150 year span that Ms. Figueres deplores, the prevalence of extreme poverty has fallen from 75 percent to 10 percent of the world’s population. Meanwhile, the average lifespan has doubled from 30 to 71 years. Advocates for the abolition of capitalism are prioritizing their ideology at the expense of the world’s most vulnerable populations.

But the debate over climate change (once known as global warming before the climate ceased to warm) has always been more about politics than science. After all, the two camps, the alarmists and the skeptics, aren’t divided by their views on the scientific methodology of developing climate change models. It’s no coincidence that collectivists believe that they discovered the necessity for massive state intervention while those of us who prioritize liberty are, well, skeptical and prefer other options.

Modern environmentalism has a lot in common with socialism. Both were created by well-meaning elites who believed they needed to save the masses from their own ignorance. Both see capitalism as the ultimate enemy and regard free markets as tools of the oppressors.

Both environmentalism and socialism use powerful freedom-destroying governments to advance their goals. Moreover, the movements have in common an intolerance for opposing viewpoints. Socialist regimes, including Communism, have re-indoctrinated, tortured and killed tens of millions of dissidents. Those who disagree with the dogmas of climate change are shamed as “deniers” and drummed out of the academy. Twenty-seven percent of U.S. Democrats in a recent poll said deniers should be prosecuted for their views!

Here’s the problem. According to Bjorn Lomborg, a self-described liberal who believes in man-made climate change, the promises to cut emissions made in Paris will cost $1 trillion annually if executed with maximum efficiency. If the past performance of governments is any guide, the cost would be more like $2 trillion per year for the rest of the century.

On the other hand, the effect on climate change would be minimal. A peer-reviewed study in Policy Journal calculated the promised emissions reductions would prevent temperatures rising by 0.306°F by 2100.

The irony is that by focusing so much of the world’s attention on climate change, because it feeds into the agenda of the left, more important priorities are ignored. The national debt and Islamic terrorism come to mind.

Think about it. The nations most successful at fighting pollution are those that can afford it. Pro-growth economic policies, including government austerity and free markets would do the most good toward improving the planet and the lives of the humans on it.