During his State of the Union address, Barack Obama argued that no challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change. Which is absurd.
As you know, last year was reportedly the hottest year ever in recorded history. So says every major publication in the nation. According NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2014 was the warmest year recorded since we began measuring these sorts of things in the late nineteenth century. Last year was hotter than 1998 or 2005 or 2010, which were all evidently scorchers. (Although all this data is a lot less definitive than the pliant media would have you believe.)
If you believe scientists have the capability of precisely measuring a degree of variation in oceanic temperatures from the 1800s to today, you have far greater faith in nineteenth-century precision than I do. And if you believe slight warming over a fraction of the Earth’s long climatic history is reason enough to empower the state to create contrived energy shortages to curb your own living standards, well, please vote accordingly. I get it. When science comports with my political outlook—say, “atmospheric CO2 is the building block of all life” or “human life begins at conception”—I’m swayed, as well.
But the data also tells us something else: For instance, by nearly any measurement that matters, this was the greatest year in human history. And nations that use the most fossil fuel per capita generally experienced the least amount of poverty, have the healthiest populations, and the most freedom. As I’ve argued before, global warming was totally worth it. It is at worst a minor residual consequence of a grand moral project.
Unless, that is, you believe humans are no more vital to the world than the sage grouse. Which often seems to be the case. Take this piece in Grist, were Katie Herzog explains ,“Why I’ll never have kids, and why you shouldn’t either.” Why? Well, climate change, of course, but also:
I doubt you need reminding that parts of the planet are running out of water, other parts are flooding, and industry and government leaders are sitting on their well-padded asses doing nothing about it. Is this really a world you want to bring children into?
Yes, it is.
Though Herzog admits her brew of alarmism is only partly responsible for her aversion to motherhood, she throws out a long-discredited environmental myth to scare away others: overpopulation. Slate’s Amanda Marcotte, while writing on Pope Francis’ remarks about having children, also leans on the “overpopulation” canard to make her own point. People are the worst. And it’s easy to rationalize dispensing with them when they’re inconvenient. Especially if they’re ruining the earth.
Let’s ignore for a moment that fertility rates trend downward as wealth grows. Let’s ignore our long history of adaptability. Ostensibly, the argument is that the more people we have milling around the more we’ll fight over resources. Has any theory been as thoroughly debunked by history? While the population explodes, the world has seen a rise in per capita of caloric intake, per capita wealth and increased life expectancy—and a transformative explosion in productivity. Some of the densest places on earth also happen to be the richest. Here in the United States, we’ve long enjoyed a higher reproductive rate than most developed nations in the world, and we also have, generally speaking, enjoyed a healthier economy.
And the kids? Not only is life expectancy at 78.8 years—a record high in the United States, according Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, but you can imagine how many magnificent experiences that life might entail considering the acceleration of technology. According to the “World Health Statistics 2014,” a girl born in in the world in 2012 can expect to live to around 73 years. A boy can expect to live to the age of 68. That’s six years longer than the average global life expectancy for those born in 1990, even though the world population has surged.
Poverty, measured by the number of people living on less than $1.25 per day, has decreased dramatically in the past three decades—a drop from 50 percent in 1981 to 21 percent in 2010. Jim Yong Kim of World Bank has speculated that 2030 is the global target to end extreme poverty entirely.
All this, despite a 59 percent increase in the developing-world population over that time span and a spike in carbon emissions from the developing world. Or perhaps it was because of those factors.
We will, I’m sure, continue to make great strides in reducing carbon dioxide emissions related to energy consumption. But if governments aren’t willing to inflict major damage to their economies, then they aren’t willing to make a substantive effort to deal with climate change. Nothing Democrats have offered will make a dent. In fact, watching Obama taking credit for cheap oil in the State of the Union was rather curious for two reasons. First, he did nothing to earn the (self) praise. Second, the goal of Progressive energy policy is to make gas more expensive. Steven Chu advocated for higher prices outright. Obama was more diplomatic when he said that he “preferred a gradual adjustment” to a four-dollar per gallon price.
Is Obama serious? What’s the point if trying to spike the price of a fungible commodity or overregulating the economy if it does so little to contain the supposed problem? If you believe governments around the world should “act” to alleviate climate change, you should be willing to sacrifice your own standard of living. More than that, you should also admit that alleviating poverty is secondary concern. If you threaten fossil fuels, you threaten the future.
The good news? No one is serious about it.